A lawsuit filed on behalf of at least 20 Hertz customers claims “Hertz has been falsely reporting untold numbers of customers for car theft, throwing them in jail on felony charges for months, prosecuting them,” and “giving them criminal records …” when “These customers have paid for their cars and are authorized to use the rentals.”
The plaintiffs are suing Hertz for "dishonestly and maliciously turning potential civil disputes about payment … into criminal theft reports and prosecutions.”
The suit alleges “the company’s computer and inventory tracking systems are broken.” However, “The company and its leadership have known about these problems for many years” and “did nothing to address these problems.”
Current and former Hertz executives, including Paul Stone, Kathryn Marinello, John Tague, and Mark Frissora, are named in the suit.
The suit details the alleged consequences suffered by plaintiffs as a result of Hertz’s actions, which include one renter’s “heart attack he suffered as he was being held at gunpoint for car theft,” and two others who spent time in prison.
In a written response to Auto Rental News, Hertz “strongly disputes” the claims and elucidates its procedures for vehicle theft and overdue rentals.
According to Hertz, the “vast majority” of the claims involve renters whose arrests resulted from their failure to return rented vehicles for weeks past their due date despite Hertz’s repeated attempts to communicate with them about the status of the vehicle.
“Overall, the lawsuit makes baseless accusations and wild exaggerations,” the statement reads. “We have compiled significant evidence and we will vigorously defend our case in court.”
Specifically regarding the heart attack incident, Hertz supplied Auto Rental News with a police report regarding Thomas Channell, who suffered the alleged heart attack. The report details another incident during which Channell allegedly had a heart attack during his arrest for drug trafficking while exchanging a vehicle from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in July 2018.
"When he was arrested in the incident outlined in Mr. Malofiy’s lawsuit, he was driving his son’s rental, which was six weeks overdue when it was reported stolen," said Lauren Luster, a spokesperson for Hertz. "Per our process, we made multiple attempts to contact his son to return our vehicle and all communications went ignored."
The statement outlined Hertz’s overdue rental procedures. Hertz says it “typically” only alerts the police “at the end of an extensive, multi-week process that includes phone calls, texts, emails, and certified letters asking the customer to return the vehicle.”
At this point, the customer “isn’t responding to repeated efforts to contact us, and/or isn’t continuing payment.” This last-resort process typically takes six to seven weeks.
“… For customers who simply need an extension of the rental once we reach them to inquire about the vehicle, our team can fulfill and document that request. We do that all the time.”
If Hertz is unable to reach the renter, the next step is to escalate the process to a “specialized vehicle control team” that attempts to reach the renter via phone calls, text messages, emails and U.S. mail.
If there still has been no response, usually after several weeks, the process is escalated to a “vehicle recovery team” to help locate and repossess the vehicle.
If that effort is unsuccessful, the specialized vehicle control team reviews the case, closes the rental contract and tries to process payment with the credit card on file. If the case has escalated this far, Hertz states that “very rarely do we receive payment in full. Further, payment does not negate a theft by conversion situation.”
After that point, the team alerts the authorities.
This process generally takes several more weeks, Hertz states. “… during this time we typically aren’t getting paid, we don’t know the location of the vehicle, and we could face potential liability for accidents or crimes associated with the vehicle.”
While Hertz asserts it has “robust and thorough systems and processes,” that “does not mean a mistake or human error ever comes into play. In those rare instances, we take responsibility, conduct thorough investigations, and make every effort to remedy the situation with our customer.”
Regarding filing criminal charges, “It is ultimately up to the authorities and prosecutors as to whether to pursue any type of charges.”
This story was updated on July 29 with additional information regarding the Thomas Channell heart attack.