Volkswagen Avoids Consumer Probe in U.K. Over Emissions Scandal

  • Competition watchdog will not use new consumer powers
  • No criminal probe because misconduct took place in Germany

The U.K.’s antitrust watchdog said it won’t pursue Volkswagen AG for admitting the use of software to cheat vehicle emissions tests, joining European regulators in being more reluctant to extract concessions from the carmaker than counterparts in the U.S.

The Competition and Markets Authority won’t launch a formal probe into the Wolfsburg-based company “at this time” because new powers enabling it to secure compensation for consumers only came into power in October last year, a month after the allegations emerged, the regulator said in an e-mailed statement Monday.

There has been anger about the wide disparity between the packages offered to American car owners compared to European customers. Americans are getting packages worth thousands of dollars but those in the EU were simply offered repairs.

"The CMA’s civil enforcement powers have limited application to the alleged wrongdoing that took place," the regulator said in the statement. "Regarding a criminal investigation, an important consideration was that the alleged misconduct at the root of this issue appears to have taken place outside the UK, notably in Germany."

Volkswagen previously set aside 16.2 billion Euros ($18 billion) to cover fines related to the emissions scandal in the U.S.

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