/ Motoring

How can VW be held to account for the dieselgate scandal?

Three years ago it emerged that VW was cheating on emissions tests by fitting ‘defeat devices’ to their diesel vehicles, unbeknown to consumers. Why has VW failed to pay any compensation to those affected in the UK, despite doing so in other countries?

This is a guest article by Gareth Pope, Lawyer at Slater & Gordon. The views expressed here are not necessarily also shared by Which?.

The VW emissions scandal rocked the industry, with more than 114,000 people backing Which?’s campaign to Come Clean on Fuel Claims after the story broke.

Despite VW facing criminal charges in the United States and having paid a 1 billion Euro fine in Germany, the DVSA and The Department for Transport have shown no desire to take action for the car giant’s deceit.

Consumers have been left with only one real option to see VW held to account and obtain any redress: join the group civil action now afoot. But while around 80,000 have signed up there are potentially 1.2 million affected car owners – and time is running out.

Will the government act?

While the British Government has adopted the European emissions standards, it never adopted the part of the regulations which would allow British regulators to enforce those standards.

This means that, unlike in Germany where the regulator has handed out a billion Euro fine, British regulators are toothless and unable to respond even though VW may have broken the rules.

And means that drivers who purchased their cars in England and Wales must enforce the rules themselves through the Courts.

Taking action

In March 2018 the High Court granted a group litigation order, which means that all of the individual cases for all VW drivers are to be heard together at the same time.

This is a David and Goliath battle between thousands of individual VW drivers and one of the largest car makers in the world. Slater and Gordon and Leigh Day have been appointed by the Court  asthe Joint Lead Solicitors in the action, which hopes to achieve justice for affected consumers.

Who’s eligible?

Current and former owners of affected diesel VW, Audi, Skoda and SEAT vehicles purchased in England and Wales between 2008 and 1 January 2016 can join the claim.

You may also join the claim even if you purchased on finance, sold your car or if you have had the ‘fix’ done to remove the ‘defeat’ software from your vehicle.

Want to get involved? The Court deadline for joining the action is looming as you have to be signed up by 26 October 2018. You can join the claim here.

This is a guest article by Gareth Pope, Lawyer at Slater & Gordon. The views expressed here are not necessarily also shared by Which?.

Were you affected by the scandal? If so, are you now looking to take action? Do you think UK consumers should be compensated, as they were in other countries?


Is there no group to sue Ve for the excessive emissions which have caused problems to people who inhale these? Is it really only about the people who mouth the cats that caused others health problems. I am more concerned by long term health problems than someone MPG

I think this is up to the government to decide if they can do this. However, this was reported in the Telegraph Feb 2018:
“The Government has admitted it is powerless to take action against foreign car firms that cheat emissions tests, as ministers announced plans to toughen the law.

Manufacturers that fit so-called “defeat devices” can only be pursued if they are based in this country, meaning that no legal action could be taken against Volkswagen during the 2015 emissions scandal that affected 1.2 million vehicles in the UK.

In future, car makers, importers or dealers could face criminal charges and unlimited fines if they use software or devices that are designed to deceive emissions tests.

I am surprised that, as we are both members of the EU, VW is regarded as foreign and unable to be pursued. I thought EU law applied across the whole of the EU.

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VW could still make a generous payment to the UK government to acknowledge its dishonest behaviour.

I was a bit concerned that the modification of my Golf to correct the emissions might have an adverse effect on the car but thankfully I have had no problems.

Duncan has given us something bigger to worry about. 🙁

Thanks Duncan. Presumably this is simply a formality – if we do leave the EU then we cannot have their laws imposed on us any longer; we must choose which we translate into UK law as they stand and choose which we repeal or modify. Is that more or less correct?

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What is the current UK position regarding a SEAT Leon diesel I bought in 2010 thinking and expecting it not to have awful exhaust emissions? I have contacted SEAT who don’t think there is a problem. I can send you SEATs generic answer i.e. tuff. James of Somerset.

Can you explain what you were led to expect and how your car differs from that?

Hi James – You can easily check if your Seat is affected by the emissions problem: https://www.seat.co.uk/owners/diesel-engines/vin-number.html I did this for my Golf and it was modified.