$125 million Volkswagen penalty reinforces need for accurate consumer information

The Federal Government should urgently consider ensuring motorists have access to independent testing reports on vehicle emissions following today’s decision by the Federal Court ordering Volkswagen AG to pay $125 million in penalties for making false representations about diesel emissions.

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) said consumers trying to do the right thing by purchasing low emission vehicles needed to be protected from misleading claims.

The AAA’s Managing Director, Michael Bradley, said a ‘Real World Testing’ program would independently test vehicles for emissions and fuel consumption, with the results to be published so consumers could judge for themselves if the vehicle they intended to purchase matched what they were led to believe by a manufacturer.

Mr. Bradley praised the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which initiated the proceedings against Volkswagen AG.

“The Chair of the ACCC, Rob Sims, described the conduct of Volkswagen AG as blatant and deliberate”, Mr. Bradley said.

“There are families everywhere who are trying to do the right thing for our environment when they purchase a vehicle and do the right thing for their household budget. They shouldn’t be the victim of blatant and deliberate conduct to make false representations about emissions”, he said.

“The running costs and emissions of a new vehicle should not be higher than the owner was led to believe”, Mr. Bradley said.

He said while the AAA welcomed the penalty imposed on Volkswagen AG, it didn’t help bring about a better system to protect consumers from false representations.

The ACCC has previously supported calls for ‘real-world testing’ saying that it:

“Supports moves to enhance the quality of information supplied to consumers currently being considered by the Ministerial Forum into Vehicle Emissions, including the introduction of a more realistic laboratory test and real driving emissions testing. The ACCC also considers there may be additional benefits to consumers from an Australian real driving emissions test and recommends that the Ministerial Forum consider the costs and benefits of an Australian real driving emissions testing program as proposed by the AAA.”

The AAA continues to urge the Federal Government to introduce a real driving emissions (RDE) testing regime that would ensure car buyers are given more accurate information and empower them to make a better-informed decision.

Mr. Bradley said ‘real-world testing’ already applied to heavy vehicles in the United States and light vehicles in Europe. Additionally, he said London and Paris metropolitan authorities had already responded to the Volkswagen scandal by introducing real world testing programs to improve consumer information.

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