Holding clients’ passports by rent-a-car companies is a clear violation of a decision of the UAE Minister of the Interior to prohibit seizure of workers’ passports by their sponsors, according to Brigadier Dr Mohammad Al Murr, Director of the Human Rights Department of Dubai Police.
Al Murr said the person whose passport is held by a car rental company as collateral can file a police complaint. The police will then refer the case to the public prosecution for violation of the country’s laws.
However, car rental companies have the right protect their interests without seizing the customers’ passports, such as taking a security deposit via credit card, he added.
Mohsen Al Omary, of RPM car rental company in Dubai, said rent-a-car firms began to implement strict measures after serious violations were committed by some clients. Some of them violated traffic rules while others caused accidents. A few clients involved in accidents had left the rented cars at the airport and fled the country.
After this happened thrice in one year, the company began asking for a security deposit of Dh2,000 from customers and photocopies of driving licence and any identity card or passport.
Youngsters are often guilty of reckless driving and traffic rule offences, making it necessary for car rental firms to take guarantees from them, he added.
Al Omary denied the possibility of rent-a-car companies using clients’ passports to commit fraud or some other crime. Such cases are rare, he said.
Lawyer Abdurrahman Al Mudharreb said seizing the passports of customers or anyone else is forbidden by law unless there is a judicial order in accordance with Article 329 of the Code of Civil Procedure in UAE. A person whose passport has been held can complain to the interim relief judge to retrieve it.
Some rental companies have also resorted to holding a customer’s Emirates ID card as insurance.
Al Mudharreb said that car rentals are not allowed to hold any original identity documents.
“Holding the Emirates ID would deprive a person of freedom of movement from accessing services of various government agencies ,” he said.
Al Mudharreb said car rentals companies can adopt other measures like taking a refundable deposit through the client’s credit card instead of holding his passport. The credit card contains all data including bank account details of the client, which can be accessed if the client breaks any rule.
The rights of car rental companies, like those of hotels, are protected by the UAE law, he added.
Al Mudharreb said rent-a-car owners can file a civil claim for compensation in case of damage to the vehicle. Misuse of clients’ passport by car rental companies is very rare, he added.
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