Car repossession device can wreak havoc

She and her husband needed a car to get her to dialysis five times every week. Because the couple did not have a lot of money, they had to go to a car dealer that offered financing regardless of credit history. Unsurprisingly, the terms were pretty painful: a 2007 Chevy with over 100,000 miles would cost the couple more than $21,000. The interest rate was 29 percent, which was almost six times the average.

“But I had to get to dialysis," the woman said, so she and her husband agreed to the terms. She recalls that one day when she left the treatment center and tried to drive the car, it wouldn't start. The dealer had activated a device that made it impossible to start the vehicle.

The device is known as a "starter interrupter." Coupled with GPS, the device lets the dealer know where the car is and allows him to then disable it. CBS News says "the auto industry could be reshaped by (the) repossession device."

Consumer advocates pint out that there are no federal laws requiring dealers to disclose the presence of the devices or even regulating how the "starter interrupter" can be deployed.

It is not as simple as disabling a car when someone is late with a payment. A spokesperson for the Center for Responsible Lending said that preventing cars from starting can have dire consequences. Imagine, he said, that you're on your way to pick up your children when the car suddenly won't start. Or imagine that you need to get to an emergency room and your vehicle has been disabled because you were a day late with a payment.

He said the devices are typically installed on vehicles sold to "lower income consumers, it’s folks with blemished credit who have trouble finding loans elsewhere."

According to CBS, the dealer who sold the car to the woman undergoing dialysis later sued for nonpayment. However, her attorney said the lawsuit against the couple was eventually dismissed.

You can fight back against wrongful repossession with the help of an experienced Philadelphia consumer protection attorney.

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