The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched proceedings against Volkswagen AG and its Australian subsidiary in the Federal Court, alleging misleading or deceptive conduct in regards to the emissions from its diesel-powered vehicles.
But this latest development in the almost year-long Dieselgate saga, in which Volkswagen acknowledged fitting defeat software to millions of vehicles to alter their NOx emissions under testing, has been met with a swift rebuke from the German brand’s Australian arm, which is in the final stages approval on the proposed fixes for remaining affected vehicles.
The ACCC alleged today that between 2011 and 2015 that Volkswagen 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.
It says it is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, findings of fact and costs.
“Both VGA 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,” the watchdog said in a statement.
A key to the ACCC’s case is this: “Using information provided by VWAG, VGA (Volkswagen Australia) 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.”
ACCC chairman Rod Sims added that: “The ACCC alleges that Volkswagen engaged in multiple breaches of the Australian Consumer Law by concealing software in their vehicles to cheat emissions testing and misleading consumers about the vehicle’s compliance with standards and emission levels during on-road conditions.
“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.
“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.”
It is understood that the ACCC is launching the proceedings almost a year after the diesel saga broke because it takes time to get a thorough case compiled.
Volkswagen Australia's reply:
Meanwhile, Volkswagen was swift in coming out on the front foot against the ACCC this morning.
“Volkswagen Group Australia does not think that the court action announced today by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission provides any practical benefit to consumers because software solutions for cars affected by the voluntary recall are expected soon,” it said.
VGA claims that “software solutions” for 70 per cent of vehicles have been submitted to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, and that it expects approval of these imminently and for all remaining vehicles before the end of this year. The software upgrade is already being implemented in the Amarok ute.
“The best outcome for customers whose vehicle is affected is to have the voluntary recall service updates installed,” said Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch.
“This takes 45 minutes. It is free of charge. We will be contacting owners of affected vehicles to arrange an appointment with their dealer.”
Volkswagen Group Australia says it is reviewing the claims made by the ACCC. It is also defending class action suits brought by private plaintiffs in the Federal Court of Australia.
As we know, private class actions seeking redress for consumers affected by this conduct are currently before the Federal Court in relation to Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda vehicles.
Volkswagen Australia has previously said it will not voluntarily issue compensation to local buyers, as Volkswagen US agreed to, because Australian laws and requirements were different. The company does not believe it broke such environmental laws in Australia.
The Volkswagen-branded vehicles covered by the issue, and subject to the ACCC proceedings are:
Amarok 2.0 litre – 2011 to 2012
Caddy 1.6 and 2.0 litre – 2010 to 2015
Eos 2.0 litre – 2009 to 2014
Golf 1.6 and 2.0 litre – 2009 to 2013
Jetta 1.6 and 2.0 litre – 2009 to 2015
Passat 2.0 litre – 2008 to 2015
Passat CC 2.0 litre – 2008 to 2012
Polo 1.6 litre – 2009 to 2014
Tiguan 2.0 litre – 2008 to 2015
CC 2.0 litre – 2011 to 2015