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Peugeot and Citroen ordered to disclose emissions information by High Court

The High Court has today ordered Peugeot and Citroen to disclose information and documentation regarding alleged defeat devices on their vehicles. The court dismissed the vehicle manufacturers’ attempt to rely on a rarely used piece of French law to block the case which is part of the ongoing ‘dieselgate’ legal claims.

Posted on 09 February 2022

An application was made to the court by law firm Leigh Day, on behalf of the claimants in the case, to request that the court order the defendants to respond to their Letter Before Action (LBA).

The LBA is the first step in this type of legal proceedings and sets out in general terms the points of issue and allegations made by the claimants. The defendants are then required to reply to this in order to respond to and/or refute the allegations made.

Lawyers for Peugeot and Citroen had refused to provide a response to the LBA citing a rarely used French law known as the French Blocking Statute. They argued that this prevented Peugeot and Citroen from providing their own legal team with the information needed to respond to the LBA.

Peugeot and Citroen’s lawyers also argued that they were unable to respond to the LBA because they had been unable to travel to France due to Covid restrictions.

The court dismissed these arguments and ordered Peugeot and Citroen to respond to the LBA by 29 April 2022.

Drivers of Peugeot and Citroen diesel vehicles are bringing claims against the manufacturers alleging that they used a defeat device on their vehicles to cheat emissions tests. This means that much higher levels of Nox emissions are produced by the cars than is stated by the manufacturers. It is anticipated that the claims will be brought on various legal bases, including deceit, breach of statutory duty, breach of contract, and under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

Once the response to the LBA has been received the case can move forward, with the next stage being for the claimants to serve a more detailed particulars of claim document. This document takes into account any arguments put forward by the defendants in their LBA response.

The French Blocking Statute has rarely been used in the last 50 years but was brought up during the Grenfell inquiry when employees of a French subsidiary of Arconic, a US company, initially relied upon it when refusing to give evidence to the inquiry. It was reported that Arconic’s president abandoned his reliance on the FBS and agreed to give evidence after the French embassy wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stating that given the terms of the inquiry and its procedure of taking evidence the FBS was no obstacle to the examination of Arconic’s employees.

As well as Peugeot and Citroen, law firm Leigh Day also represents owners of Audi, BMW, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Nissan, Porsche, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Volvo in similar emissions cases.

Benjamin Croft, solicitor at Leigh Day, said:

“We are pleased that the court was not persuaded by the Defendants’ delaying tactics and found in our clients’ favour that Peugeot and Citroen must respond to our letter before action. This means that the case can finally start moving forward and we look forward to seeing their response to our allegations.”

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Ben Croft
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Benjamin Croft

Benjamin Croft is a partner in the international department.

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