The UK government must crack down on Volkswagen’s response time in the wake of the emissions scandal, a parliamentary committee has concluded in its latest report.
The Environmental Audit Committee has released a report that alleges the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling have failed UK VW owners “by letting slide the opportunity to investigate VW’s behaviour and, potentially, to take legal action.”
Pressure on the government
No legal action has been taken by the UK government yet in response to the emissions scandal, which first surfaced almost a year ago, on 18 September 2015, and the committee has expressed concern over that. As the anniversary of the scandal approaches, it seems frustration is mounting.
The report states that if there were sufficient proof that VW knowingly falsified information on registration documents, legal action may be taken by both the CMA on the grounds of "unfair commercial practices and misleading actions and omissions" and the SFO for fraud.
The Department for Transport responded to the committee’s enquiry, stating “we have been sharing with them [CMA and SFO] the information that we have so that we can understand and we continue to look very hard at what legal recourse options are available”.
In a statement accompanying the report, MP Mary Creagh, who is chair of the committee, said: "There's been a worrying inertia from ministers in tackling the VW scandal and they should decide whether to take legal action. They should ask the Vehicle Certification Agency to carry out tests to see whether, without the cheat devices, VW Group cars in the UK would have failed emissions tests."
It's not the first time the government has been called to act more decisively over the emissions scandal. The Transport Select Committee has previously urged the government to prosecute VW.
Pressure on VW
The report also targeted Volkswagen’s tardiness in recalling affected cars. The committee’s report stated: “We find it deeply disappointing that VW continues to lag behind the department’s preferred timescale for recalling vehicles that contain emissions test cheat devices.”
The report addresses the delays it refers to, claiming that earlier this year VW told the secretary of state it “did not expect the delays to affect the overall timescales for carrying out the technical changes”.
Last month, Volkswagen confirmed that the fix for the affected 1.2-litre diesel engine found in the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia had been approved by the German authorities and that remedial work would begin. Recalls are steadily starting, although the committee expects quicker progress.
Volkswagen released a statement in response to the committee's report, which said: "At Volkswagen Group UK customers are our priority and every owner has been written to at least three times to keep them up to date. We are working hard to apply the approved technical measures to as many cars as swiftly as possible as soon as they are approved. The process of applying the technical measures has been under way since January 2016 and we have applied the measures to over 100,000 vehicles in the UK.
We will continue to work closely with the authorities involved to fulfil our commitments. We cannot comment further at this stage on the status of any potential legal claims."
Australia sues Volkswagen
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing Volkswagen in the light of the emissions scandal.
More than 57,000 affected cars were sold in Australia, for which the ACCC wants "a public declaration of misconduct, financial penalties and corrective advertising," according to a report from the BBC.
Australia is the latest in a line of countries and groups to take legal action against the Volkswagen Group. VW’s US dealer network recently reached a settlement with the automotive giant, claiming its share of the billions set aside by Volkswagen to cover the cost of various legal actions taken against it.
Volkswagen is currently working on a statement about Australia’s recently announced legal action against its Australian arm.