I booked a rental car through Rentalcars.com and selected pick-up at St Pancras station. Rates are higher here in central London, but I was happy to pay the extra because it’s near my home and I wanted to leave early for a family day trip.

The rental voucher confirmed the pick up at St Pancras NCP car park. On the day, I spent half an hour looking for the Alamo office. Eventually, staff from another rental firm told me that it had closed down weeks previously and advised me to call the nearest Alamo office. Staff there confirmed its desk at St Pancras had closed over two months before I’d booked, and that I was not the only customer with this experience. My booking had been moved to its Marylebone office.

When Rentalcars.com tried in vain to book a vehicle closer to the original pick-up point, I decided to cancel the trip but was told that a refund could not be processed immediately. Instead, I would have to wait until after the booked return date, then raise a complaint. I did so and a month on I am still waiting for a refund and Rentalcars.com has stopped responding emails.

JK, London

Rentalcars told me piously that privacy legislation prevents it commenting on individual bookings.

It went on to claim: “In any instance where we have provided a customer with incorrect or out-of-date information that resulted in them being unable to pick up the car they have arranged, we would offer a full refund, explanation and apology to the customer direct.”

This is baloney, of course. Only a prod from the Observer awakened the company to its responsibilities and it refunded you the following day.

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When I questioned its claim that refunds are routine in such circumstances, it implied that the 44 days of silence you endured was due to the busy summer season. “It is the busiest time of year and as such there may be some delays in resolving issues with customers.”

The lesson here is to use third-party brokers to check available options but book direct through service providers, be it car hire, hotels or flights.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions



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