Renting car in Switzerland

Renting car in Switzerland
Started by Wanderer in Switzerland - 13 Replies
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16-Nov
Wanderer
I understand that following a change in EU Customs regulations from 1 May, 2016, there are difficulties with EU residents hiring a car in Switzerland and then driving into the EU (e.g. Austria) - apparently, they can be treated as smuggling the car in and liable to have the car seized and/or a massive fine levied. I am finding it very difficult to get hard information on this and am worried about reports that rental companies are looking for indemnities before approving cross-border travel, etc, while some appear to be refusing to allow cross border travel at all.

I gather that some companies may have limited stock of EU registered vehicles but again I am finding it hard to get reliable information on availability and whether any charges apply. This appears to be less of an issue in Geneva where they tend to have outlets on both the French and the Swiss sides, though it is possible to get caught out if you have pre-hired from the "wrong" side and be liable to pay a surcharge at the airport!

I am looking to hire in Zurich and then drive into Austria. Anybody able to shed light on the topic?

UPDATE: I managed to get hold of an employee in Europcar Zurich. He confirmed that it is not permitted, due to EU Customs rules, for an EU resident to take a Swiss registered car into the EU (Austria/Germany France, etc). He said they had had issues where renters were turned back at the border into Germany but not so far with Austria. This would appear to suggest that they suspect some renters are crossing the border and have gotten away with it. This is fine but if Austrian Customs did decide to check, the responsibility for any issues arising would presumably fall on the renters! All in all, a bit of a mess!
Edited 1 time. Last update at 16-Nov-2016
16-Nov
SwingBeep
This is correct http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/individuals/travelling/entering-eu_en scroll down until you get to "Driving a hired vehicle with non-EU registration plates in the EU"

The Austrian authorities also know it's illegal https://english.bmf.gv.at/customs/travellers/travelling-vehicle.html

The rental companies should be aware of the new regulations by now https://www.avis.ch/en/drive-avis/car-hire-locations/europe/Switzerland but rental agents might not be, so rent directly from a rental company and double check.

If they give you a car with Swiss plates don't even think about driving it over the border, as well as the possibility of seizure and having to pay import duty, VAT and a fine you also might not be insured.
17-Nov
Andymol2
I suspect this is a balls up related to translation.

I sent an enquiry to Hertz who pointed me to this for Geneva (Swiss side)

"European Union residents driving into Austria for 8 days or more, please contact your Reservation Centre."

I presume the idea is to prevent long term hire or lease cars being brought into the EU for extended spells by individuals seeking to avoid the local car taxation rules. The inference from Hertz' response is that Austria is being particularly hot on the matter and perhaps they may need to make clear on the paperwork to avoid over zealous customs officers causing grief. I suspect the problem might be if the paperwork doesn't have a clear return date on it there may be nothing to identify the car as a short term lease or rental. In reality a car registered in a country outside the EU to a hire company may have no obvious identifier as to whether it is a hire care or a long term lease which should be subject to the same regulations as an import.

In the circumstances it's best to check with the hire company but I suspect it won't prevent the average skier landing at Geneva airport driving into France with their Swiss hire car. (Coming out of Geneva to go to areas such as the Portes Du Soleil (and many others) is far easier from the Swiss side than the French side of the airport).


Andy M
Edited 1 time. Last update at 17-Nov-2016
17-Nov
SwingBeep
It's defiantly not a translation error.

In 1999 the European Commission added a point to Article 719(11) of Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 the EU customs code, to allow the temporary importation of hire cars for a period of up to 8 days.
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:31999R1662&from=EN

Due to abuse they withdrew it on 1st May 2015
"(1) Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 (2) provides a possibility for means of transport to be temporarily
imported into the customs territory of the Union and used by natural persons in that territory under certain conditions.

(2) Recent incidents have indicated misuse of the temporary importation of means of transport.

(3) An amendment to Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 is necessary in order to exclude the possibility of such misuse."
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32015R0234&from=EN

On 1st May of this year the EU introduced a new customs code http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/customs_code/union_customs_code/ucc/introduction_en.htm which carried over the amendment from 2015 see Article 215 on page 95
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32015R2446&from=EN

There is currently no provision for the temporary importation of hire cars into the EU.
You probably won't be stopped at the border as Switzerland is in the Schengen Area, but you could be stopped somewhere else. Some poor sod was stopped in Naples during the summer. The problem with contacting the hire companies is that some of them still don't realise the implications of this and whatever happens they won't lose. It is the responsibility of the hirer to comply with the law.

Swiss residents are also not allowed to hire cars in the EU and just drive them into Switzerland for the same reason. We are supposed to stop at the border show the contract and fill out a form which allows us to drive one here for 8 days. On the way out we have to stop at the border again and check the car out.
20-Dec
Pahadia
I was pointed to this discussion from other thread. I am hiring car at Geneva Airport on this Saturday and will drive to French side (La Plagne sji resort). I called car hire company & they said its OK to drive to France. I am confused now what to do. Everything is paid & done so can't change plans. I'll pretend that I didn't see this thread By the way anyone got caught on French side driving Swiss hired car & if yes then what do they ask you to do ?
21-Dec
Admin
Definitely ask the hire company explicitly when you pick up the car but I get the impression that most people have decided it's a stupid law and is thus unlikely to be widely enforced.

Certainly, we saw plenty of Swiss-plated (AI plates?) cars in Espace Killy last week and the nice lady on the Europcar desk assured us there was no problem. I've not heard of anyone in a Swiss hire car in France being stopped as yet.

The regulations linked by Swingbeep certainly appear to apply to hire cars, but the rule makes no more sense than banning everyone from driving on motorways because someone exceeded the speed limit last year...

If anyone does know of someone (hiring a Swiss plated car and driving into France) pulled over, then please do let us know here!
The Admin Man
21-Dec
Verbier_ski_bum
We drove a hired car into France and then to Italy in October and we were not pulled. But in any case we are Swiss residents so had nothing to worry about. I probably would be worried if we were not. There are way more cars with AI plates than the entire population of Appenzell so they are quite conspicuous.
21-Dec
SwingBeep
Admin, where does it say that laws have to make sense? It maybe a stupid law but it is still the law. The current EU customs code (EU No. 952/2013) is a regulation, the EU defines a regulation as a binding legislative act that must be applied in its entirety across the EU https://europa.eu/european-union/eu-law/legal-acts_en

As far as I can see the situation is crystal clear


http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/cars/car-rental-abroad/index_en.htm

I can't see the point of asking anyone working on a car hire desk as they are unlikely to know anything about current EU customs regulations, if they did they would be able to get a much better job. I would seek written assurance that it is still legal for a EU resident to drive a Swiss registered hire car into the EU from the hire companies head office, verbal assurance is of no value. Europcar Switzerland is a franchise, it's owned by a subsidiary of the Swiss car importer AMAG:

Europcar AMAG Services AG
Steinackerstrasse 20
8302 Kloten
Tel. +41 44 804 46 46
Fax +41 44 804 46 47
info@europcar.ch

Alternatively you could contact the Swiss car rental companies trade association, they claim to provide information on current economic and technical developments as well as relevant legislation and jurisprudence http://www.autovermieterverband.ch/portrait

Pahadia, if I were you I would print out the relevant pages from the documents that I have linked (they are all from official EU websites and as far as I'm aware describe the current situation) and show them to the person on the desk and insist that they provide you with a EU registered car. If you are stopped by French customs and they decide to pursue the matter they could require that you pay import duty (up to 10%) plus VAT (20%) of the car's current market value and a fine. If you can't pay or won't pay they could impound the vehicle.

Most Swiss hire cars are registered in Appenzell Innerrhoden (pop. 15,974), because it has the lowest car tax rate. As VBS says they are very easy to spot.

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