DETROIT - Mel Farr Settles Lawsuit...Computer Glitch with "On-Time Device" : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Mel Farr Settles Lawsuit

Dealer can keep using On-Time Device; lease customers get coupons worth $200

Source: The Detroit News Publication date: 2000-06-22

DETROIT -- Auto dealer Mel Farr will continue to use the controversial On-Time Device in his leased vehicles despite the settlement of a class-action lawsuit. The high-tech dashboard devices, which automatically prevent vehicles from starting if the lessee is behind on payments, have been upgraded by California-based manufacturer Payment Protection Systems.

About 1,500 vehicles Farr has leased through Triple M Financing Co. to high-risk borrowers have the device installed.

Under the settlement announced Wednesday, the court will monitor Farr's use of the devices through the end of the year.

Customers who leased vehicles from June 1999 through May 2000 are entitled to $200 in coupons to cover vehicle repair costs, free inspections and an upgraded On-Time Device.

"This is a consumer protection case," said attorney Lawrence Charfoos, who represented the two women who filed the original lawsuit.

"The main reason for the case was to make sure it (On-Time Device) was safe and to disclose their rights as consumers."

Mandi Bergeron of Wixom and Chavela Jones of Detroit filed the suit in August against Mel Farr Automotive Group and Farr's Triple M Financing.

The women claimed the On-Time Device shut down their vehicles while they were driving.

In December, Wayne County Circuit Judge Kaye Tertzag denied the pair's request for $25,000 in damages and a void of their leases because he ruled they didn't prove the device caused the vehicles to shut down.

"It was a computer glitch initially in which the programing set the dates in a fashion that permitted early shutoff," said Ken Lewis, an attorney for Mel Farr. "That was corrected early on in the process.

"When we went through the schematic drawings and talked to the engineers and talked to the manufacturers ... you could not have a situation where the car would just cut off while the car was going," he said. "The wiring was set up in such a way as to avoid that problem."

Jim Potter, who leased a 1993 Dodge Daytona from Farr, said the device prevented him from starting his vehicle, although he said he had made his payment in time.

Potter, a "high-risk" customer, pays about 23 percent interest on the lease.

"It's important, whether you have tremendous credit or no credit, that you're treated fairly," said Potter, 37, of Clinton Township. "This has given me a new perspective on going to dealerships."

-- (, June 22, 2000

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