Lenders Shut Down Cars Remotely When People Don't Make Payments

Sep 25, 2014 06:30 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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As subprime auto loans continue to rise, lenders have been using devices that can remotely prevent a car from starting to make sure that borrowers make their payments, a method that has reportedly left people stranded in dangerous situations.

In one example, Las Vegas resident Mary Bolender was three days behind on the monthly car payment when she needed to get her 10-year-old daughter to the emergency room with a 103-degree fever, the New York Times' Dealbook reported. The lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., had activated a device in the vehicle's dashboard to prevent it from starting.

Borrowers are considered subprime if they have credit scores at or below 640, and such loans have risen sharply in the last five years. Around a quarter of all auto loans from last year were categorized as subprime, while the first three months of 2014 saw subprime loans pass $145 billion.

Devices that remotely prevent a car from starting have changed the game. Borrowers now have to keep up with their payments or risk not having a vehicle during an emergency. Some people have reported that their cars left them stranded in dangerous neighborhood, shut down after they fell a few days behind in their payments, according to Dealbook.

Others had cars that stopped while idling at stoplights, and one woman from Nevada said that her car halted while on the highway, nearly making her crash.

Borrowers are usually given emergency codes that will restart the vehicle for a 24-hour period, but some drivers report that the codes don't work, while others say they are only given one code a month--which doesn't cover the times when their cars are shut down more than once.

"No middle-class person would ever be hounded for being a day late," said lawyer Robert Swearingen of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, as quoted by Dealbook. "But for poor people, there is a debt collector right there in the car with them."

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