Hertz wrongly charges 230 people with car theft

Hertz faces 230 claims in bankruptcy court from people who allege they were falsely arrested for stealing cars.

Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

A A Delaware judge ruled that Hertz car rental company must make public the number of renters it accuses of stealing its cars.

The fault occurs as a result of a CBS News investigation into claims from customers who say they were falsely arrested.

As CBS News reported Wednesday, a Colorado man alleges he was arrested after Hertz wrongly reported to police that he failed to return a car in Georgia, a state he says he has never visited.

Hertz, which filed for bankruptcy in 2020, had filed the data from the theft reports under seal.

CBS News' legal team filed a formal objection to the attempt to keep that and other statistics secret, leading to the court's decision on Wednesday.

Although all the data have not yet been published, the company already faces 230 claims in bankruptcy court from people who allege they were falsely arrested for stealing rental cars based on erroneous reports from Hertz.

“Of the more than 25 million Hertz rental transactions in the United States per year, 0.014% fall into the rare situation where vehicles are reported stolen to authorities after exhaustive attempts to locate the customer,” Hertz said in a statement to CBS News.

That would mean the company was reporting an average of 3,500 customers for car thefts each year on average.

The number of those reports that Hertz admits are erroneous has not yet been revealed, but is included in the judge's order.

Colorado real estate appraiser Drew Seaser is one of the plaintiffs who shared his experience with Werner.

He said customs agents stopped him at the airport on his way to Mexico with his family.

“When they checked my passport, they said, Mr. Seaser, do you know you have a warrant out for your arrest out of Georgia? At first, I thought they were joking,” he said.

Hertz wanted him arrested for stealing a rental car in Georgia the previous November, but Seaser said he had never been to Georgia and never rented a car from Hertz.

“I was terrified. You know, I've never been arrested before and I've never been in any kind of trouble. I own my own business,” he told CBS News.

He spent more than 24 hours in jail before his attorney could prove he was in Colorado the day Hertz said the car was stolen and prosecutors dropped the charges.

“The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months behind in returning their vehicles and stopped contacting us beyond the scheduled delivery date. Situations where vehicles are reported to authorities are very rare and occur only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer," the company said in a statement. Those figures, including the number of lawsuits filed, are expected to be released soon.

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