Woking, England, UK - April 13, 2014: Traffic travels through farmland in Surrey, southern England, on the A3 motorway. Photograph composed and cropped with large blank sky area for creative or text.

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 should 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 is the first incarnation of this guide. This new 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.

  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 open claims outlined below. Here's a summary of the proceedings so far... 

  • 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 are now 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.

    While the High Court's findings are an important step in the legal proceedings against VW, it's worth stressing that it did not determine VW's overall liability or whether consumers lost out in any way. That's still to come in the full trial, which is set to begin in January 2023 and is expected to last six months.

    It's no longer possible to join this original claim, though owners of some Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW vehicles may be able to sign up to other group actions (see our firm-by-firm breakdown below).

    VW denies anyone lost out financially. It has already paid out an estimated 32 billion euros in fines and settlements relating to the emissions scandal worldwide.

  • In 2018, Daimler – owner of Mercedes-Benz – was ordered by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) to recall about 670,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles with diesel engines in Europe.

    It followed reports KBA had found that the software in some Mercedes diesel vehicles was allegedly artificially limiting emissions during testing – meaning that emissions produced in real-world driving conditions were higher than they should be to comply with regulations. Daimler has appealed against the KBA's findings.

    Law firm PGMBM formally launched legal proceedings against Mercedes in England last year, while another firm, Hagens Berman UK, launched proceedings earlier this year. Other firms are also preparing cases. No court hearings have taken place so far and no trial date has been set.

    Daimler argues the claims brought by UK law firms are "without merit" and says it will "vigorously defend" against them or any group action.

  • While Porsche is part of the VW Group, it wasn't part of the initial claim against fellow VW Group brands Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW.

    However, law firm Leigh Day has now issued a second claim against VW Group in the High Court, this time including some Porsche vehicles. The central allegation behind the claim is the same, namely that the affected vehicles were fitted with unlawful emissions cheat devices. But there have been no hearings yet and no trial date has been set.

  • So far, court proceedings in the UK have only been brought against Audi, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and VW and Mercedes. No others have reached the courts – and they may not at all. Manufacturers deny the allegations.

    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.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email 

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

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

    • 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, 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 update this guide when we know more.

    Note that 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 number plate into the tool. 

    All you need to do is enter your vehicle's number plate and you'll be told instantly if your car or van is 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, the original VW Group case, the most advanced of the current crop of cases, had its first hearing in 2019, and is yet to make it to a full trial – the date is currently set at January 2023. Assuming the trial goes ahead, it could take months for a judgment. Even then, if VW loses it may be able to appeal, which would stretch proceedings out further.

  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 seven 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 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 & no. of claimants (1) Manufacturers included + max fees (as a % of damages awarded) (2) Score on reviews website Trustpilot

Hagens Berman UK

38,000

Mercedes: 35% (incl expenses) + VAT

No reviews

Harcus Parker

95,000

Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Vauxhall, Volvo: 35% (incl VAT & expenses)

Mercedes: 40% (incl expenses) + VAT 
Very few reviews (3)

Keller Lenkner UK

70,000

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

Vauxhall: 40% + VAT + expenses
Very few reviews (3)
 

Leigh Day

95,000

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

 

Mercedes: 31% (incl VAT & expenses)

 

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

4.7 out of 5
(based on 533 reviews)

Milberg London

170,000

Audi, Mercedes, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW: 50% (incl VAT & expenses) Very few reviews (3)

PGMBM

550,000

Audi, BMW, Citroen, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW: 50% (incl VAT & expenses) No reviews

Slater and Gordon

125,000

Mercedes, Vauxhall: 30% + VAT + expenses 4.2 out of 5
(based on 12,314 reviews)

(1) Active and potential future claimants, incl 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) We've included the links in case more reviews come in at a later date.

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 – as in the initial case against VW in England and Wales.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email 

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

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 at all only came into effect last year – 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 pursuing a claim against Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW in respect of vehicles with EA189 engines. But it is no longer possible to join and the firm says that, to save costs, it's awaiting the outcome of the case in England before progressing its own claim further. However, Edwards & Co is 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.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email 

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

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: "Volkswagen remains confident in our case that we are not liable to UK claimants as alleged and the claimants did not suffer any loss. We will therefore continue to defend our position robustly in the High Court."

    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."

Spotted out of date info/broken links? Email: brokenlink@moneysavingexpert.com