Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says it could slap Volkswagen with fines running into millions of dollars if it finds the German automaker has supplied so-called ‘defeat devices’ on certain diesel models.

“This enforcement investigation is a priority for the ACCC,” said ACCC chairman, Rod Sims. “We are very concerned about the potential consumer and competition detriment from this alleged conduct.

“First, using defeat devices is specifically prohibited under the Australian Design Rules, which are picked up as Australian Consumer Law (ACL) mandatory safety standards.”

“As the enforcer of the ACL, the ACCC can take action against any corporation that has breached mandatory standards,” Mr Sims said.

“Secondly, cars are a big purchasing decision and claims that relate to environmental benefits or fuel efficiency can influence consumer choice.”

“Businesses must be able to substantiate any claims they make. The ACCC will be seeking marketing materials from VW Group and will not hesitate to take action if consumers were exposed to false, misleading or deceptive representations.”

The maximum penalty per breach of the ACL is A$1.1 million(US$780,000) for a corporation.

The ACCC noted VW Australia had yet to clarify if it has supplied cars or car components into the Australian market which use defeat devices.

The ACCC added it continued to work closely with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to determine the impact on Australian consumers.