Mercedes faces court action over "defeat devices"

Mercedes faces court action over 'defeat devices'

Lawyers say hundreds of thousands are eligible for compensation

AROUND 500,000 Mercedes drivers may be eligible for compensation as the company faces court action over the “dieselgate” scandal, which began with Volkswagen in 2015.

Lawyers from firms Slater and Gordon and Leigh Day are urging Mercedes-Benz drivers to come forward as they prepare a case, according to The Times. A third firm, PGMBM, has filed papers at a court in Liverpool.

The estimate of 500,000 affected cars is a five-fold increase on the previously predicted number, and comes after a ruling by the German Federal Transport Authority (KBA) that Mercedes installed “cheat software” in its cars’ diesel engines in order to hoodwink emissions tests.

Mercedes’ parent company Daimler, which owns Mercedes and its associated branches as well as Maybach and Smart, has been fined £776m over the scandal in Germany. In 2018 the German government ordered Mercedes to recall 774,000 cars, 90,000 of which were in the UK. Mercedes had previously voluntarily recalled 3m vehicles.

Slater and Gordon says that it feels customers are entitled to compensation because they were misled about their cars’ emissions levels, which may be above that allowed by law. This may also affect the resale value of the car, entitling customers to financial reparations.

Karolina Kupczyk, of Slater and Gordon, said: “There is overwhelming evidence that Mercedes sold highly polluting vehicles which did not comply with regulations intended to reduce emissions of dangerous NOx emissions.”

She continued: “Customers who bought affected models may have a claim for compensation against Mercedes. We intend to hold this carmaker to account for deceiving the car-buying public. Anyone eligible should join the group action to show these big corporations that they are not above the law.

“Mercedes traded heavily on the image of being green, environmentally friendly and producing efficient diesel cars. We can now see that customers and regulators have been deceived.”

The firm says that popular models including the C-Class, S-Class and E-Class, as well as the GLE, GLS, GLK and CLS could all be affected. Owners of Mercedes vans including the Vito and V-Class may also be eligible.

The cars affected emit higher levels of NOx (nitrogen oxides) than allowed by law. These emissions are harmful to the environment, causing air pollution, and to humans, with NOx linked to respiratory conditions including asthma.

Slater and Gordon says that owners of Mercedes vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2018 fitted with diesel BluTEC technology may be affected, although other reports say that affected vehicles could be more than a decade old. Lawyers claim that not only those who currently own or lease the car are eligible — previous owners and previous lessees who have sold it on may also be entitled to compensation. This could put the number of eligible claimants in the UK at over one million.

PGMBM currently have 1,750 drivers signed up as claimants, according to The Times, and more than 500 are signing up per day. A test case of 17 claimants was issued at the High Court in Liverpool at the end of last week. The battle is being undertaken by the same lawyers who helped 90,000 motorists win the first round of a legal battle against VW in April, also a result of the “dieselgate” scandal.

Leigh Day today announced that it has been approached by over 1000 UK drivers in the three days since it announced it was investigating the possibility of a group claim. Shazia Yamin, lawyer at Leigh Day in the team investigating the group claim, said: “It is clear from the huge number of people who have approached us in only the last three days that Mercedes drivers are greatly concerned that they may have been deceived by claims that the Mercedes-Benz AdBlue system would result in lower emissions.” Leigh Day estimates that Daimler could face a compensation bill of £65m in the UK alone.

The legal battles are the effect of events that began in 2015 when the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that a large number of Volkswagen vehicles in the US were fitted with so-called “defeat devices”, which detect when a diesel engine is undergoing an emissions test and change the performance of the car to be less polluting. The practice was applied not only to VW vehicles but also to those manufactured under the Porsche, Audi, Skoda and Seat marques. VW admitted that the technology was installed on 11m vehicles worldwide, including 1.2m in the UK.

Mercedes drivers who think they may be entitled to compensation can register interest at the Slater and Gordon website.

Mercedes said: “We believe that the claims are without merit and will vigorously defend against any group action.”

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