Dieselgate: Volkswagern 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 rejecteded 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.

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. UK firm Your Lawyers reckon the compensation could end up totalling £8500 per affected vehicle, adding up to more than £10 billion.

Lawyers for the owners say Volkswagen knowingly “cheated” these 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.

The judge in the case earlier this year, Mr Justice Waksman, ruled that “the software function in issue in this case is indeed a defeat device” under the classification defined by the EU. The judge claimed he was “far from alone in this conclusion”, noting various courts and industry bodies that agree with the verdict.

He called Volkswagen’s defence “highly flawed” and “absurd”, adding: “A software function which enables a vehicle to pass the test because it operates the vehicle in a way which is bound to past the test and in which it does not operate own the road is a fundamental subversion of the test and the objective behind it.”

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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)