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Judge Forces Hertz to Reveal How Often It Reports Customers for “Stealing” Cars

— February 10, 2022

Hertz reports approximately 3,500 customers for stealing cars each year. However, many of these police reports do not involve actual thefts but rather mischarged cards or poorly processed extension requests.

Hertz Corp. is continuing to push back against hundreds of former customers who claim they were arrested after being wrongfully reported for stealing their rental cars.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath sided with consumers, saying Hertz must make the details of its internal anti-theft program public.

On Thursday, Hertz finally revealed its data, showing that it files about 3,500 police reports each and every year.

Hertz, says Bloomberg, has long sought to protect information showing how frequently it reports for customers for allegedly stealing cars. The company’s attorneys had, for instance, asked that they be allowed to redact this data, saying that other rental car businesses could use it to try and tarnish Hertz’s reputation.

Michael Severance, vice president of Hertz Fleet Americas, said the risk had less to do with consumer image than protecting trade secrets.

“I can imagine a scenario where, let’s say, they know the number of annual police reports that they file and now they know ours,” Severance said in court. “Let’s say they file more or less than us, so they could interpret that to mean we have better front-end controls, for example, preventing thefts, and they could look for ways to improve their abilities to reduce thefts.”

Close-up of gavel; image by Bill Oxford, via
Close-up of gavel; image by Bill Oxford, via

However, the push for publication has been supported by not only the plaintiffs but the U.S. Trustee, the subdivision of the federal Department of Justice which oversees bankruptcy proceedings.

Bloomberg notes that some consumers involved the lawsuit were jailed after being wrongfully reported for automobile theft, with one plaintiff saying they were held at gunpoint mere hours after picking up their rental.

Most of the complaints against Hertz stem from long-term rentals: when something goes wrong with a payment, Hertz reserves the right to inform law enforcement that the vehicle has been stolen. Afterward, Hertz can charge the renter’s credit or debit card to collect whatever damages it is owed.

Inc. observes that some of these “theft” reports happen when customers wish to extend their rental. When they call asking for an extension, the company may place a temporary hold on the debit or credit card used to make the reservation.

But if the transaction is not approved, or the customer is too close to their credit limit, Hertz can notify police that the vehicle was stolen by “conversion.”

In some instances, Hertz refused to withdraw its police complaints after customers paid their outstanding dues—and, in some cases, even after they had returned the rental cars.

According to Bloomberg, Hertz had previously claimed that the “vast majority” of theft-by-conversion cases involved renters who were weeks or months overdue and could not be reached by phone.


Hertz accuses thousands of its customers of crimes, court papers show

Hertz Customers Who Claim They Were Falsely Arrested Score Win in Court

Hertz Files 3,365 Stolen Car Reports Every Year on Customers Who Rented Its CarsHertz claimed this number was a trade secret. The judge didn’t agree.

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