Volkswagen Canada this week agreed to buy back or fix more than 100,000 2.0l vehicles affected by the emissions scandal, in a settlement costing up to C$2.1bn (US$1.6bn). Whilst this settlement is yet to be approved by the Canadian court, it represents the second largest settlement in a case arising from the emissions scandal.
To date, the largest settlement remains in the US where some 500,000 affected vehicles were sold. In addition, US authorities are reportedly close to concluding their criminal investigation which will likely require the company to plead guilty to multiple criminal offences and pay a fine expected to be in the region of US$3bn.
Pressure applied by regulators in US and Canada has led to substantial consumer settlements being agreed.
Meanwhile in the UK, where some 1.2 million affected vehicles were sold, the Department of Transport has been pushing Volkswagen to take action to compensate vehicle owners. Volkswagen continues to deny liability and insists that in Europe the software was legal under the applicable law. It has been left to UK consumers to bring Volkswagen to account and seek recovery of their losses through litigation.
Whilst we do not accept Volkswagen’s position, the complexity of the litigation required in order to take on Volkswagen on behalf of UK consumers is risky and likely to be costly. If the case is unsuccessful, the consumers will be liable to meet the cost of the expert evidence required to prove the key elements of the claim and the costs of Volkswagen’s lawyers.
However, an alternative dispute resolution body, called The Motor Ombudsman, which is solely focused on the automotive sector and self-regulates the UK’s motor industry, may provide some UK consumers with an avenue to seek redress without the cost risk associated with pursuing the matter through the courts. Leigh Day is in the process of submitting eligible claims to The Motor Ombudsman for adjudication.
Leigh Day has today written to the Department of Transport and called upon them to ensure that The Motor Ombudsman is appropriately resourced so that UK consumers can fully utilise The Motor Ombudsman and are at last provided with an appropriate avenue of redress without recourse to costly litigation.