BSP Auto, located in Paris, is a vehicle hire agency. By booking to hire a vehicle from one of the major hire companies through their web site you get a much better deal than if you go to the hire company direct – at least you appear to, although I can’t vouch for that personally as I didn’t actually go through with the hire that I booked a few weeks ago.

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I’ll explain what happened as my experience with BSP Auto was far from satisfactory and from the postings about the company that I’ve since found on the internet, it appears that my experience was in no way unique.

But first some background. When my Kia Sportage went off the road back in June, my good friend Victor kindly loaned me his amazing Citroën 2CV to use as a ‘daily driver’ as it’s impossible to exist here without a car. I hoped that it would only be for a short while but as the problems with the Kia mounted up as I’ve described in various postings here on My Trike, the loan period got longer and longer.

With the end of September approaching and with the Kia still not repaired (in fact with a crankshaft bearing now gone) it became clear that I would have to buy a replacement vehicle, and as that would inevitably mean covering some ground to view the ones that I might be interested in, I decided to hire a car for a week. So on 21st September, I booked through BSP Auto to hire an Opel Corsa or similar from Avis in Périgueux for a week with unlimited use for 156€, which I thought was a very good deal.

But then, of course, fate played a wild card. I’d been thinking about what to buy and decided that I liked the look of the Ford C-Max, especially with the 1.8 litre engine as I wanted to be able to tow my twin-wheel trailer comfortably with it and also the top-of-the range Titanium version if I could get hold of one.

I’d seen one in Limoges which turned out to be awful (scratched, dented and dirty) and found that the best ones all seemed to be way up north, in the Paris area, which is why I’d decided to go for the hire car. Then lo and behold, the very next day after booking the hire car, a Ford C-Max 1.8 Titanium with low kilometres appeared for sale ‘just down the road’ near Agen. You couldn’t make it up!

Victor said that he’d drive me down to see it, so I didn’t need the hire car and cancelled it the day after booking it, on 22nd September. As the cancellation was within 48 hours of the hire date, according to BSP Auto’s terms and conditions, it would be subject to a 25€ cancellation fee, which I was quite happy with, meaning that I was due a refund of 131€.

I expected, as you do if you’re dealing with a reputable organisation, that my refund would be made on my bank card within 3-5 days but instead I waited and waited. A week later on 1st October I sent BSP Auto an email saying ‘Where is my refund?’ and received a reply an hour later saying that the refund would be made ‘to my account’ that week.

Later that day (1st October) I received what was obviously, from it’s format, a ‘standard’ email saying that it wasn’t possible to make a refund to the card I’d used to book the hire for what could be one of several reasons, of which they then listed a couple of examples that were clearly fictitious, and that I needed to send them my bank RIB so they could arrange a bank transfer.

Now, an RIB or Relevé d’Identité Bancaire is a French bank document which details the coordinates of your bank branch and account but does not, as I understand it, include details of the actual bank that you’re a customer of, so providing your RIB is a bit like giving your UK bank account number but without the sort-code.

I’d already sensed by now that I was going to run into problems getting this refund back and that BSP Auto were clearly going to use all means at their disposal to hang onto it if they could ie steal it. However, I was slow at the time picking up on their RIB ploy and just supplied the information that they’d asked for. So on 4th October I sent them a strongly worded email demanding to know where my refund was and calling them crooks.

This was probably like water off a duck’s back as presumably they must receive dozens, possibly even hundreds, of such emails every week, which they just ignore unless the client has the knowledge and motivation to take things further. Within an hour I received an email reply just asking if I’d sent my RIB, which I did again in the early afternoon the same day (4th October).

The next day, 5th October, I received an email saying that my ‘refund was being dealt with’ which, of course, was designed to put me back into ‘waiting mode and continue the delaying game in their favour. I waited until 14th October when I sent a carefully worded email clearly stating that if I did not receive my refund by close of business on 15th October I would take steps to commence legal action against them.

Much as in the UK, there is a ‘Small Claims’ court here in France, but in order to be successful, you must conform to a specific protocol and written procedure. The upside though, is that if you do and you do have a valid claim, it is bound to be granted. The first stage in the process is that the claimant must send the other party a letter that is called a ‘Mise en Demeure’.

This is a letter in which the broad details of the claim are set out and the other party is given a time limit by which the claim must be paid after which the claimant will commence formal proceedings. The ‘mise en demeure’ has a specific format and wording and it is easy to find model versions, depending on the nature of the claim being made, on the internet. The version I used can be found HERE.

The ‘mise en demeure’ must be sent to the other party by recorded delivery, which I did on 22nd October at a cost to myself of 5€. The letter stated that the other party had 10 days from the date of posting in which to make the payment before formal action would be started, giving them a limit of 1st November. The record showed that BSP Auto received it on 25th October.

Clearly BSP Auto are well used to playing this game and on the same day I received a telephone call asking me again for my bank RIB, which I duly re-sent only to receive a final email later that day (25 October) saying that the RIB was insufficient for them to be able to make a bank transfer (as I’d already surmised) and that I needed to send them my full bank IBAN, which I immediately did.

But no surprise, there was still no refund. Well, there was actually, on 31st October, the final day before the legal limit set out in my ‘mise en demeure’ expired. This says it all. BSP Auto knew exactly what they were doing, had no intention of making any refund without a ‘mise en demeure’ and then only at the very end of the time limit to which they were ‘legally’ entitled.

What an awful company one might think, and with good reason. A quick google shows that the internet is swarming with angry customers who have been bilked by them in one way or another, people like me who have never received refunds to which they were entitled, who booked vehicles at holiday destinations only to find that they were not available on arrival and had to pay again, who paid for extra insurance and were then told that it was not valid and had to pay over again and so on and so on.

So if you’re thinking about using BSP Auto for your next hire booking, my advice is BEWARE!! They come across as being unscrupulous, as does much of the vehicle hire sector, and are clearly well versed in the games that allow them to hang onto your money while giving nothing in return. Luckily for me I was able to take them on, albeit for a relatively small amount of money, and win, but there are many others who have not been so lucky.

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