Over 150 customers have brought complaints against rental company Hertz, alleging that they were falsely accused of having stolen vehicles under valid rental contracts.
The claims are pending in bankruptcy court as Hertz went through a Chapter 11 filing initiated in May 2020. Now that the company has raised the necessary funds to come out of bankruptcy, these former customers are seeking unspecified damages for the harm done to their businesses and the mental anguish they suffered as a result.
One plaintiff, James Tolen, tells CBS News that his Dec. 23 rental, one of the dozens he completed in 2020, took a scary turn when he and his fiancé Krystal Carter were pulled over by Houston police, who told him the truck he had rented had been reported stolen.
After he pulled over, Tolen says the officers ordered him out of the car and told him to walk backward toward the police car.
“As I turn around, I see both officers train the guns on me,” he recounts. “It was just terrifying. It was bad. Actually, I was really thinking that I wasn’t gonna make it home.”
Once Tolen produced the rental agreement, Houston PD contacted Hertz and confirmed that the vehicle had not been stolen. Despite the wide number of similar complaints, Hertz maintains that these are “baseless claims that blatantly misrepresent the facts.”
“The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date,” the company said in a statement. “Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer.”
But John Ayoub of Pennsylvania says his experience was the exact opposite. He initiated a rental in April 2019, advising Hertz that it would be a long-term rental. The counter agents advised him to call once a week to update his contract.
“I would call. I would extend. They would charge it. I would see it. And they would say, ‘You’re good to go till next Monday,’” he says.
Yet, on June 2, he was arrested in front of his house and charged with a felony, even though his card had been charged $2,300 five days earlier. The charges were eventually dropped.
Francis Alexander Malofiy, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in this case, says that this has been an ongoing issue with Hertz, something they’ve been aware of for years, yet refuse to address or correct the matter.