The government wants to make it an offence to sell cars fitted with emissions-cheating engine software.

The government has announced that it plans to create new laws that will make it an offence for manufacturers to use so-called ‘defeat devices’ to cheat emissions tests and make cars appear cleaner for the environment than they really are. 

In the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, known as Dieselgate, the Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a proposal that could see ‘supplying a vehicle fitted with a defeat device’ become a criminal offence.

In a statement, the DfT said: ‘The recent VW dieselgate scandal has led to suggestions that stringent penalties should be in place for supplying a vehicle with a special hardware or computer software (a "defeat device") designed to circumvent the compulsory regulatory testing on emissions or another subject.

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‘We intend to create a new civil and/or criminal offence of supplying a vehicle fitted with a defeat device, or other similar functionality, that has the aim of deliberately circumventing type approval regulations. This would be irrespective of which national authority is used to obtain type approval.’

Under the DfT’s proposals, the penalty would not just apply to the car manufacturer, but also to any dealer or importer that sold or registered such a car.

‘Our intention is to make such an offence applicable to any and all elements of the supply chain - the manufacturer, importer or dealer,' the statement continued.

‘We are requesting comments on this proposal, whether the offence should be civil or criminal, and the potential level of fine. In due course and subject to the responses received, we would intend to make regulations to create this offence and suitable penalties.’

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