Awho was arrested aboard a cruise ship last week has become the latest customer to say the company falsely accused them of stealing one of its rental cars.
Charles Doucette, a pharmacy and healthcare consultant from New Hampshire, said he was on a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend when, back in a Florida port early Friday morning, police came to the door while the couple was sleeping.
“We opened it and it was security for the boat,” he said. “Customs and Border came onto the boat and told me to turn around, face the wall with my hands behind my back.”
Doucette described the incident while sitting in Florida’s Brevard County Jail, where he remained Tuesday.
“This is the most horrific experience of my life,” he told CBS News’ consumer investigative correspondent Anna Werner in a phone interview.
Doucette is just the latest person saying Hertz filed a false police report against them. Bankruptcy court documents unsealed last week, after CBS News intervened in court, show the company filing thousands of police reports each year, roughly 8,000 every year for four years.
Of those, documents from claimants say nearly 3,500 were filed against customers for what’s called “theft by conversion”, “…that involve a renter who lawfully rented from Hertz…” “…and for which Hertz has payment information on file.”
Doucette says he had rented a car from Hertz for his business last year, and properly extended the rental several times. But in March, police in Arizona stopped him and told him Hertz had filed a police report saying his rental car had been stolen. They towed the car, but Doucette says afterwards, Hertz charged his credit card the full amount for the rental.
Yet in August, prosecutors who say they were acting on Hertz’s police report, took his case to a grand jury and indicted him.
Facing a required court appearance in Arizona, Doucette said, he contacted a local attorney there and sent notarized documents so he wouldn’t have to appear in person. It’s not clear what occurred in the local court, but he was arrested Friday.
“I am one of their best customers. And here I am sitting in jail,” Doucette said.
“It’s just completely absurd that any company would allow something to affect somebody’s life,” he said.
Doucette said he’s been an elite President’s Circle member who spent over $15,000 with Hertz in 2020 and 2021.
“I’m sitting here for three days. Tell me that you’re treating your customers right,” Doucette said.
His girlfriend of 18 years, who didn’t want to be identified because of her job, said he is not doing well “at all.”
“I just want him home,” she said. “I just want answers, so that we can pick up the pieces and move on.”
Hertz said in a statement that “situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer.” The company did not respond to questions about Doucette’s case.
Attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy represents Doucette and other claimants.
“Hertz refuses to correct a police report when they’ve learned payments [were] made, when they’ve learned the car’s been returned or when they’ve learned there’s inaccuracies,” he said.
Malofiy sent a letter to the company over the weekend, asking Hertz to help get Doucette out of jail. He said unless something changes, Doucette will be in jail for a minimum of 10 days because he is awaiting extradition to Arizona.
“I always thought that [the] world we live in is, ‘innocent until proven guilty,'” Doucette said. “This is, ‘guilty until proven innocent.'”