In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted that 1.2 million of its vehicles sold in the UK were fitted with a cheat software, as reported by the BBC. The case became known as the VW emissions scandal or “dieselgate”.
Included within these 1.2 million vehicles were cars within the VW brand, Audi, Seat, and Skoda, as well as VW commercial vehicles.
Now, thousands of UK residents are seeking compensation from the VW Group. Below, we detail what the VW emissions scandal is and which cars have been affected.
Whilst the deadline to join the Group Action has passed this does not necessarily mean that you do not have a claim providing that you still fall within the limitation period.
What is the VW Emissions Scandal?
The dieselgate scandal, as it is now known, began in September 2015. Volkswagen admitted that it had purposefully inserted software in more than 11 million cars worldwide in order to cheat emissions tests.
They confessed that this “cheat software” had been present in their cars since 2009. The software worked by activating emissions controls only during testing. While no definitive emissions tests have yet taken place in the UK, researchers in the US found that when tested on the road, some cars emitted almost 40 times the permitted US levels of nitrogen oxides. The permitted levels do differ in the US and the UK
At the time there was a worldwide uproar and regulators in multiple countries began to investigate Volkswagen and their practices. In January 2017, the car manufacturer pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the US, with a US judge ordering VW to pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine for “rigging diesel-powered powered vehicles to cheat the emission tests”.
So far, the VW group has paid out £26bn worldwide in fines and compensation.
What happened with the VW court case in the UK?
Over the course of the scandal, VW has always denied using the prohibited cheat devices in the UK. It has insisted over the years that its customers in the UK have not suffered any loses, so there is not need for any compensation to paid out. This might have changed in March 2020, however.
In March 2020, the High Court of England and Wales handed down a significant judgment which stated that the software used in UK cars was in fact a “defeat device” and that this was binding in the English courts.
The class action was brought on behalf of 90,000 motorists who argued that they were misled by VW who purposefully cheated the emissions test by lowering nitrogen dioxide (NOx) levels under test conditions.
In the preliminary hearing, Mr Justice Waksman stated that:
The software function in issue in this case is indeed a defeat device.
The judge stated that VW’s defence was “highly flawed”, “hopeless”, and “absurd”.
While this is a very important step for motorists, it is not the end of the litigation. A further trial in the UK is expected to determine the liability of VW, along with a decision whether any compensation is to be paid to motorists (though this is likely, considering other cases in Canada, US, Germany, and Australia).