Rights of the seller - installing GPS car disabling devices in cars you sell.

Texan accused of disabling 100 cars over Internet

So Ramon-Lopez is accused of going into the dealership’s computer (he worked there, as a “collector” - repo man?) and deactiviting starters and sounding the horns on cars that had been purchased at the dealship. Stupid pranks it sounds like.

But I got to the paragraph above and sirens started going off in my head. So it’s legal for a dealership to install a system like this in something that I bought from them? I suppose you could liken it to the magnetic tags but those are only activated at the door on the way out of the store.

So, should store/dealerships be able to install a system that lets them remotely disable your purchase? Should the bank be able to remotely lock you out of your house? Does the idea that a hacker or maybe an accounting glitch could lead to your car being disabled bother anyone else?

If you buy it on credit, you don’t have title to it.

True, but is the device removed when the note is paid in full?

A lot of it is going to depend on what they put in the contract when you borrow the cash off them. I would imagine this is disclosed.

If you finance through someone besides the dealer, the dealer doesn’t have title to it either.

I know - but given that the repo guy worked at the dealership, I assumed this was dealer financing. I could be wrong there.

Almost certainly. The devices cost money, so it’s in the dealer’s best financial interest to reclaim and reuse the device in another vehicle when they no longer have to worry about someone defaulting on a paid off car.


I can think of nothing that would make me walk out of a dealership faster than bullshit like this.

You likely have other financing options. Customers of businesses that do things like this probably don’t have those options.

The system that they’re using is provided by PayTeck. I found their website and it’s a bit interesting:

I can’t believe that the dealerships themselves don’t just shun these things as lawsuits waiting to happen. I can think of tons of situations just offhand where a person could have their car in the garage, be relying on it for something important, and then it fails to start when they need it. How about:[ul]
[li]someone who has to make a mandatory meeting with his parole officer[/li][li]someone who has to appear in court[/li][li]a couple about to have a baby[/li][li]an on-call physician[/li][li]a person with a dying parent who may need to rush over at a moment’s notice for one last visit[/li][li]a person who has just had an accident in the kitchen and is bleeding out[/li][li]a woman whose violent ex-boyfriend broke in through the back door, leaving her just enough time to run to the garage[/li][li]someone having a violent allergic reaction to a bee sting or peanuts[/li][/ul]

And hell, they don’t know where you are when they cut you off. What if I’m driving down a lonely mountain road, stop to take a leak, get back in, and the starter’s turned off? Now I’m stuck on this lonely mountain, right in the path of that approaching blizzard, and I can’t even turn on the heat.

“But all of these could happen anyway due to random car trouble!” True, but in this situation, it didn’t happen due to random car trouble, it happened due to the deliberate act of the car dealership. Sooner or later, there will be lawsuits. From the dealership’s perspective, it doesn’t seem worth the hassle.

Yes this is it. The article that I read about this matter stated that the purpose of the device was to allow auto financing to customers who otherwise would not be able to find financing. Sub-prime mortgages for cars.

No more so than if they repo’d the car. “I just got up to go to my parole officer and I discovered my car had been taken back because I had not paid for it” is indistinguishable from “My car wouldn’t start because I hadn’t paid for it.”

People with bad credit get shitty terms when they borrow money. It’s the way things have always been. Fortunately, I have better credit so am not stuck in that position. What the problem is, however, in outlawing such practices is that the source of legal credit for high risk individuals dries up.

I don’t know how far I support coming down on regulation of that industry. It needs some, but too much will completely destroy the sector. On this one I don’t have a problem if it is disclosed - you but a car and don’t pay for it, you lose the use of it.

Such a lawsuit probably isn’t going very far unless Plaintiff is able to prove that the car was disabled erroneously. And if that happens, the seller’s insurance will likely defend the suit and pay damages if necessary.

I agree with the others. You only have the right to use the dealer’s property as long as you’re making the repayments. If you stop making the repayments, the consequences are your fault, not his.

Ah, but it is. If I get up and my car’s missing, I know that I have to find alternate transportation to my important parole meeting. But if my car’s still there, and I know it only takes 15 minutes to drive to the parole office, I won’t know that my car is disabled until it’s too late to find alternate transportation.

I don’t think it’d be hard to find a sympathetic jury for any of the listed hypotheticals. It’s even easier when the injured party is someone who isn’t responsible for paying the bills, as in the on-call physician example. “Your honor, had Malfunctioning Eddie’s Motorplex not disabled Dr. Goodhands’s car starter, my client’s baby would not have been born with brain damage.” Given what happened in the OP, merely installing a system that allows cars to be disabled at will that is open to tampering by a disgruntled employee seems negligent in itself.

There’s more problems with that theory. One being a lack of privity between a third-party user and the seller. Actually surviving the inevitable Motion to Dismiss and/or Motion for Summary Judgment seems unlikely in the example you give.

Ah, but it isn’t. If you car is disabled 10 minutes before you leave, it is no different. You also will know you have not paid for your car, and have agreed that it will be shut off if you do not pay for it. In your world, someone is being incovenienced by no longer being allowed to use something they do not own, have no right to use, and have agreed they will not be allowed to use if they do not pay for it.

You might think you will find a sympathetic jury, but this case ain’t getting anywhere near a jury. It gets tossed on summary judgment, presuming there isn’t an arbitration clause in the agreement.

Your Honor, while it is unfortunate that this child was born with brain damage, Mr. Deadbeat signed Exhibit A, a contract for financing the purchase of this vehicle. In this contract it is clearly spelled out that Malfunctioning Eddie’s Motorplex reserves the right either to repossess the vehicle or to remotely immobilize it if Mr. Deadbeat failed to meet the agreed upon payment schedule. In fact, Mr. Deadbeat is 3 months behind his agreed payment schedule. My client has contacted him on multiple occasions, and Mr. Deadbeat has promised a check would be put in the mail. No check has ever been sent to my client, who therefore took the legal and contractually agreed upon step of ensuring that Mr. Deadbeat could no longer enjoy the benefits of, or cause further wear and tear to, the vehicle in question. Now remember, Your Honor, this is a vehicle which is still owned by my client, and on which Mr. Deadbeat has repeatedly refused to make contractually agreed on payments.

I move for a dismissal of all claims against my client. Thank you, Your Honor.

In Australia, at least, this would not be a valid argument. You cannot be held liable through negligence for damages you could not reasonably foresee. Unless Dr. Goodhand informed Eddie in advance of the consequences of disabling his vehicle on this date, Eddie could not reasonably foresee that doing so would cause harm to the client. And even if he did, Eddie wasn’t negligent! Dr. Goodhand breached the terms of his contract, so Eddie did what he agreed he would do in the contract.

If anyone is negligent here, it’s Dr. Goodhands: if he told the hospital they could call on him at this time but did not take reasonable care to ensure that was the case, the brain damage is his fault.