/ 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
Guest
Des James says:
17 September 2018

I was a keeper of one of the affected models (MK2 Audi TT), now have a MK3 .Yes it would be great if myself & other affected owners were compensated.Personally I would give it a 5% chance.Slater & Gordon are only interested in making money, just like the PPI scandal , because if you win they get a windfall of least 30% of YOUR claim.I shall be patient & see what happens, before I decide what to do.The Government has got no teeth, they should sort this out.

Guest
kenneth raine says:
17 September 2018

There’s so much fuss, yet the testing was not done properly. It should have been done by an independant team. Like tax avoidance, which is legal, the imposers of testing & sourcing of tax revenue should be entirely responsible for results.

Guest

I agree with some supported publicised concerted effort to penalise the VW group. They have deliberately misled the British public, deliberately ‘harmed’ the environment and cheated to get ahead of other law obliging manufacturers. It is not possible for individual David’s to take on the giant Goliath so some organisations should step in. However, since the goods they were supplying did not match what they claimed in their advertising and brochures then isn’t it a UK global case for Trading Standards? Or is that too much to hope for! (yes!).

Guest
I Greenfield says:
17 September 2018

I doubt that other manufacturers are law abiding. I have driven a 1.9 TDI Alhambra and also a 1.4 TD Fiesta. The Alhambra was more economic yet the Fiesta was tax exempt due to the low emissions. How can you burn more fuel and produce less emissions. i think the other car manufacturers should be investigated as well. I understand some Japanese have already been caught out.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

This might be useful for the employees of rogue bosses
“Speak up, stop harm”
https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/whistleblowing-charity-changes-name-protect/communications/article/1492419

Guest

I’ve promoted supporting “whistleblowers” before as much malpractice might be then nipped in the bud, providing it is a truly confidential service. I wasn’t aware of this charity. I wonder how effective it has been.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Perhaps Which? could mention this for NI subscribers

edwardsandcompany.co.uk/blog/703/edwards-co-issue-high-court-proceedings-in-ni-in-vw-emissions-cases

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Subscribers in Eire might like to follow this case:
irishtimes.com/business/transport-and-tourism/high-court-rules-against-devins-hearing-more-of-vw-emissions-case-1.3316695

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Edwards & Co have also been active in NI so it does seem wonderful that people come here to complain that the Which? article is incomplete and we subscribers are able to provide the information.

“We have also been in regular contact with our Australian counterparts who are much further advanced than most of other jurisdictions in terms of progressing litigation against Volkswagen. After a number of weeks of evidence being heard in the Federal Court in Sydney, a significant breakthrough was recently made, when Volkswagen finally conceded that its cars would not have passed Australia’s emissions testing standards had they not been fitted with a cheat device. A follow up press release (below) from the law firm, Maurice Blackburn, makes for interesting reading.

mauriceblackburn.com.au/about/media-centre/media-statements/2018/vw-surrenders-on-cheat-mode-results-trial-update/

Moving back to Northern Ireland, our plans remain unchanged. We will now serve court proceedings, which we previously issued in the High Court in Belfast on VW. We will then immediately apply for a Group Action Order, with the request that proceedings are then stayed so as to allow the case in London to proceed. The facts between our Action and the London Acton are identical. It would seem sensible to avoid duplicating costs and work by running the two actions concurrently. We are confident our High Court will see the merits in what we are suggesting. ”
vwemissionclaimsni.com/vw-news/23/big-developments-in-vw-emissions-case

Guest

Useful posts, Patrick.

Guest
Doreen Gow says:
17 September 2018

What about the population who have been subjected to these emissions ? No redress then for people’s ill health ?

Guest
C J Watkins says:
17 September 2018

I cannot understand why the government has been so spineless in pursuing the VW motorists complainants regarding sales which were so blatantly dishonest. Why have they let the case drop when so many of us were misled into buying diesel cars because they were supposedly more economical. Further evidence of more Labour lies.

Guest
Mr Blobby says:
17 September 2018

I specifically bought a SEAT Leon because the NOx emissions were said to be low. I have 2 daughters who suffer with asthma and would not have wanted them to be affected – nor anyone else with this condition. I feel cheated by the VW group and have joined the litigation. Yes the Lawyers will take their fee, but what you get, will be better than getting nothing.

Guest
john STRAWBRIDGE says:
17 September 2018

Are Skoda cars also implicated in the scandal? As a diesel engined Skoda for 16 years because I believed they were good for the environment I feel that if the same engine was used, then Skoda owners should be able to claim compensation also

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
18 September 2018

Mr Strawbridge, if you go to this site it explains all – including SEAT owners rights to join the action.

vwemissionsaction.com/faqs-for-the-vw-emissions-action-legal-claim

It would have helped the Conversation a lot if there had been some input from Which? as to the options and what is happening for NI and Scotland, and in passing other countries.

My opinion is that all relvant owners would be better off joining the action as it is not clear to me that VW will rollover if it loses and pay all owners who have not joined. The situation for NI is spelled out as to their tactics. I would expect the solicitor costs in that case to be substantially lower as they will be riding on the English case for precedent.

Guest
Slater and Gordon says:
20 September 2018

Hello Patrick,

Claims are being run in Scotland and Northern Ireland. People can Google to see which firms can represent them, but we should make clear that it is the place of purchase, rather than the place of residence that will determine which jurisdiction someone should claim in.

The Group Action regime in Scotland is in the process of being brought in by the Scottish Parliament and so the claim is not as advanced there as it is in England and Wales where we already have our Group Litigation Order and a cut off date to join of 26 October 2018.

We understand the claims in Northern Ireland will be issued but will then be stayed until the conclusion of the claims in England whereupon they will either be progressed or discontinued depending on the outcome of the English claims. The main reason for this, we understand, is because litigation funding is not allowed in Northern Ireland, so claimants would need to pay legal costs as they are incurred to progress their claims. It is therefore better for them to only progress their claims once they are more certain of victory.

We are aware of claims in Australia, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Czech Republic and the Netherlands to name a few. Australia has a Group Litigation regime similar to England and Wales and have had a trial in relation to liability which is awaiting judgement. We are therefore keeping a close eye on this outcome which may be relevant to the claims we are running.

We hope this assists.

Guest
Jim MacDonald says:
17 September 2018

I intend to wait and not act unless and until a successful case is brought against VW in the UK. Then, if the company fail to make an offer to those affected, I will consider options. In any event, I have no intention of paying what may become an unnecessary and certainly expensive agent to act on my behalf.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
18 September 2018

See comment above. You may of course get an easy ride but then from VW’s point of view paying off 50,000 owners and playing hard ball with the remainer might be economically good. perhaps Which? could advise this thread on the what happens next if the claim is successful.

Guest
Dr derek jeary says:
17 September 2018

WHICH/Consumers’ Association has directed me and others to Edwards & Co web-page about their proposed joint action against the VW Group but the web-page/s only refer to “current” owners not, as the W/CA stated, former owners.
I sold my Skoda Superb an hour before W/CA sent their Email, dammit!

Guest

Slater & Gordon indicate that previous owners can join the action, Derek: http://www.vwemissionsaction.com/faqs-for-the-vw-emissions-action-legal-claim

Guest

There’s a pity Derek – Martin

Guest

We purchased our previous car (VW) in 2007, which is before the eligible date. Yet we had the update installed FOC, which obviously se did qualify for, so would we qualify for compensation anyway. I don’t understand.

Guest

If Slater & Gordon are successful in their class action, aren’t all affected and eligible VW owners entitled to the same compensation that’s awarded to those who joined the class action anyway? Surely, VW must treat all affected owners equitably? If so, why give up 30% to S & G? Rather, wait for the outcome of the action.

Guest

I’ll repeat some previous comments and add a few …
UK GOV = Corrupt…..Spineless, Inept. ( polite version) & Yes the state should be involved both consumers
and public have been duped. But maybe just maybe its because the GOV have been duped as well. Millions of VW Group cars have enjoyed a lower Tax Band for RFL .. this helped to sell more of these Vehicles than other makes, there some technical reasons that a simple view of this problem is wrong as you can start to compare apples to pairs v oranges … as different countries set different limits and conditions … but lets be clear as in TAX avoidance … if there are two ways and one is (ok) thats the route Money Follows.
In This area HMRC looset out each and every year on thousand of Millions of lost RFL So why have they not started action ?? for answer see UK Gov.
If we actually used the money raised on RFL for road repairs the extra money would have made a difference.
SO VW have Questions to Answer and HAVE left a legacy of ……. Pollution, Sharp Practice, Fraud etc etc
Some proper Governments have taken action …. So why Not the UK ? go figure

Still one chance left ….. 60% Tariff after the no deal Brexit on all VW products for 5yrs …… unless of course they feel that we just might have been affected in the same way as the others ..after all we’re talking the same cars!
They could cough up first …. Pay HMRC based on some independent tests lost RFL, pay buyers of the cars for Fraud / Miss leading data etc & Loss of Value at Sale and pay the GOV in Carbon Credits as our emissions
have been higher due to their products so we have paid for that. Oh and sizeable sum to the NHS. That would do it ……………..any chance …..sadly Not .
Oh and yes Slater & Gordon ….. see PPI Bandwagon

Guest

Chris, the degree to which VW diesels enjoyed a lower band is information I have been unsuccessfully trying to find. It not only affects VED take, but also lost income tax from company car drivers under “benefit in kind”. Do you have a link to the information?

Guest

The Slater Gordon claim is explained as follows:
8. Why should I claim?

There are many reasons why we believe you should join the claim. The key reasons for doing so, however, are as follows:

It is important that VW be held to account for its actions. Irrespective of whether the UK Government ultimately decides to take action, it is important that VW owners take a stand and demonstrate that corporate behaviour of this kind will not be tolerated.

We need to do what we can to help the environment. VW marketed diesel vehicles as being the environmentally friendly option, while its cars had been designed to defeat emissions testing regulations. NOx is a pollutant and contributes to dangers such as acid rain, global warming and respiratory conditions. It is each of our responsibility to do what we can to protect our environment.

We believe that you have overpaid for your vehicle, and that its resale value may also be affected. While the amount of individual compensation is likely to be modest, VW should compensate you for the loss you have suffered. If the case is proven, VW should be made to pay back the extra profits it has made as a result of installing a defeat device instead of creating a legitimate engineering solution to the demands of the Emissions Regulations.

I certainly agree with “holding VW to account”, and that compensation should be made for financial loss incurred by the customer. I am not sure where the dividing line is between individual compensation, and compensation or penalty that out Government should be due. Excess environmental pollution would, I think, be one they should be dealing with, and excess profit (if you can quantify this) might be part of a penalty for deceiving the regulators.

I’m interested to know just what “modest compensation” might be. I would have thought this should cover excess fuel used, loss of resale value and incidental costs in having remedial work carried out.

I am not at all sure that it is for consumers to bring claims for regulatory failure, since this should be down to the regulator. I wonder why the EU has not made more of this – many countries will not have a financial interest in the VW business.

Guest
Rod Hart says:
17 September 2018

Why then does the Government not Ban the Sale of VW’s in the UK and seize VW.s assets here to pay for the damage caused. Finding out who was in government at the time and why they missed the instrument which would have sorted this problem quickly, and invite whoever was responsible to appear in court try “Gross Dereliction of Duty” it would appear that there are many failures posing as cabinet ministers along with many Civil Servants who are just as bad at doing their jobs. Both costing the UK tax payer a vast amount in wages and perks.

Guest
Clive Anstice says:
17 September 2018

One of the most frustrating facts here is that “head in the sand” customers have continued purchasing new VWs. Why would anyone want to deal with a company that has lied to them and cheated them? This has to be an act of stupidity because if they all deserted the brand it would ensure that NO manufacturer would ever try this con trick again!

Guest

Clearly many people do not feel the need to take such action.

Guest
Mary Harper says:
17 September 2018

Bummer! Mine is a petrol….

Guest
Andrew Taylor says:
17 September 2018

Is there an emissions action website for SCOTTISH VW owners???

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
18 September 2018

Yes in so far as the Slater Walkwer website gives you a link to the Scottish solicitor leading the action there.

Guest

What I find interesting to consider is this: the might of VAG, thousands of manhours and many millions of pounds failed to develop a compliant engine and VAG resorted to fraud.
All of a sudden, once the thing was exposed, the a solution was miraculously developed and deployed in a short timespan, something that consisted of nothing more than firmware tweaks in most cases and the addition of an airflow turbulatir in the case of the 1.6tdi. Absolutely miraculous, given VAGs failure first time round.
One can’t but help wondering whether the failure to develop a compliant engine was perhaps because what they did manage to produce wouldn’t actually last very long.
Based on what I understand to be happening now: EGR valve failures etc., I do wonder if that is, indeed the case. My opinion is reinforced by the advice from independent VAG socialists not to have “the mod” done, citing large numbers of modified cars they have been asked to sort out after developing problems.
Personally I’d trust VAG about as far as I could throw this planet