VW facing legal action from UK motorists over dieselgate

  • Owners of emissions scandal cars seek compensation
  • Proceedings involving 91,000 claimants underway
  • Anger as VW pays out in the US but not in Europe

In the latest twist in the Volkswagen ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal, a group of UK motorists are bringing legal action against the carmaker.

The proceedings are a claim for compensation by owners of diesel vehicles – including those made by Audi, SEAT and Skoda – fitted with what the lawyers allege were ‘defeat devices’ in order to meet stringent regulations for harmful NOx emissions.

Who is bringing dieselgate legal action against Volkswagen?

Law firm Leigh Day, alongside joint firm Slater & Gordon, is progressing claims on behalf of 91,000 Volkswagen owners. The trial begins on 2 December 2019, and will establish if the emissions defeat devices mislead customers, and if the case can then proceed to establish appropriate damages.

How many VW owners in the UK are involved?

Leigh Day clato represent 91,000 Volkswagen owners; initial actions in 2017 had much lower numbers, with Harcus Sinclair starting out with claims from 77 VW owners.

VW acknowledged this initial number, saying: ‘We have been notified that Harcus Sinclair intends to bring proceedings against Volkswagen on behalf of 77 Claimants in the English High Court. We intend to defend such claims robustly.’

To say that 2017's numbers represented the tip of the iceberg would be an understatement.

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Why is VW being sued?

Full details on the cause of the scandal can be found on our VW Dieselgate page.

Harcus Sinclair and Slater & Gordon have an entire website dedicated to the proceedings, which lists the reasons for affected VW owners to get involved in taking VW to court including:

1)     Health – ‘NOx contributes to…respiratory conditions.’

2)     Environment – ‘We need to do what we can to help the environment.’

3)     Financial – ‘VW should compensate you for the loss you have suffered.’

4)     Cost – ‘There will be no cost …for joining or participating in the group action.’

5)     Accountability – ‘It is important that VW be held to account for its actions.’

How much compensation is likely to be awarded?

If the claims are successful, a figure of £3,000 per vehicle has been suggested by some (Harcus Sinclair/Slater & Gordon’s website says that they will strive to obtain the maximum recovery but does not give a figure); multiply that by the number of potential participants in the suit – over a million VW Group vehicles in the UK were fitted with diesel engines caught up in the scandal – and the total bill could be in the £billions.

The Daily Mail has reported Harcus Sinclair, head of litigation Damon Parker as saying that he believes the accountability factor is also a major motivator for the claimants. He is reported as saying they were ‘angry and believe VW might get away with it.’

Why is it suggested that VW might “get away with it”?

While Volkswagen has now come up with a technical solution to the problem, the Harcus Sinclair/Slater & Gordon website says that in the UK there has been no compensation agreement between VW and the owners. In the USA, where 500,000 drivers were also affected, a £14.1billion settlement was agreed in 2016.

As such, Harcus Sinclair’s Parker states ‘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 is only right that UK car owners affected by the scandal have the opportunity to seek compensation.’

How much will the legal proceedings cost UK Volkswagen owners?

In simplistic terms, the Harcus Sinclair led proceedings are on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. Which means VW owners who want to join the class action should be able to do so at no initial cost. There may however be costs to cover in the event that the compensation claim is successful.

When does it come to court?

The initial application for a group litigation took place in the High Court on 30 January 2017.

The next stage takes place on 2 December 2019, and is a significant step in establishing liability.

Remind me, which VWs are involved in the scandal?

It’s Volkswagens, Audis, Seats and Skodas built between 2009 and 2015, fitted with 1.2-litre, 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel engines. If you own one of these you are likely to be affected.

For more details on the dieselgate scandal itself see our page: 10 things every VW owner needs to know.  

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