Palma city council has got tough on car hire companies, but a backlash is now feared.

The hire car dispute has taken a turn for the worse, now the 15 companies which feel targeted by Palma city council for operating, apparently illegally, from rural plots of land, are threatening to drive their 15.000 vehicles into Palma and occupy every available parking space in protest. The city council voted in favour of taking action against some 15 multi-national car rental companies based on rural land in answer to a plea from the Association of Balearic car Hire Companies for help in combating, what the association has slammed as, “illegal competition.” The city hall made it clear on Wednesday that those companies found to be operating without the necessary licences will be ordered to suspend trading and get their permits in order within 15 days, or face permanent closure. The nasty sting in the tail of the council's warning is that, technically, the car hire companies should not be operating from rural plots which are protected areas and therefore should have to move to an industrial site. The 15 companies under the spotlight have a total fleet of around 15.000 vehicles. The Association has located two plots near the airport which could be used as macro-parks for the car hire companies. Both sides want a swift and satisfactory solution, while the independent car hire sector claims it is facing bankruptcy at the hands of the multi-nationals, some allegedly operating without licences and under-cutting rental rates. The big boys now fear for their future because of the city council's tough action. As a result the multi-nationals are threatening massive protest action in order to save their livelihoods, if a solution is not reached. The car hire sector met for preliminary talks yesterday, but as yet, nothing has been resolved.