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VW urged to settle UK claims after High Court dieselgate setback

Sky News logo Sky News 06/04/2020

The VW emissions scandal prompted emissions checks to focus more on 'on the road' conditions © Getty The VW emissions scandal prompted emissions checks to focus more on 'on the road' conditions

Volkswagen (VW) has suffered a legal setback following its refusal to pay compensation to UK drivers over the so-called dieselgate scandal.

The High Court ruled on Monday in favour of a class action brought on behalf of 90,000 motorists when a judge found that emissions-testing software installed in vehicles amounted to unlawful "defeat devices" under EU rules.

The claimants argued that the VW Group, which also includes the Audi, Seat and Skoda brands, misled consumers by deliberately seeking to cheat tests by lowering nitrogen dioxide levels under lab conditions.

Video: German carmakers had crisis call with Merkel - report (Reuters)

The lawyers claimed the vehicles were emitting up to 40 times the legal limit when out on the road and, as such, the software should be labelled a "defeat device".

VW argues none of the drivers suffered financial losses and it was not liable.

The issue first came to light in September 2015 when the company admitted that 11 million vehicles worldwide, including almost 1.2 million in the UK, had been fitted with the software.

Lafayette - Circa April 2018:  Volkswagen Cars and SUV Dealership. VW is Among the World's Largest Car Manufacturers VII Lafayette - Circa April 2018: Volkswagen Cars and SUV Dealership. VW is Among the World's Largest Car Manufacturers VII

It has since cost the company tens of billions of pounds in fines and civil settlements in the US - on top of recall costs elsewhere.

Following a preliminary hearing in December on behalf of the mass litigation of drivers in England and Wales, Mr Justice Waksman ruled that "the software function in issue in this case is indeed a defeat device".

the tower of the city: VW has consistently argued it broke no EU law © Getty VW has consistently argued it broke no EU law

Gareth Pope, head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon which represents the majority of the claimants, said: "In the judge's own words, VW's defence was 'highly flawed', 'hopeless' and 'absurd'."

He added: "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."

The carmaker responded: "While Volkswagen is disappointed that the outcome was not in our favour, the judgment relates only to preliminary issues.

"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.

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"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.

"Nothing in this decision today changes this. We look forward to making progress with defending the remainder of the case.

"Volkswagen is considering carefully the grounds on which it may seek to appeal today's decision."

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