Vehicle Shutdown Devices Get Strict Rules with Proposed NJ Law
You may have not even known these types of devices exist, but legislation advancing in Trenton would require a consumer receive at least three days' notice before his or her vehicle is disabled remotely with the touch of a button.
An estimated 2 million vehicles nationwide, typically driven by borrowers with poor credit histories, are equipped with payment assurance devices that can cause a borrower to lose access to their vehicle should they not make a payment on time.
A proposed law sponsored by Assembly and Senate Democrats would require automobile dealers and lenders to provide a consumer with at least 72 hours' notice - through at least two modes of communication - before rendering the vehicle useless.
Pointing to a Sept. 24 article in the New York Times, bill sponsors said these devices are posing a safety concern for the targeted driver and other motorists. The NYT piece cited Americans who had their vehicles disabled while idling or even while driving on the highway.
"These devices are akin to having a predatory debt collector riding in the car with the borrower, ready to strike at the slightest mistake," said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty. "It's incredibly unsafe. We need this bill to protect consumers."
But according to Michael Brill, owner of B&B Automotive in Burlington, such concerns are unnecessary. His company has installed more than 10,000 of the devices in question, and "not one has ever shut down a vehicle while in operation."
"It can only interrupt starters from starting," Brill told a Senate panel considering the legislation. "Once the car has been started, it has no useful function."
While Brill is in favor of laws regulating the use of payment assurance devices, he argues 72-hour notice only opens the door to increased risk for dealers and lenders.
Their biggest threat, according to Brill, is what's known as a "skip" - borrowers disconnecting the devices so there's no threat of a sudden shutdown.
"And they intend to drive the car for as long as they can without paying for it, and possibly we never recover the car," Brill said.
Plus, lenders would have no way of guaranteeing that consumers are receiving their warnings, he said. Many of B&B's customers, he said, change phone numbers and email addresses.
Under the legislation, a consumer would be able to use a disabled vehicle for at least 48 hours in the event of an emergency. Also, a vehicle can not be disabled until the consumer is seven or more days in default.