Court Filing: Hertz Continues To Falsely Report Cars Stolen, Get Customers Arrested

Hertz used to be the business traveler’s go-to. Ever since O.J. Simpson ran through airports they were the top of the market. Avis used to crow “We’re #2, We Try Harder!” but they dropped the slogan as if to say they aren’t trying harder anymore. Now most frequent renters I know prefer National.

There’s one dimension along which they ‘aren’t all the same’ and that seems to be getting customers entangled with the law. One man spent 5 years in prison because Hertz wouldn’t produce the receipt that proved his innocence. But perhaps the most systematic problem at Hertz is sending customers to prison for stealing cars that they actually returned.

Usually what seems to happen is,

  • A customer changes vehicles or extends their rental
  • The changes doesn’t get reflected properly in Hertz’s systems
  • So it looks like the customer didn’t return the vehicle when they were supposed to
  • Hertz reports it to the police
  • And sticks by their story

Some of the stories are truly insane.

  • A frequent renter drove a Ford Mustang convertible for two months (extending the rental several times), returned it, and paid his bill. It was reported stolen. He traveled back to Florida to contest the charges, with proof of payment. Hertz no-showed the hearing. When he was stopped for a travel violation eight years later he was taken into custody on the outstanding warrant. He was held 40 days, including being transported back to Florida, before charges were dropped.

  • Another customer rented a car that Hertz had already reported stolen. He was arrested in front of the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas for stealing the Toyota Corolla that Hertz flagged as missing six days before the start of his rental contract.

  • Still another person who rented from Hertz, and extended her contract, faced police when the company failed to log the extension. She was taken into custody. And “[b]ecause she was on probation for an unrelated theft conviction, Higgs was held in jail for 37 days” before pleading no contest in order to be released.

There’s a class action lawsuit making its way through the courts. As the suit has garnered more exposure, more plaintiffs are coming forward. And a new filing brings additional information to light.

According to attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case – which seeks $530 million in damages – there are over 180 people that have been falsely arrested based on Hertz errors. That number is rising, with 26 new victims identifying themselves in the past month. And this doesn’t seem to be just a past problem at Hertz, either, because 8 new victims “have come forward with proof of new false arrest incidents” that occurred this year.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve been renting with Avis regularly for about 10 years and never had an issue. I normally show up go to my spot and get going. Never tried Hertz or National.

  2. I genuinely hope they go bankrupt, and I genuinely hope our justice system can be reformed somehow to prevent other actors from taking advantage of the system for their own maliciously incompetent ends.

    Truly, horrific stories. No one deserves these outcomes, even Hertz customers.

  3. @jamesb2147 Just as a heads up, they did go bankrupt last year, but they’re baaaaaaaaaaack!!!

    That said, it was 0% maliciousness and 100% incompetence. Doesn’t excuse it, but we should set the record straight.

  4. @Gary “Now most frequent renters I know prefer National.” Not arguing , but I’d love to know why that is. I am looking for a new rental company internationally. Most of my rentals are outside the US.

    I typically use Enterprise (when they have cars these days in the US) here and overseas. They’re price competitive and the employees are usually cheerful and helpful. I would avoid the LHR branch like the plague though. Great leaving, but returning cars is a nightmare. I swear the youngsters are on bonus if they find damage. I had to run one young man off on his fourth inspection of the car on one return.
    Hertz at LHR is quick and easy, but they don’t have that many buses and for one-way rentals they aren’t convenient for me.
    Avis at LHR hasn’t worked for me. Unless you are going to/from T5, they’re out of the way on the perimeter road and they totally hosed a rental of mine up charging me the weekly rate per day when I added a another driver. Live and learn.
    Sixt? Typical Germanic efficiency but they have tried to scam me in the past by claiming damage after they had received the car back. That was at MAN.
    Hence my question about National.

  5. How is this business still allowed to operate like this? Make the victims whole and fire leadership.

  6. I can’t imagine a better reason for a company to go out of business. I hope it goes to the jury and they don’t settle. Easily get the $500mil.

    Consider this… many if not all of those imprisoned were likely regular citizens, not hardened criminals. Some may have beaten, raped, etc. Many more likely lost jobs. Homes.

    And it goes beyond incompetence if it can be shown that they didn’t take immediate action to correct the mistake. The branch manager should have been down there bailing out the customer! Anything less is malicious.

  7. @Jonathan – I’m aware, and I want them to go through it again, if not be completely liquidated as a lesson to other businesses that there are minimum standards of behavior that must be met in order to be a going concern. In other words, I want there to be headlines across the country that drill into MBA’s everywhere the message: DON’T BE HERTZ.

    RE: maliciousness – That’s why I used the phrase “maliciously incompetent” instead of just “malicious.” I’m accusing them of being so incompetent that their collective behavior rises to the level of maliciousness; this isn’t a “one-off” problem, it is a systemic issue that management has neglected to correct. If Hertz were a person, they’d be arrested for perjury (lying on a police report) or making false police reports (a separate crime in some jurisdictions). They cannot claim ignorance to the problems in their processes because, well, their lawyers have had to show up to these hearings and have been told about the issues by judges that end up dismissing the cases. Thus, they are making knowing representations of knowledge that they do not have, which is criminal.

    I am so glad there’s a class action for this, and I hope the plaintiffs get a fat reward for Hertz having deprived them of their liberty for varying amounts of time. IDK if anyone here has ever known anyone that’s been arrested, but it’s generally hard to maintain your job when you no-show after being arrested for grand theft auto. People’s lives can be ruined, and I believe that should have consequences.

  8. @Woofie – National and Enterprise share a parent company. You’ll find that, from a corporate perspective, they’re very similar. However, individual locations have local management and that can be hit or miss. Might be worth trying at LHR.

    Also, the Emerald Aisle, particularly the Executive Aisle, are really nice features. Really surprised the rest of the industry hasn’t adopted it.

  9. I have the option to use hertz, Avis or National for corporate rental cars. I always choose National if available. Service is consistently great, and I rarely have a problem. One or two times I’ve had to rent through hertz, I’ve had issues. Both times at airport locations, the cars were damaged; I noted it when I departed, but then they wanted to charge me upon arrival. I never seem to get a car with National that has damage in the first place!

  10. Hertz really is as incompetent as these horror stories suggest. One time I had a rental marked as returned two days early, getting an emailed receipt. I had made no changes to my reservation keeping it exactly as booked, no early return or extended reservation. Fortunately I didn’t get arrested or have the car reported as stolen but it was a mess to fix the charges as I think it broke the weekly rate I had.

  11. I’ve been President’s Circle for several years now, and have never had an issue, from the car itself to the persons I interacted with. Certainly no issues with surprise charges or reported stolen cars. So while my experiences are great there is NO excuse for this ongoing issue. Obviously their system of tracking cars is severely deficient

  12. “But in each case, there was no theft. Each of the Movants paid for their car and was authorized to use the rental (other than two Movant who has never rented from Hertz, one of whom is still is facing charges from the company).”

    From the preliminary statement, good luck to those of us who “never rented from Hertz”, I’ll see you all in jail soon.

  13. I prefer National but they rarely have cars at some airports. Lately Avis has been working very well for me. They do seem to try harder. My go to before the pandemic was always Hertz if I could not rent from National, but those stories about arresting customers has made me avoid them at all costs.

  14. Budget just accused my husband and me of stealing a car and not returning it to CHS airport. Thank God I knew about these Hertz instances and took a photo of us returning the vehicle at the airport with a timestamp which saved the day. There was no employee to return to car to on a Sunday at 7 p.m. and no one to give us a receipt. It took me almost a month of fighting with Budget Customer service to sort out the issue. First they accused us of not returning the car, then they said we returned in 5 days late and our weekend rental invoice of $141 went to $925 and then they charged us extra for the minivan upgrade which they gave to us free of charge! Second time in a row that we have had issues with Budget, they have now lost our long time personal business and my corporate business. They have since offered us a free one day rental “to make it up to us” – too little too late! Twits.

  15. You would think the Police who not bother to answer their calls of stolen cars after this! They have transponders!! They know where the cars are and the police should make them produce evidence of theft?

  16. AVIS is also incompetent. I rented a car for less than 24 hours at LGA (to visit upstate). When I returned the car they said they did not have time to check it in and drop the key. I of course took a video of the car including my daughter’s iPhone showing the date and time. AVIS had pending charges of over $1500 which went away then over $300 which went away and the final bill was $623. I called and learned they claimed I did not return the vehicle for 6 days. I called and told them I returned it same day and had evidence. The rep told me it would be credited back and charged $79.25 for the day. As a CA attorney I had a friend write a demand letter under the CA Fair Debt Collection practices Act demanding $5000. They counter $2,200.00, but also again failed to credit back the entire charge seeking $180+ for the day. So I challenged via AMex and win and am settling for $3000.00 but most people don’t know their rights and so the rental companies don’t pay for their mistakes and thus they continue because some people will pay what they don’t owe and most people at best spend their time to get back to fair.

  17. They definitely deserve to lose a massive lawsuit and ideally go out of business. A couple of things not mentioned in the story that I’m curious about.
    Do any other car rental firms have these issues? Including those owned by Hertz?
    Does the problem ever occur when the customer doesn’t change the dates of the rental?

    Their incompetence and indifference put them at the bottom of the list not only as a car rental company, but as a business in general.

  18. The entire car rental business is a scam as is most of Travel be it Hotel Fees or Airline refunds. Whatever the options they think they can rip-off their Customers without redress. Hertz Premium Members always got charged more than non-members. But what has really changed now is that Travel Providers think they can scam with impunity without getting caught. Someone needs to call them out for fraud with a Police action not a Class Action. Once a key Executive gets banged up, they will run scared, but not before. Simple as.

  19. I wish our laws were suited to make actions like these by corporate people criminal. Some basic discovery would prevent this from happening, but at every chance to remedy this problem, someone decided it was too hard, not my area, just don’t want to get involved, etc. All the while, people are getting arrested, prosecuted for things they didn’t do. Worse, County DAs who continued to prosecute people when a pattern is know about Hertz’s bad actions. I’m sure those who were victimized the most we the ones with the least amount of means to defend themselves.

  20. I am currently going through the same issue with Avis with a car I rented and returned on time last Saturday.
    In the return area I was told that the check-in guy would not be available for 45 minutes. I was told by 2 employees to leave the car with the keys in it and I would be emailed a receipt. The receipt never came and yesterday I got an email from Avis loss prevention stating the car is not back in their inventory.
    Fortunately, I took a picture with date and time stamp. In the photo the Avis sign could be seen in the background.

  21. Now some lawyer needs to file a class action against all of them for false toll charges. I fought Dollar over maybe $15.00 because well, we didn’t go through a toll to be charged (Oklahoma and we went through the cash lane). The OK Turnpike Authority told me exactly what to demand of them and they dropped the charge (first offering to drop half!). What I found out is that the minute we turned unto the turnpike they automatically charged us. I know some states don’t have a cash option but OK does. Anyway, not like getting charged with stealing a car but it is a way that they rip people off and most people won’t fight them over $15.

  22. That’s another thing! Why are DA’s and cops falling for this when a pattern is established, (that Hertz doesn’t know what they are doing?
    Simply horrid behavior by law enforcement!

  23. I was President’s Circle when this happened to me. Hertz reported a car stolen in September, rented it to us in October and he was pulled over with 3 chambered guns pointed at him. He didn’t know until he was in the back of the police cruiser that they’d pulled him over for driving a stolen vehicle.

    Our story was spotlighted on CBMornings here.

    This is real deal and it can happen to anyone! I’ve been gold and/or President’s Circle every year since about 2014 when I started renting from there for work. So yeah if Hertz is your company’s preferred rental car company guess what.. it could happen to you too.

    Check out CBSMornings tomorrow for a follow-up with several other victims.

  24. Hertz is responsible, however, the cops who arrest people and hold people are even more so. If you are a cop and don’t verify the legitimacy and accuracy of claims/evidence, you are the bad guy. Cops should be arresting anyone who tells them it’s ok to arrest people on claims and evidence they are not 100% sure about. Those who suffered are justified if they have blame the cops, hold a grudge, and want retribution 10 times as much. I know I would. It’s not some clerk who made a mistake that arrests someone and holds them for 8 hours or 5 years: it’s the Blue. Their uniforms don’t negate the fact they are still big government we should hate and oppose instead of back.

  25. I’m an airline employee. I tried Sixt in Dublin, Manchester and Iceland. Iceland did me in. They are horrible sleezebags. NEVER AGAIN! Budget, in Edinburgh tried to charge me $350.00 for a teeny weeny chip on the windshield that was undetectable when I checked the car out because it was pouring rain. Yes, I have insurance, but it’s the principle of the thing. It took six months to straighten out when Budget told me “two weeks”. I sent Budget letters via certified and first class mail but never received the courtesy of a reply. NEVER AGAIN. Now, I take photos with my iPhone of all points of a rental car, any chip, smudge or otherwise suspicious part of the car, the dash with the mileage and fuel beside my watch with time and date. I do the exact same thing when I check in. As a photographer, I know the photo’s meta data is kept with the exact time and GPS location. That saved my bacon in Las Vegas once. Although Budget and Avis are “co-owned” I’ll use Avis, Hertz and National. So far, Hertz hasn’t caused any issues for me. Like a “loaded gun” I still don’t trust any one them! The last Hertz I rented was in September at KMCO. The car had not been properly cleaned and the next day noted some little black bugs crawling around in the car. When I checked in, I noted that to the clerk. I was immediately credited a substantial discount and an apology.

  26. I crashed a hertz rental shortly before they went bankrupt. Never got a letter or anything about having to pay them. Maybe it fell through the cracks.

  27. As a very long time renter from Hertz, it is extremely disgraceful on the part of Hertz to practice this sort of behavior with impunity – never owning up to and accepting accountability for their actions affecting people’s lives and livelihood. With the recent spate of Police actions against minorities it is a blessing that no one has been killed as yet due to Hertz’ lack of empathy and due diligence. I will never rent from Hertz again and I will actively advise others not to rent from Hertz either – no matter how low they drop their rates.
    The non-response to journalists’ questions shows exactly what the corporation thinks of their renters – ‘we don’t need you, we don’t care and we do not accept blame. It is up to you to fix this.’

  28. Hey Ulrick H: tell NFL star quarterback Tom Brady how horrible Hertz is. He is their new poster boy.
    He’s on Twitter, I’m not…..

  29. This JUST happened to me TODAY! I tried to extend my rental and instead they canceled my rental and reported the car stolen to the police! I was pulled over for driving a stolen vehicle! What can I do?

  30. @David Murphy contact AJ Fluehr (215) 341-1063 He is with the law offices of Francis Alexander whom is representing the victims (including myself) I know the feeling of being pulled over and guns aimed at you..when you did nothing wrong. Its so scary and this Hertz has ruined my life!!

  31. The real issue here is whether Hertz went bankrupt in 2020, as @Jonathan says. If so, none of this matters.

    Any claim that accrued prior to the bankruptcy filing date (the date and time the “Petition for Relief” is file-stamped in the Clerk’s office is treated in the Bankruptcy Court as an unliquidated claim, in the pool of all other general unsecured creditors. Good luck with that. If they are lucky, they’ll get about $.08 for each dollar, if that. There will be no class trial — all hearings are before the Bankruptcy Judge under the bankruptcy rules.

    Post-petition claims arising while the bankruptcy case is pending may be handled in a state or federal court, or could be handled before the Bankruptcy Court, depending on the effect of the claims on the likelihood of a successful emergence from bankruptcy..

    So, just about any incident listed in Gary’s article is not going to materially affect the company today. Sorry about that.

  32. SMR I disagree. Have never spent a night in either county jail or state pen. But I know people jailed for DUI, fights, etc and they uniformly said it was the worst night of their life. Whatever you call it, and no matter whether it is federal, state or local, “country club” minimum security or supermax, it is not something that any innocent law abiding citizen should ever encounter due to the grossly reckless behavior of a major corporation and its executives. I expect Hertz would quickly fix its systems if its senior executives were arrested for bringing false criminal charges and spent a night in jail.

  33. County, state or fed: jail is horrible.
    Dirty, overcrowded, no health care,
    food unfit for dogs, body cavity searches (yes, women too!), loud and night (the place is made of metal), infrequent showers, mentally ill inmates plus sheer boredom.
    I can understand why so many MAGA protesters are complaining about jail. No, just because you’re white and middle class or whatever too bad, you are now an accused criminal and will be treated as such.
    Or so I have read.
    That’s why what Hertz is doing is pure evil. And they’ve been doing it for years! WTF!!??

  34. I’m surprised Uber continues their partnership with Hertz considering all of this.

    Inviting needless liability

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