Rented Then Arrested: Some customers of car rental giant Hertz accuse the company of making mistakes so egregious they cost them thousands of dollars or worse, landed them behind bars.
From bogus credit card charges to criminal charges, their stories are now catching the attention of lawmakers who are now calling on the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into the company’s practices.
“The scale of the incompetence here is mind-boggling,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told NBC 5 Responds. “It’s nationwide.”
More than 200 Hertz customers are now suing the company, their lawyers say, and many are calling for bogus arrests after alleging Hertz incorrectly labeled their rentals as stolen when, in fact, they were returned normally.
Hertz argued that such situations are “very rare” but that he takes lawmakers’ investigation seriously.
“It is not acceptable for Hertz to have one customer, one customer, caught up in what happened,” Stephen Scherr, CEO of the company, said this week in responding to the allegations. on CNBC. “I think it’s important to put into context, that is if you look at the number of people who have been affected in this situation.”
In a letter to the company, Blumenthal accused it of “catastrophic record keeping” at best.
“We will resort to all available actions,” Blumenthal said. “Both civil and possibly criminal, because this company has to do the right thing.”
“I want the keys or I’ll just take the car.”
When Pat Calhoun of the Bay Area in California needed serious work on his car, he turned to the rental car provider he felt most comfortable with: Hertz.
“What we thought was a few days of work ended up taking 40 days,” Pat said. “I have used Hertz for many years.”
Pat said he was given the keys to a Chevy Spark and thought it was an open-ended contract, especially since Hertz blocked his credit card every day.
About a month into the tenancy, Pat said a man from the boarding house showed up at his house one morning.
“[He was] knocking on the door saying, “I want the keys or I’ll just take the car and make you pay for the keys,” Pat said.
It was the first indication for Pat that Hertz had labeled his rental car as “stolen”, even after he said the company called him to confirm he still needed it.
Still, when Hertz found it parked outside his house, Pat said they towed it away and sent him the bill.
“It was a thousand dollar charge for the repo man”, They basically let me know that I’m responsible for the payment. There is nothing they can do.
After the NBC Bay Area Responds team contacted Hertz about Calhoun’s case, the company agreed to reimburse him.
“It appears that there was a miscommunication between the body shop that originally paid for the rental and our location around the contracted rental and payment dates,” a Hertz spokesperson said, responding to the case. Calhoun. “We have contacted Mr. Calhoun to resolve and reimburse the towing costs.”
“I was in jail for 60 days.”
If Pat’s case seems extreme, it’s nothing compared to Hertz customer testimonies recorded in a lawsuit filed against the company.
The law firm that filed the lawsuit, led by attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy of Pennsylvania, shared harrowing examples in recordings posted on a website he created – Truth Hertz.
Testimonials include the story of Howard Junious from Bakersfield, California.
“I didn’t steal the vehicle. The vehicle was fully paid for,” Junious said. “I was in jail for 60 days.”
Kern County, Calif., court records show Junious was arrested for “embezzlement” for stealing the Hertz rental he said his auto insurance company arranged.
NBC 5 Responds confirmed that the charges against Junious were ultimately dropped.
“It’s crazy that they can even quantify that it’s a minor issue, or a very, very small one,” said attorney Malofiy, adding that his firm’s research found that in many cases, the cars that Hertz reported stolen were later located on Hertz property.
“One is too many. And it’s probably thousands,” Malofiy said.
In a written statement to NBC 5 Responds, Hertz said attorneys representing Hertz customers “have a history of making baseless claims that blatantly misrepresent the facts.”
“The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were weeks or even months late on returning vehicles and stopped communicating with us well past their scheduled due date,” a doorman wrote. -word of Hertz.
“Where our customers have been negatively affected, we are committed to doing what is right for our customers,” Hertz said. “At the same time, we will protect and defend against false claims intended to harm our business.”
Less than a week after Sen. Blumenthal and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) both sent letters to Hertz asking a number of questions, Blumenthal’s office announced it was asking Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation (read the senator’s letter to the FTC here).
“The evil is real. And durable,” Blumenthal said.