National Van Hire – 6-page complaint

National Car and Van Rental BX56JUE
Won’t be hiring from here again

[Quick update – “UK Van and Minibus Hire” is the same company as A1. Avoid!]

OK, this one’s a doozy and I can’t blame you if you don’t get to the end of it. Upshot is it’s these idiots who cost me the entire of the weekend of the 9th/10th, plus taking the Monday off uni. Not forgetting that Christina, my dad and I ended up spending 23 hours solid moving stuff. And then more time the next day after around 5 hours sleep.

And I just spotted this evening that they’ve over-billed by credit card as well.

UPDATE as people have asked for it, I’ve rediscovered the piece of paper with their head office phone number. It’s 0116 2565656 – the reception will give you the address to send complaints to.

Letter in the post in the morning, addressed to the MD (names abbreviated etc):

Dear Sir,

I am writing to complain in the strongest possible terms about the treatment myself and a friend (Ms C) received from your company on January 9th 2010. One piece of inept “customer care” snowballed into a complete nightmare of a weekend for myself and Ms C.

I am assuming that you or members of your staff have moved house at some point in the past. I therefore hope that you can appreciate that, at the best of times, it is a hugely stressful endeavour. National turned our weekend into one from the very depths of hell itself. Please be aware that I am, frankly, furious about the entire matter and that I have been very careful to refrain from profanity both while talking to your staff on the telephone and in drafting this letter. Believe me, I have not been so restrained when discussing the matter with friends and family.

On the preceding Thursday, we booked a van via your website. This was to be collected at midday from your Perth office and returned around 4pm on the Sunday. We promptly received a conformation email with the address, times and booking reference.

At 11:30 on the Saturday morning, I was stood in the snow outside the aforementioned office, which was unmanned. A large poster in the window told us to ring a number for attention as there was nobody there. At 11:55, I duly called this number… and received a pre-recorded message telling me that the phone was switched off. There was no option to leave a message. We both tried again until around 12:15 – quarter of an hour after we were supposed to collect the van.

We next tried the booking number emblazoned on the side of a van which was parked outside the office. Do note that this “lo-call” number involved a fairly large per-minute rate to ring from Ms C’s mobile as your company does not see fit to provide a proper telephone number for customers to ring.

After ten minutes or so we discovered that there was nobody to rent us a van as there was only one person working in Dundee so they couldn’t close the office to come down and rent one out in Perth. Our booking had been cancelled and nobody had seen fit to do anything simple, such as tell us. By the time another few pounds had dropped into your coffers via the premium telephone number, we discovered that some computer glitch had meant that someone in Dundee hadn’t been able to get our details on Friday to inform us. This same glitch obviously wasn’t still in effect so we were wondering why nobody had contacted us on Saturday morning. Or why they’d not contacted someone else in the company and asked them to do it.

We were given another (premium rate) number to call, which I duly did. I had to explain our situation all over again to another member of staff. They advised us to get a taxi to Dundee and get a van from there, for which you would refund us. Of course, by now we’d be cutting it close as your office in Dundee would be closing in little more than thirty minutes. I asked her to check with them first to see if a van was available. More coins dropped into your corporate piggy bank until she informed us that, no, there was not. A good job we hadn’t flagged down a cab, really.

She agreed to ring round some other offices and call us back. By now, we had no chance of booking from another agent. By the time we got back to my house, it would be past 1pm and everywhere would be shut. My friend was in floods of tears. By this stage, your company had reached the stage of behaving utterly unforgivably.

We finally got a call back where we were told to ring another number. I’ve lost track of the departments now, but more money was added to my mobile bill ringing this one. I demanded a number for the Dundee office, which I called… only to be re-routed back to head office as it was 13:00 and 5 seconds, so Dundee had obviously taken their phone off the hook.

I finally got to speak to a supervisor and informed him in no uncertain terms that National would be furnishing us with a vehicle. On the Saturday. And I did not care if someone had to drive it from London. I did not care if every van was stuck in a garage covered by snow. You would be digging it out. I did not care if it hadn’t been scrubbed clean, or the last renter had left their McDonald’s wrappers on the passenger seat. We would be getting a van.

Maybe fifteen minutes later he called back to say he’d spoken to the manager at Dundee and that there were no vans available. This was simply not good enough. I still had no explanation as to why nobody had contacted us 24-28 hours sooner, why their office had closed early, why the manager herself hadn’t deigned to phone us to apologise, why we couldn’t have the van which was parked outside the office in Perth…

Again I was informed that he would look into it. By now we were well over an hour past out original booking time. The friends who’d volunteered to help us move were getting impatient as they also had other matters to attend to.

Between calls from the gentleman in head office telling me you could do nothing, I received a phone call from Jonathan in Stirling. He, completely at odds to the rest of your company, seemed genuinely sympathetic and interested in helping. I hope you don’t even think of chastising him for this, but he agreed that your other employees had acted unprofessionally and selfishly in trying to fob us off and agreed to make some phone calls. I believe that Jonathan had already finished for the day, but was prepared to put the effort in to resolve the awful situation that Ms C and I were now sliding into.

He contacted the manager of Dundee directly and she, finally, called us. She explained that she was sending someone down to Edinburgh airport to retrieve a van and bring it up to Perth for us. This would take a couple of hours.

This raised some questions:

1)      Why couldn’t this have been organised sooner so that the van had been available earlier?

2)      Where did this mysterious person come from seeing as there was nobody to man the Perth office?

3)      Why couldn’t we have the van that was already there in Perth so that we could get on with moving stuff?

I think I managed to get answers:

1)      Because the manager at Dundee is inept.

2)      He had been brought in on his day off to run a stupid errand which could have been avoided had answer “1” not been the case.

3)      Because it was stuck in snow. Until I pointed out that it was no longer stuck as the snow had melted. At which point it became “too big” as we had booked a smaller van. How incredibly helpful.

Answer three there, really stuck in my throat. I had to, and I do not exaggerate, physically bite my tongue to refrain from shouting at the Dundee manager when she told me that. We were being made to wait what turned out to be five hours for a van to be driven up from Edinburgh because the one already available was too big?! In particular the way that the van switched in the space of one sentence from “stuck” to “big” really galled me. It smacked of someone making up excuses.

I gather that said van had been there for a booking on the 8th, but at that time was bogged down and immobile. However, that booking was no longer relevant. The van was there. And I didn’t give a hoot if it was too large or not. The fact was, we’d booked a van for midday on Saturday and by the time we got one it was after 5pm.

The gentleman who we eventually met at Perth was polite and helped us melt the ice in the windscreen wash bottle before we set off. It was obvious, though, that he wasn’t too happy about being called in on his day off.

Sorted? No. Not in the slightest. It was now dark. Everyone who was due to help us move house had left. Instead of eight people moving things from one second floor flat to another, there were now two. We managed to shift some of the smaller items, but due to the lights in the closes at both locations being broken, we had to give in otherwise we would have risked injury on the stairs.

The next morning we began at 8am. By mid-afternoon it was apparent that with just two people, this was going to be impossible. My father very kindly volunteered to help us move some of the heavier items.

I would like to point out that my father is 64 years old. He had pneumonia 3 years ago, never completely recovered and is asthmatic. He is also, stubborn, helpful and prepared to go out of his way to make sure that people aren’t stuck in a hole they can’t get out of. Unlike many of your staff.

Despite his help, we were forced to continue on into the night regardless of the fact that we were walking blind at times due to the aforementioned broken lights. At 4am (I kid you not) I was questioned outside Ms C’s old flat by the police as they couldn’t believe someone would be moving at that time in the morning.

At some point, I can’t recall when, I received a phone call from one of your staff asking when the van would be returned. I told him “6am tomorrow, if we get finished” to which his response was “That’s fine”. I thought nothing else of it. I had been informed that there would be nobody to check the vehicle until Monday morning anyway.

We finally returned to my house to bed down at 6:30am on Monday. By the time we got to bed, we had been working almost non-stop for 23 hours.

It gets worse.

Late on the Sunday night, Ms C’s sister had informed us that she could no longer stay awake for us to deliver some things to her house for storage. It was simply too late. She had been expecting us earlier on the Sunday, but we couldn’t get the things to her then as we still hadn’t moved other items due to wasting the entire of Saturday sorting out your mess.

At this point, Ms C physically broke down. Prior to this time I was angry with your company. This, however, was crossing a line. She was, for almost half an hour, inconsolable. 11:15pm on Sunday night was when I decided that I would be doing everything in my power to make National pay for what they had done. Things were now far beyond a financial issue or a simple apology.

The above phone call meant that we’d stored all the things due at Ms C’s sister’s at her friend’s flat instead. She was expecting a few boxes and some furniture. When she arrived on Monday morning to find the flat full, she understandably asked for a large amount of it to be removed.

Monday, then, was spent moving a goodly number of boxes plus a freezer and a tumble dryer across Perth using my Renault Clio. Obviously, this took a vastly larger number of trips than in a van – which by now had been returned.

I’m currently a student on a post-graduate course at Strathclyde University. I must maintain an 80% attendance on each module or risk being unable to collect my diploma in June. One of those modules is on a Monday. However, I could not leave Ms C to move everything herself, especially as she had no transport. As such I was forced to miss a tutorial, which displeases me immensely.

In addition, I didn’t make it back to Glasgow until 1am on Tuesday morning after dropping Ms C off in Stirling. Ms C had to return to Perth the following morning by train and then hire a taxi to move the last few items out of her old flat. This, obviously, cost her money in addition to which she had to pay a penalty to the letting agency for leaving the property a day late – she was supposed to hand the keys over on Monday.

I appreciate this is a lengthy letter, but so much went wrong and every single part of it is down to National failing to contact us on Thursday or Friday, thus giving us the time needed to go to another company and rent another van. The complete failure of your staff, excepting Jonathan in Stirling, to give a damn about us or our situation utterly staggers me. For the Dundee manager to go off the radar for almost two hours, close the phone lines early, refuse to speak to me (until Jonathan contacted her), make up pathetic excuses about the van which was in Perth and then force some poor soul on an unnecessary 2½ hour errand is verging on unbelievable.

As well as the emotional and physical strain that your company put us through, you cost us a small packet. The phone calls mount up to slightly under £10. Then there is the fuel cost of driving my car around Perth on Monday. Plus Ms C’s transportation to and from Perth on Tuesday, along with the taxi fare to move her last items into storage and the letting agency’s “fine”. My 100% attendance on my university course has been wiped, though hopefully won’t affect my grade. It does, however, cause potential problems should I fall ill in the next 5 months and there is the fact that the hours at college I missed have actually been paid for. More money wasted courtesy of yourselves.

I went through all of the above as a favour to a friend in need. My father the same. Both of us would do it again. The thing is, neither of us should have had to if National had not acted in such a shoddy, pathetic, and ultimately childish manner. From a simple mistake, to fobbing us off and then spitefully running rings to make it look like you were doing us a favour when a simple solution sat on a driveway 10 minutes away.

And do you know what? It’s not finished. I have just checked my credit card and found that “EC VEHICLE RENTAL WATFORD” has charged £79.17 to my credit card. This comes as a huge surprise given that the bill was supposed to be under £50 as per the agreement I signed on the Saturday evening.

No damage was done to the van and the vehicle was returned with the fuel needle above the “F” mark. I shall, of course, be ringing someone tomorrow to discuss this little affair. So where this extra £30 or so comes from is a mystery. I’m sure someone will make up some pathetic excuse when I call them tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have contacted my credit card company and informed them that this payment is in dispute.

I have dealt with some pretty poor companies in the past. National, however, have caused more problems from one act of ineptitude than just about any other. Believe me, that’s actually quite impressive.

Obviously, I expect a full enquiry and prompt written explanation for all of these failings. I would also expect a reasonable level of financial recompense. I won’t throw figures around. I leave it to you to decide what you believe to be fair for the utter chaos and financial loss your company has caused.

Rest assured, though, that you aren’t trying to buy back my custom. You won’t be getting it again.

I await your prompt and full reply in short order.

Yours faithfully (etc.)

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166 thoughts on “National Van Hire – 6-page complaint”

  1. Jamale – there’s a possibility Barclaycard will chase up these pirates for the money, especially if it’s a company they’ve had a lot of complaints about. Barclaycard will have better lawyers than you 🙂

  2. Question: has anyone involved police in this matter?

    I have just used ‘A1’ myself and have today found the ‘extra’ large sum has been debited as I was expecting. I have some enlightening information about this company and several useful police and other legal contacts who are encouraging me to make this a police matter. But if others have already done so, I won’t spend time doing it. I’m very confident my funds will be returned very quickly or they are in a lot of bother at the highest level. I’m kind of relishing seeing what happens at this point.

  3. I’m no lawyer, but I’d consider – if you know one who’ll do it for free/cheap – getting one to look into it. I’m not sure whether them taking the money would be a criminal or civil offence (i.e. one the police would deal with or one which would involve a private prosecution). The lawyer bods would be in a better position to tell you that.

    However, whatever action you do take please let us know. It would be *very* interesting if you were to set a precedent…

  4. Let’s just say I am not terribly worried, Mosh.

    I wasn’t going to bother calling ‘A1’ but just go through the legal channels as there are many routes to dealing with these sorts of rogues.

    I did call them though, today, and had quite an enjoyable verbal tussle with someone who tried all the ploys you have all outlined, and I just brought them back to the fact that I am not in a job they’d really want to argue with, and that this is going to make their own lives a bit less pleasant if they don’t refund my money rather quickly.

    I stayed calm and that is what I advise you all do. Be clued up on your facts and rights as far as possible, use all the channels available to you, including police, trading standards and the bank/credit/debit card companies who all have processes in place to claw back funds for you.

    I’d say for most people on this site, if you paid with a debit card then call your bank straight away and say that there is a disputed transaction. They will send you the forms to complete (a simple process, possibly just one signature needed) and return to the bank. The bank should reimburse you and take up the matter with A1. Of course if A1 manages to make counter-allegations against you before the bank has refunded you, or even subsequently, then you may find the bank is in the mniddle of a he-says, she-says scenario, in which case they may be unable (not unwilling) to refund. So in that case we look at a different route.

    Now, you’re probably thinking, there is another banking route which is that of a ‘fraudulent’ transaction, but in this case as we are actual customers of A1 and we have had a contract, we cannot take the route of pursuing things as a fraudulent claim, quite simply because a service supplier could legitimately come back and dispute what WE claim to be the case, if there has been a prior contract. So banks cannot just take our word that it is fraud; we have to see their side too. If we did get a van and a service provision, it’s hard to establish fraud. We agreed to pay them. (Just not as much, or for as long!!).

    Anyway! The fraud route is only open to you if you never did receive a service from A1/their subcontracted van provider. If you never did get a van, then it should be simpler for you, but talk with your bank or card issuer.

    Assuming that you cannot follow a ‘fraud’ route, don’t argue the case with your bank or card issuer, just follow instead the ‘unauthorised sum’ route and amass as much information and evidence as you can in anticipation that it could go yet further.

    This includes a record of dates and times, any emails, your hire paperwork that will have come from the 3rd party van supplier, and most vitally, for all those who have hired a van not yet received and who have read horror tales but now cannot get out of it, remember to take detailed photographic evidence of how the van is when received and handed back, including fuel gauge and all internal and external areas. Leave no stone unturned, just assume the worst and gather your ducks in a row.

    If your bank or card issuer fails to refund, again worry not!

    Do not argue with your financial institution as you need a good relationship with them for the future.

    You can pursue your claim now in the County Court, even if it’s small. The principle is as important as the sum involved. In my case it’s a large sum they’ve nicked, by the way.

    If it goes to court, again be calm, reasonable and polite, and don’t interrupt anyone. Present all the evidence including copies of these websites and your emails, records and photos.

    I would say it isn’t worth more than one call to A1; all that does is make you unhappy and angry. Use the time productively to get processes under way, to recoup losses and make a formal nightmare for A1.

    Good luck all.

  5. Oh PS!

    Anyone who has provided ID, which I assume to be all of us, needs to sign up to something like Checkmyfile, or a direct service from Experian or Equifax, which will alert you if something happens that’s untoward on your credit file. This is as vital as chasing missed funds, as a ruined credit report WILL follow us for a long time but can be nipped in the bud via a weekly check online.

  6. Thanks again for the comments, Carole. I’m up in Scotland and not sure how the Small Claims Court thing works up here (if indeed it does) though I have used it successfully in England to claim money back from PC World for selling me a laptop that wasn’t fit for purpose. And then losing it. And all the equipment I’d returned with it for which they had refused to issue a receipt.

    The threat of court wasn’t enough, so I ponied up the fee to take them. They then settled out of court (including refunding my fees for which they were then liable) two days before the court date.

    It’s not a lot of paperwork to get the ball rolling if that’s all it takes, but there is a limit on how much they can owe you before you have to take things further than Small Claims (as the name suggests).

  7. we just had a horrible day with A1NationalVanHire as well. I would recommend to EVERYONE that they avoid this company as well as any company who uses their EC Vehicle Hire Watford (the people who TAKE your money).

    Here’s our story: Van delivery due at 0900 today.

    930am: We called your 0844 809 9171 number to ask where the van/driver was. We confirmed with the reference number and the gentleman told us “the driver will be there in about 10 minutes”.

    1030am: We called the same number asking again where the van/driver was. We were placed on hold for them to ‘call the district office’ and were told “we can’t get hold the the office. We’ll call you back”. NO ONE ever called us back.

    1045am: We called the 0116 260 3599 number and asked them where the van was and they told us that we should ‘look out the window that the van is sitting outside’. I explained I had been at the road for the last 1/2 hour and no one with a van is/was here.

    1100am: We called both numbers again and were told that the van had been in an accident and they were dispatching another van and the new arrival time would be 12:30pm.

    1245pm: we called 0116 260 3599 and spoke with David who told us he has a confirmation from the reservation centre that the van was for delivery at 3pm, yet when he looked on his screen it showed the van had already been DELIVERED!!! We asked how that could be possible, especially since we were told about the accident and new dispatch of another van. At this point after all the lies, excuses, and miscommunication, we requested him to cancel the hire and that expected to have our deposits refunded TODAY. We also called 0844 809 9171 and informed the reservation centre to cancel us and refund our deposits TODAY as well.

    Because we have NO faith in them returning our money anytime soon, we also called our bank and disputed the charges (that they took 4 days ago).

  8. Kay, you have my sympathy especially after what my friend and I went through in the snow – the incident which prompted the initial blog post. A1 / National / EC are – to be blunt about it – complete shit. Their business practices are atrocious, as you’ve seen with their willingness to lie to you. The legislation which lets them take sums from your bank before the hire has been complete *and* afterwards for no reason needs to be changed.

    In the meantime I’d advise you and everyone else to seek a nice, local company. One that friends can recommend. You’ll often pay far less and get significantly better service. Smaller companies *need* your business and will treat you accordingly.

  9. Iain

    There is a new van hire forum on the net amazingly it is called vanhireforum.com; why not post you blog on there. If it is genuine they would love this I am sure and I would be more than happy to see A1 national attacked elsewhere on the web and their suppliers. The only way we are going to get rid of these crooks is to expose them as much as possible to as many people as possible.
    I will post on there about this blog and suggest they get in touch with you.

  10. David – thanks for that. Yes, word of mouth and getting the word out there is important.

    I recently had a legal complaint regarding Parking Eye, one of those dodgy companies that try to screw you for parking somewhere when they have no legal basis for doing so. Their solicitors demanded I take down a blog post and my host forced my hand saying that if I didn’t they’d remove my blog, despite the fact I was legally in the right (or at least, no legal judgement had been made).

    To get round it, I cross-posted the information on three or four other websites and redirected visitors to them instead. The original post had something like 200 views in a month. After their “takedown order” across the other forums, it had well in excess of 6000 views in a *week*.

    Sometimes you have to love the internet and clueless legal beagles.

  11. Fuming with them!

    Although reading through some of these, I think I’ve got off a little lighter. Hired the van ok, but just waiting, and waiting and waiting for the deposit. Tried ringing, but rude staff/no managers in/I am the manager nonsense.

    Still not got the deposit back, but logged it with Consumer Direct, and will be following their advice, talked to my bank and emailed the BBC for Watchdog. Hopefully I’ll get it back soon, and more importantly, they’ll get closed down.

  12. Steve, good luck getting the cash back. I’m sure you will, but it’s ludicrous that they seem to be able to hold onto it for so long.

    I actually need to rent a van myself shortly to move all the stuff stored at my folks’ down to my new address. Someone else recommended a company called Yellow (I think). They seem OK and feedback seems better, so I’ll give them a go. Failing that, someone else some months back recommended just using small local firms. They really do value your trade and you’ll be more likely to get good service.

    Remember, folk – if you get good service then spread the word as much as you complain about shit like National / A1 / Europcar.

  13. Just to let you know, got my money back, but as you say, a farce that they can keep it for so long.
    Thanks for the help from this website!
    Steve

  14. No worries, Steve. For the record, I’ve got a van sat outside I hired via Yello which I ended up collecting from Arnold Clark in Paisley. Runs like a dream and due back in the morning. Any problems and I’ll be happy to have a whinge on here also!

  15. Hi everyone
    We have also just experienced the A1 treatment, booked a van a week in advanced.. Was shocked when they took out £500 deposit as well as the £300 van hire charge.. Turned up 3 hours late.. Was half the size of what we ordered ! Apparently it was that or nothing.. We ended up having to do 3 trips (of 150 miles each way) me being pregnant and also with a 5 year old in tow…
    1 month later and goodness knows how many phone calls to “tony” in the office and still no deposit ! Been assured its being transferred on 4 occasions now and mysteriously it hasn’t shown up… Defo putting something to a solicitor next week if it isn’t here by Monday SICK of them fobbing us off !!! This company should be on watchdog or rogue traders

  16. I’d definitely have lawyers involved by now. I’d also go to your credit card company/bank and tell them that the £500 withdrawal was fraudulent. The deposit should never be actually withdrawn from the card/account unless the van is damaged. In addition, they should be refunding you for the van being smaller than quoted – you didn’t get what you paid for – and the additional fuel charges incurred from their mistake.

    If you do get lawyers involved, ensure you sue for additional emotional distress as well. Take the bastards for everything you can. Shower of useless cowboys, the lot of them (except the guy in Stirling I dealt with who seemed to be the only person in the entire company who actually cared about the customers).

  17. I can’t believe I came across this website too late!!!!! I rented a van from A1 and the van was never delivered. The company took the money (rent+deposit) from by bank account and I have been chasing them for over a week to get my money back without success…well at least I know is because they are not going to give me my money back.

    After reading all the posts I am going to follow Carol Jone’s advise. I guess I was kind of lucky because the service was never delivered so I can treat this as fraud and get my bank to keep doing the calling, because I am getting bored of it. I am also finding it very stressful.

    I made a complaint online to Action Fraud. They work with the police. Perhaps if all of us do this they will close down the company before they keep taking people’s money.

    Good luck with the refunds and claims!

  18. Victoria – very sorry to hear about your problems, but yes it sounds like you’re in a very good position in that the service was never provided. I just realised that it’s almost 24 months since the incident that sparked this post and since it went up, it’s remained one of the highest-viewed posts on the blog before or since. I think the two that come close to it are a similar issue with ParkingEye and their fraudulent attempts to rip off people for parking legally (which spiralled in views by an incredible amount when their inept lawyers tried to force me to remove the post), and useless flight booking agents eDreams over on my travel blog.

    Do spread the word, though. Make sure as many people as possible know about the awful “service” and hopefully they’ll go elsewhere.

  19. Here is information about the owner and direictor of A1. They ripped me off too….
    Mr

    Name: Hammond Kumar
    Address: [edited by site admin – sorry! Tempted to leave it on here, but I’m worried it would lead to legal issues for the blog]
    Date of Birth: xx/xx/xxxx
    Nationality: British
    Function: Director

  20. Mr Hammond the Director of A1 personal mobile No is 0xxxxxxxxxx. [edited by site admin – sorry! Tempted to leave it on here, but I’m worried it would lead to legal issues for the blog]
    After reading all this comments now I know I am not going to get my deposit back….Pissed me off big time…I need that money to buy my daughters xmass present and Mr Kumar took it.

    This man is wanted dead or alive.

  21. Hired a van over the phone on the Monday for ‘drop off’ the next Saturday. Got a call back a day or two later saying that they won’t be able to drop off after all because it was a Saturday – but could give it about £60 cheaper if i could pick it up myself. Fair enough.
    Then i was called 1 day before to say they didn’t even have the van that was promised !
    After they offered a full refund (£770 including deposit) I gladly accepted, even though it messed up my moving plans all together for our family for that weekend.
    3 weeks later, still no refund.
    An email later i got a reply in broken english saying it would be looked into straight away.
    Another week later no answer.
    Another telephone call, only to be told it would be sorted out.
    2 weeks later I went to the bank to sort it out and had to fill in some paperwork to say what had happened etc.
    Now, today i have finally recieved my money back from Visa which they now will recover from the cowboy firm.
    Luckily I paid via credit card as they have insurance aginst fraudsters like these.
    Had i paid by debit card or something similar, I doubt very much I would have seen the colour of my money again and would have had to chase them through the small (?) claims court like plenty of others have had to from what i’ve now read from various other review sites.
    Wish i’d checked those beforehand – It seems like you have to these days unfortunately.
    P.S. And allways a crap attitude on the other end of the telephone to top it all.

  22. Andy, sorry to hear your story (as with everyone) but thanks for adding it to the list. Hopefully this will keep my page fairly high in the Google ranks and people will see it *before* they fork out money to this useless bunch!

  23. I hired a van from these robbers on 20th january.
    They dropped then van off 5hrs earlier than i asked, then picked it up 2 days later than arranged.
    The problem is the security deposit of £250 which they have decided to pocket for themselves.
    Having rang them several times and sent numerous emails, i finally recieved an email on 29th january appologising and stating that my deposit had been reprocessed back to my account and would clear in 72 hours.
    Six days later and i’m still out of pocket.
    I’ve sent threats of legal action etc but i guess they are getting used it on a daily basis.
    I have actually contacted BBC watchdog and made enquiries through the trading standards website.
    I’m gonna wait and see what happens but think my next step will be the small claims court.
    I’m actually tempted to pay a visit to their office in Leicester, they may be a bit more forthcoming when they meet me in person!

  24. Hey Steve – if you made the deposit via a credit card, contact your issuer. They may be able to refund it and chase the van hire mob up themselves. Failing that, small claims court is an option especially given that they’ve admitted they should have returned the cash already. It doesn’t cost much to make a claim and if they admit liability (which they already have) even without going to court then they also have to refund your fees.

  25. Hi everyone.
    I have just had a similar experience with A1
    I hired a van from them in Northampton on 3 February 2012. I paid in advance by Mastercard credit card leaving a £250 deposit. I was reasonably satisfied that they are a good company as they appear prominently on Google with other major companies and I had seen their vehicles on the road.
    The vehicle was delivered to the requested address the day before it was requested. It was, in fact, a Hertz vehicle.Documentation and keys were posted through the letter box.
    I returned the vehicle early, in good condition and fully fuelled.
    I waited for my return of deposit. I contacted them by email asking when it would be returned. They said 7 working days. When it did not appear I contacted them by phone and a further email. On the phone I was told that they were behind with their refunds. The person identified himself as “gary”. His accent suggested that this was not the truth.
    Since then I have sent three emails, allof which have been ignored.
    Thanks to everyone who have left information. Is there any value in contacting Google to have this company removed from a prominent position when searching for van hire.
    Any further advice would be welcome and I will update if I get any response from these “cowboys”.

  26. Update as promised
    I have contacted A1 on the following telephone number. 0116 2603599
    The other number 0116 2565656 got me through to a very nice lady who was very helpful but said that the companies were not directly connected but they did do business. maybe?
    Having sent an email this morning without a reply I rang the first number above which was part of my confirmation email when I first hired the van.
    First of all it was reservations who said they could not put me through to the department which dealt with refunds. They asked where I has sent my emails ( which was a reply to my original confirmation. No, they said, you wont get a reply to that, Send an email to info@a1nationalvanhire.co.uk. Then put the phone down on me!
    I duly sent an email demanding a refund within 48 hours or I would begin the process of recovering the debt.
    I then again rang the first number above (to try and confirm they had received the email) and it was immediately answered by someone who identified himself as Michael. He assured me that the money would be in my bank by close of business on Friday without fail.
    Yeh, right.
    I have now had an email confirmation to that effect.
    We will see…watch this space
    Tony

  27. Hi, Tony. Sorry for the delay in approving your comment – it’s not easy for me to access blogs from work!

    Your story sounds so typical of others. Unhelpful staff, failed refunds, rudeness, “lost” emails… heard it so many times before. Thanks for the updates with the phone numbers and email addresses and do keep us up to date with what happens.

    Oh, regarding your idea of contacting Google. Good luck with that. First, contacting Google over the matter wouldn’t be easy – I doubt they have a simple means of doing so. Even if you did, there’s the matter that they’re highly placed due to the fact they’ll be paying Google. I agree with you, though. They shouldn’t be listed so high, regardless of their spending, if they’re a shoddy company that will screw you over.

  28. Tony
    Like you I had a very bad experience with this company and actually the company they have started to branch out and open their own depots – spreading the canker that is A1 NATIONAL even further. All owned a run by Mr Hammond Kumar. Depots in Leicester and Birmingham so far.
    I have tried to compalin to Google, they are not interested, A1 achieve their listing by ADWORDS, Gooles paid for listing service. Why not complain to Hertz cut off his supply???

  29. Sadly, I can see it being the same issue – Hertz make money from them so they’ll favour A1 National. The single best way you can ensure these useless areholes don’t take other people’s money is to *spread the word*.

    Tell everyone you know personally. Recommend somewhere else. Post on places like this, consumer advice forums, BBC Watchdog… It’s all we can do.

  30. Did you get your deposit back David?
    I am retired so I have time to pursue these scumbags.I am going to make as much trouble for them as I can.
    I am annoyed with myself for not spotting them. I must be getting old and soft. Google attitude is unacceptable. I will complain to them and change my search engine if I receive no satisfaction.

  31. Tony – have you considered Small Claims Court? It has the added bonus that when the eventually cough up, they also have to refund you your costs in full. Worked for me with PC World when they refused to refund me for a laptop that was broken when I bought it.

    As for Google’s attitude, it stinks but it’s typical of any company. I’d bet you a tenner that you’d get the same response from a newspaper or TV company.

  32. Hi guys, just to let you know, i did recieve my deposit back after 4 weeks of emails, phone calls and threats of legal action. It seems somebody on their staff has a concience! 10 mails a day and clogging up their phone line must have worn them down. Good luck!

  33. Thanks Mosh…that is my next step.As far as Google is concerned. I did a little “experiment” with Yahoo UK and put the same search parameters as I did when I found A1 on Google. It will be no surprise that they (A1) did not appear. Obviously dont pay Yahoo.
    Thanks for the encouragement too geordie37
    Will post further updates

  34. Tony

    All search engine use paid adds and Yahoo are no different, but less people use yahoo compared to Google and A1 are just out MUG CATCHING so they spend with Google. All search engines are as bad as the next. Google has a market share of 84% of all searches whereas Yahoo is at about 6% now – A1 want volume so they just use Google. I also found through trial and error a really good van hire company I use all the time now always nice and friendly a sometimes cheaper than many others (but not always, but they don’t take a deposit when I use a credit card just a swipe. They are called Yellohire they are on the front page of Google but not in the paid section – try them next time you need a car or van hire. They also do a servicemans discount either serving or retired, I have seen no on else do that.

  35. Yes I did, you should be doing a chargeback on your credit card with Mastercard, just ring them it was used without your concent over and above the final agreed amount. They must have a file about these crooks – infact ask them why they are still able to take money and ask to speak to their fraund, and ask them to look at your case in relation to A1 and any other cases they may have had with them.

  36. Thanks for the updates, guys. I’ve used Yellohire myself after someone else mentioned them on here and had no problems – I ended up with a van via Arnold Clark, who were superb.

  37. Hi all.
    I am pleased to report that the £250 deposit arrived in my account today. Actually earlier than they had promised. This seemed to happen quickly when the man who identified himself as Michael. He said to me several times in the course of the conversation that he is a supervisor and that I was to rest assured that he would sort the situation. To be fair, he has done just that. So, if you are having trouble with A1 you may want to try and speak to Michael on 0116 2603599
    I have made three calls to this number and previously spoke to others who, although polite, did not seem to do, or care, very much. When they answer it is announced as Reservations so ask for the supervisor, Michael.

  38. Tony, glad to hear they sorted it out. Still, took them long enough. When I had my problems with them, I had my issues resolved (to some degree) by some poor sod who worked in a different depot. Nobody at head office gave a toss about my situation. I guess I was lucky reaching the one person with any semblance of professionalism in their entire company that day.

  39. I remember I sent you Mr Hammond prrsonal phone No. I called it and left a message that I was going to deal with him personally. Someone then called me back within 5mins and asked me to give them my details so they can put my money back. It was £250 deposit but they deposited back £500. I feel so much pain when I read these comments that they are still taking peoples money. You should give them all Mr Hammonds phone No.
    I did a little research and got everything about him even the picture of him. But perhaps Hammond is not his real name, he is Asian and this name dont sound Asian, but is the name on HMRC records.
    Good luck everyone.

  40. I also recently had an experience with these clowns, I’d thought I’d share my story/advice.
    On 29 Feb I sent off an order to A1 for a van to be delivered tomorrow (17 March) and collected sunday evening. My girlfriend and I are just buying our first flat and wanted to travel to Derby where my girlfriends family have saved a load of furniture for us. We made the booking and put in my card details. However, alarm bells started ringing when I got home from work the next day and had an email saying £750 was being taken. This seemed like a lot, and I wasn’t expecting the deposit to come out straight away (Taking 500 quid from me, even if it was just for 2.5 weeks is not on).

    Worried by this, my girlfriend and I looked A1 up online, and found all the horrible reviews. So, we instantly emailed to cancel. We also backed this up with a call, and they confirmed the cancellation. However, on calling my bank, I was told that a payment of $750 was pending to come out of my account. She told me that, if I call A1 they can give me a payment authorisation code, which Natwest could then use to stop the payment from my account before it went through. I called A1, and was not at all suprised when they wouldn’t give me the authorisation code.

    The next straw came when we had an email from A1 saying they would be taking a 20% cancellation fee. As they had the opportunity to cancel the transaction before the money was transfered and didn’t take it, this was totally unacceptable.

    As we already nknew of their reputation, we instantly took action. My girlfriend (who did a law degree) started looking up the Consumer protection (Distance selling) act (which can be found here:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2000/2334/contents/made

    I recommend people take a look, as it contains lots of ammuntition) and we started quoting bits of the act at them, threatening them with legal action. We also pointed out how interesting it was that they took 20% VAT but do not have a VAT number on their website and don’t appear to be VAT registered…

    At the same time I had also started a disputed claim with my bank, just in case. We pointed this out to them in an email as well.

    After all of this we recieved, within a week, an email saying that the full amount would be returned within 2-3 working days. On the 4th working day we emailed again asking why this had not happened, and received a reply saying that there had been a mix up and we could expect payment in 7-10 working days. From this point we decided not to let up and send them hourly reminders that we were expecting the money back. Afinal email saying that this is ridiculous as there is no good reason why a payment should take this long, and we will be resuming our disputed claim, consider legal action and get on to trade standards if the funds were not with us in 48 hours finally seemed to convince them, as well as saying that we would take them to small claims court to get interest on the money they have effectively been borrowing without our permission. Later that day we were emailed with the old “the money will be with you in 48-72 hours” and within 24 hours, the money was back in my account! Victory!

    Although we weren’t mucked around particularly, we were not prepared to give these guys any benefit of the doubt. They took £500 of my money without my permission, and that was just totally unacceptable. Keeping it for 2 weeks for no good reason was just the icing on the cake. I would recommend that constant reminders, gentle threats of court, backed up with quotes from the regulations mentioned above and gentle threats of getting trade standards/HMRC involved seem to motivate these guys. Above all keep all emails you exchange as evidence, and keep calm and reasonable so that if you do have to use the emails as evidence you seem like the better person!

    Good luck to anyone still battling with these guys. Be persistant and you should be okay.

  41. Good advice there. You have a lot of rights under the Distance Selling regulations, and small claims court is a decent option when you know you’re in the right. Even better is just go ahead and start the SCC proceedings – then A1 are liable for the costs as well. I did this with PC World some years ago. They ignored my threats, so I just went ahead and coughed up the cash to take them to court. End result, it was settled out of court and they had to pay my fees as well – it would have been cheaper to just refund my money in the first place as I’d asked.

  42. An interesting idea, though I’m not sure that they’re *technically* fraudulent… just crap. However, no harm in alerting the relevant people to their dodgy business practices.

  43. I too have had problems from this company. Booked a Luton van 16th-18th March. It arrived late, and sat uncollected for 2 days after the collection date, clogging my parents drive.

    I too have had £754 taken from my Amex card (£500). I was told it would be refunded within 7-10 days, then today have been told “its a problem with our finance company, Streamline, you have to email Barry Davies and he will sort it out”. When I mentioned I was concerned there was fraudlent use of my card, the person on the phone put the phone down. He denied doing so on my calling back. I have emailed this person (at info@A1…etc) stating I want an immediate refund of the deposit or will be notifying my credit card company and pursuing legal action.

    After reading the tales of woe, I have notified American express of their delays and my lack of faith in receiving a refund. I have asked to make a claim of my credit card under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1971, which provides protection. Thank goodness I made payment using a CC, as this protects against failure to deliver goods as promised, so even if they dont cough up, the CC company will. Ive also asked American Express to suspend this company using their credit card to protect other customers – surely they must be seeing a lot of people in similar boats.

    Remember – if you paid using a credit card, you are protected. See MoneySavingExpert and search “Section 75” for information – dont take no for an answer, you dont have to pursue the company, your credit card company is insured to protect you from this – thats why you pay the high interest fees…..

    best of luck

    Alan

  44. Good advice, Alan, and good luck. Just get word around about them and, with any luck, the message will start reaching people *before* they end up out of pocket to these idiots.

  45. Hi All,
    Everything above all too familiar. Did not receive my 250 deposit back, countless phonecalls/ emails sent to them. Today, having finally threatened legal action etc, I received an email from them (finally) stating “Good Afternoon
    We apologise that your vehicle refund has not been returned as yet. We will get this processed straight away and if you can allow up until Friday 25.05.12 for this action to clear into your account.
    We do apologise for any inconvenience caused.
    Kind Regards
    A1″…so fingers crossed.
    I’ve already raised with trading standards/ watchdog and my credit card company as back-up in case I don’t receive the funds.

  46. Andy – yes, sadly getting to be an all-too-familiar story. Hopefully nobody you know personally will use these shysters again! Keep spreading the word. There’s little excuse for poor customer service, no excuse for trying to rip people off.

  47. They got me too…only I never even got my van. At least I can claim simple fraud rather than having to wrangle over the deposit.

    Please, everybody who has been ripped off by these people, take Yoko’s advice and make an official complaint against these fraudsters. http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/

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