Insurance tracking device blamed for car damage

VIDEO: Woman claims tracking device fried car's electrical system

EVERETT, Wash. — When Patty Pinch saw the TV commercials promoting a small vehicle tracking device that could lead to big savings, she was sold.

Progressive Insurance claims their “Snapshot” device tracks driving habits by recording data when plugged into a car’s computer diagnostics system. The data is uploaded to Progressive and used to determine a driver’s risk—and monthly premiums. The company advertises that customers with good driving habits could save 30 percent.

But soon after installing Progressive Insurance’s “Snapshot” into her car, Pinch says her electronics began failing. First her dashboard lights went out. Then her tail lights and dome light stopped working. Then she smelled the wires burning. She never suspected the tracking device could be involved.

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“I took the car to our mechanics, they checked it out and all the wiring under the dash was burned,” she said. “The mechanic said the failure started exactly where we plugged the Snapshot in. I think that the Snapshot short-circuited the whole system.”

As mechanics began tearing her dashboard apart, Pinch did some Internet research into the Snapshot device. Within seconds she saw dozens of other similar complaints from Progressive customers across the country. The complaints ranged from battery failure to a broad range of electronic malfunctions. All suggested the Snapshot device was to blame.

“Well it sure made me feel better,” she said. “It's happened to a whole lot of other people, but now I'm without a car. That car is my only means back and forth to work."

One Progressive customer in Florida launched a class-action lawsuit against Progressive, claiming the Snapshot drains batteries and could leave drivers stranded.

A Progressive representative told KIRO 7 by phone that the claims are untrue, the Snapshot does not drain batteries, and the device is not harmful to vehicles. The representative said “the Snapshot uses no more battery power than plugging in your smartphone.”

Pinch says she’s not interested in joining the lawsuit for money. She says she filed an insurance claim and she says so far Progressive is honoring it.

“I want people to know that this device left me without brake lights at night and that’s dangerous,” she said. “I’m just in this to get my car back to being reliable again."