The European Commission launched legal action Thursday against seven EU countries for failing to crack down on emissions cheating exposed by the Volkswagen "Dieselgate" scandal.
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Among those countries are Germany, Britain, Spain and Luxembourg, which are accused of not imposing the same kind of penalties that Volkswagen has faced in the United States over its use of illegal software to mask nitrogen oxides blamed for causing respiratory illnesses and early deaths.
The scandal has affected the reputation and business of Volkswagen and already cost the company billions of dollars. The German company recently admitted to using sophisticated secret software in cars to cheat on exhaust emissions tests.
When the scandal broke out, it took many by surprise, including some industry insiders. The company has since been the target of a slew of legal action brought by consumers, investors, government agencies and other groups.
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The emission scandal emerged when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered that Volkswagen diesel cars were equipped with software that modified emissions of certain air pollutants. Not having any electric hybrid cars in the works, the company had marketed its diesel engines as the alternative to regular petrol, with more gas mileage per gallon.
Yet it turned out that the emissions were 30-40 times greater than regular cars. The issue was known by German officials since the German government has a stake in the car company, which may indicate complicity.
The commission, in fact, accuses Berlin and London of refusing to share the details of suspicious findings revealed by national investigations into the scandal — without which it cannot carry out a supervisory role.