A law firm has applied for a group litigation order against Volkswagen on behalf of thousands of owners of cars manufactured by the company.
Harcus Sinclair said it was planning to bring claims in the High Court on behalf of owners of VW, Seat, Audi and Skoda vehicles. While the company has been hit with lawsuits in the US, with a judge signing off a $15bn settlement in October, this is the first such claim in the UK. It's also been sued by investors, who want €8.2bn (£7.1bn) in damages.
It follows the discovery in 2015 that cars manufactured by the group with certain diesel engines were fitted with a so-called defeat device, which cheated emissions tests in laboratory settings. In October it admitted it has set aside €1bn to deal with the scandal.
Harcus Sinclair, which has teamed up with Slater and Gordon for the suit, said it was alleging cars whose engines were fitted with the device should never have been certified as fit for sale .
“We have paved the way for consumers who trusted but were let down by VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda to seek redress through our courts," said Damon Parker, head of litigation at Harcus Sinclair.
"It is only right that UK car owners affected by the scandal have the opportunity to seek compensation. We have secured funding so that those affected can bring this claim against VW at no cost to themselves.
"The group action aims to ensure that, if VW is found to have misled consumers about the environmental damage caused by their cars, they are penalised accordingly so as to discourage this sort of behaviour from happening again.”
However, VW hit back, with a spokesman saying it intends to defend the claims "robustly".
"Technical measures have already been developed by the Volkswagen Group for vehicles affected by the NOx emissions issue and approved in principle by the relevant certifying authorities. Final approvals have also been provided by the authorities in respect of the vast majority of the affected models. The technical measures have already been implemented in a large number of our UK customers’ vehicles.
"As a consequence, we have made it clear that we do not anticipate that any of our UK customers will in fact have suffered any loss as a result of the NOx emissions issue and that it is premature for claims to be brought in the UK."