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Tracking device can also alert driver about a late car payment

Fri, 13 May 2011

That buzzing noise you hear in the car could be more than a seatbelt reminder--it could be a payment reminder.

Some dealerships install tracking devices in the vehicles of high-risk buyers. That makes it easier to track down the buyer--and the car--if the payments stop.

Now, Rocky Mountain Tracking of Fort Collins, Colo., offers a device that, in addition to tracking, vehicles can be remotely activated to buzz loudly every five minutes when a payment is missed.

The aim is that the annoying noise will motivate the driver to make the payment. Pay up, and the buzzing is deactivated.

But here are some bigger questions: Are these tracking devices more Big Brother than good business? And what are the legal implications of tracking these drivers?

For answers, we asked Detroit attorney Bill Tuthill.

"If people don't like it, they can complain to the dealers until the devices are taken out of cars or go to other dealers that don't use them," said Tuthill. "If it were federally mandated it might be different, but this is perfectly legal."

And if the driver was not aware that the device was in the car?

"The question would be whether the contract can be voided because the omission of the information about the tracking device would be material enough to say that a meeting of the minds never occurred," Tuthill said. "I don't know whether that kind of challenge would be successful."

The simple solution? Make the car payment on time.

By Julie Alvin