Dubai: After a British tourist racked up traffic fines of Dh170,000 for speeding and has yet to pay, some rental car owners told Gulf News that they also suffer from the same problem when customers refuse to pay the fines.

A 26-year-old British tourist still in Dubai has made headlines all over the world after he rented a Dh1.3 million Lamborghini Huracan on July 30 and between 2.31am and 6.26am on July 31 tripped 33 speed radars and incurred the fines in a span of just under four hours.

The rental firm still has the tourist’s passport.

Last week, the co-owner of the Dubai-based car rental firm that is out of pocket told Gulf News that the British tourist didn’t return the car and it is parked outside Five Palm Jumeirah Hotel and Resort and he is not answering phone calls from the rental car company to pay the fines and the late rental fees.

Mohammad Ebrahim, a co-owner of an unrelated car rental company in Dubai, said that a similar incident happened with them before and they don’t know how to solve the issue as they need to pay the fines before launching a civil case against the customer.

“The problem happened when we rent sport or luxury cars. The customer put a small amount as deposit and takes the car and returns it with huge fines and then keeps delaying the payment. We keep chasing our rights for years in courts until we get our money,” Ebrahim said.

Salah Abdullah, who works for another rental car company in Sharjah, said even if they freeze or withdraw money from the customers’ credit cards, sometimes it is not enough as the fines are huge.

“We have about six cases in courts worth Dh90,000 against customers who didn’t pay the fines. I decided to sell my sport cars as the problems from them are more than the profit. We keep the passport as a guarantee if the customer has no credit cards. There is no proper quick way to get our rights from reckless customers,” Abdullah said.

Withholding passport is illegal

Legal counsel Abdullah Al Nassir (right) told Gulf News that withholding a renter’s passport is illegal.

“It is illegal for a car rental office to ask a client to deposit his/her passport as a guarantee or security against a contract to rent a car. According to UAE laws, law enforcement bodies are the only ones permitted to seize or confiscate a passport that is regarded a personal belonging. Withholding a renter’s passport is not a secure or significant method to guarantee that the car rent office will get any pending payment. There are specific civil action procedures that entitles the car rent office to take legal action at the Civil Court to claim the pending payment plus compensation when and if needed,” said Al Nassir.

Abdullah further described the procedure of withholding the passport of a client, who rents a car, as a ‘wrongful and illegal practice’.

“Laws are meant to protect retailers’ rights and to regulate the relationship with clients. The pertinent car rental office have the right to seek legal action before the Civil Court,”

Credit cards safe mode of payment

Brigadier Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, Director of Traffic Department in Dubai Police, said police have not seized or confiscated the speeding Lamborghini car as there was no warrant against it.

He suggested that rental cars protect themselves by putting a large block on credit cards to ensure fines can be paid if incurred.

“Rental car owners have full responsibility on all traffic fines. They should withdraw or freeze amount of money from the customer via his credit card to make sure he will pay the traffic fines before renting the car. They shouldn’t take the passports as guarantee,” Brigadier Al Mazroui said.

Dubai Police said that radars capture the licence plate numbers of speeding vehicles, not the people driving them.