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Volkswagen Group of America’s false advertising practices The verdict: a verdict has not been reached yet, as this case has not even seen a courtroom given how recent it is. The FTC is seeking monetary damages for the consumers affected by Volkswagen’s allegedly unfair and deceptive advertising practices. Most of you have, no doubt, heard about Volkswagen Group of America and its deceptive practices regarding state emissions laws. In short, Volkswagen fitted all of their flagship “TDI” models (turbo-diesel direct-injection) between 2009 and 2015 with an emissions-cheating device that allowed the cars to run in a special low-emissions mode when being tested, but in reality the cars emitted 10-40 times the legal limit of vehicle emissions standards.
This cheating was discovered as early as 2014, when researchers at West Virginia University detected high emissions from several vehicles they were testing, which were previously commissioned by the International Counsel on Clean Transportation (ICCT). After alerting the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a series of investigations were launched not only on Volkswagen Group of America, but internationally.
Since the investigations began on September 18th, 2015, several top executives of the Volkswagen Group have resigned, including their own CEO, Martin Winterkorn. VW’s stock plummeted and has since then remained at the bottom, customers and dealerships were angry, and the company has been bleeding money to consumer payouts to try to maintain some brand integrity and avoid alienating all of their once loyal customers. But that was only the beginning… Volkswagen soon admitted that this also affected not only several more diesel engines than previously thought, but a number of their gasoline engines as well.
And now, on top of all that, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced today that it is suing the Volkswagen Group of America for false advertising of its TDI Models. Volkswagen heavily marketed these vehicles as “clean” and “safe for the environment”, but the reality was that they were anything but. Not only does this violate the “truth” principle of ethical advertising, it is potentially a violation of the “comparisons” principal; a commercial Volkswagen ran in 2009 titled “Jetta TDI Meets Prius” intentionally advertises better fuel economy than the competing Toyota Prius. This actually caused a number of consumers to purchase Volkswagen TDI models over the Prius (according to an article from the International Business Times), when the Prius was truly a more economical and environmentally friendly model, which can be construed as “making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated statements or claims about a competitor.”
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