There have been lots of unusual and in many cases troubling stories in the UK since the referendum on leaving the EU, but a strange one that has hit the headlines in the travel industry lately concerns one of the world’s leading car hire firms seemingly adding a tax on to customers’ car rental bills attributed to Brexit.The Daily Telegraph reported that Avis have since apologised for the incident and explained that in fact, the extra charge appeared on some pre-paid rental customers’ bills as the result of a system error, and the Brexit tax thing only came up as the result of one of their staff in Marseille making ‘an insensitive joke’. The Daily Mail, however, claimed that the tax was in fact added as a result of the Brexit vote in an attempt by Avis to recoup money lost in currency exchanges as the pound plummeted. Here is the story.
£2.57 Brexit Tax
While both versions of the story report that many drivers may have had the mystery fee added to their bills, the case that has made the news is that of House of Lords peer and noted zoology professor Lord John Krebs. Lord Krebs, who is a professor at Oxford University, was on holiday in the South of France and using a prepaid hire car from Avis to get around. When he returned the car to the Avis desk in Marseille, he was asked to pay an additional £2.57, despite the fact he believed he had paid for his rental in full in advance.
Lord Krebs asked the French Avis representative why he had been issued the strange £2.57 fee, and he reports that the Avis employee responded with what he called a ‘Gallic shrug’, and said ‘that is the Brexit tax’.
Refused to Pay
Even though the fee was small, the principle of it outraged lord Krebs who felt that Avis had a lot of audacity to add a fee related to Brexit while the UK is still part of the EU. He refused to pay the fee, and contacted the media to help make other Avis customers aware that they may be charged this odd tax.
As one of the most famous car hire companies, with desks at just about every airport in the world, Avis is one of the first companies people think of when they need to hire a car. If you are currently learning to drive with resources like Top Tests and their free mock theory tests, your very first rental may well be an Avis vehicle. However, gaffes like this are something the company could seriously do without if they want to maintain their position as one of the world’s favourite hire companies.
Whether the fee was actually intentional and aimed to help mitigate the issues caused to the business by the fall in Sterling’s value, or whether it truly was an error, it does sound like they could have handled the PR around it all a little better!