Hertz accuses thousands of its customers of crimes, court papers show
Hertz Corp., facing lawsuits from hundreds of car renters who say they were falsely arrested for auto theft, files thousands of related criminal complaints each year against customers, according to claims in newly released court documents.
In one four-year period, the company filed nearly 8,000 theft reports annually, advocates for the customers who allege they were falsely arrested said in a federal court filing Thursday in Wilmington, Del. The advocates cited internal data from Hertz that a judge ordered the company to release.
A breakdown of the theft reports isn’t public, so it’s not yet possible to know how many complaints were against customers and how many were for other types of theft. Under certain circumstances, Hertz will tell police that a customer may have stolen a car. Many of those people turn out to have valid contracts and have been falsely arrested, according to the lawsuits.
A Highland Park man, who says he hasn’t smoked for 25 years, was told by Hertz to pay a $400 fee after workers claimed they smelled cigarettes.
Messages left for Hertz representatives weren’t immediately returned. CBS, which hired lawyers to help get the documents unsealed, previously reported that Hertz said the “vast majority” of cases involve renters who were weeks or months overdue on returns and authorities are brought in only after “exhaustive attempts” to reach a customer.
In a court hearing Wednesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath ordered the annual theft numbers to be made public, siding with advocates for 220 people suing Hertz who argued that more details about Hertz’s internal anti-theft program should be public.
An L.A. man can prove he was on a plane awaiting takeoff when Hertz says he returned his rental car. Nevertheless, Hertz imposed a late fee.
Court documents show that some of the customers who rented cars were jailed, some of them years after they rented and returned the cars. At least one allegedly was held at gunpoint just hours after paying for a rental.
“Hertz now admits that it reports thousands of its own customers for auto theft each year,” lawyers for the plaintiffs said in court papers. The problems are companywide and systemic, they allege.
A woman told Hertz she found a used condom in a rental car. Then Hertz billed her for dog hair, even though she didn’t have a dog in the vehicle.
The claims often involve long-term rentals, some set up directly by the customer, others through an auto insurance company, according to court documents.
Those who claim Hertz had them wrongly arrested have filed claims in Bankruptcy Court demanding to be paid like other creditors of the company. Walrath oversaw Hertz’s Chapter 11 reorganization, which ended last year with a plan to pay creditors in full.
Hertz is a one-stop shop for American corporate shortcomings.