A congressman is calling for Hertz to fix what he calls “reckless practices” where some customers say they are accused of stealing the cars they rented.
“I’ve used Hertz for many years,” said client Pat Calhoun.
He couldn’t believe his eyes last fall when his rental car was pulled away from his California home by a Hertz buyback man.
“Knock on the door saying, ‘I want the keys or I’ll get in the car and charge you for the keys,'” Calhoun said.
The whole mess began when Calhoun needed a long-term rental because his car was in the shop for repairs. He said the car manufacturer had arranged to lease Hertz on an open contract.
“They would put my credit card on hold every day. So, they had a valid credit card too.
But a month into that lease, Calhoun said he received a text message from a Hertz investigator alleging he had failed to return the lease and they had the option to legally pursue him. He said they came three days later and towed her anyway. Then they sent the bill to Calhoun.
“It was a $1,000 fee for the repo man,” he said.
Calhoun considers himself very lucky. Other Hertz customers have complained about being arrested because Hertz mistakenly reported their rental cars had been stolen. Others said they had arrest warrants for them long after the vehicles were returned.
“It’s as shocking as it can be,” said attorney Frances Malofi, who said he represents more than 200 Hertz clients who have faced the theft charge. His company has published several testimonials online including Howard Junious.
“I was in prison 60 days,” Junius said.
He said he did not steal the car and the rent was paid in full.
Court records show that he was arrested and charged with “embezzlement” of a Hertz rental that he said his auto insurance company arranged for it. In the end, prosecutors dropped the charge again, Junious.
Malofi said his clients’ cases show that when Hertz lost track of a car, he would sometimes just report it stolen rather than looking for it.
“The damage is real — and permanent,” said US Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat-Conn.
He sent a letter to the CEO of Hertz, calling his company’s record-keeping “bad” and asking him to address what the senator described as “serious deficiencies.”
“We’re asking Hertz to do the right thing here,” Blumenthal said.
He is now also asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the allegations against Hertz.
“A combination of Congress, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. We will resort to whatever action is available, whether civil or criminal, because this company has to do the right thing,” Blumenthal said.
In response to the letter, a Hertz spokesperson said, “We take these matters seriously and are reviewing them.”
The speaker added: “Hertz cares deeply about our customers, and we successfully provide rental vehicles to tens of millions of travelers each year. Unfortunately, in the legal issues discussed, lawyers have a track record of making unfounded claims that flagrantly misrepresent the facts. The vast majority of these cases involve renters who are several weeks or even months late in returning vehicles and who stop communicating with us after the stipulated deadline. Cases where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and only happen after strenuous attempts to reach the customer.”
Appearing on CNBC to talk about something else, Hertz CEO Stephen Scherr asked a question about it.
“Hertz will properly deal with the people affected,” he said.
He did not elaborate, but noted, “We’ve changed our policies to avoid the possibility of that happening. And I think, to put context to that, if you look at several hundred people affected, we engage in 15 million transactions a year. That’s one hundredth of one hundred percent of those transactions.” .
The company has until April 14 to respond to Blumenthal’s letter.
As for the Calhoun incident, a Hertz spokesperson said in a written statement: “We are still looking into this, but it appears that there was some misunderstanding between The Body Shop who was initially paying for the rent and our site about the contracted dates for the rental and payment, causing The vehicle went into overdue and triggered our refund process. We have reached out to Mr. Calhoun to resolve and refund the towing fee.”
“As a consumer, I did everything I thought I could do,” Calhoun said.
Make sure when renting a car – especially on the long-term – to ask specific questions about whether a weekly rental extension is necessary. Also, keep all the paperwork and email related to the rental.
Reported by Susan Hogan and Chris Schmora, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot by Carlos Olazgaste, and edited by Steve Jones.