SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Adding to the long litany of lawsuits over Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal, the Federal Trade Commission on Monday sued the German automaker in Federal Court for deceptive and unfair business practices.
Consumers spent billions of dollars on falsely advertised “clean-diesel” vehicles from 2008 to 2015, the FTC says.
Volkswagen sold more than half a million of the vehicles, billed as having low emissions and complying with federal standards, despite exceeding limits by as much as 4,000 percent, according to the FTC’s 17-page complaint.
The carmaker installed defeat devices in its “clean-diesel” vehicles that gave false readings during lab tests and skirted federal emissions standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency, the FTC says.
Even after the EPA informed the automaker of a discrepancy between its lab tests and real-world performance in 2014, Volkswagen continued to market the vehicles as emitting less pollution and being environmentally friendly, according to the complaint.
Since the emissions-cheating scandal first went public in September 2015, Volkswagen has been hit with nearly 1,200 lawsuits in state and federal courts, according to Courthouse News Service records.
The suits were consolidated in December 2015 into a multidistrict case overseen by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California.
The latest lawsuit filed by the FTC claims Volkswagen specifically targeted “progressive” and “environmentally conscious” consumers with its false advertising to promote the “clean-diesel” cars.
The German automaker used print ads, social media campaigns, public statements, press releases and nationally televised ads, including one aired during the Super Bowl, to make fraudulent appeals to green-conscious consumers. The carmaker even arranged for actress Gwyneth Paltrow to arrive at the Hollywood premiere of Iron Man III in a “clean-diesel” Audi vehicle, the FTC says.
Volkswagen also made public statements that its clean-diesel cars offered consumers a higher resale value compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, according to the FTC.
The FTC claims Volkswagen violated four counts of the Federal Trade Commission Act by orchestrating a fraudulent advertising and marketing campaign over a seven-year period.
The commission seeks an injunction, the termination or reformation of contracts, restitution and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.
Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the FTC suit Tuesday afternoon.
In January, the United States sued Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for installing illegal defeat devices that violate the Clean Air Act in more than 550,000 vehicles.
Earlier this month, a Volkswagen employee claimed in court the company fired him for blowing the whistle on the carmaker’s destruction of records in violation of a legal order to retain data on the “clean-diesel” vehicles.
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