NJ may regulate dealers’ use of vehicle-disabling devices over late payments

 David McMillan with Legal Services of New Jersey supports legislation to bar lenders from remotely disabling vehicles when consumers miss a loan payment. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

David McMillan with Legal Services of New Jersey supports legislation to bar lenders from remotely disabling vehicles when consumers miss a loan payment. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey lawmakers want to put the brakes on dealers and lenders who remotely disable the vehicles of customers who miss a payment.

David McMillan, an attorney with Legal Services of New Jersey, said the device that’s installed as a condition for some customers getting a car loan can make a vehicle inoperable without notice.

And that raises safety concerns.

“So if somebody needs to get to the hospital, somebody needs to get to their job, somebody is out in a remote location or somewhere that isn’t safe, the car just doesn’t start,” McMillan said during a Monday hearing.

Some also worry the device could activate when a car is moving.

That shouldn’t happen, said Michael Brill, the president of B and B Automotive who also testified at the legislative hearing.

“I’ve installed devices in over 10,000 vehicles. I’ve never once, one time, ever had a consumer shut down while driving,” he said.

A bill to ban use of the devices may be amended to impose some regulations instead.

As part of those regulations, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty would like to see more transparency, as well as changes in the loan structure for consumers with less than stellar credit.

“No. 1, everybody has to know that it’s in their car,” said Moriarty, D-Gloucester. “No. 2, that it could never be used to shut off a vehicle in motion. I think also that people should get a break on the interest rate if they have this on their car because it reduces the default rate.”

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