Diesel emissions claims

Diesel emissions claims

Owned a diesel car since 2007? Should you join the hundreds of thousands who have signed up to legal claims?

If you've been the registered keeper of a diesel car or van in England or Wales that was made between 2007 and 2018, you may be eligible to join a group legal claim over emissions – whether you owned it outright or bought it on finance. If you believe you were mis-sold to or paid over the odds, law firms suggest you could be due £1,000s in compensation – though that's far from guaranteed.


We've key info below, including a firm-by-firm breakdown of claims you can join. (See specific info below if you bought or leased your car in Scotland or Northern Ireland.) 

Which car manufacturers can I claim for?

Check the table below – if you've had a car (or van) from one of the brands listed, you may be able to join one of a number of active group legal claims currently being worked on.

You may be able to join a legal claim if you've owned a diesel car made by one of the following brands since 2007: Audi, Chrysler, BMW, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mini, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW, Volvo
You may be able to join a legal claim if you've owned a diesel car made by one of the following brands since 2007: Audi, Chrysler, BMW, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mini, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW, Volvo

This article covers a developing – and complicated – area, and doesn't constitute legal advice.

Please let us know if you've feedback or questions we've not answered below by emailing news@moneysavingexpert.com.

illustration

What are these claims about?

This issue began when Audi and Volkswagen (VW), which are both part of the VW Group, faced regulatory action over some of their diesel cars in the US in 2015. The controversy, which became known as 'Dieselgate', has since grown to include other vehicle manufacturers.

The group legal claims allege, broadly, that the carmakers used illegal 'defeat devices' in their diesel vehicles to cheat the tests done by regulators to check their emissions levels, before approving vehicles for sale.

Law firms argue that affected cars and vans produce more harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution than advertised – and were therefore mis-sold to consumers.

In other words, you could be due money back because:

  1. You'd never have bought the vehicle had you known about the alleged emissions flaws.

  2. You paid more for it than you otherwise would have. For example, because you paid a premium for what you thought was a more environmentally friendly car, whether new or second-hand.

  3. If the car or van had to be fixed to comply with emissions standards, the fix itself may have led to worse fuel efficiency or worse performance – potentially lowering its value or creating added costs, for which you may be able to claim damages.

Of course, the manufacturers disagree – for example, VW argues consumers haven't suffered any financial loss. It'll be for the courts to decide who's right.

If you sign up, the law firm may add your name to one of the claims outlined below (see the latest case updates).

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Eight things to consider before joining a claim

While some law firms' marketing may make signing up look like a no-brainer, it's important to note that, as with all legal action, there are some serious pros and cons to weigh up. Here are the main points to consider...

  1. It would be almost impossible for you to bring a claim like this on your own – so if you believe you're owed, this may be the only option

    These are complex legal proceedings which require technical expert opinion to establish facts, and if you were to try to bring a claim yourself, the costs would likely dwarf any damages, plus you'd risk having to pay the other side's legal costs.

    So while we'd normally urge you to steer clear of firms that will take a cut of any compensation, in this instance if you do want to make a claim, joining a group legal action may be the only viable option – though even then, there's no guarantee of winning.

    Quick question

    • Can I wait until the legal claims have concluded and then get compensation myself?

      This is one of the most common questions we've been asked since publishing this guide. The idea behind it is that you would wait until the existing claims have run their course and then use any court judgment against the manufacturer as a precedent to make a claim yourself – avoiding law firms and their fees altogether.

      But if you're considering it, there are two important points to bear in mind first:

      1. The existing claims might be settled out of court. If that happens, as it did in the initial case against VW Group, no legal precedent would be set, meaning you'd have to start from scratch with your claim and would run into the same set of issues listed above.

      2. Any new claim might be 'out of time'. Legal claims are often subject to strict time limits known as 'limitation periods', meaning there are deadlines for when claims can be brought. For example, where there's been a breach of contract, you normally have six years from the breach to bring a claim. Since the existing diesel emissions cases will probably take several years to play out in full, there will likely be some claims that won't be possible in the future.

      Ultimately though, without a crystal ball, it's impossible to know whether it would be better to join a claim now or wait. And there are no guarantees either way – so if you think you have a case, you'll need to decide which approach to take.

  2. This is for vehicles made between 2007 and 2018 bought on finance or outright – even if you no longer own them

    In general, vehicles made from about 2007 to about 2018 by roughly 20 brands are included in the current legal actions. You can sign up to claims for more than one vehicle (but don't register the same vehicle with more than one law firm). It's possible other manufacturers might be included in future – we'll look out for this and will update this guide when we know more.

    Law firms may well take you on if:

    • You leased or bought the vehicle on finance.
    • You bought it new or second-hand, regardless of who you bought it from.
    • You no longer own the vehicle.
    • You intend to claim for a company car, provided the contract was in your name.

    But you WON'T be considered for a claim if you bought the vehicle outside of the UK.

  3. It's quick and easy to check if you can join a claim

    If you decide you want to sign up, you can check if a law firm is likely to take on your claim by using the simple, free tools on law firms' websites, which we've linked to in our firm-by-firm table below.

    Once you're on the firm's website you might need to click through to the specific page on your vehicle's manufacturer to type in your car or van's registration number. You'll then be told instantly if it's one of the models potentially affected.

  4. Signing up is free – but not risk-free

    As these are 'no win, no fee' legal claims, you won't have to pay anything upfront to join any of them, though if you do join and the claim is successful, somewhere between a third and a half of the payout will go to the law firm.

    If a claim ISN'T successful, you're unlikely to have to pay anything, but it's not impossible. If a court ruled in favour of the manufacturer you could technically be liable for its legal costs. In practice, this would likely be covered by the law firm's 'ATE' or 'after the event' insurance – but the cover will be capped, so it's not bulletproof. 

    We aren't able to verify whether firms have this cover – but almost all of those listed in the table below told us that they have, or will take out, sufficient ATE cover to protect you from having to pay legal costs.

    The exception is Keller Lenkner UK. It said it puts insurance cover in place "in most cases", although it decides this on a case-by-case basis. It added that it has also made a legal promise to financially protect clients itself from having to pay anything if their claim fails.

  5. Payouts might end up being £1,000s – but compensation is NOT guaranteed and some of the figures quoted are fiercely disputed

    Group legal action claims of this kind are largely untested in the English and Welsh courts and there's no guarantee any of the current claims will be successful.

    Law firms say that, if the claims are successful, drivers could get several thousands of pounds each in compensation because they paid too much for vehicles that didn't meet emissions standards. And some firms may try to persuade you to sign up with the prospect of an even bigger payout – for example, law firm PGMBM suggests you might be able to claim up to £20,000 for a Mercedes.

    But most lawyers we've spoken to told us any payouts aren't likely to be this high in reality. For one thing, it's possible that any case could be settled out of court for a fraction of the original claim value.

    And of course the court will have to look at the actual financial loss each individual claimant has suffered as a result of the manufacturer's alleged wrongdoing (for example, did they actually pay more than they otherwise would have for the vehicle). This will be subject to thorough scrutiny and argument.

    As a result, even if the case proceeds to trial and the claim is successful – and that's a big if – the amount awarded by a court may be much lower than the initial amount asked for. So don't assume that taking part means you're in line for a big payout. 

  6. Claims could take up to five years – or even longer

    One of the law firms involved says cases of this type may take five years or longer to progress through court.

    As an example, in the original VW Group case, claims were first grouped together by the court in May 2018, but the case was only due to go to trial in January 2023, before a settlement was reached in May 2022. (And had it gone to court, proceedings might've stretched out even further through potential future appeals.)

  7. If you get the paperwork but then get cold feet about joining the claim, you've 14 days to withdraw penalty-free – after that, you could have to pay legal costs

    All the firms listed below give you 14 days to cancel the agreement without having to pay anything. You may want to use this time to review any paperwork sent after you signed up to the firm's services. Don't skip over this – make sure you understand the small print and you know what you've signed up for.

    If you're unsure about any aspect of the agreement you've entered into, ask the law firm involved to clarify. And if you change your mind, just let the firm know you want to cancel in writing. As long as you do so within 14 days, you won't be charged a penny.

    However, if you sign up to a claim and withdraw after the first 14 days, in some cases you may be liable for legal costs – depending on the firm's terms and conditions and how far your case has progressed. 

    It's impossible to put a precise figure on this, but it could potentially run into the hundreds or even thousands of pounds – it's likely to depend on how long after signing up you withdraw, and the amount of work the law firm's carried out on your behalf. So, to be on the safe side, only sign up if you're committed to seeing the case through.

    Note that the firm you sign up with is likely to ask for more information or paperwork as the case progresses. You're very unlikely to have to attend court or even provide a full witness statement but you will have to provide copies of proof of ownership documents, such as your purchase/lease invoice or any finance agreement you took out.

  8. Important – only sign up if you genuinely believe you have a case

    This is likely to be linked to you suffering some kind of financial loss – for example, perhaps you paid more for the vehicle than you otherwise would have or you wouldn't have bought it at all had you known about the alleged emissions flaws. Or maybe you sold it on, but got less for it than you would have had it not been affected.

    Some firms may ask you about this directly – for example, as part of its registration process, PGMBM asks you to confirm, among other things, that: "You would not have acquired your vehicle, or would have paid less for it, if you had known that it was fitted with emissions cheating software."

    If you're not sure, talk to the firm directly. It's worth doing this before you sign up, since you'll need to co-operate with the firm handling your claim on an ongoing basis and may even have to pay costs if you drop out.

    Ultimately though, if you've done all the checks and believe you were mis-sold, the downsides to joining a claim seem relatively limited. If you later drop out or change your mind, you may be liable for legal costs, as we say above. But the risk of losing money – while not impossible – is slim.

How to join a claim – firm-by-firm overview

Generally, you can sign up if you bought, leased or financed an affected diesel vehicle – either a car or van – during the relevant period. We've put together the table below summarising the group claims six major law firms are working on in England and Wales and some of their key terms.

DON'T sign up with more than one firm over the same vehicle. If you do, it's possible your claim will be issued at court more than once. This could be considered an abuse of the process and could leave you liable for legal costs. You may also be liable for costs if you have to cancel your agreement with one firm because you signed up with another.

Legal claims against diesel carmakers in England & Wales

Law firm & number of claimants (1) Manufacturers included + max fees (as a % of damages awarded) (2) Score on reviews website Trustpilot (3)

Hagens Berman UK

24,000

Mercedes: 35% (including expenses) + VAT

No reviews

Keller Lenkner UK

70,000

Audi, Mercedes, Seat, Skoda, VW: 45% (including VAT) + expenses

Vauxhall: 40% + VAT + expenses

2.9 out of 5
(based on 61 reviews)

 

Leigh Day

200,000

Audi, Citroen, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW: 35% (including VAT & expenses)

 

Mercedes: 31% (including VAT & expenses)

 

BMW, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mini, Volvo: 30% + VAT + expenses

4.6 out of 5
(based on 641 reviews)

Milberg London

170,000

Audi, Mercedes, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW: 50% (including VAT & expenses) Very few reviews (4)

PGMBM

600,000

Audi, BMW, Citroen, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW: 50% (including VAT & expenses) Very few reviews (4)

Slater and Gordon

125,000

Mercedes, Vauxhall: 30% + VAT + expenses 4.3 out of 5
(based on 15,013 reviews)

(1) Active and potential future claimants, including those who have simply registered their interest with the firm, based on latest figures provided by each firm. (2) Fees will be taken as a percentage of any winnings (possibly including other costs and VAT on top). The actual fees you pay if the claim is successful will depend on the exact terms of your agreement with the firm and could be lower – particularly if you have a 'damages-based agreement'. (3) Across all cases, not just diesel emissions. (4) We've included the links in case more reviews come in later.

The firm you choose won't necessarily affect the outcome of your case

Provided more than one firm launches proceedings against a given manufacturer (which seems likely), the claims against that manufacturer will be grouped together when they reach court.

This means that if the claims get to trial, your chances of winning won't rest solely on the firm you signed up with, but on all of the law firms working together.

However, the firm you choose will affect how much of any compensation awarded by the court you actually get to keep if the claim succeeds (or is settled out of court) – which is worth bearing in mind.

Quick questions

  • What if I'm not happy with how the firm is handling my claim?

    In the first instance, contact the firm directly to see if it can resolve the problem. If that doesn't work, raise a formal complaint – you'll be able to find details of how to do this on the firm's website.

    If you don't get a response to your complaint within eight weeks, or you're unhappy with the response you do get, you can take it to the free Legal Ombudsman, which can make binding decisions and has official powers to sort problems out.

  • Can I switch firms?

    Yes – but be careful. If you want a different firm to represent you, you'll first need to formally cancel any existing agreement you already have in place. It's important to do this to avoid having duplicate claims issued on your behalf in court. 

    But be aware that you may incur fees for doing so depending on the terms of the initial agreement and how far down the process you are.

    Once you've correctly ended the existing agreement, you can then sign up with another firm as normal.

Latest case updates

1. Audi, Seat, Skoda & VW – settled out of court in May 2022

Case background

In 2015, the VW Group, which owns the Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW brands, faced widespread controversy over the way that software used in some of its Audi and VW diesel vehicles reported emissions while undergoing testing.

Legal action was brought against the VW Group and, in May 2018, the High Court granted a 'group litigation order' to lawyers representing over 90,000 vehicle owners in England and Wales, meaning that all claims were to be managed together.

Following an initial hearing in December 2019, the High Court ruled in April 2020 that VW had installed a 'defeat device' into a certain type of VW diesel engine – EA189 – used in various Audi, Skoda, Seat and VW vehicles.

This device allowed the engines to recognise when they were being tested for compliance with NOx emissions standards and reduce their emissions accordingly, while producing higher levels of emissions in normal driving conditions on the road.

Settlement reached

The case was settled out of court in May 2022 for £193 million, with VW Group also making a separate undisclosed contribution to claimants' legal costs. It's not clear how much individual claimants will get after all fees and costs are deducted – the law firms involved say this is confidential due to the terms of the settlement.

VW had previously denied anyone lost out financially and continues to insist that the settlement does not amount to any admission in respect of "liability, causation or loss" but was simply "the most prudent course of action commercially".

While this original claim has now concluded, owners of certain other Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW vehicles may be able to sign up to different group actions (see our firm-by-firm breakdown above).

Quick questions

  • Who's included in this settlement?

    This settlement only covers the approximately 90,000 claimants who were already part of the group legal action against VW Group in respect of certain vehicles with the EA189 engine.

    If you're one of them, the law firm you were signed up with – Leigh Day, PGMBM or Slater and Gordon – should contact you about the next steps, including payments. But, as ever, be wary of unsolicited contact asking for personal or bank details. If in doubt, end the communication and contact the firm directly via the details on its website (links above).

  • What does this settlement mean for other claims?

    This settlement has no direct bearing on any other cases (whether against VW Group or other manufacturers) since it reached a conclusion out of court – and therefore set no legal precedent. And there was no admission of liability on the part of VW. 

    It could have an indirect impact for other similar claims, potentially leading to more settlements, but it's impossible to say with any certainty, as the facts of each case will differ and different manufacturers may pursue different legal strategies.

    And any ripple effect the settlement does cause is unlikely to be immediate – so it remains to be seen how the many similar legal claims across the UK will proceed.

2. Other manufacturers – claims filed but no major hearings yet

So far, the initial case against VW Group (detailed above) is the only one to have really gone anywhere.

While claims have been launched against other manufacturers, none has progressed very far yet – and they may not at all.

Nevertheless, law firms are asking customers of many other brands to register their interest in potential claims, and say that hundreds of thousands of vehicles could be affected by similar emissions issues. Manufacturers deny the allegations.

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What about Scotland and Northern Ireland?

If you bought or leased your vehicle in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you won't be able to join the claims in England and Wales – you can only join a claim in the country where you bought or leased the vehicle, regardless of where you live. While many of the same issues apply, the claims in Scotland and Northern Ireland are separate and are at earlier stages.

  • In Scotland, the legal mechanism making group actions possible only came into effect in 2020 – so cases haven't progressed as far. 

    Thompsons Solicitors and Slater and Gordon are pursuing claims against Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW for vehicles fitted with EA189 engines. It is no longer possible to join these.

    However, both firms are accepting registrations in relation to some Mercedes diesel vehicles – see more info on the Thompsons Solicitors and Slater and Gordon websites. The law firm Jones Whyte is also investigating a potential group claim against Mercedes.

  • In Northern Ireland, solicitors are not allowed to take cases on a 'no win, no fee' basis, and there's only one firm we know of pursuing group claims against diesel vehicle manufacturers in respect of alleged emissions flaws.

    Edwards & Co Solicitors is working on a claim against Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW in respect of vehicles with EA189 engines, though it's no longer possible to join.

    The firm had previously told us that, to save costs, it was awaiting the outcome of the case in England before progressing its own claim further. We've asked for an update now that the case has been settled out of court, and will update this when we know more.

    In the meantime, Edwards & Co is still inviting owners of some Mercedes vehicles to register their interest in a claim.

    As mentioned above, claims in Northern Ireland cannot be run on a 'no win, no fee' basis – so, unlike in England and Wales, you would have to make a payment at the start of the case (likely about £120). Edwards & Co says it doesn't anticipate motorists will have to make any further payments beyond this and adds that it hasn't so far asked existing clients to pay more in its Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW case.

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What do the manufacturers say?

Here's what the carmakers involved in the cases have said:

  • BMW Group, owner of the BMW and Mini brands, said: "BMW Group vehicles always comply with the necessary legal requirements and so the company categorically rejects any accusation that diesel emissions from their vehicles are manipulated in any way."

  • Ford said: "As we said back in 2016, we did not and do not have what are commonly known as 'illegal defeat devices' in our vehicles, and our advanced diesel engines meet all applicable emissions requirements."

  • Hyundai and Kia (Hyundai owns part of Kia) said: "All of the brand's vehicles sold in the UK and Europe comply with the emissions regulations in operation at the time of sale, and Hyundai and Kia have not infringed upon any European emissions testing rules."

  • Jaguar Land Rover, owner of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, said it "does not use emissions cheat devices or software in any of its products. We have not yet seen any technical evidence in relation to this matter and will strongly contest any claims made."
  • Mercedes said: "We believe the claims brought by the UK law firms are without merit, and will vigorously defend against them or any group action."

  • Nissan told us it "strongly refutes these claims. Nissan has not, and does not, use illegal defeat devices in any of the vehicles that it makes, and all Nissan vehicles fully comply with applicable emissions legislation."

  • Renault said it "denies having committed any offence and reminds that its vehicles are not equipped with any rigging software for pollution control devices. Renault vehicles have all and always been type-approved in accordance with applicable laws and regulations."

  • Stellantis, owner of the Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall brands, said: "These claims are unfounded and we will defend ourselves against them."

    With regards to claims against the Chrysler and Fiat brands, which it also owns, Stellantis said: "We believe this claim to be totally without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against it."

  • Volvo said: "Volvo Cars has never used any illegal defeat devices in any of its cars."
  • VW Group, owner of the Audi, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and VW brands, said regarding the initial UK case against it: "The group is pleased that we have been able to conclude this long running litigation in England and Wales. The settlement is another important milestone as the Volkswagen Group continues to move beyond the deeply regrettable events leading up to September 2015."

    It added: "We have been advised that a claim has been threatened in England and Wales relating to newer diesel vehicles. The Volkswagen Group will examine the claim in detail and will defend itself robustly in relation to the new allegations, which we consider are vague, unsubstantiated and appear to confuse the different technologies and engines involved."

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