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VW must come clean

CHOICE says Australian emissions scandal victims are left fuming over VW's smokescreen.

08 February 2017

CHOICE and Consumer Reports, the independent, nonprofit organisation based in the United States, are calling on Volkswagen (VW) to give Australian consumers the truth about the company's emissions scandal. 

The groups also are calling for affected Australian consumers to receive proper compensation and the option to receive a refund, as is the case in the United States. Currently, Australian consumers have been offered only a "technical update".   

In a joint letter to the auto giant, CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland and Consumer Reports CEO Marta Tellado have demanded that VW live up to its commitments in all markets.

"This was a global scandal and all affected consumers should be given access to similar remedies," says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.  

CHOICE's call comes in the wake of VW pleading guilty in the United States to criminal charges and agreeing to pay US$4.3bn in criminal and civil penalties. The company also gave U.S. consumers the option of a repair or a refund. 

"While VW has given U.S. consumers access to basic refund rights after the company lied and deceived the public, the company has only offered Australian victims a 'technical update'," Mr Kirkland says.  

In September 2015, it emerged that VW had installed software code, known as a defeat device, in many of its diesel vehicles, which allowed them to cheat U.S. emissions testing. The software detected when a vehicle was being tested and produced compliant results, which were far lower than the emissions produced during normal driving. 

In a contradictory stance, the auto giant has expressly denied installing any 'defeat devices' in Australian vehicles, yet has admitted the affected vehicles operate in a testing mode and a non-testing mode. Because Volkswagen has not taken full responsibility for its deceit, the only recourse for Australian consumers is to accept a "technical update" to deal with the "deviations" in emissions between tests and normal road use. 

Therefore, CHOICE and Consumer Reports are calling on VW to confirm whether diesel vehicles sold in Australia included the software deemed to be a "defeat device" in the United States. 

"Clearly VW is reluctant to cough up for its failings down under and although running a recall in Australia, the company continues to restrict consumer's refund rights and serve up a smokescreen of weasel words," Mr Kirkland says.

 "We don't believe there is any good reason why this auto giant should be denying consumers access to the same rights as consumers in the United States.

"Just like in the U.S., Australian consumers deserve to be able to choose whether to have their cars fully repaired or to get a refund.

"It's time for VW to come clean, if it doesn't agree to granting Australians their full refund rights, it needs to explain precisely why they are running a recall and fixing cars." 

Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669