Washington, DC - The FTC’s recent action against Volkswagen focused on the company’s “clean diesel” claims, which were rendered false by VW’s installation of a defeat device that cheated on emissions tests. The history-making $10 billion settlement will offer eligible car owners choices to compensate them for the deception. But there is concern that others – including some dealers – may be using a different kind of “defeat device” that could mislead owners about their options.

Details of the settlements are available at VWCourtSettlement.com (link is external). Owners can register there to check out the specifics of what VW is offering: an all-cash buyback for more than the car’s current replacement value or the possibility of a technical modification to the car and a separate cash payment. Buybacks could start in late fall of this year and emissions modifications will begin once approved.

However, it appears that other companies have been reaching out to owners with alternate offers. It’s unwise for anyone – including independently-owned VW dealers – to make separate offers that: 1) falsely imply that the offer is part of the pending $10 billion settlement; 2) falsely tell owners they have to spend compensation under the settlement on a new VW or Audi; or 3) use “Act now!” tactics to lock owners into a separate deal before owners have the full picture of what they stand to gain as part of the $10 billion settlement.

The ultimate choice is the owner’s, of course. Our advice to them is to investigate their options before making a decision. A key part of that process is registering at VWCourtSettlement.com (link is external), where they can learn how much compensation to expect.

We also have some advice for companies that are sending out the solicitations we’ve been seeing:

  • Make sure your separate pitches don’t deceptively lead people to think they are official offers that are part of the VWCourtSettlement.com (link is external) action.
  • To assess their next step, owners need an accurate 360° view of their options – both what you’re offering and what they can get through the settlements. That’s why dealers who want to win back customers’ goodwill will help owners comparison-shop by telling them about the VWCourtSettlement.com (link is external) registration process.

People who own VWs that were falsely advertised as “clean diesels” have already been injured once. FTC staff will be watching closely to ensure the compensation process proceeds unsullied by deception.