Volkswagen loses bid for emissions fine appeal

German car manufacturer Volkswagen has lost its appeal bid in Australia’s highest court against a $125 million fine for breaching diesel emissions standards.

The company admitted contravening Australian consumer law through false representations about its vehicles’ exhaust emissions between 2011 and 2015.

But Volkswagen sought special leave to appeal the 2019 penalty on the grounds it outstripped a deal struck with Australia’s consumer watchdog for a $75 million fine plus $4 million in legal costs.

On Friday, the High Court refused Volkswagen’s application for special leave to appeal.

Volkswagen earlier lost a Federal Court appeal over the original fine for conduct characterised as an “egregious breach of Australian consumer law of the worst kind imaginable”.

The Federal Court was told Volkswagen evaded emission standards in Australia by installing a “two-mode software” causing different emissions to be released depending on how the vehicle was operated.

One mode of operation reduced pollution while the other increased it.

“It suffices to note that the software was designed, created and in due course implemented for the purpose of evading and defeating emissions standards tests,” Justice Lindsay Foster said.

Volkswagen made hundreds of applications to be included in Australia’s Green Vehicle Guide website to help consumers “choose a cleaner car” by comparing environmental standards of vehicles based primarily on emissions.

But its “defeat devices” were exposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Volkswagen acknowledged the “moral and political disaster” their “test manipulations” had created.

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