/ 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?

Comments
Member

I am the owner of one of the affected cars and have had no problems since VW eventually got round to doing a modification and software update. I have not personally suffered any loss. Perhaps my car is not worth as much as it would be if VW had not cheated but I’m planning to keep the car for about another five years and it won’t be worth much by then.

To me the real victims are the population of this country, particularly those who live in built-up areas, due to the excessive emissions of the affected vehicles. Perhaps some of the compensation should go to the NHS, which has to cope with people suffering breathing difficulties thanks to air pollution.

Member
The Sting says:
17 September 2018

Agreed. I have 1 2002 VW Golf GTI (diesel) brillian car and runs as new even though it is 16 years old.
VW should have fought their case as all the other manufacturers can’t come near to the VW’s economy.
The fact that it is so frugal on fuel makes it less polluting.

I would not join any action where Slater and Gordon are involved.

Member

This seems like a promotional piece for Slater and Gordon who, I’m just guessing, will make money out of this. Is this something Which? should be a party to? Just a thought.

VW broke US law on, I believe, NOx emissions as well as the use of cheat software. As far as I know there are no such laws in the UK governing NOx emissions. Their main problem here might be understating CO₂ and, by implication, mpg. This should be an EU issue, as all EU VW owners would be affected. I think compensation should be paid on merit – actual loss caused directly. This may be loss of resale value, extra cost of fuel, cost of visiting a garage for all remedial work required by VW for example. However, for excess emissions and loss of VED on understated CO₂ it should be the UK government who are compensated, on loss of tax and environmental grounds.

It would be interesting to hear the basis of the compensation claim, and how much the solicitors will be making (I assume they will not act for nothing?).

“Your Lawyers” and “SPG Law” also seem to be chasing participants.

Why has Which? not done more itself to pursue action for VW et al owners, and even if not, why has it not publicised all those firms “specialising” in pursuing action for VW owners?

“A German court in Brunswick has rejected a case which was seeking compensation for German owners of Volkswagen (VW) vehicles affected by the Dieselgate scandal.

The case was bought by consumer rights group myRight and US law firm Hausfeld, which accused the vehicle manufacturer of breaching European Union law by selling cars with software that was banned by EU rules. VW has said that this software does not breach such rules, but is in the process of recalling vehicles to remove it, insisting that it will not affect the value of vehicles.

In the US, the German carmaker has been ordered to pay around $25 billion (€21 billion) in compensation and vehicle buybacks following the discovery that vehicles were cheating emissions tests in the country. However, no such arrangement has been made in Europe, except for a recall procedure on 8.5 million vehicles, as VW insists it did not cheat testing on the continent.

The court said that Volkswagen vehicles in Germany had not lost their road certification following the discovery of the software and customers had thus not been disadvantaged to the point where they deserved compensation.

Member

Hi Malcolm,

We’d never accept guest authors purely for promotional purposes. In this case, Slater & Gordon (along with Leigh Day) were appointed by the Court as the Joint Lead Solicitors in the action, which makes their position of interest to Which? members and supporters who have backed our campaign or shown an interest in the story as it’s progressed.

With this convo we wanted to give those affected further info on how they can now take their claims further legally, should they wish to do so. This is an avenue that’s open to affected consumers, but isn’t one Which? is able to support on directly.

A Q&A is available on Slater & Gordon’s site here: http://www.vwemissionsaction.com/faqs-for-the-vw-emissions-action-legal-claim

As with all our guest posts, we make it explicitly clear that the author is external, and that views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Which?.

And, as with all our guest authors, I’m making their office aware of questions raised here. I’ll be sending comments over to Slater & Gordon today.

Member

@gmartin, thanks George. The reason I questioned the Slater and Gordon piece was because there seem to be more solicitors offering the service. I thought it may have been more appropriate for Which? to have written the introduction and pointed those affected to all these people, rather than just allowing one to be publicised.

Member

Totally agree malcolm r; there are far too many solicitors in this country – hence all the ‘ambulance chaser’ advertisements on television – there is not enough genuine work to keep them all gainfully employed.
This situation is another example of where a branch of the legal profession ( the Court, according to George Martin ) has appointed another branch of the legal profession (Slater & Gordon) to “drum up trade” by inciting people to be avaricious and want some form of payback for what was just a minor inconvenience.
I own and drive a ’58 plate VW T5 1.9TDI campervan and an ’11 plate Skoda Roomster 1.6TDI and I have no complaints – the Roomster required re-programming but not the T5 – both are excellent, economical vehicles.
Why should I allow myself to be manipulated into an avaricious mindset, just so that some legal eagle can skim off a big percentage to buy himself a new Merc?

Member

I was faintly amused by the wording, presumably approved by the lawyers:

“We’re representing thousands of clients and asking all of those effected to join the claim,”

Confidence takes a bit of a nose dive when you find your high court-appointed lead counsel can’t spell…

Member

We’ve tweaked that typo 🙂

Member

I don’t think so, Patrick: it’s not on your website – it’s on theirs:

” We’re representing thousands of clients and asking all of those effected to join the claim, which we’re running on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.”

Member

Ah apologies Ian, we’ll share the feedback with them! 🙂

Member

Typo fixed 🙂

Member
mike alexander says:
15 September 2018

Why is Which? inviting a firm of solicitors to gather ‘interested parties’ on board a class action when said firm are clearly in breach of equality legislation regarding those domiciled in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
I do understand both said parts of the UK have their own legal systems, but could not Slater and Gordon have appointed suitable solicitors in both those parts of the UK denied access to the class action!

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
15 September 2018

I am not clear how a firm of solicitors should be expected to look to the other countries who presumably have capable solicitors who could apply also.

I suspect though that if judgement is given favourably that the benefits will apply to all in the UK so do not see it as a problem.

Member
Richard Davies says:
15 September 2018

Which clearly has a down on VW and never fails to put the boot in whenever it can, take an accompanying report on best and least favourite cars. In the category large cars, the Skoda Superb wins and the VW Passat comes last with “owners feel they’ve been let down, not least by the brand’s diesel emissions scandal”. Yet they’re basically the same car and use the same engines. A similar comment is made for the Golf but not other Skoda’s or Audi’s.

Which? Doesn’t seem to get that the cheating was PURELY CONFINED TO THE US, and the changes implemented in other countries were purely down to regulators insisting the offending software which exists in all controllers throughout the world was removed, though it was inactive in situations other than the US’s unique testing regime which it would detect and activate.

Consumption and CO2 figures were NOT misrepresented in Europe and UK, they didn’t need to, the engines met the standards in the appropriate testing regimes. Yes, what they did was wrong, yes they cheated and misrepresented to the americans, but not to us in the UK. Therefore their liability is only to any consequential loss in value caused by the loss of reputation.

The problems consequential to the early implementation of the removal of the offending software are in part down to the likes of Which? And other groups pressuring them to rush out a fix “why has it taken them so long” often repeated, with what is a complex process unpicking the individual lines of code from the whole package (you can bet it wasn’t neatly packaged as ‘here starts the cheat code’).

What I think more telling is that after this all blew up Which? Itself did independent testing and found, yes most cars on the road failed to meet the laboratory test results, but that the VW group were pretty close, and Renault and Jeep were among the worst. Where’s the outcry there with these French and US brands polluting our cities?

Member

Sums it up Richard. However, what many leave unsaid is that the NEDC laboratory tests and on-the-road (real life) tests are totally different scenarios. And their have been no regulatory limits on real life pollution; they are just being brought in under the RDE tests.

I have no axe to grind either way on VW, or other car makers, but see Which?, and others, frequently “putting the boot in” without considering the issue critically, and sometimes misleading consumers (and the press) in the process.

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Facts are interesting:
Which? Awards
Best Car Manufacturer: Volkswagen
Read more: which.co.uk/news/2015/06/which-awards-2015-winners-unveiled-406453/ – Which?

Is Which? being nasty to VW. Did VW makes claims of “greenness” to get people to buy? Where the favourable reviews tainted by better performance due to the tweak?

Test Achat think so:
” Test purchases and its sister organizations in Spain, Italy and Portugal conducted a large-scale survey of 10,600 owners. This shows that more than 4 out of 10 drivers who have updated the software report a negative impact on their vehicle. Increased fuel consumption, power loss or even mechanical problems are some of the complaints often heard. In Belgium, although 23 % of garage owners admitted that the problem was related to updating the software, 78% of owners had to pay for repairs for an average amount of 859 euros ! Not only does the car manufacturer refuse to pay compensation, but it does not even seem to be able to repair its mistakes !”

According to the FT the cheat also ran on EU engined cars so it is not possible to say that they would or would not have passed the actual test:
” This claim is difficult to verify. A seemingly simple issue — just test the affected cars without activating the software and get a “real” reading — is not possible. Without the relevant coding, comprising thousands of pages, the car would not start, VW has maintained.”
ft.com/content/681a49f4-3048-11e8-ac48-10c6fdc22f03

Bearing in mind that the VW Group is the largest car manufacturer in the world the idea that it willingly cheats in markets is actually highly depressing. Multi-nationals do not deserve our sympathy and the reason we are having a problem in dealing with it in the EU is that the German regulator agreed a “fix” was all that was required. Bearing in mind that it is a very powerful German company and that the German State of Lower Saxony has 20% of the voting rights in VW you might well think that the Germans attitude has been protective rather than punitive.

Most people are upset when Banks are considered “to big to fail” but perhaps we need to consider that mega-companies are getting too much protection.

Member

The VW group has admitted cheating and any company or individual that cheats deserves to be punished. I’m surprised that VW has not been condemned by competitors and wonder why. Is there anything in this article? https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1118762_german-authorities-uncover-emissions-cheating-collusion-among-diesel-automakers

Member

If VW were to fail – which is most unlikely – it would put 642 000 people’s jobs at risk, plus the many others in the supply chain. Is that what we would want? We have to consider what the results of any action would be. If the extreme of all affected cars being bought back were implemented, around £150 – £200bn, the company would be effectively crippled.

It is uncertain what laws were broken in the EU / UK that directly affect consumers, and some here have reported they are happy with the remedial work carried out.

I see no point in causing VW Group to fail. We should identify those directly responsible for requiring the cheat software to be installed and take action against them personally. Fines would probably not mean much but prison would, although I’m not sure the offence warrants it. If we imprisoned everyone who cheated – from politicians downwards – we’d need an awful lot of new accommodation.

I would have thought reputational damage more of a deterrent to such an organisation – and deterrence is what we need, isn’t it, to make it not worthwhile pursuing illicit acts?

I would have thought the Whirlpool / Indesit tumble dryer debacle where, potentially, hundreds of thousands of people were put at risk, and still are, is far more deserving of severe penalties given its inept approach to provide satisfactory remedies. Not only at Whirlpool, but also at those responsible for protecting the public. Or as an American company, are they also too big to fail? The response to this has been to ask for a (impossible) full recall and to unplug the appliance. Perhaps we should have a discussion on “How can Whirlpool be held to account for the Indesit scandal?”.

Member

This link asks me to agree to their cookie policy and for my data to be transferred to their servers in the US where different data protection laws may apply. I can’t see a way to disable that, so despite not worrying about being spied on, don’t normally accept such conditions.

I believe, however, that this was reported and commented on some while ago, and the EU has tightened up the WLTP test to deal with this.

Maybe we should have a series of Convos looking at potential cheating. This one, if true, cheats students by giving them the impression they are better than they are, past students who achieved a high standard without the assistance of inflation, and employers by presenting them with people who are not really up to the standard they are led to believe. I wonder who is responsible for this in our hallowed institutions?

Eight out of 10 students got a first or a 2:1 at almost 50 UK universities last year, according to the latest figures on degree classifications.

At 10 institutions more than 90 per cent of students managed to attain the two highest degree classes, while at almost a quarter of the country’s universities at least 30 per cent of those graduating got a first.

The figures, driven by another year-on-year increase in the share of students achieving a first, are likely to further add to the debate around grade inflation. Last year, the former universities minister Jo Johnson said that grade inflation was “ripping through English higher education” as plans were unveiled to assess its impact in the teaching excellence framework.

Member

For your benefit, Malcolm:
“New documents revealed in a German investigation into diesel emissions cheating show that German automakers, including Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz may have colluded to limit the amount of emissions-cleaning AdBlue diesel exhaust fluid the cars used.

The news was reported by the German newspaper Handelsblatt on Tuesday.

The AdBlue urea solution was contained in tanks too small to last the specified distance between refills, internal company documents reveal. In one 2008 email, an Audi engineer wrote that if customers had to refill their tanks every two months, “it would be a disaster for the entire clean diesel strategy in North America…. This assessment is shared also by VW, BMW, and Daimler.” (Daimler is the parent company that produces Mercedes-Benz cars.)”

Member

This is old news as far as I know. As far as I know cars give a warning when AdBlue is becoming low. I also understand that “The AdBlue warning light usually means the diesel exhaust fluid is low, which will eventually prevent your engine from starting.“. How often you need to add AdBlue will depend on mileage and, although I don’t use it, you can carry a bottle of fluid for if you need to top it up. Have I missed something?

Member

It is a recent article and even if the news is old, has it been discredited?

We have both got a strong interest in air quality and I think it’s right that attention is turned to the car industry to find out what has been going on.

Member

But it hardly seems to impact air quality if you cannot start your engine when AdBlue is low. If there were a way around low AdBlue that allowed you to continue driving, some people would use it whatever the size of tank. Where exactly is the problem with this, other than convenience? Not much different to the size of your fuel tank. Or maybe the battery capacity in a hybrid car that might require you to pollute when it gives you less range than expected?

Member

If the supplied urea tank is too small, drivers may get fed-up and have their vehicles modified, much in the same way that they do with troublesome DPFs.

Member

I would not have thought filling a urea tank, even if every 2 months, was a chore when you can keep a supply of the fluid in your boot, and I doubt many would go to the trouble of modifying their car. Removing a dpf results in an MoT failure.

I am looking forward to see how diesel (and petrol) engines are developed now that we have RDE tests to give real data. Diesel is particularly important for commercial vehicles.

Member

Malcolm wrote: “Maybe we should have a series of Convos looking at potential cheating. This one, if true, cheats students by giving them the impression they are better than they are, past students who achieved a high standard without the assistance of inflation, and employers by presenting them with people who are not really up to the standard they are led to believe. I wonder who is responsible for this in our hallowed institutions? ….”

This has nothing whatsoever to do with how common cheating is among car manufacturers. I’m happy to discuss this elsewhere, having been responsible for cases of suspected cheating in a large academic department. It was often students who reported suspected cheating, not wanting their peers to gain an unfair advantage. I’m surprised that whistleblowers did not report VW for cheating long before it was uncovered. In my experience, students who are cheating themselves don’t tend to report others but I don’t know if that has any relevance to the car industry.

Do we know how many companies have been cheating?

Member

This is institutional cheating possibly, from universities inflating achievement if the reports are true, not individual students. I am pointing out that other organisations apart from a commercial company may not be whiter than white. So I think suggesting a Convo that looks generally at cheating might be interesting to some.

Member

Let’s leave what happens in higher education to one of the relevant Convos. What I would like to know is the extent of cheating in the motor industry and how they should be held to account.

Member

Please note that my comment is a general contribution to this Convo, not a personal one. It is addressed to Which? as much as anyone.

Member

Any thoughts on the concerns in the press about other vehicle manufacturers cheating, Malcolm?

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

malcolm – Your sympathy or perhaps fears for VW are misplaced. There are many ways for VW to compensate without crippling the company. The issue of new shares for one – except existing shareholders who have been benefitting from the VW dividends over the years might be offended.

Reputational damage as a deterrent! HA! We should know that with financial incentives most CEO’s are quite happy to do what it takes probably secure in the knowledge that when the faeces hits the fan they will be long gone. And it is unlikely that company and shareholders paying the fines would be at all interested in revealing any dirty linen.

It seems to me that the main argument in VW’s defence is that yes they fitted a cheat device but as it was not needed to defeat the EU regulations then it does not count. However we only have VW’s word that it was not needed to pass the EU requirements and that is a rather major sticking point.

Apparently 40% of owners who have had the “fix” have a car that does not perform as well as it did.*

Overall we know VW lies, it cheats, and until “we” imprison the senior execs’ responsible the best result is to make companies pay heavily. Remember VW already has form for cheating so being caught before does not seem to work.

* *On 10 October 2015, Consumer Reports tested a 2015 Jetta TDI and a 2011 Jetta Sportwagen TDI in what they presumed was the special emissions testing, or cheat, mode. The 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) acceleration time of the 2011 Jetta increased from 9.9 to 10.5 seconds, and the 2015 car’s time went from 9.1 to 9.2 seconds. The fuel economy of the 2011 car decreased from 50 to 46 mpg‑US (4.7 to 5.1 L/100 km; 60 to 55 mpg‑imp) and the 2015 car’s fuel economy decreased from 53 to 50 mpg‑US (4.4 to 4.7 L/100 km; 64 to 60 mpg‑imp). Consumer Reports’s Director of Auto Testing said that while the added fuel costs, “may not be dramatic, these cars may no longer stand out among many very efficient competitors.” Wikipedia

Member

In general I would suggest that anyone who can be proven to have been responsible for cheating should be removed from office and barred from holding any position of responsibility in future, in addition to any personal fines. The company itself deserves to be penalised – as does Whirlpool and any other companies that behave irresponsibly.

Member

Patrick, were, in the extreme, VW asked to provide huge compensation why would anyone want to buy their shares?
As regards the figures above, I do not regard a half second increase in time to 60 mph as of great consequence. As regards fuel consumption I have said earlier that owners should be compensated for real financial loss. On the basis of the figures you give that would, for an average motorist, amount to around £84 a year.

Member

I thought you said “This has nothing whatsoever to do with how common cheating is among car manufacturers“. As I said, a wider Convo about cheating might be interesting.

Member

There are a thousand ways in which to rationalise cheating and perhaps the most common comes from an unconscious mindset that thinks “It is only cheating if you get caught”.

VW obviously thought they were much too big and powerful to fool the American engineers that were hot on their trail and who had the support and backing of a strong governments legal advisers who won the compensation their VW owners rightly deserved.

Failure to penalise cheating, for whatever reason if you do get caught, only opens the doors for others to copy and continue to practice a misdemeanour that has the ability to affect the lives of many others in a detrimental way as this case clearly demonstrates.

Member

Exactly Beryl and shows how much this country has earned the title of a “divided society ” , one law for big business another for the plebs . The Scales of Justice so long touted by this country as a “world example ” now have a large elephant on one scale and on the other a ragged, thin British subject with the lady holding it lifting her blindfold over her eye and winking to the elephant with a sly smile.

Member

Ah, a thumbs down for every comment or bit of information I put here. Shame not to back them up with a comment as well. But you missed one right at the top.

Incidentally, for those who might forget the history of these VW Convos, in 2016 I posted “I do not condone VW’s cheat, nor the length of time they are taking to deal initially with “corrections” and then with the basis for compensation. The EU presumably will have the results of NEDC tests on “proper” VWs and hopefully will release these so owners know how much their particular car might be affected.

Member

You know this has a history dating back to the early ’70s?

“In a January 1974 Report to Congress, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wrote that in the previous year it had opened an investigation concerning “the failure to report the existence of and the use of possible defeat devices by Volkswagen on a substantial number of 1973 model year vehicles”.

In an EPA press release from July 1973, the administration noted that Volkswagen sold around 25,000 cars with temperature-sensing switches that were used to deactivate the emissions control system. Specifically, Volkswagen’s Fastback and Squareback 1973 models would sense low temperatures and cut out the cars’ exhaust recirculation system. In addition, 1973 VW buses had switches that would override “the transmission controlled spark-advance system at low temperatures.””

VW, it seems, is well practised in sneakiness.

Member
Peter Lane says:
15 September 2018

Thanks or the thoughtful comments so far. I got as far as filling in the Slater & Gordon questions on their website, for my Skoda diesel (without signing up with the last link), and then discussed the issue with my wife and read online comments. We came to the same conclusion as wavechange and Richard Davies, and will not be pursuing this. We have responsibility as citizens not to jump on every bandwagon that may produce some cash, if we have not actually been affected. We had the software modification by a mobile team at our house, but did have to take the car in for a consequent EPG monitor replacement – also done free.I now think we would have done better to refuse the update, which seems to have been unnecessary.

Member
Gareth Lewis says:
15 September 2018

Just before the VW emissions scandal broke I decided to sell my Audi. It was perfect, low mileage, no faults. The Audi valuation – and their several dealers valuation – was £21.5 k. I didn’t get around to doing it immediately. A month later (no reg or year change in the meantime) no dealer would offer me more than £19.5k. I’ll leave you all to guess what had happened in the meantime.

Member
L Walden says:
16 September 2018

In our household we had a VW Caddy, a Skoda Roomster and an Audi A3 all diesel, all the same engine. The re-sale value of each of these vehicles has been extremely low – which has to be a result of the emissions scandal since each was very carefully looked after and low mileage.

Member
Essex Mike says:
16 September 2018

VW have clearly done wrong. They have capitulated in America and paid fortunes in compensation but treated UK buyers with cynical contempt. Is this because the American legal system is a bigger bully than VW? Their basic attitude in UK appears to be to challenge UK buyers to take the matter to court on the “Come on if you think you are tough enough” basis even though there appears no difference in VW actions between UK and USA? Come on VW do the honourable thing and settle like you did in America. It may ultimately prove cheaper in the end.

Member

As far as consumers are concerned they appear to have broken no laws in the EU.

Member

One valid reason to leave the EU if their laws on fraudulent selling practices override UK citizens rights to compensation. What legislation (if any) is in place to take retrospective action after March 2019?

Member

It looks as though EU law was insufficient to deal with VW generally, but was adequate to make VW “repair” affected vehicles. They were criticised for this being too slow a process. We’ll see whether class action makes any headway.

“Jonathan Stearns
Bloomberg

April 19, 2018 16:50 CET
BRUSSELS — The European Commission gained greater authority over the approval of car models across Europe under a new law meant to prevent a repeat of Volkswagen Group’s diesel-emissions scandal.
The Commission won the power to fine automakers up to 30,000 euros ($37,131) per faulty car and order recalls as part of more centralized market oversight approved by the European Parliament on Thursday in Strasbourg, France. The European Union legislation makes the Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s regulatory arm, more like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency…………………………….

European Commission – Press release
The European Commission and EU consumer authorities publish final assessment of dialogue with Volkswagen
Brussels, 17 July 2018
Today the European Commission and national consumer authorities in the EU have published their conclusions on the 8.5 million car recalls made in the Union by the Volkswagen group after the “dieselgate” scandal.
The VW Group’s effort to build trust in the recalls and the significant improvement in the information provided to consumers, are welcomed. The rate of repair is now reaching 80% and the Group committed to continue the free-of-charge update and the related de facto guarantee to solve problems that arise after the update until the end of 2020. However, the Commission and the consumer authorities regret that the company could not give a full and clear guarantee in case of problems after the repair……………

Altroconsumo (Italian consumer’s organisation) is pursuing a class action that seems to be based on understated NOx emissions. I presume this related to data obtained under NEDC testing, as there are no NOX emissions limits on the road. If this is the case it seems to be a regulatory failure that, of itself, does not directly affect owners (except by, perhaps, loss of resale value) but it does affect National Governements because of general air pollution. So they should be seeking retribution. Understating CO₂ would have an impact on the consumers’ spend as they are directly related to fuel consumption.

@gmartin, George, I wonder why an Italian consumer group decides it can take such action but Which? cannot. Is it down to the laws in the UK relating to class action?

Member

You don’t need a law degree to determine whose interests were favoured by The European Commission
and EUCA given the related de facto ambiguous and indefinite guarantees in the above statement Malcolm.

Repairs to VW vehicles do not compensate for resale loss, and I would be interested to know whether it is at all feasible for Which? to liaise with Altroconsumo in a combined effort to fight for a fair and reasonable settlement for VW owners.

Member

We, I believe, have had restrictions on class actions in the UK, Beryl. Perhaps Which? Legal can tell us about that. Does that prevent us from benefiting from or participating directly in a scheme such as myRight are proposing?

Member

“In England and Wales, there are numerous avenues for multi-party litigation, that is litigation involving multiple claimants and/or defendants. These include:

Claims by multiple claimants managed together by the court using its case management powers.
Group litigation orders (GLOs).”

It seems as though class actions in the UK cannot be brought unless they satisfy a number of tests which, taken together, seem to make it difficult to achieve.

Member

For information Reece Mogg has publicly stated that this type or regulation will be scrapped in the event of Brexit going ahead his way and that the regulations of all sorts should be en par with India, sweat shops, fire regulations, and many more.

Member
Member
W Clark says:
16 September 2018

Surely, what VW did was fraud, as they misrepresented both emissions and mileage expectations on their products. I agree with earlier comments on the discrepancy between VW and Skoda, why when VW products are “bad” are then Skoda products “good” when they both share the same components, surely when one is bad then they are all bad.
Personally I would not purchase any of the 4 brands out of the principle that somebody thought that they could cheat, and other people in the organisation approved it.

Member

myRight, run be 3 Swedes, appears to be running an EU wide class action supported by US lawyers Hausfeld.
From Swiss consumer group:
“What is happening now for victims living in Switzerland?
The FRC advises the injured parties to take part in myRight. This is a collective action bringing together victims from many European countries led by the Hausfeld law firm. This international firm, which we met last June, will start legal proceedings against VW in Germany. In this country, more than 40,000 people have already registered on this action. The latter was chosen in partnership with BEUC, which studied the various options available.

https://www.beuc.eu/publications/beuc-member-organisations-support-claims-against-volkswagen/html

Why no mention of this by Which?

Incidentally, they point out that if you have legal cover on your insurance, their lawyers will pursue your case for “free” (well, for you, but your insurer will have to pay). Your insurer is unlikely to agree unless they can see a good chance of winning. So maybe wait and see if a class action is successful, and then launch your own claim. Why? Because this action could be a goldmine for the lawyers and those organising it – you will only get 65% of any award, the other 35% goes to them.

Member
Clive Symes says:
17 September 2018

If the amount of money paid for our Road Fund Licence directly relates to the amount of pollution that our vehicle emits, then the Government has been cheated out of millions of pounds of underpaid road tax. Our spineless authorities should surely pursue the V.W. Group for this colossal loss of revenue.

Member

The potential losses are in VED and benefit-in-kind income tax for company car drivers. However I have no idea how many vehicles might have been placed in a lower UK band than they should have occupied, so have no idea how much tax might have been lost. I presume the UK Government has examined this and will recoup any losses from VW (if that is possible). They have said they will not pursue owners for any underpaid tax.

Member
Mark Caddick says:
17 September 2018

What a load of rubbish that was. Since when do people put their car through an emissions test on a daily basis. What matters is, the amount of pollutants produced during ordinary daily driving. I’m not even fussy on VWs but they do achieve, not far off, the claimed mpg. Most other manufacturers don’t come close. I now drive a Seat Alhambra (Obviously VW powered) and it’s mpg is very close to the claimed mpg. My previous car, a Vauxhall Insignia, was about half as good on fuel as Vauxhall claimed. More fuel = more emissions. Even if VW and their derivatives are dirtier than, for example Vauxhall as regards co, hc etc. the fact that my particular Insignia used roughly twice the fuel claimed, then consequently it produced a lot more pollutants than was claimed. Before anyone comments, I’m not the only person to have used a Vauxhall or for that matter plenty of other cars that have the same ridiculously optimistic mpg claims by their respective manufacturers. Lets face it, they’re all at it.

Member

The concern here is the emission of nitrogen oxides by diesel engines, particularly nitrogen dioxide, which do not relate to fuel consumption.

Member
Roger Mew says:
17 September 2018

If brexit goes ahead then these regulations are some of those that Reece Moggs wants to stop, his comment was that we should adopt those the same as India, just look it up if you do not believe me.

Member

This highlights again how our government has decided which parts of EU law it implements. There is very little action taken against suppliers on behalf of consumers by the UK, trading standards in Richmond Upon Thames is nothing more than a retailers helpline, they hide behind locked doors and rely on the CAB next to them to log complaints, and then no action. Regulators for the utilities are nothing more than rule makers for competition and do little to protect consumers, Ofgem for example permits switching sites to ignore VAT on their “save money” comparisons when they include it for the consumers original costs, this makes the saving (which only 10% are likely to get) much bigger than it really is. That is fraud but at this moment Ofgem and the CMA have not responed any futher to my complaint.

Member
Oakley Petts says:
17 September 2018

I owned a Seat Altea diesel in Spain for 12 years but am now back in the UK so cannot join the claim, but I must say strongly that we, in this Country, are far too soft on many things.

Member
Roy Alvis says:
17 September 2018

It’s not only VW that should be held to account but also OUR GOVERNMENT for conning the Electorate by way of Special Tax Concessions into buying vehicles that are slowly killing us, our children and our descendants. My own car beats ALL requirements in Law but I still pay the full rate of Road Tax !

Member
Malcolm says:
17 September 2018

VW should compensate but limited to the paying the government in lost duty that people would have otherwise had to pay. This has, to my knowledge been over-looked and let’s face it, the government could use this money.

Member

Why only Welsh and English residents of the UK, and no Scottish or Irish, I thought we were still all one nation.

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Because the legal system in Scotland and NI is different. Solicitors are regulated and specialised by these systems. However I am fully confident that the results of the case would be relevant to VW owners elsewhere in the UK as to VW , if they lose, would not wish to anger the Irish and Scots..

Member

John, see my comments of 15.9.18.

Member
Iain Young says:
17 September 2018

Sorry if I am not totally up to date with this matter but does this only affect VW vechicles or all vechicles/brands in the VW group such as Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Ducati, Porsche, Skoda and Seat.

Additional question are drivers who owned VW branded cars but have now changed their vechicle are the elligible to join the class action

Member

It affects certain VW Group engines that were used in other of their vehicles.
As far as I know the class action does not exclude those who owned affected cars but have sold them.

I would be interested to see the basis upon which the class action is founded. Perhaps Which? or Slater & Gordon will explain. The one in Italy, brought by Altroconsumo, is I believe based on NOx emissions. I would have thought in the UK it might be based on changed fuel consumption, presumed loss of resale value and expenses in getting the car remedied. NOx is more a matter for Government to pursue, as is CO₂ with its (loss of) tax implications.

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Malcolm if you search you will find that there were two different Acts under which the competing solicitors were taking action. The Courts have decided only one shall proceed but it is interesting to note the two possibilities.

Member

@dieseltaylor, Patrick, could you provide the link please?

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Of course I could : ) But it would be nice if Which? Legal actually talked this through as an educational piece.

For an EU perspective there is this paper, and a promise for Germany of legislation for collective actions shortly under which one of the consumer bodies VZBv will bring action.
ejtn.eu/PageFiles/17294/WR%20-%20TH-2018-3%20-%20DE.pdf

Member
Malcolm says:
18 September 2018

You really need to ask? Guess!

Member
Slater and Gordon says:
20 September 2018

Hello Malcolm,

You are correct: current and former owners are able to join the claim if they owned an affected vehicle manufactured by VW, Audi, SEAT or Skoda purchase in England or Wales between 2008 – 1 Jan 2016.

In terms of causes of action, the claim is proceeding, primarily as a deceit claim in that the claimants were deceived as to their vehicles’ compliance with emissions regulations in that the NOx emissions tests had not been properly or honestly carried out due to the presence of a ‘defeat device’. In their ‘un-fixed’ state the cars were non-compliant and were not suitable to be sold or put into service in the UK.

The claimants are also, where possible, bringing claims against authorised dealerships and VW Financial Services for breach of contract in that they sold defective goods, and additionally claims for breach of the Consumer Credit Act and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

The losses claimed are as you state, namely any reduction in value of the car, the impact of the ‘fix’, plus any distress / inconvenience. Additionally the claimants claim for payment of exemplary damages in recognition that VW cheated emissions testing in order to sell more cars and make more profit.

I hope this assists.

Member

Thanks for replying. Is a claim for “exemplary damages” one that should be dealt with by our government, rather than individual customers? I would have thought the failure to report correct emissions was in breach of EU regulations, and punishable by member states. Rather like when a burglar steals they might make recompense to the victim for their loss, but any fine would be due to the state.