Thousands of Volkswagen car owners of the United Kingdom apparently won the first stage of a High Court action against the German auto giant over the allegations of fitting emission cheating devices in the diesel vehicles manufactured by it.
The latest court ruling came after a preliminary hearing in December in which the court was asked whether the installation of such as software in the cars was a “defeat device” according to the EU rules.
On Monday, Justice Waksman said that it was.
Saying that it was “disappointed” with the verdict, Volkswagen said it may appeal the decision.
“To be clear, today’s decision does not determine liability or any issues of causation or loss for any of the causes of action claimed. These remain to be determined by the court as the case continues,” said a spokesperson for the German carmaker.
This case is part of the hundreds of cases in many countries against the company over the diesel emission scandal.
So far, €30bn has been paid by the company worldwide in relation ot the cases.
The legal action against VW as well as Audi, Seat and Skoda, which are also owned by Volkswagen Group, was brought in by about 90,000 motorists in England and Wales. The litigants are seeking compensation from the company and it could turn out to be the largest consumer action in English legal history.
The so-called “dieselgate” scandal broke in September 2015.
The aim of using emission cheating devices was to get certificate of fitness under the EU pollution standards. However such devices helped to suppress emissions which were as high as 40 times the legally permissible limit of nitrogen dioxide ion the exhaust of the vehicles.
The German carmaker had admitted earlier that such devices had been fitted into 11 million vehicles worldwide, which includes about 1.2 million such vehicles in the in the UK.
The scandal has seen several heads rolling in the company including that of its chief executive Martin Winterkorn. A number of top executives of the company have also been charged with criminal offences in Germany and the United States.
The latest ruling by the British High Court applies to vehicles manufactured by Audi, Seat and Skoda in addition to those under the VW brand.
Some of the arguments presented in the court by representatives of VW, claiming that the vehicles did not contain defeat devices, were described by Justice Waksman as being “completely irrelevant”, “hopeless” and “highly flawed”.
“This damning judgment confirms what our clients have known for a long time, but which VW has refused to accept: namely that VW fitted defeat devices into millions of vehicles in the UK in order to cheat emissions tests,” said Gareth Pope, who leads the legal team at Slater and Gordon, which represents 70,000 claimants.
“VW’s utter failure to convince the court of the merits of its case means that now is surely time for it to settle these claims and put this shameful episode behind it,” he added.
“Volkswagen remains confident in our case that we are not liable to the claimants as alleged and the claimants did not suffer any loss. We will continue to defend our position robustly,” said a spokesperson for VW.
(Adapted from BBC.com)