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On September 18, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified automaker Volkswagen that it had violated the Clean Air Act, alleging that four-cylinder VWs and Audi diesel vehicles from model years 2009-2015 contained software that enabled the vehicle to “cheat” on emissions testing; showing lower levels of toxic emissions than what the vehicles actually emitted when on the road.

Several weeks later, another violation was discovered in additional vehicles sold by VW, Audi, and Porsche. The EPA ordered a recall of about 500,000 vehicles with so-called “defeat device” software sold in the U.S.

Soon after this announcement, VW admitted that about 11 million of its vehicles worldwide are equipped with the software. More recalls are expected to follow. Meanwhile, VW recently notified customers of a “goodwill package” available to owners of 2.0L TDI vehicles (affected by the recall). The package includes a $500 prepaid Visa loyalty card and a $500 VW dealership card, as well as a no-charge 24-hour roadside assistance for three years.

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts), who have been outspoken about the Takata air bag recalls, issued a statement on November 9, 2015, calling the goodwill package “insultingly inadequate.”

EPA Calls VW Out on Defeat Devices

When the EPA first called VW out on their deception, the EPA stated that it had found a “sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles” that detected when a vehicle was going through emissions testing, and responded by turning on full emissions controls. These controls were then turned off during regular driving. In fact, during normal operation, the vehicles were found to emit nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the standard accepted amount.

It was through an analysis by researchers from West Virginia University that the discrepancy was first detected. A further investigation confirmed the inconsistent emissions levels, and VW later admitted that its vehicles contained defeat devices.

“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Senators Call Goodwill Package “Insultingly Inadequate”

As it scrambles to try to repair its reputation, VW has offered a goodwill package as a first step toward restoring their customers’ trust. VW offers on its site a page where customers can determine whether or not they are eligible for the package, as restrictions do apply.

Senators Blumenthal and Markey stated that the package was only “a fig leaf attempting to hide the true depths of Volkswagen’s deception.” Instead of $1,000, they suggest, the company should “offer every owner a buy-back option,” and for those owners who want to keep their vehicles, the company should offer “full compensation for the loss of resale value, fuel economy, and other damage caused by its purposeful deception.”

The senators also warn that VW may ask owners to waive their right to legal action in return for the goodwill package, but VW states on its site that such a waiver is not required for customers to receive the $1,000.

Consumers have until April 30, 2016 to request their goodwill package. Meanwhile, though the EPA has identified the following vehicles as also affected by the defeat device, VW has denied these owners the goodwill package so far.

• 2014 VW Touareg
• 2015 Porsche Cayenne
• 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5

Plaintiffs who own affected VW vehicles may be eligible to file a lawsuit to recover damages. Many such lawsuits have already been filed in courts around the country.

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