I rented a car for three weeks in Budapest, Hungary in July 2013. While the agent was Car Partner Kft, the actual rent-a-car company was Buchbinder. The Buchbinder franchisee in Budapest is apparently the same as the franchisee in Vienna as all of my customer service conversation was with Vienna.
On July 9, 2013, Car Partner charged my MasterCard $61.51 as a deposit. On July 17, 2013, I picked up the car. The Check-out process was tedious as there were many, many scratches and blemishes on the car. I went around with the agent and we had to decide which scratches and blemishes warranted notation on the checkout form. We did not include blemishes and small scratches. I returned the car as agreed three weeks later and there were no additional scratches on it. Buchbinder completed and signed the check-in sheet indicating no additional damage.
A short time later while waiting for the credit card transaction, Buchbinder told me that there was a new scratch on the car. I went out to look at it, and it was the same scratch that we documented at checkout. The Buchbinder agent called out the mechanic to see it and, speaking Hungarian, he could not agree with her that the scratch was new. The mechanic did not know that my wife understands Hungarian (we were speaking English).
The agent was insistent that this was a new scratch. As my wife told me what the mechanic said, I became concerned that this was part of a scam and that we may be in physical danger. Corruption is widespread in Budapest (http://www.budapesttimes.hu/2013/07/13/stench-of-corruption-just-gets-worse/ ). I then signed their demand and quickly departed. Shortly thereafter I did some research on the web and found on the UK Trip Advisor site that Buchbinder Vienna/Budapest customer after customer reported the same scam.
The fee of my three week rental was € 415.59 ($556.91). The cost they charged me for an alleged one inch preexisting scratch behind the rear wheel is € 430.53 including tax ($576.65), more than the fee for renting the car for three weeks!
Two disputes were filed with my credit card company, regarding this rental. The first dispute was that I was not given credit for the $61.51 deposit. The credit card company removed the charge from my account and it was not disputed by Car Partner/Buchbinder. The second dispute was over the scratch that they allege I did.
Again, Car Partner/Buchbinder’s response to the credit card company was to show the language of the contract that holds me responsible for damage that I do to the car. This was unresponsive to the credit card company's inquiry. I was not disputing that that I would be responsible for damage caused to the car. I was disputing their allegation that I damaged the car.
Car Partner/Buchbinder claims that since I signed the check-in sheet and the credit card slip, that that is an admission that I caused and therefore am responsible for the damage. This is absolutely false. I signed the check-in sheet to stop the clock and to stop further responsibility for the car. The form even says: "If check in is not signed by customer and BUCHBINDER , I will be held liable for all new damages." I signed the credit card slip because I felt in danger in a corrupt country.
I saw that in Car Partner/Buchbinder’s response to my credit card company that they had since altered the Check-in sheet. The English handwriting was not on the form when I signed it as was plainly evident in the Closed Agreement that I submitted to the credit card company. In other words, they tried to add comments to the check-in sheet after the fact in order to try to make their case.
I believe that part of the scam is to rent out cars with dozens of scratches so as to create confusion when the car returns. The Car Partner/Buchbinder agent told me not to worry about the scratch because the credit card insurance would cover it. It is a clever scam.
Buchbinder was paid in full. But I did file a claim with MasterRental. They agreed with my assessment, but Buchbinder would not cooperate with them. It was easier for them just to pay it off. But the insurance did not pay the VAT tax on the damage claim which was $123. The credit card company refused to credit may account. So I told the credit card company that I was canceling their card on which I charge over $30,000 per year. They then decided to credit the $123 to my account. So the experience did not cost me anything except time and frustration, but Buchbinder made $576, more than the cost of renting the car for three weeks. They got away with the scam - AGAIN!
Trip Advisor has several topics on Buchbinder, especially in Austria and Hungary. If you even think about renting a car from Buchbinder, make sure that you read these posts as my story has been told over and over again.
I rented from Buchbinder because they are a concessionaire of the Army/Air Force Exchange System at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. I felt that Buchbinder must have been vetted by AAFES. But when I contacted Buchbinder at Ramstein Air Base, they could care less about my problem. So I particularly caution my fellow service members to stay away from Buchbinder. When I am at Ramstein, I rent from Dietmar Grass, the Hertz concessionaire. He is a very honest person.