Several times in the past few years, I have made a confirmed, paid booking for a rental car, and turned up at the appointed pick-up time only to be told that no cars are available. The rental agency would then tell me that my only options are to either (1) cancel the booking and receive a full refund, (2) wait a certain period until a car becomes available, or (3) travel to another office where they assure me a car will be available. In my experience the second two "solutions" are unreliable; on one occasion I delayed my trip by one day, and on another occasion I travelled to the next-nearest rental office, only to find that the promised car still wasn't available.
I'm always aggravated when this happens, as it throws off my travel plans. I end up frantically cancelling hotel or event reservations, scrambling to find alternative transportation by bus or train, and/or paying for a trip to the next rental car office at my own expense. I'm sometimes able to wrest some reimbursement from the company, but only after a protracted correspondence campaign that can last for months.
I know that many airlines routinely overbook their flights; it seems that rental car companies do the same thing. With airlines, however, there are various national and international agreements governing how passengers are compensated when their flights are cancelled or delayed, or when they are denied boarding. For example, EU Regulation 261/2004 requires airlines to provide refreshments, accommodation, refunds, rerouting, and/or compensation of up to €600, depending on the circumstances. Apparently there are similar EU regulations for rail, bus, and ship passengers.
But what about regulations for rental car users? Does the EU, or any of its member states, require compensation for delays or cancellations of rental car bookings? If so, what are the rules and where can I read about them?