US finance firm remotely deactivates car

RICK SMITH/Associated Press

A woman in the US state of Nevada narrowly avoided a serious car accident, after her vehicle was remotely deactivated by her finance provider.
T. Candice Smith was driving along a three-lane highway outside Las Vegas when her car's steering wheel suddenly locked up and she lost power from the engine.

The vehicle eventually came to a stop in the middle of the road, forcing Ms Smith and her passenger to quickly push it to the side of the road to prevent being struck by oncoming traffic.

It was only later that she found out that the car had been remotely stopped by her finance company after she had allegedly missed a single payment.

Ms Smith's car had been fitted with a Starter Interrupt Device (SID - as pictured above), which The Mirror reports can allow the operator to shut down a car from anywhere at any time.

A car can then only be started again once a payment has been cleared with the finance company, or it is repossessed.

The controversial devices are proving popular in America (with lenders at least), and are now fitted to over two million vehicles.

Ms Smith is now starting litigation in the hope of banning the use of this potentially lethal technology.

The 31-year-old said: "I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted and there was nothing I could do to stop them," the Mirror reports.

"It was very scary."

However, finance providers have defended the use of SID systems as a way of encouraging drivers with low credit ratings to make timely payments.

Speaking to the New York Times, David Sailors, executive vice president of Lender Systems Inc., said: "We want to help [borrowers] get on their feet but sometimes it does require a very consistent reminder and in some cases the disablement of the start of their vehicle if they haven't made their payment on time."

Many car buyers in the US consent to the installation of SID kits, as without them they would simply be denied finance on a new vehicle.

Would you drive a car with a remote shut-off facility installed? Have your say in the comments section below.
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