The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has started proceedings in the Federal Court against Audi, and its owner, Volkswagen.
The ACCC says that Audi "engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct", making "false or misleading representations" and "engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public" in relation to diesel vehicle emission claims, and that Volkswagen knew all about it.
The ACCC says that between 2011 and 2015:
- Audi AG engaged in misleading conduct by not disclosing the existence and operation of "defeat" software in certain Audi branded vehicles. The software caused the vehicles to produce lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions when subject to test conditions in a laboratory than during normal on-road driving conditions.
- Both Audi AG and Audi Australia engaged in misleading conduct by representing that the vehicles complied with all applicable regulatory requirements for road vehicles in Australia when, because of the defeat software, that was not the case.
- Using information provided by Audi AG, Audi Australia marketed the vehicles in Australia as being environmentally friendly, producing low emissions and complying with stringent European standards when this was not the case under normal driving conditions.
- VWAG designed and supplied the engines and defeat software to Audi AG for installation in the affected vehicles.
"Consumers expect that there is some relationship between the performance of the car as set out in the sales brochure and their day to day on-road use. We allege that the installation of software which allows the vehicle to meet testing standards but then causes the vehicles to operate differently on the road, and associated representations about the vehicle and its performance, breach the Australian Consumer Law," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, orders relating to the future use of findings of fact and costs.
Skoda-branded vehicles are also affected by the Volkswagen diesel emissions issue. The ACCC has decided not to pursue further action against Volkswagen (which owns the Skoda brand in Australia) at this time in relation to these Skoda vehicles, noting the lower volume of sales in Australia, the continuing class actions seeking damages for affected consumers and the proceedings which the ACCC has already commenced against Volkswagen in respect of Volkswagen and, now, Audi vehicles.
The Audi branded vehicles covered by these proceedings are:
- A1 3 Door – 2011 to 2013
- A1 Sportback – 2012 to 2015
- A3 Sportback – 2011 to 2013
- A4 Allroad – 2012 to 2015
- A4 Avant – 2011 to 2015
- A4 Sedan – 2011 to 2015
- A5 Cabriolet – 2012 to 2015
- A5 Coupe – 2012 to 2015
- A5 Sportback – 2012 to 2015
- A6 Avant – 2012 to 2015
- A6 Sedan – 2011 to 2015
- Q3 SUV – 2012 to 2015
- Q5 SUV – 2011 to 2015
- TT Coupe – 2011 to 2014
The Australian Design Rules implement international standards that regulate the emission of NOx from motor vehicles. NOx can cause respiratory illnesses and is particularly harmful to vulnerable consumers such as the young, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Audi Australia has supplied more than 12,000 affected vehicles to Australian consumers.
These proceedings are in addition to the proceedings that the ACCC instituted on 1 September 2016 against VWAG and its Australian subsidiary, Volkswagen Group Australia Pty Ltd (VGA), and relate to the same alleged conduct.
The ACCC's action against VWAG and private class actions seeking redress for consumers affected by this conduct are currently before the Federal Court.
In December 2016, VGA and Audi Australia announced the implementation of a recall designed to remediate the diesel vehicles affected by the emissions software issue. The recall involves a software update and in some cases, a minor hardware upgrade, for the affected vehicles. The recall is voluntary and if consumers choose not to have the recall update applied to their vehicle, they do not waive their legal rights under the Australian Consumer Law.
Under the Australian Government's Australian Design Rules, vehicle manufacturers need to measure noxious emissions standards in a laboratory test, and have laboratory-based fuel consumption information displayed on a "Fuel Consumption Label" wherever you fill up.
But since there is no way for anyone to know how these lab results translate in the real world, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) commissioned a study of 30 vehicles to work it out - and preliminary results are showing a big difference.