The Dieselgate Scandal began in September 2015, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to German automaker Volkswagen Group. The agency had found that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate their emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing, which caused the vehicles’ NOx output to meet US standards during regulatory testing, while they emitted up to 40 times more NOx in real-world driving.
Diesel Emissions Claims
Dieselgate came about because, as well as Volkswagen Group, many automakers have been using software programmed to cheat testing. As a result, the reported emissions output of these cars was way less than in reality.
The justification for these refunds is due to consumers losing out because of this scandal. There are various reasons why consumers have suffered due to Dieselgate:
- The increased Nitrogen Dioxide levels are harmful to children, adults, and the environment
- Customers may have experienced higher fuel bills and maintenance costs
- The performance of these vehicles was negatively affected
Most vehicles affected by Dieselgate were bought between 2008 and 2019. These are the dates when vehicles have been initially uncovered to hold a defeat device.
Consumers may receive an average of £8,500 in compensation for each claim. It is also estimated claims could be worth up to £10,000. These are just estimates though, as mentioned below, there are many uncertainties regarding these figures. The action could possibly total over £10 billion in the UK. That would make it one of the biggest group actions ever in the UK.
Who Can Claim
Generally, consumers who purchased a diesel car between 2008 and 2019 could be eligible for compensation. It doesn’t matter if it was bought new or second hand. The timing of the litigation varies depending on the car manufacturer. The deadline for VW passed in January 2022. However, claims are being litigated, or are about to be, for Mercedes, Vauxhall, Ford, Renault and Seat.
Current and Previous Mercedes Owners can instantly find out if they are eligible by giving the car registration number, plus a few more details like the date they bought the car. Mercedes Dieselgate claims are being litigated on a no win, no fee basis.
Law firms are concentrating on Mercedes claims at the moment. In 2018 the owner of Mercedes-Benz was ordered by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) to recall about 670,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles with diesel engines in Europe.
Law firm PGMBM started legal proceedings against Mercedes in England in 2020. Since then other firms have also joined or are preparing cases.
Mercedes argue that claims brought by UK law firms are “without merit” and it will “vigorously defend” against them or any group action.
Should You Submit A Dieselgate Claim?
If you are thinking of starting a claim, here are some of the points you should consider:
You will need a law firm to start a claim. It is almost impossible to start a claim on your own
These are complex legal proceedings that require technical expert opinion to establish facts. If you were to try to bring a claim yourself, the costs would be too high, which you wouldn’t get back if the decision went against you.
So joining a group legal action may be the only viable option. Even then there’s no guarantee of winning. But these claims are generally litigated on a no win no fee basis.
Dieselgate covers vehicles made between 2008 and 2019 bought on finance or outright
Vehicles made from around 2008 to 2019 by about 20 brands are included in the legal actions. You can sign up for claims for any number of vehicles. It is possible other brands might be included in future.
Law firms may still take you on if you leased or bought the vehicle on finance, bought the car second hand or new, you no longer own the vehicle, or it was a company car (as long as the contract was in your name).
However, you won’t be able to claim if you bought the vehicle in a country outside of the UK.
It’s very quick and easy to check if you are eligible to claim
If you want to sign up, there are firms that will take your details for many brands of cars. Currently, law firms are concentrating on claims against Mercedes in particular. However, many will also take details for other carmakers, but won’t necessarily start litigating straight away.
For example, TheClaimsGuide.com allow you to make an emissions claim against Mercedes instantly or log your details for other car brands with the intent of contacting you when they can process claims for that car brand. If you want to make a claim against Mercedes, all you need to do is enter your vehicle’s number plate and you’ll be told instantly if your car or van is one of the models potentially affected.
Signing up is free – but not risk-free
Claims are litigated on a no win no fee basis, so you won’t have to pay anything upfront to join. However, if you do join and the claim is successful, somewhere between a third and a half of the payout will go to the law firm.
If a claim is not successful, you’re unlikely to have to pay anything, but it’s not impossible. If a court ruled in favour of the manufacturer, you could technically be liable for its legal costs. In practice, this would likely be covered by the law firm’s ‘ATE’ also known as ‘after the event’ insurance – but this cover will be capped, so it’s not bulletproof. Most law firms have, or will take out, sufficient ATE cover to protect you from having to pay legal costs. Once again, this is unlikely an issue but technically possible.
You have two weeks to cancel your claim if you change your mind
Most firms give you 14 days to cancel the agreement without having to pay anything. You may want to use this time to review any paperwork sent after you signed up for the firm’s services. Make sure you understand the small print and you know what you’ve signed up for.
If you sign up for a claim and withdraw after the first 14 days, in some cases you may be liable for legal costs – depending on the firm’s terms and conditions and how far your case has progressed. So, to be on the safe side, only sign up if you’re committed to seeing the case through. You will have to provide copies of proof of ownership documents, such as your purchase/lease invoice or any finance agreement you took out.
Payouts might end up being £1,000s – but compensation is not guaranteed
This kind of group legal action claims are largely untested in the English and Welsh courts and there’s no guarantee any of the current claims will be successful.
Many firms say that, if the claims are successful, drivers could get several thousands of pounds in compensation due to paying too much for vehicles that didn’t meet emissions standards. PGMBM suggests you might be able to claim up to £20,000 for a Mercedes claim.
But some law firms say payouts aren’t likely to be this high. Firstly, it is possible that any case could be settled out of court for a fraction of the original claim value. Also, the court will have to look at the actual financial loss each claimant has suffered as a result of the scandal (for example, did they actually pay more than they otherwise would have for the vehicle).
Dieselgate claims could take years
Cases of this type may take five years or longer to progress through court. However, there are many factors that vary how long it takes. For example, if the car manufacturer decides to settle it could be much quicker. If you claim you should get updates from the law firm you claim through.
As an example, the original VW Group case, the most advanced of the current crop of cases, had its first hearing in 2019 and is yet to make it to a full trial. The date is currently set for January 2023. If VW loses it may be able to appeal, which would stretch proceedings out further.
Claims are for those who claim to have lost out due to the emissions flaws
This is likely related to some kind of financial loss. As an example, if you paid more for the vehicle than you otherwise would have, or you wouldn’t have bought it at all had you known about the alleged emissions flaws. You would have lost out if you sold it on but got less for it than you would have had it not been affected.
Many firms may ask you about this when you sign up. They may ask to confirm that you would not have acquired your vehicle, or would have paid less for it if you had known that it was fitted with emissions cheating software.
In the end, if you believe you are eligible to make an emissions claim, the downsides are limited. The possibility of losing money is technically not impossible but is very unlikely. However, the gain could be thousands of pounds.