VW Emissions Compensation or no compensation

Jennifer Young

23 May 2016

It is now widely known that the VW group has agreed to make compensatory payments to drivers in the USA whose cars have been fitted with the defeat device software designed to beat emissions tests, but what is the situation in the UK?

Francis Hanna & Company solicitors have pressed VW Group’s lawyers in the UK, for an explanation for the differing treatment of drivers in the UK to those in the USA. VW’s lawyers have replied that the situation in the USA is ‘very different’ to that in the UK for two reasons:

  1. Affected vehicles in the UK have different engine configurations to those in the USA;
  2. UK vehicles are subject to a different regulatory framework and testing regime, which means that the ‘fix’ for UK vehicles may not be as rigorous as for vehicles in the USA.

Essentially VW are making the case that because the tests are more rigorous in the USA (and hence ‘solutions’ are not so easily reached) there remains no alternative other than to provide compensation to drivers in the USA. However, this explanation fails to take account of the fact that there still remains a lot of uncertainty surrounding the issue in the UK.  VW have indicated that a ‘fix’ has been identified for UK vehicles, but many have yet to be fixed and it is therefore not the case that UK drivers have more certainty than those drivers in the USA.

Despite the justifications provided by the VW group in relation to this differing treatment of their customers, the reality is, that they are not treating their UK customers fairly. It is therefore welcome news that the Shadow Transport Secretary, Lillian Greenwood has recently called on the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, to ensure that drivers in the UK are treated similarly to those in the USA. She said that urgent action must be taken to ensure that VW don’t leave the UK at the back of the queue, and asked what was to be done about the problem of VW vehicles which have yet to be fixed and which continue to pollute above the approved limits representing a serious risk to everyone’s health.

It remains to be seen how much pressure the Transport Secretary will put on the VW group in relation to the disparity of treatment between its customers based on location. However, he did indicate that Ministers do take the issue of compensation very seriously and that this issue will be addressed by the Government.

Quite apart from these concerns, the issue still remains that VW misrepresented all of its customers on the true vehicle pollution levels at the point of sale. This is particularly pertinent in the case where emission/pollution levels have been a key determinant in leading a perspective purchaser to choose VW. If such misrepresentation has occurred, and it clearly has, this constitutes a breach of contract between the manufacturer and the customer for which compensation should be due. This is all the more crucial in the case of the ‘eco-sensitive’ customer who has unknowingly been driving a vehicle which is creating much more pollution than they had been led to believe, and who has now been effectively forced to drive this vehicle for over 7 months knowing that it is dangerously polluting the environment. This should not be accepted by VW customers in the UK, and it will be interesting to see what pressure, if any, the Government puts on VW in respect of the issue.

Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors are continuing to monitor the situation of behalf of affected customers in Northern Ireland.

 

If your car has been affected and you would like to be added to our list of other affected customers in Northern Ireland, please register your details with us by clicking the link .