A congressman is asking Hertz to fix what he calls “reckless practices” because some customers say they’ve been accused of stealing the cars they rented.
“I’ve used Hertz for many years,” said customer Pat Calhoun.
He couldn’t believe his eyes last fall when his rental car was towed away from his California home by a Hertz repo.
“Knocking on the door saying, ‘I want the keys or I’ll just take the car and charge you for the keys,'” Calhoun said.
The whole mess started when Calhoun needed a long-term rental because his car was in the shop for repairs. He said the automaker had arranged a Hertz rental with an open-ended contract.
“They put a hold on my credit card every day. So they also had a valid credit card,” he said.
But a month into that rental, Calhoun said he received a text message from a Hertz investigator saying he hadn’t returned the rental and they had the option of pursuing him legally. Three days later, he said, they still came and towed him away. They then sent the bill to Calhoun.
“It was a $1,000 charge for the repo man,” he said.
Calhoun considers himself rather lucky. Other Hertz customers have complained of being arrested because Hertz mistakenly reported their rental car stolen. Others said they had arrest warrants long after returning the vehicles.
“It’s about as shocking as it gets,” said attorney Francis Malofiy, who said he was representing more than 200 Hertz customers charged with theft. His firm has published several testimonials online, including Howard Junious.
“I was in jail 60 days,” Junious said.
He said he didn’t steal the car and the rental was fully paid.
Court records show he was arrested and charged with “hijacking” a Hertz rental that he said was arranged by his car insurance company. Prosecutors eventually dropped the charge again Junious.
Malofiy said his customer cases show that when Hertz loses track of a vehicle, it sometimes just reports it stolen rather than looking for it.
“The harm is real — and lasting,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
He sent a letter to Hertz’s CEO calling his company’s record keeping “appalling” and demanding he fix what the senator called “serious deficiencies.”
“We’re asking Hertz to do the right thing here,” Blumenthal said.
Now he’s also asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the allegations against Hertz.
“The combination of Congress, the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission. We will pursue all available actions, both civil and possibly criminal, as this company needs 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 spokesperson added: “Hertz cares deeply about its customers and we successfully provide rental vehicles to tens of millions of travelers each year. Unfortunately, in legal matters under discussion, lawyers have a habit of making baseless claims that grossly misrepresent the facts. The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were weeks or even months late returning their vehicle and stopped communicating with us well past the scheduled due date. Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and only occur after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer.
Appearing on CNBC to talk about something else, Hertz CEO Stephen Scherr answered a question about it.
“Hertz will properly care for people who have been affected,” he said.
He did not give details, but noted, “We have changed our policies to prevent this from happening. And, I think, to put it into context, if you look at the hundreds of people affected, we’re engaging in 15 million transactions a year. This represents one hundredth of a percent of these transactions. »
The company has until April 14 to respond to Blumenthal’s letter.
Regarding the Calhoun incident, a spokesperson for Hertz said in a written statement, “We are still investigating this, but it appears there was a miscommunication between the body shop that was originally paying the rental and our location around the contracted rental and payment dates which caused the vehicle to be overdue and triggered our recovery process.We contacted Mr. Calhoun to resolve and reimburse the towing charges.
“As a consumer, I did everything I thought I could do,” Calhoun said.
Be sure when renting a vehicle – especially long-term – to ask specific questions about whether extending the rental each week is necessary. Also keep all documents and emails regarding the rental.
Reported by Susan Hogan and Chris Chmura, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot by Carlos Olazagasti and edited by Steve Jones.