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W.Va. attorney general files complaint against VW

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The State of West Virginia filed a complaint Friday against Volkswagen of America Inc., Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Monday.

In a visit to The Journal, Morrisey said the automobile manufacturer violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act for designing, manufacturing, advertising and selling Volkswagen products with a “defeat device” – devices intended to circumvent federal emissions rules.

“In West Virginia, we believe there are a minimum of 2,700 people who purchased Volkswagens with this defeat device installed,” Morrisey said. “We think that may be a low number, and through discovery, we expect that number will grow.”

Morrisey said his office is working on breaking down the numbers by region of the state, but he knows many Eastern Panhandle residents have been affected by the case.

“There are a lot of people here who commute outside the state and they try to rely on high-performance diesel cars,” he said. “We think it’s important that we identify those people and ensure their interests are protected by the state’s litigation.”

Morrisey said any consumer who purchased a Volkswagen clean-diesel car between 2009 and 2015 should contact his office to file a complaint, which asks for civil penalties of $5,000 per violation. The complaint also asks for Volkswagen to be required to provide West Virginia consumers with full refunds of the premium paid for Turbo-charged Direct Injection (TDI) vehicles above comparable gasoline-engine models; for the decrease in value of the affected vehicles; and for expected costs incurred as a result of decreased performance.

The attorney general also said that as a team of researchers from West Virginia University uncovered the fraud, it is critical that West Virginia stands strong against the company. A May 2014 study conducted by WVU’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions found elevated levels of emissions on several Volkswagen models. That data was turned over to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, and it was released last month.

According to the EPA, affected Volkswagen diesel models are the 2009-2015 Jetta, 2009-2015 Beetle, 2009-2015 Golf and the 2014-2015 Passat, as well as the 2009-2015 Audi A3.

“When laws are upheld by the courts, we have to ensure that people follow them,” Morrisey said. “Our goal has always been to enforce the rule of law, and in this case, there are serious allegations of fraud and unfair and deceptive practices.”

Morrisey said this lawsuit is West Virginia-specific, but there is an ongoing 29-state investigation underway as well. He said his office will bid out for outside counsel help on the case.

U.S.-based Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan told the Associated Press on Monday that the company doesn’t comment on pending or active litigation.

The complaint, which was filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, can be read at http://bit.ly/1GsNUTa.

Anyone who purchased an affected vehicle is encouraged to call the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-368-8808 or 304-267-0239. Consumers can also file an online complaint at www.wvago.gov.

Editor Dave Emke can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 139, or www.twitter.com/demkeJN.

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