ATLANTA - The Hertz rental car company fights back against allegations that it falsely accused clients of car theft. But now members of Congress have called for an investigation. Many of the more than 200 customers filing suit against Hertz and its subsidiary companies are from metro Atlanta.
Bianca DeLoach is a mother of two arrested for car theft while getting gas for car theft.
It was March of last year, DeLoach and her two children pulled into a Godby Road gas station.
"I see police officers driving up and down the street fast and said to myself, ‘I wonder who are they looking for because whoever they’re looking for? I hope they don’t get away.’"
She recalls a lot of police activity entering the parking lot as she was putting gas in her rental car.
"I said, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ They have all their guns drawn at me. My children are sitting in the car," she recalled.
A Clayton County Sheriff’s incident report shows DeLoach was arrested that day, accused of stealing her Dollar rental car. Hertz owns Dollar as well as Thifty. Her children, then 10 and 12 years old, watched their mother crying and handcuffed, leave in a patrol car.
She says she was behind bars for nine days for a vehicle she said was paid for. Certainly not stolen.
"They took out almost $4,000," she told the Fox 5 I-Team. "And two weeks later reported the car stolen."
Those stories have made their way to congress where Sens. Warren and Blumenthal requested an investigation. Sen. Richard Blumenthal calls Hertz’s practice of claiming cars are stolen by customers both "inexcusable" and "reprehensible." In a letter to the FTC he urged the chairperson to "open an investigation" into the giant rental car company’s practices.
The FOX 5 I-Team asked for Hertz for a response. In an email, we were told, "We take the matter seriously and are reviewing the letters from Senator Warren and Senator Blumenthal."
Eight months after DeLoach was arrested, the charges were dropped. Clayton County prosecutors said Hertz showed a "lack of cooperation." And, they said that the rental had been paid for weeks before the arrest.
"This felony, if it were judged against me, I would have lost my job." DeLoach said.
Hertz's full statement to the FOX 5 I-Team:
"Hertz cares deeply about our customers, and we successfully provide rental vehicles for tens of millions of travelers each year. Where our customers have been negatively affected, we are committed to doing what is right by our customers. At the same time, we will protect and defend against false claims intended to cause our company harm.
The vast majority of the current legal claims involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date. These situations where overdue rentals are reported to authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer."
As Blumethal wrote to the FTC, these arrests can have "life-changing consequences." Lost jobs. Lost homes. Lost reputations. Not to mention, a loss of sense of security. Just ask her young son Cyrenius.
"It’s a bad memory. I really didn’t like how they framed her for something she didn’t do."
Sen. Blumenthal also sent a letter to the CEO of Hertz asking for answers to pretty specific questions. He wants to know how the company determines a vehicle has been stolen; how the company makes its report to local police; and to explain the process it uses to withdraw a claim of theft.