Dieselgate: Volkswagen loses appeal over UK group action lawsuit

Volkswagen has been dealt another blow in the UK group action lawsuit over the Dieselgate emissions scandal as its appeal was rejected by the courts.

The landmark ruling means that the compensation case lodged by owners can continue. It also likely means that almost 90,000 affected owners of Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen cars could now receive compensation by 2022.

The verdict, delivered by Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Males, ruled that “the Judge’s “defeat device” issue was clearly correct”. If VW had won the appeal, it is likely that the outcome would’ve been longer and more protracted.  Preliminary motions including witness evidence exhanges, a selection of lead claimants and full disclosure will now take place before the trial actually begins.

A spokesperson for VW has issued statement saying the firm is “disappointed” in the Court of Appeal’s decision, but “respects it.”

“This decision relates to the technical points of law that formed the Preliminary Issues Hearing in 2019”, the statement continues. “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 €33bn investment into e-mobility, bringing 75 fully electric car models to market by 2029.”

The class action lawsuit, which could be the largest consumer action in English legal history, involves almost 90,000 owners of Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen cars. They’re claiming for compensation over the installation of illegal ‘defeat devices’ to cheat European Union emissions standards.

Lawyers for the owners say Volkswagen knowingly “cheated” rules put in place to “save lives” by installing an unlawful device designed to detect a rolling road test and alter the combustion process to reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 40 times.

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Volkswagen then lost its first ruling in April this year. It said that it was “disappointed” by the verdict despite it only relating to preliminary discussions.

Despite the lost appeal an early ruling, there are still further phases of the case, including determining ‘causation’, ie. whether or not the defeat device caused damage. These are due to play out at the end of this year or early 2021. If the verdict goes against Volkswagen, it could be ordered to pay hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation.

Volkswagen hasn’t paid compensation to any UK owners, claiming the cars weren’t fitted with a ‘defeat device’ under UK law. Previous rulings to the contrary in other countries, such as the US, carry no weight in the UK, hence the need for the class action proceedings.

Lawt month, it was revealed that a similar consumer case in the US had been won by the claimants, resulting in Volkswagen having to pay between $5100 (£3915) and $10,000 (£7675) per customer. That added up to $9.8bn (£7.52bn)