Vauxhall faces mass action lawsuit over alleged emissions test ‘cheating’

Up to 600,000 cars sold to UK drivers over a 10-year period may have been installed with defeat devices, according to law firm fronting mass claim

More than one million Vauxhall drivers in the UK could be eligible for thousands of pounds in compensation following allegations the car company cheated emissions tests, according to campaigners. But the auto giant was swift to reject the allegations, insisting its vehicles meet “applicable regulations”.

A campaign launched this week alleges up to 600,000 Diesel vehicles sold in the UK were installed with ‘defeat devices’ that allowed them to pass emissions tests they would have otherwise failed.

The Vauxhall Pay Up campaign is calling on UK drivers who bought new or second-hand or leased a Diesel Vauxhall vehicle between 2009 and 2019 to join a group claim being prepared by law firm Milberg London LLP.

The group claims evidence from regulators, academics, and forensic analysis suggests that Vauxhall installed cheat software in a range of its Diesel vehicles during the 10-year period, meaning drivers were unknowingly emitting illegal levels of emissions into the atmosphere.

The defeat device Vauxhall is alleged to have used is similar to the cheat software at the heart of the 2015 ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, which revealed how German auto giant Volkswagen had systematically cheated Diesel emissions tests and misled consumers and regulators over the environmental footprint of its vehicles.

A Vauxhall spokesperson rejected Vauxhall Pay Up’s allegations and insisted its vehicles complied with the law. “Vauxhall Motors is not aware of any such claim and rejects any accusation of using illegal defeat devices,” the spokesperson said. “Our vehicles meet the applicable regulations.”

But the campaigners contend Vauxhall drivers could have been misled into buying cars that were more polluting than the law allows, and were therefore worth less than the purchase price.

“Motorists were promised a combination of low environmental impact and high driving performance that appears to have been impossible in real driving conditions,” said Edward Cardingdon, partner at Milberg London LLP and lead lawyer for the campaign. “Put simply, clean Diesel looks like a myth and Vauxhall’s cars did not provide the performance drivers paid for.”

In the wake of the Dieselgate controversy, Volkswagen has shelled out billions of pounds in fines to regulators, settlements to drivers, and buyback schemes, with legal action ongoing in many jurisdictions including the UK. The scandal has prompted a flurry of legal battles against other carmakers, with a number of law firms current investigating a similar case on behalf of UK drivers over alleged emissions ‘cheating’ by Mercedes-Benz.

The Vauxhall Pay Up campaign said it intends to claim damages under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Act, which states customers who were sold products with misleading information can receive compensation of anywhere between a quarter and three quarters of their original purpose. As such, affected drivers are in line to receive “a material sum” in damages if the mass claim is successful, it said.

The campaign said it will also argue Vauxhall is guilty of fraud, breach of contract, breach of statutory duty, and non-compliance with other consumer legislation.

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