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Planned law to land distributors and dealers in court over emissions cheat vehicles

The UK government plans a law change which will hold vehicle importers and dealer-distributors to account if vehicles are sold with emissions defeat devices.

Transport minister Jesse Norman is opening a consultation today outlining the new measures.

Currently our government can pursue manufacturers only if they are based in this country, meaning no prosecution could be made of Volkswagen Group UK following the 2015 emissions cheating scandal which affected 1.2 million cars and vans it had imported into in the UK.

“Those who cheat should be held to proper account in this country, legally and financially, for their actions,” said Norman.

Changes to the law would not apply retrospectively, so the UK would still be unable to fine the national sales company for cars previously sold with cheat devices fitted.

In contrast, the US government fined Volkswagen Group America the equivalent of £15 billion.

“At the moment, we are limited to taking action against a manufacturer who obtained or sought to obtain type approval in the UK. We intend to expand this so that we are able to take action against a manufacturer, importer or dealer/distributor who places a vehicle using a defeat device on the UK market,” a UK government official said.

In the UK Volkswagen Group has only paid the £1.1 million costs for an independent testing programme by the Department of Transport, and paid its dealers a warranty rate for reprogramming diesel cars fitted with its cheat device.

The consultation also outlines a proposal to require manufacturers to change all of their published information on fuel consumption from current NEDC to new WLTP figures by January 1 2019.

“We believe that this approach of figures for all manufacturers and vehicles changing on the same day will minimise (although not eliminate) confusion for consumers and will also be easier for vehicle manufacturers and dealers to handle. But we are seeking views from all interested parties to help determine the best policy,” the consultation document stated.

Manufacturers will be required to publish WLTP CO2 emissions figures for all models by April 6 2020, at which point Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) tax and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) will be based on that figure.

The consultation closes on March 2. 

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