Lawyers for Volkswagen’s German head office have been told to reconsider their position after Justice Lindsay Foster described VW’s conduct as “unacceptable” and “incredibly annoying” in the case brought by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC).
Facing the first court hearing of the Federal Court action launched by the watchdog over the Australian impact of its global emissions scandal, VW refused to recognise the Australian Federal Court’s jurisdiction, asserting it did not have to participate in the court proceedings.
According to a statement by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, “This follows a similar move the company has used to obfuscate and delay various proceedings overseas, most recently in Ireland, and mirrors the tactics the company is using to avoid compensating around 100,000 motorists represented by Maurice Blackburn’s class actions principal, Jason Geiske.”
“VW continues to disregard Australian motorists and our legal system, as Justice Foster previously described in our class action – it is treating Australia as a backwater,” Geisker said.
“This behaviour is symptomatic of a much bigger problem within VW globally. VW simply fails to recognise it has gone too far. Instead of apologising and making amends, VW is fighting its duped customers and regulators and is refusing to compensate Australian motorists in any way.”
The ACCC case against VW is that it engaged in extraordinary conduct of a serious and deliberate nature by misleading consumers and the Australian public. The ACCC case seeks declarations, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and legal costs.
Meanwhile VW investors have filed 1400 lawsuits seeking €8.2 billion (AUD$12.1 billion) in damages over the emissions cheating scandal, a German court said last week.
Investors said the automaker failed to disclose details of the case in a timely way, leading them to lose money as the group’s share price plunged by 40% in two days after the crisis erupted last September.
The billions in claims are mostly made up of “bundled” actions containing lawsuits from multiple plaintiffs, many of them private investors. The US government and several German state governments are also among the claimants.
Another claimant is Blackrock, the world’s largest fund manager, and a group of institutional shareholders who are suing VW for €2 billion (AUD$2.95 billion).
A spokesman for VW reiterated the carmaker’s position that it “continues to believe that we comprehensively fulfilled our obligations under capital markets law and that the claims are unjustified”.
The group has set aside €18 billion to pay for the legal costs of the crisis and has so far agreed to pay $15 billion in compensation and fines in the US alone.
Analysts estimate the final bill could reach up to €35 billion (AUD$51.6 billion).