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Judgement against Volkswagen – Emissions Scandal

In a result that will sends the right message to Volkswagen to include other manufactures under the Group including Audi, Skoda and Seat motor vehicles (together ‘the VW Group’), the High Court Judge, Mr Justice Waksman handed down his unequivocal judgement that the software applied to their vehicles was indeed a ‘cheat device.’ The learned Judge said:

“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.”

The judgement is welcomed by nearly 90,000 VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda owners in England & Wales who have been involved in the large group litigation in the High Court in London; a full reading of the Judgement can be found in the following Court Judiciary link: A Crossley & Ors v Volkswagen High Court Case No: QB-2006-000011

At paragraph 265 of his Judgement Mr Justice Waksman expounded upon the fragility of VW Group’s defence to the litigation using language such as being ‘absurd, ’ ‘highly flawed’ (paragraph 220) and in relation to a possible appeal, ‘on merits’ would be ‘hopeless’ paragraph (374).

The court will now proceed with the litigation and the parties for both sides will begin the selection of test cases to decide how much compensation each owner of he vehicles will receive as a result of the defeat device being fixed to their motor vehicles. R James Hutcheon Solicitors are heavily involved in what can be the largest group litigation in the UK, for further information please view our Webpage: VW Emissions Compensation Claims.

Background to VW Emissions Scandal

The story of defeat device prohibition starts with the US Federal Clean Air Act 1963 that deals with vehicle emissions that require certificates of conformity before they can be sold. The EU in 2015 provided a method of assessing whether vehicles was emissions-compliant was to test it in “laboratory” conditions. The first time that a defeat device definition was introduced in the EU context was in October 1998 with the making of Directive 98/69 for LD vehicles.

In the UK the laws were set to cover various types of vehicles and engines but the one that concerned the litigation dubbed ‘dieselgate’ was in relation to diesel vehicles that produced nitrogen dioxide.

The VW Group advised that about 11 million of its diesels vehicles had the defeat device fitted that prompted world-wide condemnation. In the UK is it thought be about 1.2 million vehicles.

The dieselgate scandal resulted in unprecedented litigation in the US and around the world. The VW Group were paying out more than €30bn (£26bn) in fines, recall costs and civil settlements, and has led to criminal charges by German prosecutors against current and former senior employees. Whilst payments were offered in the US and recently in Germany, in the UK, the VW Group has simply denied and refused all of its customers any compensation. This was not right given the overall evidence against the German manufacturer but nevertheless they persisted in putting the best defence they could to deny UK customers any compensation.

R James Hutcheon Solicitors part of the Group of Solicitors taking action against the VW Group alleged successfully at the High Court that the German manufacturer used their defeat device to get round the emissions standards, the laws to designed to reduce pollution and save lives when their engines were tested. It was found in some cases that the vehicles were emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen dioxide.

What is a defeat device?

A ‘Defeat Device’ means any element of engine or vehicle design which measures or senses vehicle speed, engine speed, gear used, temperature, intake pressure or any other parameter, with a view to activating, modulating delaying or deactivating the operation of any component of the emission control system so that the effectiveness of the emission control system is reduced under conditions encountered in normal vehicle use.

The Judgement concerning testing of the VW Groups vehicles is summarised by the Judge in the following passage:

(1) The testing has been designed to replicate as far as possible, normal driving conditions and the performance of the vehicle, by reference to emissions and otherwise, thereunder;
(2) The test is not and can never be an exact replica of actual driving conditions for the reasons given above although it has built-in tolerances to try and give as best an approximation as possible;
(3) Over time, such testing can be and will be improved so as to approximate to a greater extent current normal driving conditions;
(4) However, those inherent limitations on the test should not obscure the fundamental point that it is and is intended to be sufficiently approximate to normal driving conditions that a vehicle’s performance on the test (with regard to emissions and otherwise) is likely to be a reasonable approximation of its performance on the road. That is why a vehicle which passes the test is deemed to be compliant with EU requirements for the purpose of type-approval. The test, in other words, is presumptive evidence of such compliance. It plainly has no other purpose;
(5) That being so, whatever else may be said about it, 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. 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.

Is Your Vehicle Affected?

The first thing to appreciate this that the VW Group should have contacted you by now with a recall letter to advise you that your vehicle has been affected and it will call you in to have the software removed and to ‘fix’ the problem. If you have not had a recall letter and you think your vehicle is affected that is a VW, Audi, Skoda or Seat motor car you should go to your manufacturers website and enter your VIN number of your vehicle and that will inform you.

 

How To Find Your VIN Number

Your car will have a VIN number which will tell you if your engine has the affected software so that you can make a claim. Each car has a unique VIN code and you do not have to look under the bonnet to find it. The VIN number will look like the code below: WVWZZZ1JZXW111110 The VIN number is usually found in the following places:

  1. Car Service Booklet
  2. Your in-car system
  3. Windscreen – bottom corner – passenger side.

Once you have found the VIN number you should visit your manufacturers website

 

Volkswagen Group Website Finder

On our following pages it provides a link to the four manufactures website to proceed with finding out if your vehicle is affected:

Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Scandal – Is My Vehicle Affected?

Audi Diesel Checker Emissions Scandal – Is My Vehicle Affected?

Skoda Diesel Checker Emissions Scandal – Is My Vehicle Affected?

Seat Diesel Checker Emissions Scandal – Is My Vehicle Affected?

What To Do Next?

The time to make a claim has passed in accordance with the group litigation for the 90 thousand claims already issued.  There may be a time at a later stage that a second wave of claims my be able to proceed.  For more information please do not call our office but submit your query on our contact us page for VW Claims.  Before you contact our VW Emissions Claims  you must provide us with either or both:

  1. Your recall letter.
  2. A screen shot from the manufactures web page from the VIN checker above that confirms your vehicle is affected.

 

Further Reading on VW Emissions Scandal

VW Compensation Claims

Volkswagen emissions sham was unlawful, High Court rules

UK drivers win first round in VW ‘dieselgate’ case

VW installed ‘defeat devices’ in thousands of diesel cars, High Court rules

 

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