The Travel Troubleshooter: Snared by the Mexican insurance scam

Question: I recently returned from a nine-day trip to Cancun, Mexico. Before arriving, I booked a car rental through Hotwire.com, accepting a midsize vehicle with Europcar for $9.80 a day. With taxes, my rental was supposed to come to $97.

Before leaving for my trip, I verified that my credit card company covered all types of rental car insurance and that no additional insurance should be purchased. When I arrived in Cancun, the Europcar agent insisted that it was company policy that I take the extra insurance, otherwise he could not rent me the car. He even insisted that this would have been on the Hotwire agreement page.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb. Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Reluctantly, I accepted the insurance. When I got home, I ended up being charged $268 for the rental car. The Hotwire and Europcar websites do not mention mandatory insurance, yet neither will compensate me for what I believe was an attempt to overcharge me for services. What can be done about this? — Gordon Houston, Calgary, Canada

Answer: Ah, the old Mexican insurance scam! Regular readers of this column already know about this one. It goes something like this: You rent a car south of the border, believing the rate you’ve been quoted includes all mandatory charges. But wait. When you get to the car rental counter, an associate tells you that without insurance, you’re not going anywhere. So you pay.

Europcar and Hotwire offered you an unbelievably good rate for a rental car in Cancun. Even with the extra insurance, the $268 rate wasn’t bad. But I agree with you. Hotwire should have disclosed the mandatory insurance, preferably in the initial price, and if not there, then at least sometime before you pushed the “buy” button.

Even Hotwire’s fine print appears to do an inadequate job of warning customers of the Mexico insurance rules. In fact, it suggested the exact opposite: “You will have the option to purchase insurance and add additional drivers to your contract at the rental counter for an additional charge,” it says.

This lack of clear disclosure doesn’t benefit Hotwire, or any other intermediary. It only helps the car rental company, which profits from selling you insurance. Still, Hotwire bears some responsibility for failing to quote you a total price, and it should have been more responsive to your complaint.

If you ever run into this problem again, run your complaint up the flagpole, in writing. First, through Hotwire’s website (keep a copy of your e-mail for your own records) and then escalate it to a company executive.

To apply additional pressure, copy the insurance commissioner in your state and the nearest American consulate in Mexico. Even though neither will likely be able to help, it sends a signal to Hotwire and Europcar that you’re serious about getting this situation resolved. As a last resort, you can dispute your credit card charges or sue Hotwire in small claims court.

Fortunately, none of that was necessary. I contacted Hotwire on your behalf. A representative phoned you and agreed to credit you for the extra money you were forced to spend on insurance.

3 thoughts on “The Travel Troubleshooter: Snared by the Mexican insurance scam

  1. Mexicans are such thieves and will try to scam anyone anywhere anyhow. They’re all so disgusting and it’s so dirty there, they don’t have proper anything and the people there are so unbelievably immature and stupid….it’s like they’re retarded little kids.

    The cops are as much thieves too…ESP if you’re American. Americans need to stop going to Mexico Bc they are always out to scam and steal from Americans.

  2. Yes. Americans need to boycott Mexico. It’s filthy there and there aren’t even fun things to do…just bums always coming up trying to sell you something or beg for change.

  3. Yes boycott Bc of the scams. There is no legal regulation against those scams, like there is in the US. They will always be trying to scam every American coming thru the border….Mexican cops too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: