Dieselgate: UK motorists launch class-action suit against VW

Thousands of British motorists have launched a lawsuit against Volkswagen over the "dieselgate" emissions scandal, in a claim that could end up costing the carmaker billions of pounds.

The group of 10,000 VW owners has filed a class action lawsuit against the German car firm, seeking £30m, or £3,000 each.

If VW ends up having to pay the amount to each one of the 1.2 million people in the UK who own affected cars, including its Skoda, Audi and Seat marques, it would cost the company around £3.6bn.

The German firm has yet to reach a settlement with British and European owners affected by the scandal, in which the company admitted using “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests, making its cars appears greener than they were.

It has not compensated British owners despite reaching a £15bn settlement with 500,000 US drivers, offering instead to fix affected vehicles.

The class action suit, which is being led by law firm Harcus Sinclair, is expected to claim that drivers should be compensated because they paid extra for what they thought were clean diesel cars.

In fact, Harcus Sinclair alleged in a statement on its website, the cars emitted far higher levels of NOx – a mixture of pollutants nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide – than stated.

According to the government department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), NOx emissions cause 23,000 premature deaths in the UK each year.

The law firm’s application for group litigation, which is free for claimants to join, will be heard in the high court on 30 January.

Damon Parker, head of litigation at Harcus Sinclair, told the Daily Mail that claimants were “angry and believe that VW might get away with it”.

“They feel that they have been left with no choice but to take legal action,” Parker said.

“We have paved the way for consumers who trusted but were let down by VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda to seek redress through our courts.

“It it only right that UK car owners affected by the scandal have the opportunity to seek compensation.

“We have secured funding so that those affected can bring this claim against VW at no cost to themselves.

“The group action aims to ensure that, if VW is found to have misled consumers about the environmental damage caused by their cars, they are penalised accordingly so as to discourage this sort of behaviour from happening again.”

He criticised VW’s offer to fix cars affected by the scandal without offering compensation.

He said: “Consumers are doubtful that the fixes will lower toxic emissions. But getting their cars fixed is not enough. The damage to the environment has been done.”

Harcus Sinclair is collaborating on the case with other law firms, including Slater and Gordon.

Jacqueline Young, head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon, said: “VW has shown utter contempt, not just for the rights and health of their UK consumers but also for the environment.

“This legal action is the best opportunity that British customers will have for holding VW to account over this scandal.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has previously called for the capital’s drivers to be compensated, including £2.5m for Transport for London in lost congestion charge payments.

Rob Davies

This article first appeared in the Guardian

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