The European Commission has hosted a meeting of 22 consumer protection authorities from across the continent where it was agreed that a collective action against the company should be prepared. The BBC has reported that this could involve individual authorities issuing Volkswagen with co-ordinated fines for alleged breaches of consumer law, as well as taking a joint “administrative decision”, which could be used to support litigation against the company in national courts.
The main aim is to put pressure on the car manufacturer to voluntarily provide compensation.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport told the BBC after the meeting last week that the Government took the actions of VW extremely seriously and was “pushing them to compensate the UK consumer”.
The company has not yet made any payments to buyers in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, even though it has agreed to pay substantial compensation to people in the US who bought cars equipped with illegal software that is capable of disguising their true diesel emissions levels.
In the UK and other European countries, Volkswagen denies actually doing anything illegal.
It says that it did not use a device prohibited under UK law on any of the affected UK vehicles and says that the issue did not result in any loss of engine performance or any increase in running costs. Nor, it argues, did the devices alter economy or CO2 emission figures, or the vehicles’ tax status. Therefore, it argues, there is no need to pay any compensation.
The BBC said that it also maintains that the software wasn’t actually needed to pass emissions tests in Europe, which were less stringent than those in the US.