On Your Side Alert: Cars disabled over delinquent payments

On Your Side Alert: Cars disabled over delinquent payments

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If your credit is not the best and you are in the market for a new car, consumer experts are warning about devices that can prevent cars from operating.

The starter interrupt device gives lenders more control over car buyers with poor credit. Lenders say it's a good idea, but consumer advocates don't agree.

If you're struggling to make car payments, it's not the repo man you may have to worry about. With a simple push of button, a lender can disable your car if it's equipped with a starter interrupter. Consumer attorney John Gayle has some concerns. "There is a good and bad side to these devices," he says.

One advantage to the advice, according to Gayle, is that it will help people with poor credit get a car. But Gayle is also worried about privacy, because the mechanisms act as a GPS, tracking a driver's every move. He also has safety concerns. "It's late at night in a parking lot, you just left a club or just left an all-night Walmart or somewhere and need to go and your car won't start. You could be stranded," he said.

Jeff Frank is founder of Passtime. His company installs the devices. He says there is an emergency code customers can use if the car has been turned off due to a lack of payment. He says nothing will happen while you're driving. "It's a misconception that it can shut off while the car is running. If the device times out, the car will continue to run and it simply will not start again once the car is stopped," he said.

If you have one of these starter interrupters, experts say a salesperson should have notified you about how it works. Also, there is a beeping alert -- or some other noise notification letting you know that you need to make a payment. "If you don't pay your phone bill, you're not going to have phone service. The same thing with utilities. It is really not much different," Frank says.

Don Hall with Virginia Auto Dealers Association says he's not aware of any problems with the devices in Virginia, but says dealers should fully explain to the customer what they are signing up for. "The consumer has every right to legally know it, should know it, know that it exists, not necessarily where it is. And the notion that we can turn it off any time needs to be scrutinized carefully," he said.

Keep in mind as a consumer, you're in control and can always say no -- and go to a dealer that doesn't install the devices.