FTC Files Complaint Against Volkswagen over Deutsch’s ‘Clean Diesel’ Ads

By Erik Oster 

The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint in federal court against Volkswagen today over “deceptive claims” the automaker made in advertising campaigns from Deutsch touting the vehicle’s “clean diesel” features, Adweek reports

The lawsuit requests the court issue an order requiring Volkswagen to compensate American consumers “who bought or leased an affected vehicle between late 2008 and late 2015.” It also seeks to prevent the company from making similarly false or misleading claims in future ad campaigns. The suit specifically addresses ads Deutsch created promoting the company’s TDI diesel engines, which, of course, were found in violation of EPA standards in the now infamous Volkswagen emissions-scamming scandal. It does not outline a specific figure for compensation, instead leaving the question of exactly how much Volkswagen should pay, requesting only that the court “award such additional relief as the Court finds necessary to redress injury to consumers resulting from Defendant’s violations of the FTC Act, including but not limited to, rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, the refund of monies paid, and the disgorgement of ill-gotten monies.” 

Associate director for the enforcement division of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection James Kohm says the claim “was made because VW made widespread, demonstrably untrue claims that were material to the sales of all of its TDI vehicles.”

“There were four kinds of claims that were problematic: that the cars were environmentally friendly; that they have low emissions including those of nitrogen oxide; that the vehicles would have high resale value when, in fact, now that the truth is known, they have extremely low resale value,” he added. “VW has admitted that they had a device in the car that was activated when it was undergoing an EPA admissions test and then dropped [total emissions] more aggressively.”

“Volkswagen has received the complaint and continues to cooperate with all relevant U.S. regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission,” a spokesperson told Adweek. “Our most important priority is to find a solution to the diesel emissions matter and earn back the trust of our customers and dealers as we build a better company.”