Volkswagen has appeal REJECTED against High Court ruling that it installed unlawful ‘defeat devices’ in thousands of UK diesel vehicles
- Volkswagen’s Court of Appeal attempt over emissions scandal has been denied
- The ‘landmark’ ruling has given the green light to what could become the UK’s largest group action in history
- Affected owners could be entitled to average compensation of around £8,500
- Some 90,000 UK drivers have joined the class action against the German brand
Volkswagen’s appeal against a High Court ruling that it fitted unlawful ‘defeat devices’ in thousands of UK diesel cars has been rejected.
The German car maker failed in its attempt to fight the decision via the Court of Appeal, which has been described as a ‘landmark’ ruling in what looks set to become the UK’s largest group action in history.
Around 90,000 motorists who bought or leased one of the 1.2 million affected VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda diesel models in the UK have taken legal action for compensation in the aftermath of the ‘dieselgate’ scandal.
Around 90,000 motorists who bought or leased one of the 1.2 million affected VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda diesel models in the UK have taken legal action against the car maker
Earlier this year, Mr Justice Waksman ruled in the High Court that ‘the software function in issue in this case is indeed a defeat device’.
The judge said that a ‘software function which enables a vehicle to pass the test because (artificially) it operates the vehicle in a way which is bound to pass the test and in which it does not operate on the road is a fundamental subversion of the test and the objective behind it’.
He added: ‘In other words, it destroys the utility of the test because it makes it impossible for performance under it to be the approximation of normal driving conditions and performance which it is intended to be.’
Having had its application to appeal against Mr Justice Waksman’s High Court ruling refused, Volkswagen’s defence was again thrown out of the Court of Appeal by Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Males last week.
He ruled that ‘the Judge’s ‘defeat device’ issue was clearly correct’.
A spokesman for the car giant told This is Money: ‘Volkswagen Group is disappointed in the Court of Appeal’s decision but, of course, respects it.
‘This decision relates to the technical points of law that formed the Preliminary Issues Hearing in 2019. It does not determine the points of loss, liability and causation, which will be decided at a trial not before March 2022.
‘Volkswagen maintains that because customers have not suffered any loss, it does not owe them compensation. Nevertheless, this is a matter for the main trial in due course.
‘Volkswagen has openly acknowledged that, in relation to the emissions issue, we did not live up to our own standards. We are committed to maintaining the trust of the public through programmes such as our €33 billion investment into e-mobility, bringing 75 fully electric car models to market by 2029.’
The English litigation against Volkswagen was filed back in 2016 and headed by law firms Slater & Gordon and Leigh Day.
It reached what the claimants’ lawyers described as ‘a decisive court battle’ at the preliminary hearing last December when the High Court was asked to decide whether software installed in VW cars was a ‘defeat device’ under EU regulations.
Had Volkswagen’s appeal been successful, the outcome for the dieselgate scandal would have been delayed, with a retrial likely to have denied owners of affected vehicles compensation for longer.
Of the 11 million vehicles impacted by the dieselgate scandal, some 1.2 million are UK models
Some 90,000 UK motorists who bought or leased one of the affected VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda diesel models have taken legal action for compensation
Instead, the proceedings will continue with a selection of lead claimants, full disclosure, and witness evidence exchanges to take place before the trial.
Consumer action law firm Your Lawyers – which is not representing owners of VW vehicles in this case – said the ‘landmark’ decision could now allow what looks set to become the UK’s largest ever group action to continue and open the door for similar cases against other car firms.
Last month, it was revealed that affected US consumers had been awarded $9.8 billion in settlements so far.
The Federal Trade Commission announced that Volkswagen agreed to buy back or repair more than half a million of the affected vehicles, with claimants awarded between $5,100 and $10,000 in compensation in addition to the estimated value of the vehicle.
A final court ruling on the UK group litigation against Volkswagen is expected before the end of 2022
Aman Johal, director of Your Lawyers, said: ‘This latest ruling is a victory for all UK victims of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
‘We look forward to the case reaching its conclusion and hope for a favourable ruling for all affected claimants, with the US settlement hopefully setting the standard for compensation.
‘Volkswagen must be held to account for its reprehensible actions that have caused physical, environmental and financial damage both nationwide and globally.
‘Should justice be served in the UK courts, the total cost of Volkswagen’s transgression could place it as the largest ever group consumer action – a strong signal to other car manufacturers, including Mercedes, Nissan and Renault, who have also been accused of similar behaviour.’
A final court ruling on this litigation is expected before the end of 2022.
Your Lawyers added that the latest ruling could also have ‘significant ramifications’ for emissions cases involving other car manufacturers that it is currently involved in, such as Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Renault.
In the UK alone, some 500,000 drivers have been affected by the Mercedes-Benz ‘dieselgate’ scandal and could also be eligible to claim back the value of their vehicle.
This would be in addition to a £776 million fine the car manufacturer has already faced in Germany, with 774,000 vehicles recalled across the country throughout 2018.