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ACCC takes action against Volkswagen

In court: Volkswagen’s current Tiguan is one of 10 VW models named in ACCC documents claiming breaches of consumer law by the German company over diesel emissions.

‘Dieselgate’ headed for court as ACCC initiates charges against Volkswagen

1 Sep 2016

AUSTRALIA’S consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has initiated court action against Volkswagen over the diesel emissions cheat device affair, accusing the German company and its Australian subsidiary of misleading or deceptive conduct.

The car-maker stands accused of multiple breaches of Australian consumer law involving more than 57,000 vehicles sold over five years in what has been described by ACCC chairman Rod Sims as “extraordinary conduct of a serious and deliberate nature”.

The ACCC is seeking “declarations, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, findings of fact and costs”.

The action is set to go before a Federal Court judge within the next couple of weeks for a case management conference in Sydney to determine if parties in the case can agree to go to mediation or if the action will proceed directly to court, probably next year.

The ACCC move is just the latest by various government agencies around the world, with VW facing multiple charges and customer class actions over the so-called ‘dieselgate’ affair in which the company allegedly fitted “defeat” software to control the exhaust emissions of some diesel vehicles under test conditions.

Ten VW models are named in the ACCC announcement of its the Australian proceedings against Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (VWAG) and its Australian subsidiary, Volkswagen Group Australia Pty Ltd (VGA).

The action is confined to Volkswagen, with an ACCC spokesman telling GoAuto that VW sister brands Audi and Skoda are not involved “at this stage”.

VGA today responded to the announcement by saying it was reviewing the claims.

But it also appeared to criticise the move, saying the court action would not provide any practical benefit to consumers because software solutions for the affected cars were expected soon.

VGA managing director Michael Bartsch said in a statement: “The best outcome for customers whose vehicle is affected is to have the voluntary recall service updates installed.

“This takes 45 minutes. It is free of charge. We will be contacting owners of affected vehicles to arrange an appointment with their dealer.” The ACCC’s statement accuses VW of engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct, making false or misleading representations and engaging in conduct liable to mislead the public in relation to diesel vehicle emission claims.

The ACCC alleges that between 2011 and 2015, VWAG engaged in misleading conduct by installing and not disclosing the existence and operation of ‘defeat’ software which controlled the operation of the vehicles’ exhaust gas recirculation system.

“The software caused the vehicles to produce lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions when subject to test conditions in a laboratory, but switched to a different mode under normal on-road driving conditions resulting in significantly higher NOx emissions being produced by the vehicles,” the ACCC said in a statement today.

“Both VGA and VWAG engaged in misleading conduct by representing that the vehicles complied with Australian and European standards and all Australian regulatory requirements when, because of the defeat software, that was not the case.

“Using information provided by VWAG, VGA marketed the vehicles in Australia as being environmentally friendly, clean-burning, low-emission and compliant with stringent European standards when this was not the case under normal driving conditions.” Mr Sims said the ACCC alleges that Volkswagen engaged in multiple breaches of Australian consumer law by concealing software in their vehicles to cheat emissions testing and misleading consumers about the vehicle’s compliance with standards and emission levels during on-road conditions.

“Consumers rightly expect that their vehicle’s emissions would operate as advertised during their day-to-day use and we allege that this was not the case with more than 57,000 vehicles sold in Australia by Volkswagen over a five-year period,” he said.

“These allegations involve extraordinary conduct of a serious and deliberate nature by a global corporation and its Australian subsidiary misleading consumers and the Australian public.

“We expect higher standards of behaviour from all companies that supply to Australian consumers.” The ACCC’s announcement of proceedings against VW comes as a class action by VW and Audi car owners returns to court in Sydney for a hearing about redaction of main technical documents on the alleged “cheat device”.

The VW vehicles involved in the ACCC’s action are: - Amarok 2.0-litre – 2011 to 2012 - Caddy 1.6 and 2.0-litre – 2010 to 2015 - Eos 2.0-litre – 2009 to 2014 - Golf 1.6 and 2.0-litre – 2009 to 2013 - Jetta 1.6 and 2.0-litre – 2009 to 2015 - Passat 2.0-litre – 2008 to 2015 - Passat CC 2.0-litre – 2008 to 2012 - Polo 1.6-litre – 2009 to 2014 - Tiguan 2.0-litre – 2008 to 2015 - CC 2.0-litre – 2011 to 2015

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