Volkswagen forced to come clean on voluntary recall

7 September 2017
Global vehicle giant Volkswagen has been ordered to publish a nation-wide notice about information concerning the class actions related to the global Dieselgate emissions scandal that is estimated to have impacted around 100,000 motorists across Australia.

The Federal Court has ordered that the notices be displayed on the VW, Audi and Skoda corporate websites and Australian Facebook pages, in what is believed to be first instance of Facebook being used in a federal consumer class action. Abridged versions of these notices are also to be published in major state and national newspapers from next week, clarifying key issues relating to the voluntary recall being undertaken by the manufacturers.

Maurice Blackburn is representing thousands of affected Australian Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda motorists, and had requested Court orders that the notices be issued, in part to better inform those unwittingly caught up in the global diesel emissions scandal.

In handing down judgment on the issue, presiding Judge, Justice Lindsay Foster, remarked that it was “necessary to put the record straight” on suggestions from Volkswagen that the Australian vehicle approval authority, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) had said the voluntary recall work would have no impact on performance, fuel economy or service intervals of affected vehicles, when they hadn’t. 

Class action Principal at Maurice Blackburn running the case, Jason Geisker, said ever since the emissions scandal broke these car giants have attempted to gloss over their failings and only ever provided a one-sided story to motorists.

“A real issue needing clarification for VW, Audi and Skoda customers relates to controversial suggestions about the impact of the proposed voluntary ‘fix’ on the performance, fuel economy and service requirements of the vehicles – these class actions will determine whether these claims are accurate or not,” Mr Geisker said.

“We think it is important for affected motorists to understand that any suggestion that Australian authorities have confirmed that the voluntary recall has no impact on these vehicles is simply not true.

“These notices will help ensure that affected motorists are better informed about the issues being decided by the Court through our class actions arising out of the diesel emissions scandal, including the controversies surrounding the voluntary recall.”

Key aspects of the notices that will appear on the car manufacturer websites and pushed out to their social media accounts include:

The Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda software update does not simply remove the test mode. The software update will affect the manner in which the engine runs. It will:

  • Change the fuel injection settings, the number, timing and fuel quantity of injections used;
  • Increase the production of particulate matter (soot), which likely will lead to more frequent regeneration of the diesel particulate filter;
  • Increase the fuel injection pressure;
  • Increase the extent of exhaust gas recirculation into the engine; and
  • In the case of Audi Q5 vehicles equipped with an SCR system, change its operation resulting in the use of a larger amount of AdBlue.

Further details will include telling customers that:

  • Having the recall work done is not compulsory. Your consent is required before any recall work is done. Contrary to what we know some VW customers have been told, people are still entitled to access servicing, repairs or spare parts for their vehicle whether or not they’ve chosen to have the recall work done.
  • In addition, there is no impact on existing warranties for those that have decided not to have the recall work performed on their vehicles and not getting the recall work is not a waiver of any of your rights in our class action or otherwise.

Lead plaintiff representing Audi owners affected by the scandal, Robyn Richardson, welcomed the moves to make the manufacturing giant accountable in Australia.

“This type of corporate misconduct has been executed on a massive scale and the continuing contempt that has been shown towards resolving this fairly with Australian motorists is nothing short of repugnant from one of the world’s largest companies,” Ms Richardson said.

“Anyone who has been sold a dud on a false promise by this company should be interested in holding them to account by being a part of this action.”