Mercedes-Benz has been put further on the back foot over emissions fraud claims, following a top European court ruling.
That’s according to lawyers at Fox Williams and Hagens Berman UK who are looking to bring a group action litigation on behalf of Mercedes owners in England and Wales.
The supreme court of the European Union – the European Court of Justice – said on Thursday that the Daimler subsidiary’s fellow German manufacturer Volkswagen broke the law by installing special software that cheated on emissions tests, as reported by Car Dealer.
London law firm Fox Williams LLP and US class-action law firm Hagens Berman are building a group claim in England and Wales alleging Daimler was deliberately involved in emissions fraud with the sale of its diesel and BlueTec vehicles.
They say the manufacturer programmed an emission defeat device during test conditions that limited illegally high and dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) that would otherwise be emitted in real-world driving conditions.
Fox Williams partner Andrew Hill said: ‘The EU Court of Justice’s finding is binding on the entire European Union and incredibly helpful to us.
‘Regardless of Brexit, it strengthens our case in England and Wales on behalf of consumers who, we will argue, have been defrauded by Mercedes.
‘Our case will argue that Mercedes illegally deceived the purchasers of diesel and BlueTec engine vehicles sold here between 2008 and 2018 by programming an emission defeat device during test conditions, which limited illegally high, dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide emissions normally evident in real-world driving conditions.
‘The EU Court of Justice decision provides further evidence that Mercedes owes compensation to all UK consumers who purchased or leased these vehicles.’
US class action firm Hagens Berman pioneered a successful class action lawsuit in the US over similar fraud claims which this summer saw more than US$700m being paid out to US Mercedes owners.
Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, said: ‘Mercedes denies there are parallels between the emissions control system used in US vehicles and European models.
‘However, our extensive investigations show that Mercedes has been using emission defeat devices for over a decade in both the US and European markets.
‘They have similarly misrepresented the environmental pollution levels of their engines, contravened local regulatory requirements and deceived consumers. They need to be held accountable in Europe as well as the US.’
The law firms, which are conducting the action on a no-win, no-fee basis, believe there could be more than 1.2m possible claimants in England and Wales, with compensation possibly ranging from £5,000 to £10,000 per vehicle.
In response, Mercedes-Benz told Car Dealer that it wouldn’t comment on the ruling as it wasn’t part of the proceedings.
However, it said it wanted to point out that the ruling narrowly referred to cycle detection functionalities used by Volkswagen.
In addition, it didn’t alter the interpretation of the European regulation that the German authorities, which are relevant for certifying Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the EU, had already applied so far.
A spokesperson for the manufacturer also told us that more than 95 per cent of German customer lawsuits – over 5,000 decisions so far – had been dismissed.
They also repeated an earlier comment given to us, saying: ‘We believe the claims brought forward by the UK law firms are without merit, and will vigorously defend against them or any group action.
‘Our vehicles have a valid certification according to EU regulations and we believe that the functionalities in question are justifiable from a technical and legal standpoint.’
They added that with regard to the US settlement, the vehicles were made exclusively for the North American market and both the emissions control system of US vehicles and legal framework and certification process in the US were different to Europe’s.
In addition, the US settlements resolved its pending civil proceedings with authorities there without reaching any conclusion about whether or not the installations in Daimler’s vehicles were defeat devices.
The company denied the allegations and class action plaintiffs’ claims and didn’t admit any liability to the United States, California, plaintiffs, or otherwise. The consent decrees didn’t allege that Daimler committed fraud either, it said.
Daimler is appealing against recall notices issued by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, although it is carrying out the recalls and installing software updates in the meantime.