Investigations should be started by the Department for Transport (DfT) into the impact of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in the UK, accroding to a report published by the Transport Select Committee. The Parliamentary committee also states that the DfT should consider prosecuting the company, and that the department has acted too slowly in looking into the German manufacturer’s actions.

Although admitting to the defeat device being illegal in the United States – where the scandal first broke – the manufacturer disputes whether it has broken the law in Europe. The German vehicle approval authority disagrees and states that VW’s software fits the legal definition of a defeat device.

While there are more than 1 million cars affected in the UK but, as of April, none had yet been called in and had repairs carried out. These range from a software update to adding a new piece of hardware.

Committee Chairwoman Louise Ellman MP said: “Volkswagen Group has acted cynically to cheat emissions tests which exist solely to protect human health. Volkswagen’s evidence to us was just not credible but the government has lacked the will to hold VW accountable for its actions. There is a real danger that VW will be able to get away with cheating emissions tests in Europe if regulators do not act.

“We are concerned by the Department for Transport’s ambivalence towards assessing the legality of Volkswagen’s use of defeat device software despite its condemnation of Volkswagen’s actions to us and in the media. The Department for Transport was too slow to assess the use of its powers under the Road Vehicles (Approval) Regulations 2009 to prosecute Volkswagen for its deception. It took five months before the DfT took even preliminary legal advice on a prosecution.

“It is deeply concerning that the Department is relying on the European Commission to act even though the Commission does not hold the necessary evidence or have powers to prosecute. We are also concerned that regulators have shown little interest in establishing whether Volkswagen Group has broken any laws.

“The Vehicle Certification Agency has evidence that defeat devices were installed in vehicles that it type approved but it has not attempted to conduct any tests to prove that type approval was contingent on the use of the defeat device software. The VCA must measure the exact contribution that the software made to meeting Euro 5 emissions standards. That would facilitate investigations and court actions in the UK and across Europe.

“Volkswagen’s treatment of customers in Europe compared to its treatment of customers in the US is deeply unfair. Volkswagen said it was justified in providing goodwill payments to US customers, but not European customers, on the grounds that US customers would face delays to fixing their vehicles. The delay to fixing vehicles in Europe is now creating a great deal of uncertainty over whether cars will be fixed, their residual values and their compliance with regulations.

“We do not accept Volkswagen’s justification of its policy on payments and see nothing to justify their refusal to offer comparable payments to customers in Europe. Volkswagen must provide goodwill payments to European vehicle owners equal to offers that have been made to US vehicle owners. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 might also offer owners some recourse for compensation.”

The Transport Select Committee’s decisions have no legislative impact but are considered as part of governmental decisions. The full report is available to read here.