A Delaware bankruptcy court judge has ruled that rental car company Hertz must make public the number of renters it accuses of stealing its cars. The ruling comes in the wake of a CBS News investigation of claims by customers who say they were falsely arrested.
As CBS News' consumer investigative correspondent Anna Werner reported Wednesday, one Colorado man alleges he was arrested after Hertz wrongly reported to police that he did not return a car in Georgia — a state he says he has never visited.
Hertz, which, had filed the data on 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 Wednesday.
While all the data has yet to be released, the company already faces 230 claims in bankruptcy court by people who allege they were falsely arrested for stealing rental cars based on erroneous reports from Hertz.
"Of the more than 25 million rental transactions by Hertz in the United States per year, 0.014% fall into the rare situation where vehicles are reported to the authorities after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer," Hertz said in a statement to CBS News after the ruling.
That would mean the company was reporting an average 3,500 customers for auto thefts each year on average. The number of those reports Hertz admits were erroneous reports has not yet been revealed, but is included in the judge's unsealing order.
Colorado real estate appraiser Drew Seaser is one of the claimants who shared his experience with Werner. He said he was stopped by customs officers at the airport on his way to Mexico with his family.
"When they checked my passport, they're like, Mr. Seaser, are you aware that you have a warrant out for your arrest out of Georgia? At first, I thought they were joking," he said.
Hertz had 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 never been in any sort of trouble. I own my own business," he told Werner. He spent more than 24 hours in jail before his lawyer was able to show he was in Colorado the day Hertz said the car was stolen and prosecutors dismissed the charges.
"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. Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer," the company said in a statement.
Those figures — including how many lawsuits have been filed — are expected to be unsealed soon.
for more features.