The devices, which have been installed in about two million vehicles, are helping feed the subprime boom by enabling more high-risk borrowers to get loans. But there is a big catch. By simply clicking a mouse or tapping a smartphone, lenders retain the ultimate control. Borrowers must stay current with their payments, or lose access to their vehicle.
Yes, this is a catastrophe for poor, poor Ms. Bolender because she was marooned in the wilds of Las Vegas, where there are no ambulances or taxis. Or buses. Or neighbors with cars that work. Or friends, relatives, helpful strangers, cops etc. Must be tough. Even though they did warn her before they shut off the car. They warned her a lot, even though the article doesn't mention that part. The car even warned her, it beeps when you're near to getting shut off.
The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old's asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.
The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.
Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car's dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.
"I felt absolutely helpless," said Ms. Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter. It was not the only time this happened: Her car was shut down that March, once in April and again in June.
In a lawsuit filed against Western Funding, Swearingen says the experience left Ward with "anxiety, loss of appetite, chest pains, loss of concentration at her job and in her personal life, crying, depression, fear of using the car, fear of being stranded, embarrassment … fatigue, headaches, personal humiliation, insomnia … nausea, nervousness, panic attack, restlessness and loss of sleep."
Swearingen hangs his legal hat on an old common law principle that a lender can't "breach the peace" in a repossession. That means they can't put a person in harm's way. To Swearingen, that would mean "turning off a car in a bad neighborhood, or for a single female at night."