Consumer watchdog tackles Volkswagen in court over emissions claims

The consumer watchdog has launched action in the Federal Court against Volkswagen over its ‘defeat software’ which allowed the car maker to make false claims about the emissions of its cars.

Volkswagen-LogoThe move by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission comes a year after Volkswagen revealed it had used the software to beat emissions tests around the world.

However, Volkswagen in Australia has said the action will be of no practical benefit to consumers with a voluntary recall soon to take place where software solutions to the issue will be installed.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the commission was taking the action because it believed the use of the software amounted to false and misleading conduct by both Volkswagen in Germany and Volkswagen’s Australian subsidiary.

“The ACCC alleges that Volkswagen engaged in multiple breaches of the Australian Consumer Law by concealing software in its vehicles to cheat emissions testing and misleading consumers about the vehicle’s compliance with standards and emission levels during on-road conditions,” Sims 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 action includes a number of Volkswagen brands such as the Amarok, Caddy, Jetta and Passat.

“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,” Sims said.

In particular the ACCC is alleging that:

  • Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft 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;
  • Both Volkswagen Group Australia 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.

The ACCC will be seeking pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, findings of fact and costs.

In statement Volkswagen Group Australia said it was reviewing the claims made by the ACCC and was also defending class action suits brought by private plaintiffs.

“The best outcome for customers whose vehicle is affected is to have the voluntary recall service updates installed,” Volkswagen Group Australia Managing Director Michael Bartsch said.

“This takes 45 minutes. It is free of charge. We will be contacting owners of affected vehicles to arrange an appointment with their dealer.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.