"If devices have been used in our clients’ vehicles, that amounts to misrepresentation and a breach of contract" (Source: Getty)
A UK law firm has made what is thought to be the first legal move against Volkswagen in the wake of the emissions cheating scandal, as the car giant admits that almost 1.2m UK cars may have been fitted with the cheat device.
Volkswagen said this morning that more than 508,000 VW passenger cars sold in the UK carried the device; nearly 400,000 Audi vehicles, 132,000 Skodas and 77,000 Seats are also affected. A further 80,000 commercial vehicles are also on the list.
"Step by step, affected customers will be contacted, with details of a process to get their vehicles corrected in the near future, " a statement said. "In the meantime, all vehicles are technically safe and roadworthy.
"Under the action plan, the Volkswagen Group brands whose vehicles are affected will present the technical solutions and measures to relevant responsible authorities in October."
But lawfirm Leigh Day is calling for a "full refund" of the cost customers have paid thinking they were buying clean diesel cars, as well as compensation for other related losses.
The firm has written to the new chief executive Matthias Muller and Volkswagen's lawyers, claiming that Volkswagen promoted clean diesel cars as having been compliant with EU emissions regulations, offering low fuel emissions - which meant they qualified for lower Vehicle Excise Duty - and giving good fuel economy.
The letter, sent yesterday, said: “If it is found that defeat devices have been used in our clients’ vehicles, this undoubtedly amounts to a misrepresentation and a breach of contract.”
It asks for the German car giant to enter talks to set up a settlement scheme “so as to ensure that vehicle owners are appropriately and speedily compensated whilst minimising legal costs. We therefore propose that a roundtable meeting is held as soon as possible and we look forward to hearing from you to allow arrangements for the same to be made."
It is thought the settlement could reach a multi-million pound bill.
The news comes as Volkswagen announced a comprehensive recall and refit plan for cars fitted with a "detect device", which enabled them to cheat emissions tests.
In the letter Bozena Michalowska-Howells, from the Consumer Law and Product Safety group, said: “While we welcome the news that repairs will be undertaken to upgrade the affected cars to comply with EU Nitrogen Dioxide emission standards, such repairs may result in reduced fuel efficiency and increased CO2 emissions which in turn may impact upon the Vehicle Excise Duty payable and other associated costs.
"Our clients are also very concerned about the impact of the use of defeat devices on the re-sale value of their cars.”