Hertz Still Fighting Customers Who Were Wrongly Arrested for ‘Stealing’ Rental Cars

Some renters say they've even been jailed over false theft charges.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rental agency Hertz is back from bankruptcy and readying for a bright new decade with Teslas as its flagship vehicles. But Hertz has a problem to face in addition to actually procuring the symbols of its reborn brand: Hundreds of accusations from customers who claim to have been wrongfully arrested—even imprisoned—for renting a car Hertz has reported stolen.

Last Thursday, CBS News wrote that the judge in Hertz's ongoing bankruptcy case would hear charges from 165 Hertz customers who reported such nightmarish experiences, sometimes despite being loyal Hertz customers. It's no new phenomenon spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic, either; dozens of similar cases have dogged Hertz since 2019, well before its bankruptcy filing following pandemic lockdowns.

ABC interviewed two claimants, James Tolen and fiancé Krystal Carter, who were stopped by police in a rented Hertz truck early last winter. The way they tell it, they were heading home around 10 p.m. on Dec. 23 when police pulled them over and ordered Tolen to vacate the truck, lift his shirt, and back up toward them. Tolen recalls seeing the officers' guns pointed at him before he was handcuffed and told he was driving a stolen vehicle. After imploring police to read his rental contract, which listed him as an authorized driver, he was released, and one of the officers called Hertz to tell them to fix the problem.

As it turned out, Hertz had reported the truck stolen three months prior and never retracted the report. It appears to be a recurring issue, one that Hertz apparently doesn't accept responsibility for. In 2020, The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a Hertz spokesperson stating a similar case's theft report "was valid when it was made," offloading responsibility to follow up on the theft to local police.

"It's up to law enforcement to decide what to do with the case," added the Hertz spokesperson.

Hertz

Teslas parked outside a Hertz rental facility

That case's legal representation accused Hertz of leaning on police as a taxpayer-funded repo service, one that would be cheaper for it than fixing the processes that have landed paying customers in jail. Admittedly, the claimant's lawyer has a slightly frivolous legal history and has notably attempted (unsuccessfully) to sue Led Zeppelin for supposedly plagiarizing Stairway to Heaven, though these Hertz cases seem to be no such histrionics.

Hertz told CBS it considers its accusers' cases "meritless," and seeks their dismissal on various technicalities. Hertz, however, sounds like it needs to start following through on more of its stolen vehicle reports and update police when it recovers its cars. Otherwise, pointless arrests will continue, and could eventually culminate in a scandal to dwarf its struggle with actually acquiring those 100,000 Teslas.

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