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.