More than 200 Northern Ireland motorists affected by the Volkswagen emissions scandal have joined a legal battle to take the German manufacturer to the Belfast High Court.
Landmark legal action commenced last month as Edwards and Co Solicitors issued proceedings in the High Court in Belfast on behalf of clients affected, who could be entitled to around £5,000 compensation.
The Belfast-based solicitors are the first in Northern Ireland to take on the global automotive giants in order to secure compensation for consumers who purchased premium priced vehicles that were promoted as ‘clean diesel’ between 2009 and 2015.
It believes there could be somewhere in the region of 20,000-30,000 motorists affected here and expects more to come forward to join the claim.
Dorcas Crawford, senior partner at Edwards and Co, said: “We did a Freedom of Information request at the DVLA to find out how many people here were affected.
“The information we received wasn’t as accurate as we hoped, indicating that some 70,000 motorists were affected, but we believe the actual figure to be closer to 20,000-30,000.
“The number of people we have coming forward is increasing every day.”
The case follows the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 discovery that the Volkswagen Group had manufactured diesel vehicles which were fitted with software designed to circumvent strict NOx (the gas relevant to producing air pollution) emission regulations.
In effect the ‘defeat’ device was a cheat rather than a solution to reducing NOx emissions and so Volkswagen were found in violation of the Clean Air Act.
In America, Volkswagen settled out of court but the same deal has not followed through to the UK.
“In the US, Volkswagen put its hands up and settled, but that’s not the case here or in Europe,” said Ms Crawford.
“It looks as though we are going to have to fight the case here.”
Edwards and Co Solicitors have been working alongside a London firm which has been gathering liability evidence for cases in England. “They have employed expert engineers and, interestingly, some of those are from our very own Queen’s University.
“What we believe will happen is the case will run in England and could be settled out of court.
“We will probably ask for our case to be put on hold until England’s is completed and follow on the coat tails of theirs,” added Ms Crawford.
She estimates it will take at least one year before the trial runs.
It is estimated that 11 million vehicles worldwide may have been affected in the Volkswagen case.
Edwards and Co have set up a website to enable those affected to register a potential claim.
Cars which are likely to have been affected include 1.2 litre, 1.6 litre or 2.0 litre diesel engines made between 2009 and 2015 by Volkswagen, Audi, Seat or Skoda.
To assist those wishing to claim, Edwards and Co Solicitors have launched a checking website to see if motorists have been affected.