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[March 2021]

Watch out for trouble with car rental or car sharing; Carefully read contract terms such as insurance and check car scratches beforehand

Local consumer affairs centers and the like across Japan have received inquiries and complaints about car rental or car sharing service1 from which consumers can rent cars from businesses.

In recent years, the number of such inquiries and complaints has hovered around 500 per year. The most common trouble has been about repair charges when returning a car (e.g. "I was charged for car scratches which I don't remember"). There have been also trouble with car problems while driving and trouble with car sharing.

Car rental and car sharing service companies and cars used in the service have been on the increase. Therefore, NCAC would like to issue an alert to prevent and minimize consumer detriment related to car rental and car sharing service.

Diagram: Annual number of inquiries about car rental service2 registered with PIO-NET3
Graph showing the annual number of inquiries from April 1, 2016 through February 28, 2021, followed by description in text
* The number 434 in the light blue portion shows data registered with PIO-NET from April 1, 2019 through February 28, 2020 for a year-to-year comparison.

The annual number of inquiries was 468 in FY2016, 526 in FY2017, 512 in FY2018, 522 in FY2019 and 375 in FY2020 (from April 1, 2020 through February 28, 2021).

  1. 1 This article does not describe cases of C to C car sharing.
  2. 2 The above graph also includes cases of car sharing service (both B to C and C to C).
  3. 3 PIO-NET is a database that collects information on inquiries concerning consumer affairs by linking NCAC with local consumer affairs centers and similar organizations across Japan via an online network. Inquiries referred from local consumer affairs centers to NCAC are not included. This article uses data registered with PIO-NET through February 28, 2021.

Cases of each pattern

Trouble with repair charges when returning a car

I was charged for a car scratch which I don't remember.
I visited a car rental company which I had used several times. There was an obviously worn-out car with scratches all over. It was a domestic car and the rental fee was reasonable, so I decided to rent the car. When I returned the car, the rental car company said, "There is a scratch on the edge of the passenger's side door. You need to pay compensation." The car was full of scratches from the start. I don't understand why I have to pay repair charges for a scratch which is not my fault. Later, I was charged 45,000 yen for repair, compensation for non-operation, etc.
(inquiry from a man in his 40s in September 2019)
Other cases
  • I was told "There's no problem" when returning a car, but the car rental company phoned me later and pointed out car scratches which I don't remember.
  • Car damage was not covered by the insurance and I was charged 200,000 yen for repair.
  • I lost a car key when I used car sharing service. I was charged 180,000 yen for replacing keys, etc.

Trouble with car problems while driving

  • After driving a rental car for one hour, an alarm lamp started to blink and the car became undrivable.
  • A navigation system of a rental car was unable to be turned off. Car's battery ran out.
  • Due to an electrical problem, my shared car stopped working.

Typical trouble in car sharing service arising from unmanned stations

  • I didn't know where the emergency break is.
  • On the day after returning a car, the company told that the battery ran out.
  • Later I found out that the return procedure had not been completed.

Concerns raised by sampling of inquiries and complaints

  • It's not easy for consumers to fully understand complicated contract terms such as insurance coverage, damage waiver, and compensation for non-operation.
  • In some cases, rental cars are not properly checked before and after use.
  • Advanced and sophisticated car features have generated unexpected expensive costs.
  • In some cases, cars are not fully maintained.
  • There are some problems arising from unmanned car sharing stations (e.g. unable to ask questions on the spot).

Advice for consumers

  • Carefully read conditions for getting insurance/compensation coverage. If you have any questions, ask the company.
  • Be sure to check the car and take notes before and after use.
  • If you have had an accident during use, follow the prescribed procedure.
  • When using car sharing service, read how to use on the website beforehand. Be sure to turn off the light and take your belongings with you after use.
  • In case of trouble, consult your local consumer affairs center.

Request to All Japan Rent-A-Car Association

Make sure that your member companies observe the following four points.

  • Give clear explanations to customers on contract terms such as insurance and what to do in case of accident.
  • Check car conditions (e.g. scratches) and make notes.
  • Maintain and check up on cars.
  • Strengthen measures against problems arising from unmanned car sharing stations.