Four Northern Ireland dealers added to legal claim as Volkswagen emissions scandal rumbles on
A legal action linked to the diesel emissions scandal involving more than 500 claimants in Northern Ireland will now seek compensation from four car dealerships here.
A claim being mounted by legal firm Edwards and Co is due to be heard before the High Court in Belfast next week.
However, it's expected to be postponed pending the outcome of a similar action involving 60,000 claimants in England and Wales. It's the largest consumer group action in UK history.
The action being taken in Northern Ireland relates to the use of software by Audi, Volkswagen, Seat and Skoda to cheat emissions testing to improve results. Around 70,000 vehicles in Northern Ireland are potentially affected.
The claim centres around 1.2, 1.6 and 2.0 litre diesel engines made by the four manufacturers.
Edwards and Co Solicitors had initially issued a High Court claim against the four car firms, together with a vehicle financing company. However, the legal practice has confirmed that it has now added Agnew Volkswagen, Donnelly Volkswagen, Edwin May Volkswagen and TJ Hamilton Volkswagen to the claim.
The addition of the four Northern Ireland car dealers brings the total number of defendants to nine.
Dorcas Crawford, partner at Edwards and Co, said: "The claim for compensation alleges that the defendants made misrepresentations to buyers about the quality and fitness of the vehicles.
"Essentially we wish to hold them to account for knowingly distributing and selling cars which didn't meet the standards described to their customers.
"At present over 500 claimants in Northern Ireland have registered details of their affected vehicle with our firm," she said.
"We have applied to the court for an order designating the claim as a 'group action'. We have also applied for the proceedings to be stayed pending the outcome of a similar claim being brought on behalf of 60,000 claimants in England and Wales against the same defendants.
"This course of action has been taken specifically to constrain the costs each individual claimant may incur whilst maximising the potential compensation payable to them."
Volkswagen has already agreed to pay $4.3bn (£3.26bn) in damages in the United States to resolve criminal and civil penalties for installing software to bypass emissions tests. However, the company denies the software broke any UK or EU laws. It argues the facts of the case are fundamentally different than in the US.
Volkswagen has offered technical fixes for around 840,000 cars in the UK.
"We have made it clear that we do not anticipate that our UK customers have suffered any loss or financial detriment as a result of the NOx (nitrogen oxide) issue," it said in a statement.
"In particular, we note that an adverse financial impact on the residual value of affected vehicles as a result of the NOx issue has not been identified."
Last week Volkswagen was fined €1bn (£880m) in Germany after prosecutors found the manufacturer had sold more than ten million cars between mid-2007 and 2015 that had emissions-test-cheating software installed.
On Monday, the chief executive of Audi, Rupert Stadler was arrested in connection with an investigation into the emissions scandal.
In a statement yesterday, VW, which owns Audi, confirmed Mr Stadler had temporarily been released of his duties as a member of the board of management of Volkswagen AG.
"The release is a temporary measure, put in place until the circumstances surrounding Stadler's arrest have been clarified."