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VW ‘failed UK customers, but Government is failing consumers’, say MPs

Both the Volkswagen Group and the UK government have come under fire from MPs for their actions in the emissions scandal.


The Volkswagen Group “failed UK consumers” according to MPs

The report by the House of Commons Transport Committee also says that the scandal adds impetus to plans for improved emissions tests and that without proper sanctions against manufacturers that cheat, there is little to stop a similar scandal from happening again.

In the report, MPs say that “VW’s conduct has severely undermined confidence in vehicle standards that are relied upon by consumers and it has not only brought its own integrity into disrepute but also that of the auto sector”. It adds that while the specific conduct of VW only accounted for a fractional increase in the level of expected pollutants, “the cumulative real-world emissions of all manufacturers is a serious concern and closing the emissions gap between laboratory and road needs to be a public health priority”.

The report says that reforms to emissions tests must be used as an opportunity to give consumers a better understanding of vehicle standards and to improve the mechanism for reducing dangerous pollutants from vehicles while setting achievable targets for manufacturers. Emissions limits should be gradually tightened in a way that gives manufacturers sufficient time to align their vehicle design and investment strategies.

It adds that the emissions scandal revealed significant flaws in the vehicle type approval system in Europe. The EU is now seeking to improve the regulations that set the rules for type approval but the Committee said that many of those reforms do not go far enough.

MPs have also criticised Volkswagen Group’s actions following the scandal, saying that it has not been open about the nature of the defeat device software and has communicated poorly with customers which has led to confusion over when and how affected vehicles will be fixed.

The report also condemns Volkswagen’s contrasting approaches in compensating customers in Europe and the US. It added that there is a case for car owners affected by the emissions scandal to be compensated under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, with a partial refund being a possible option.

Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Louise Ellman said: “Vehicle owners have been refused goodwill payments. That is despite VW inflicting a great deal of uncertainty on its own customers along with the prospect of declining residual values and the inconvenience of having to undergo repairs.

“We are concerned that VW’s fix was developed at the lowest possible cost which might lead to increased costs for motorists down the line. We have called upon the Vehicle Certification Agency to do everything in its power to ensure that does not happen.”

MPs added that the UK Government has been complacent in identifying whether Volkswagen broke the law in Europe, with the Department for Transport having tried to pass the buck to the European Commission which holds neither the evidence nor the powers to prosecute. The responsibility for prosecution lies with national governments.

MPS also said they were concerned by the DfT’s “ambivalence towards assessing the legality of Volkswagen’s use of defeat device software despite its condemnation of Volkswagen’s actions to us and in the media”. It added that the DfT was too slow to assess the use of its powers under the Road Vehicles (Approval) Regulations 2009 to prosecute Volkswagen for its deception.

Ms Ellman added: “Volkswagen Group has acted cynically to cheat emissions tests which exist solely to protect human health. Volkswagen’s evidence to us was just not credible but the Government has lacked the will to hold VW accountable for its actions. There is a real danger that VW will be able to get away with cheating emissions tests in Europe if regulators do not act.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.