Two U.S. senators are urging the government to investigate the practice of rental car Hertz, whose police reports of stolen rented cars allegedly led to the false arrests of hundreds of customers. Lawmakers cited CBS News reports as a catalyst for their calls.
Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, in a letter received exclusively from CBS News, asked the White House Competition Council to examine consolidation in the car rental industry, saying it “caused rising prices and declining consumer services.”
In her letter, Warren pointed to Hertz customers who were allegedly “repeatedly arrested for driving rented vehicles that the company accidentally reported as stolen.” She called it “an alarming picture (which) has led to traumatic experiences, job loss and even imprisonment for clients.”
Warren cited examples from the CBS News investigation into alleged false arrests, including “a NASA employee who was arrested under gunfire in Florida, and a real estate agent who lost his professional license for a year.”
In an interview with CBS News, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who chairs the Senate Consumer Rights Subcommittee, called for a government investigation into the false allegations of arrest. Blumenthal called CBS News reports “powerful and important because they discovered a practice, a model of crime that is absolutely staggering in its magnitude.”
In response to Blumenthal’s comments, Hertz said in a statement to CBS News: “As we have said, Hertz cares deeply about our customers and successfully provides rental cars to tens of millions of travelers each year. As for claims against the company, we are committed to our customers that is right, while continuing to defend and defend against actions aimed at harming Hertz ”.
False lawsuits for the arrest of former Hertz clients have been filed in the Federal Bankruptcy Court of Delaware. The claims have been postponed until the bankruptcy of the company is completed. The judge in charge of the bankruptcy case is currently considering how many of the approximately 230 people who have filed lawsuits will be able to file their lawsuits against the rental company.
In the past, Hertz said that virtually all allegations of false arrest were “baseless” and could not be allowed. The company declared bankruptcy in May 2020, citing a pandemic and large debt. A plan to reorganize it was approved last June.
Hertz tried to close information about the number of police reports she filed against clients, but after CBS News filed an objection, the judge ordered these records are disclosed. The company then revealed that it filed an average of more than 3,300 reports of thefts against customers each year for four years.
Hertz told CBS News that he had not seen or received Warren’s letter and therefore the company was unable to comment.
The company has previously stated that “the vast majority of these cases concern tenants who have delayed the return of vehicles for many weeks or even months and who have stopped communicating with us much later than planned.” Hertz claims that “situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and only happen after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer.”
One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the bankruptcy court, Francis Alexander Malofi, accused the company of turning lawful tenants into criminals.
“They have been aware of this for years, and instead of doing and deciding correctly, they are trying to sweep it under the rug, even through bankruptcy,” Malofi said.
One of Malafia’s clients, James Tolen, told CBS News in November that the sudden stop in Houston in late 2020 turned into a horrific encounter with police that made him fear for his life. After the completion of the project for one of the clients of his reconstruction company Tolen on December 23 headed home in a pickup truck rented from Hertz.
He and his fiancée Crystal Carter, who is also a contender, said they were renting in Hertz about a dozen times in 2020 – but that didn’t stop him from being stopped by police for driving a car reportedly stolen by the company. Around 10pm that night he said police stopped him and ordered him to get out of the car through a loudspeaker, telling him to pick up his shirt and return to them.
“When I turned around, I saw that both officers were pointing their weapons at me,” Tolen told CBS News’s Consumer Inquiry Anna Werner.
“It was just awful. It was bad. In fact, I really thought I wouldn’t make it home,” he said.
Tolen said officers handcuffed him and then said he was driving in a stolen car.
“I said,‘ It’s impossible. I rent at Hertz. I am a contractor, ”he recalls, as he told the police.
Tolen asked officers to look at his lease, in which he said he was listed as an authorized driver. He said that seeing the document, one of the officers called Hertz and confirmed that Tolen had a contract. He said the officer then told a Hertz spokesman: “We will return the car to him and you need to install a better system. This guy could have lost his life. ”
Carter and Tolen said they later learned that the truck they rented had been stolen by Hertz three months earlier.
“I was hot. Hot,” Carter said. “They say we rented them several times that year. A few. ”
CBS News also found that in a similar case in 2019, South Carolina’s plaintiff’s lawyer Hertz asked whether there have been other lawsuits against the campaign for false arrests and similar claims. Hertz then provided the lawyer with a database that he said contained more than 300 claims filed from 2008 to 2016.
“I’ve been amazed by this number in just eight years,” lawyer Fritz Eckel said. CBS News was unable to see the database because Hertz marked it confidential, keeping it secret from the public.
Hertz declined to answer questions about the database.