Europcar have committed a serious breach of customer’s right to privacy by installing satellite navigation systems in all of their fleet cars. Through this system they are able to track exact routes of customer’s journeys, the day, date, time and speed of travel and this is being looked upon as a breach of right to privacy for which the company will have to pay a fine of €54,000 ($66,000 or Rs 36.55 lacs).
Customers hiring out their luxury cars were being tracked. GPS system was installed in 1,300 luxury cars, which include BMW 5 Series, Audi Q7 and Mercedes Benz E Class. This secret tracking of rented vehicles, monitoring of customers routes and travel time is an infringement on their right to privacy, though the company argued that they were only tracking cars to ensure that customers kept within the confines of the rental agreement.
Hamburg authorities received a formal complaint in January and confronted the company with this claim. Europcar had been ordered to stop this tracking system with immediate effect in March. However officials conducted a surprise check in April and found that the tracking practice was still rampant. Europcar, though they stopped checking cars location regularly, they had come up with a novel term in small print on their rental agreement, stating that the customer agrees to being tracked in certain countries.
Europcar was founded in 1949. It was once owned by the Volkswagen Group. Today, Europcar operates from 2,825 locations in countries across Europe, N America, Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Indian Ocean, Caribbean and Asia Pacific. They have a fleet of 200,000 cars.
According to Johannes Caspar, Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, “The secret tracking of rented vehicles and the secret monitoring of the customers is a serious infringement of the right to privacy. The car hire company is in a position to create movement profiles of their customers. With the help of the location technology, they only have to reconstruct who went where when, who drove at a particular time at what speed.”