Australia Says Volkswagen Faces Hefty Fines If Emissions Cheating Confirmed

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Sebastien Ogier of France and Julien Ingrassia of France compete in their Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R WRC during Day Three of the WRC Australia on September 13, 2015 in Coffs Harbour, Australia.
Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images

SYDNEY, Oct 1 (Reuters) – German automaker Volkswagen faces millions of dollars in fines in Australia if it is found to have misled local consumers on emissions claims, Australia’s competition regulator said on Thursday.

Volkswagen is grappling with the biggest business scandal in its 78-year history after confirming 11 million vehicles around the world had been fitted with devices which could falsify emissions levels from diesel engines.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said Volkswagen had yet to clarify if it had supplied cars using the devices in Australia.

“This enforcement investigation is a priority for the ACCC. We are very concerned about the potential consumer and competition detriment from this alleged conduct,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

So-called “defeat devices” were specifically prohibited by Australian Consumer Law and claims on environmental benefits or fuel efficiency had to be able to be substantiated, he said.

“The ACCC will be seeking marketing materials from VW Group and will not hesitate to take action if consumers were exposed to false, misleading or deceptive representations,” Sims said.

A corporation can be fined A$1.1 million ($777,000) for each breach of Australian Consumer Law.

Volkswagen Australia has said it is still awaiting guidance from its head office on the matter. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)