On Friday 10th March 2017 the Volkswagen Group pleaded guilty in US District Court to charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and introducing imported merchandise into the US by means of false statement.
The guilty pleas were entered under a plea agreement first announced in January 2017. Under this agreement the company agreed to pay $4.3 (USD) in fines, however, at the end of the 70-minute hearing the judge said that he wanted more time to consider the settlement and other actions given the “serious nature” of the crimes and scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 2017.
Friday’s hearing was the first time the company has pleaded guilty in any court in the world following the emissions scandal and comes as it continues to deny that the use of emissions cheating software was illegal under EU law.
Earlier this month the European Commission announced the launch of a co-ordinated legal action by EU consumer protection agencies against Volkswagen, alleging that the company violated EU law on advertising claims and on the “conformity” of product with sales contracts. Dutch authorities are reported to be taking the lead in this action, but it is not clear how many other national authorities will join action.
In the UK, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations allow vehicle owners to bring a claim against Volkswagen Finance and Volkswagen dealerships for a “commercial practice” if it contains false information or if it is likely to mislead the average consumer in its overall presentation. If the claim is successful, vehicle owners can claim for a percentage discount on the purchase price they have paid without having to prove that they have sustained a loss as a result of Volkswagen’s actions.