CARSON CITY, Nev. – A bill to regulate vehicle shutoff mechanisms, known as starter interruption devices, has passed in the Nevada Legislature and now sits on Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk.
These devices are often required by subprime, used car lenders for customers with poor credit. The devices use GPS to track the vehicle, start beeping if a payment is late, and shut the car off entirely if the company doesn’t receive payment within three days.
Attorney Sophia Romero with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada says this form of “electronic repossession” can be dangerous for the driver, and everyone else on the road.
“There’s not currently any regulation regarding when they can turn off someone’s vehicle,” she points out. “Somebody could be in the middle of the highway. It could be the middle of the night. People can get stranded.
“We have had three different clients report that their vehicle was shut off while they were driving.”
The primary manufacturer, PassTime, testified in a hearing on a prior version of the bill that the devices, if installed properly, will not shut a car off if it’s in gear.
Senate Bill 350 states that cars cannot be disabled unless a payment is 30 days late, and gives the consumer recourse if the device is installed improperly and the vehicle shuts down while on the road.
Romero says the bill also forbids lenders from springing the device on a client after the contract is signed.
“People are signing the contract, so the terms of the contract are already fixed,” she stresses. “They’re taking the cars, they’re going home. Then they’re being called back saying we, quote/unquote, ‘can’t get you financed unless you get this device on your car.’
“So basically, they’re being held ransom because they think that they have no choice other than to get this device installed.”
Romero says franchise car dealers and credit unions are on board with SB 350, but subprime auto lenders are still balking, arguing that a 30-day limit before using the shutoff device would harm their business and cause them to reconsider lending in Nevada.
However, Romero notes that subprime auto sales continue unabated in states such as Virginia, which has a 45-day shutoff rule.