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European Court ruling strengthens UK dieselgate emissions claims

Lawyers who represent over 150,000 drivers in diesel emissions claims say the European Court ruling strengthens their claim that their vehicles are affected by defeat devices that significantly increase NOx emissions.

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled in a series of three linked judgments yesterday (14 July 2022) that devices that reduce the effectiveness of diesel pollution controls in low temperatures, so-called ‘thermal windows’, are unlawful.

Although the judgments were following on from claims in Austrian court relating to Volkswagen vehicles, a number of other car manufacturers have admitted to using thermal windows.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice said the software that deactivates emissions control systems outside a certain temperature range – a thermal window – cannot be justified on the basis of protecting the engine from damage except in very limited circumstances.

The Court stated: “Software in diesel vehicles which reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system at normal temperatures during most of the year constitutes a prohibited defeat device.”

It is reported that VW continues to argue that that software functions which reduce the functions of emissions control systems like the EGR are necessary for the protection of the engine from damage. VW insists that these software functions operate at temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. However, the Court found that such software functions are unlawful as they would operate for the most part of a year given the average temperatures in Europe.

Leigh Day represents over 150,000 drivers who claim their vehicles are affected by defeat devices that result in the emission of excessive amounts of NOx emissions, and recently announced a £193m out of court settlement in the VW NOx Emissions Group Litigation.

Leigh Day is bringing claims against Audi, BMW, Citroën, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes,  Mini, Nissan/Renault, Peugeot, Porsche, Vauxhall, Volvo and other Volkswagen Group vehicles.

Leigh Day partner Ben Croft said:

“Both the European Court and the UK Courts have previously found that VW operated cycle-detection type defeat devices in their vehicles.

“Other manufacturers have tried to distance themselves from the Dieselgate scandal by trying to say that their vehicles are different, and that thermal windows are acceptable.

“Today’s judgment is the first time the European Court has explicitly stated that thermal windows are defeat devices, and that they cannot be justified except in very limited circumstances.

“The judgment strengthens our clients’ claims since it is clear that the manufacturers’ attempts to distinguish their vehicles from those at the heart of the Dieselgate revelations have fallen flat, and that they will have to account for installing unlawful defeat devices in their vehicles to their customers.”

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