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When Jeremy Tomlinson heard about KIRO 7’s investigation into auto insurance tracking devices, he was one of many to reach out to us on Facebook.
“This is not only my transportation,” Tomlinson said, pointing at his Chevy pickup truck. “It's my livelihood, and this is my office."
Tomlinson is always looking for ways to save on insurance. He said ads for Progressive's snapshot device spoke to him.
Tomlinson ordered the device, which is designed to track driving habits for 30 days.
It works sort of like a black box and a cellphone combined. The device is designed to relay your braking habits and other data to the company, where a computer figures out if you get a good driver discount or not.
Tomlinson, a former computer tech, decided to document his experience on video.
“Like in all things, I do my research before I add anything to a vehicle that I'm paying thousands of dollars for," he said.
Tomlinson told KIRO 7 his electrical system began failing soon after he plugged in the device.
"I was driving to work, and if I didn't keep my foot in it, the engine would die," he said.
Tomlinson said his battery and alternator eventually gave out and he paid to replace them.
“Since I'm also a computer technician too, you figure out, OK what was the last thing I did? I installed that Snapshot. That was the only answer."
Tomlinson is one of many frustrated Progressive customers who contacted KIRO 7 when he saw the investigation into countless complaints that the device was blamed for damaging vehicles.
One call came from Patti Pinch of Everett.
“I hit the freeway and I watched my dash lights go out, so I know the tail lights are out,” Pinch said. “I get home and all the lights are out. My dome lights didn't work, tail lights didn't work, dash lights didn't work."
Pinch said she forgot she had the device plugged in.
"The next day, I took it to mechanics and all the wiring under the dash was burned,” she said.
Pinch’s mechanic determined her problems started right where the device was inserted -- in the car’s diagnostic port.
Since KIRO 7’s investigation began, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Progressive, from a Florida customer who claims the device kills batteries.
The Florida-based law firm handling the suit told KIRO 7 if a judge approves the suit, it could involve customers nationwide.
Progressive told KIRO 7 the lawsuit has no merit.
But KIRO 7 found out the problems go beyond Progressive.
KIRO 7 broke the news about a national recall of the same kind of device from American Family Insurance, who admitted its tracking device -- called "My Safety Valet" -- was actually shutting cars off while driving down the road.
"In a small number of vehicles, the device may affect the electrical system and cause the vehicle to shut down during operation," said company spokesperson Sandra Spahn.
As the complaints keep adding up and the lawsuit is argued in the courts, working people like Tomlinson are hoping Progressive will validate their damage complaints.
“It has obviously damaged the electrical system of the only vehicle that my family has and I use for work," he said.
KIRO 7 has learned that a judge’s decision regarding the lawsuit could happen at any time.
KIRO 7 will relay that decision to you, as soon as it happens.