West Virginia sued Volkswagen for deceiving car buyers after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the automaker had installed software to hide that its diesel engine vehicles exceeded pollution standards. The state's Attorney General is seeking restitution for VW customers who paid up to nearly $7,000 extra for cars that supposedly had clean diesel engines.
Researchers at West Virginia University reportedly used technology pioneered by the EPA to uncover VW's duplicity by exposing the cars on actual road tests. VW then publicly admitted the cheating software.
These diesel engine vehicles have so-called "defeat devices" that comply with emissions standards during testing but on the road the software switches off emissions controls and the cars instead generate pollution levels as much as 40 times the legal limit. Nearly half a million of these vehicles were sold in this country since 2008.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also announced that her office is asking for detailed information from VW along with dozens of state attorneys general. She recently told reporters that a subpoena issued by her office seeks wide-ranging information about why it happened, the impact and the cost. Environmental and consumer protection laws are the basis for many of the states' investigations.
VW also faces a criminal probe in Germany, and the U.S. Justice Department is conducting an investigation into the matter. In the wake of the scandal, VW's CEO stepped down and its new CEO, Matthias Mueller, said that affected cars would have to be refitted and that could cost the company more than $6.5 billion. It has been reported that not only would software changes have to be made to meet compliance standards, but auto experts suggest hardware changes would have to be made and that the auto manufacturer may need separate solutions for different emissions-control systems.
Clifford Law Offices filed an early class action in the matter on behalf of more than 1,200 consumers who contacted the firm regarding what they thought were environmentally friendly, fuel efficient and high performance vehicles that turned out not to be as advertised. To view the lawsuit or to learn more about the class action, go to www.CliffordLaw.com.