Houston, TX citizen Sharhonda Herald received an unexpected phone call from the dealership where she purchased her vehicle in 2010. The caller on the other line demanded to know why Herald was getting her truck fixed. The dealership knew that Herald was getting her truck fixed because they have a vehicle tracking device installed in her truck. The strangest thing about this story isn’t that they were actively tracking her car; it’s the fact that Herald had to agree to have the device installed in her car if she wanted to purchase it.
It’s now becoming common for car dealerships to install vehicle tracking devices in their cars as a way to protect their financial interests. Some dealerships and the finance companies their customers use for car loans install GPS tracking devices in the vehicles of buyers who have a bad credit history, or if they have a history of repossession. Many car buyers who find themselves in Herald’s situation agreed to GPS monitoring because they were told they needed it to purchase the vehicle. Despite their contractual agreement, many people still view it to a major invasion of personal privacy. FOX 26 Legal Analyst Christ Tritico had a lot to say about the matter:
“This takes advantage of people who have no options in life and they’re forced to live with this. It’s illegal and unlawful to place a tracking device on somebody’s vehicle without their permission, but in these cases though they’re agreeing by contract that they can place that on and monitor their movements. There is no privacy interest because you waived whatever privacy interests you had.”
Dealerships claim that they only start monitoring vehicle locations after a buyer has gone delinquent or if they’re near default, but Herald’s account had no problems. The dealership claimed that the GPS device was activated because the repair shop’s location wasn’t in her usual traveling pattern. But the dealership would have only known that the shop was out of her usual travel route because they’ve been monitoring her locations in the past.
The next time you head to the dealership to purchase or lease a new vehicle, be sure that you read the fine print on your contract. If you don’t, you may not be prepared to deal with what you agreed to.