Money taken from me for damages outside of my hire period without permission

I have been advised to try all means to have my situation resolved before I escalate this.
This posting is an attempt to communicate with someone higher up in the Onto Management team as to my experience and how money has been taken from me based on inaccurate reports and falsification of documents that were used to take a payment from against my permission.

@Lily_at_Onto
@Rob_at_Onto

23/10/20
I took delivery of a Renault Zoe for one month, the drop off driver parked it on the road near my house, took four photographs of the car and left.

23/11/20
My hire period ends and in the next fews days I received phonecalls to say that the collection driver is unable to pick up the car. I explained that I no longer had access to the vehicle via the App because the hire period had ended but the car had 70% battery charge at this point.

27/11/20
I am informed that a collection driver will pick up the car at 1pm on this day.
At 1:30pm, he arrived, rang my doorbell and asked for the key to the car. I explained that I do not have the key and that it is opened and started via an App. I was on a work phonecall at the time and so advised the driver that he contact Onto as to how to access the car and that I would join him after my phone call. 20 minutes later I went to join the driver but he and the car had gone.

08/12/20
I received an email from Onto saying that the car had been inspected by GEFCO and that there was a charge for £114 (£95 +£19 VAT) which would be taken from my account. Upon looking at the attached report I see that it was for a Nearside Front Alloy to be polished. The report had a different figure of £117 containing an inspection fee of £22 and the Polish at £95. The date of this Inspection Report was 03/12/20 and the photographs of the car were taken in the interior of a garage area with many other cars. The car is clean in the photographs. The battery was recorded at 6%.

The email offered for me to query the damage and so on the same day I sent a reply. I wrote back to Onto within the hour to say that I dispute the damage informing them that the damage was done after the car was picked up from my address and that there was no damage to the car during my hire period. I highlighted on the email that these photographs were taken some considerable time after it was picked up and that I should not be debited for this.

15/12/20
I received an email from Onto to say that my dispute had been rejected and that the amount would still be debited. The email attached a Collection Report from the driver and the body of the email stated that the driver is not responsible for the Nearside Front Alloy damage as the scratches are present in the images on the Collection Report.

The Collection Report is dated at 5pm on 27/11/20. It contains a supposed signature from myself at 4:42pm. The images in the Collection Report are taken at dusk time in a large car park clearly taken after the Collection driver finished his journey with the battery saying 15%. One particular photograph shows the dashboard at a time of 16:29. The photographs include one of the Nearside Front Wheel showing no damage. The car is dirty in these images presumedly from the Collection Driver’s journey which judging my the addresses is a journey of 70 miles. Under the damages section, nothing is marked for damage.

Instead of including any photographs taken at the point of collection, the report contains the four photographs taken when the car was dropped off. This is notable because the car is parked on yellow lines which are no longer present when the council resurfaced the road in early November.

At this point I phoned Onto and spoke to a customer representative to explain that the documents sent to me contain no damage and that Onto were wanting to charge me. The representative said that he could not speak to me about this. I asked to speak to someone who could speak to me. He said it was company policy for me to not speak to anyone else about this and the call ended.

So I replied to the email on the same day. I explained that it was not my signature, that the Collection Report contains zero damage anyway and that the photographs were taken somewhere else not outside my house. I explained that four photographs were not from the day of collection but from a month previous. I explained that the scuff was not done during my hire period, and that it is clear that the damage was done between collection and the Inspection Report date when the car had been driven by other people. I explained that I can accept that the clear mistakes made on the administration paperwork are forgivable but any attempt to place the damage of the car on myself outside of the terms and conditions then I would consider this an attempt of fraud. I expressed that there is no permission from myself to take payment.

23/12/20
I received a reply to my email to say that the Collection Report does contain images and that there may be issues on my side loading the document.
It states that due to Covid the drivers are required to keep a certain distance from the customer therefore no signature is required.
The email highlighted in the previous photograph a mark on the wheel which they attribute to the damage and that Onto deems myself liable for it.

I replied that the any damage to the car in these photographs is not identified in the Collection Report and that it was outside of my hire period and after collection. Onto are trying to claim for damage that is undertaken between collection and inspection.

29/12/20
Onto takes payment from me without my permission and for damage outside of the hire period.

Perhaps the Collection Driver did not take any photographs of the car at my residence. Instead photographs of the drop-off are included in the Collection Report. When the car is collected I am not liable for any damage to the car, especially after a 70 mile journey from a collection driver who was unaware how to unlock the car. No damage was listed in the collection report even after this 70 mile journey and my signature has been forged at this point 70 miles away.

I have been chatting to numerous people on forums with similar experiences and it appears that my experience is not uncommon. One person pointed me to this community forum which is why I write here.

I am not accountable for any errors of Onto staff and I am not accountable for any damage outside of my hire period. Could someone from the Onto management team please respond to this posting before my experience with Onto is escalated.

I wish Onto well as the service had generally been positive up until this point. But this method of attempting to charge customers without the due diligence of paperwork is dreadful. Especially when paperwork is inaccurate and falsified.

Kind Regards.

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I feel your pain but why didn’t you take photos of the car before you handed it back. I have done this for many many vehicles over the last 20 years because a previous employer would make me personally pay charges for company rented vehicles if I could not prove my innocence. My ONTO Zoe arrived with a dent in one wheel which wasn’t noted and I didn’t see until I cleaned the car but it was evident on the delivery photos that I had taken so I had no charges.

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Because I’m familiar with a different practice where upon collection, the driver and the customer go over the vehicle together and note anything they observe. And then they sign.

I didn’t expect the collection driver to just drive off without saying anything at all to me.

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Fair enough, the lesson is take the photos the last time you leave the car.

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It does sound like you tried your best. There maybe something in the hire agreement regarding the automatic payment for damages, which can only be ascertained after the hire ends.
As the number of carshare/car hire companies grow in app based cars, the need to be present when cars are delivered or collected is removed, allowing everyone flexibility.
There used to be text messages sent with a form for us to fill in. I am not sure that happens anymore or if the collection driver only does that bit? Another thought do collection photos need to be submitted within a reasonable period of time? and what is that timeframe?
This doesn’t help when you were hoping to observe the driver take pictures of your car after your meeting. It is much harder to prove your case if there are no photos from yourself, against the photos taken by the collection company.
There maybe a few pointers read this thread

Covid or non Covid onto need to sort these issues out.

Surely there should be a sign off / hand back section on the app where you upload photos & do a video. Then the person collecting does a form and you (the person handing back) and the collector BOTH agree the damage or non damage !

Come on, if the likes of Enterprise can do it I have every faith onto can do it.

You can’t be collecting cars then mysteriously finding damage weeks or even months later.

*these issues are all over Facebook and can tell you first hand it’s made a friend of mine go with Elmo over you at onto. Not good, not good at all.

I’m always telling people about you but when people do a search and find lots of people getting billed for non existent damages, it looks dodgy! Well dodgy.

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@Pinky_Ponk Tell your friend to email Elmo with my referral and they will add a further £50 off (referral: ISB2GG on top of other discounts she/he/it might have gotten; it’s a mutual referral). Let me know “, it would be much appreciated

Hi @David , we hope that everything is clear after running through the damage and associated costs on our phone call yesterday with one of our team.

We have been taking onboard feedback from the community over the last few months to try and improve this and ensure our end of hire communications on damage are as clear as possible.
If you would like to talk to one of our team about damage charges that is absolutely something you should be able to do. If you can reply directly back to the email, our repair and maintenance team will give you a call to discuss the case further. For clarity on the process, pictures are taken by the driver on vehicle collection and then again once the car has been thoroughly cleaned and checked over at one of our sites.

We have built this forum with the aim of encouraging dialogue about EVs, but also so that we can be as transparent as possible and get open feedback on how we can improve our service. As we’ve been expanding and growing we have made mistakes and are constantly learning to try and improve the experience.

One thing we are consciously not doing is making any revenue from damage charges, we pass on the cost price of repairs only. The maintenance team review every estimate to ensure that our repair partners have not only identified the damage correctly and according to BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear standards, but have also proposed the most appropriate repair method to arrive at the right cost.

For Onto to continue to deliver safe and well prepared vehicles we need the confidence and collaboration of our customers - a key component of this is the recovery of costs for damage done whilst the vehicle is in your care. In that way we can continue to grow and provide an ever increasing choice of Onto cars.

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Thanks for the response @Rob_at_Onto. I agree entirely with the sentiments you express. The only part of the procedure that gives me some cause for concern is the second inspection. I always try and hand my vehicles back clean, and so feel any damage should be clearly visible in the photos taken by the delivery driver. What degree of importance would be placed on my photos taken when the vehicle left me, if they don’t show damage that is later discovered?

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Thank You for your reply Rob. The nature of receiving an invoice/charge suddenly in an email without being able to speak to someone about it is an unpleasant experience.
Yes I did speak to Ben and to Paul yesterday and they helped clarify some things for me.
The problem was that the way in which the information was presented to myself with photographs of an inspection report combined with not being able to speak to someone led me to question the process and the charges. Paul and I spoke at depth about how a phonecall can help customers here and I believe it’s something that is already being implemented at Onto.
As a business owner myself I fully understand how teething problems can happen and I’m pleased for you that you are smoothing this out. I like what yourself and Onto are doing, but there are some rocks in the road which I understand. I would be more than happy to give you feedback anytime. For example, when your drop-off drivers deliver a car - they really really really shouldn’t moan about electric cars !

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I actually had a phone call from on.to the day after my last car was delivered asking about the experience and especially about the driver. If the car was clean and charged and if the driver was courteous etc. so I do feel they are trying to gather feedback on the individual delivery drivers to sort out any bad apples.

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That’s the problem with outsourcing the work to companies like BCA and Gefco. They don’t work for ONTO, and for most of them it’s their first time with an EV. They have no idea how it all works, how to best charge it or anything like that. They really need to get their own drivers who are behind the wheel of electric cars all the time and have the experience of the vehicles and charging infrastructure in order to get cars to and from the customer on time and without issues… Unlike mine who arrived an entire day late after exclusively granny charging it along the way!

It’s really encouraging to see the CEO engaging on the forum and listening to feedback. For my part, I can say that by and large I’ve found the hand back process and damage charges I’ve experienced so far have been fair and as expected.

That said… I do think the fair wear and tear policy is quite strict and you certainly need to factor those costs in to the total cost of the lease. This is probably felt particularly acutely for short term leases, as seems to be the case here (just one month).

A traditional car hire company probably wouldn’t charge for a scuff to an alloy (at least Enterprise say they won’t). Of course you’d pay a fair bit more for a month-long lease.

A long-term lease vehicle typically has a more forgiving fair wear and tear policy (10cm scuff on alloy vs onto’s 5cm allowance) plus an allowance of up to £150 of repairs without charge (in the case of Leaseplan). Of course in this case you are committed and have the vehicle for multiple years.

Personally, I’d like to see Onto adopt a policy closer to that of the long-term leasing companies.

I’m not sure making more phone calls is the way forward. ONTO are a tech start-up and should be using technology more. They should be focussing on eliminating all human contact and automating every aspect of customer interaction (including swaps and damage charge appeals).

The fact I have to call ONTO for anything is a big fail in my book.

I’m still waiting on a call back to book my Kona swap and another call back regarding proof of business cover on the insurance policy (I’ve been waiting for weeks on that one).

The only way ONTO will scale is with technology, not with phone calls and endless human interaction.

Just my view.

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I Would agree with this IF they actually responded to emails. I often find my messages go completely unanswered, and the ones that do get a response take a number of days. Right now, I have to rely on the phone calls otherwise I would have no communication with them whatsoever!

Self service online options need to improve, but there also needs to be people available on the phone (people who are actually employed by ONTO, not i247) to assist when those self service options aren’t enough, or when something happens to go wrong and waiting 2-3 days to find out if you are lucky enough to get a reply to an urgent email simply isn’t appropriate.

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Hi @E7EV - the quick answer is that your photos would be useful, but subject to the same constraints as the logistics partner. We are building an improved damage upload functionality into the app so that you will be emailed all pictures you email to our server too. Let me explain our approach…
The inspection carried out at collection is to allow the logistics company to capture any damage in transit, but we are finding that these images help in cases where the images taken at this time match the damage identified at inspection when the car is moved to our turnaround partner.

There are three main limiting factors with kerbside inspections - firstly, the weather/ambient conditions (we can’t control this!), secondly the availability of technical resources to carry out the inspection and meet delivery schedules, and thirdly the ability to fully appraise the vehicle if we suspect there is hidden damage that would require the use of ramps or even a partial strip to arrive at the final cost.

For these reasons we have decided to bring the vehicle back to a controlled environment.
Remember also that not every customer looks after the vehicle in the same way, and we do really appreciate it when the vehicle is clean and tidy, with all loose items inside!

In this way and with reference to the last turnaround inspection, the drop-off, collection and latest inspection images we can make a more informed decision on the charge. It’s not easy, as you can imagine, but we want to get this right - it benefits us all. In the end my maintenance team are always prepared to discuss the damage charge and arrive at a sensible conclusion.

@David @Koda @lgrok - we are equally frustrated with some of the delivery experiences you have had. We are in the process of recruiting and upskilling our own drivers as well for this exact reason.

@sdmr I will check in with the team about how our fair wear and tear policy varies vs. long-term leases, as we definitely want to be fair. I think having an allowance once you’ve had a car for a certain period of time should be something we look into - doing this for someone who hires the car for one month would always be tricky though!

@Ben1 - completely agree that we need a tech solution to automate a lot of the customer interactions at the moment (with a 24/7 phone line also there for further support). We have a large tech team working on this as we speak. The first stage of this for direct online bookings was rolled out a few months ago, its slightly more complex for swapping cars but this will follow in the coming months, it is. I will follow up with our CS team to check on why proof of business cover hasn’t been sent already.

Wish everyone a happy new year!

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Agreed. That is the problem.

Self service is the way forward, the app should be able to do everything including swaps, damage charges/appeals, insurance claims - the whole lot. No one should have to e-mail or call.

Of course, someone should be available by phone if all of the above were to fail you.

I work in IT and have worked for numerous tech start-ups and ONTO just feels a little strange to me. ONTO needs to be a technology company that intends to disrupt the rental sector, not a legacy rental firm with half decent tech (kind of how it feels now). There is a huge difference between the two.

We should also be seeing roadmaps on software development as well. The blog should be used to showcase the future of ONTO, not just to announce new car models.

That’s great news. Thank you for responding.

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Bit of a strange announcement on Twitter, especially after Rob said they’re equally frustrated with the delivery experiences and are in the process of recruiting and training their own drivers.

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This appears to be old news as Gefco have been doing all of this for some time now. I’m not sure I understand why it is being announced now. If anything they seem to be moving away from them, given the fact that my most recent delivery was done by BCA, and another person here saying theirs was delivered by a third party on a flatbed too. Now, as you say Onto are even trying to get their own drivers.

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