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Aussie law firm sets VW class action in motion

First in, best dressed: Bannister Law is based in Sydney, and has offices in Melbourne and Brisbane. It says “countless” owners have already registered for the action.

Bannister Law files two class actions against VW Group, Audi for Australian owners

2 Nov 2015

UPDATED 2130 2/11/2015THE relatively small Sydney firm Bannister Law has beaten the country’s biggest law companies to the punch, filing class actions on behalf of the owners of Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi vehicles in Australia.

It is also going straight for the jugular, claiming the owners of affected vehicles may be entitled to their money back.

“A part of the claim in each class action is that both VW and Audi guaranteed, under the consumer laws, that the vehicles were fit for their purpose, and free from defects,” said the firm’s founder and principal Charles Bannister.

“In supplying cars containing the defeat device, the statutory guarantee was not complied with. If we’re successful on that part of the claim, the customer may be entitled to a refund of the purchase price.”

Based on an average purchase price of $40,000 per vehicle, this would equate to some $4 billion.

The class actions were filed under federal consumer law in the Federal Court of Australia last Friday, and allege that VW and Audi guaranteed, under current consumer law, that the respective vehicles were fit for their purpose and free from defects.

Separate actions were filed against Volkswagen Group Australia (which is also responsible for Skoda vehicles) and Audi Australia (which is an independent distributor).

The firm also says that owners of Seat vehicles are entitled to sign on, despite no official import operation in place for the VW-owned Spanish brand.

“The action is for the class of all affected owners of the Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi and Seat diesel vehicles with the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre EA189 engines,” the firm said in a statement addressed to owners of affected vehicles. “You are part of the class if you bought one of the affected models made between 2008 and 2015 and still have the vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation.”

The action has been precipitated by admissions from both Volkswagen and Audi that emissions test-defeating devices have potentially been fitted to around 100,000 diesel-powered Volkswagen Group vehicles in Australia and some 11 million vehicles worldwide.

Volkswagen and Audi have both already announced voluntary recalls of local cars, which include VW’s Polo, Golf, Tiguan, Transporter and Amarok, Audi’s A3 and A4, Skoda’s Octavia and more, with repairs not expected to get underway until next year.

Mr Bannister said that there has been a “significant interest” from consumers in the actions, but no figures were offered.

“This deception strikes at the very heart of the brand and undermines its value,” he said.

“That damage is already apparent. We’re already seeing hard evidence on the impact on vehicle resale throughout the market. Whether consumers have new or second-hand cars, if theirs is an affected model that loss of value is currently borne by them.”

Volkswagen Australia told GoAuto that it would be inappropriate to comment on any "impending legal matters".

"VGA understands that this has been a difficult time and apologises for any disappointment and inconvenience felt by our customers, staff, dealers and partners," the company said in a statement.

"VGA assures all its customers that the affected cars are technically safe and the necessary measures will be undertaken at no cost to them. We will do everything we can to fix this problem and regain the trust of our customers."

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