Car owners in England and Wales wishing to sue Volkswagen for diesel emissions fraud have seven months to join the case at London’s High Court, which on Thursday appointed law firms Leigh Day and Slater & Gordon as joint leads to take on the German carmaker.
With some 60,000 claimants already signed up, the case is already the largest consumer group action in UK history. The number could rise significantly, as 1.2m cars from the Volkswagen brands VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat were equipped with software that enabled cars to cheat emissions tests.
Volkswagen denies the software broke any UK or EU laws. It argues the facts of the case are fundamentally different than in the US, where damages were around $25bn. In the US, VW admitted to equipping cars with “defeat devices” to bypass emissions tests and agreed to pay a criminal fine.
VW has offered technical fixes to more than 840,000 cars in the UK. “We have made it clear that we do not anticipate that our UK customers have suffered any loss or financial detriment as a result of the NOx issue,” VW said in a statement. “In particular, we note that an adverse financial impact on the residual value of affected vehicles as a result of the NOx issue has not been identified.”
Following a three-day hearing, the court decided on Thursday to recommend that a Group Litigation Order (GLO) be made to manage all the legal claims against Volkswagen and others allegedly involved in emissions fraud.
VW is being sued under laws relating to Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading. Plaintiffs are seeking at least 50 per cent of the value of their car or finance repayments.
Car owners who want to join the case must have bought the vehicle for personal use from an approved dealer, with payments made on or after October 1, 2014.