Federal Trade Commission Opens Probe Into Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” Advertising

jettadieselgrabThe list of state and federal agencies probing Volkswagen’s recent emissions scandal grew by one Wednesday: The Federal Trade Commission announced it has opened an investigation into the company’s advertisements that touted “clean diesel” vehicles, despite the fact the cars contained “defeat devices,” which are designed to cheat emissions tests.

FTC spokesperson Justin Cole confirmed that the regulator was coordinating its investigation with that of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, Bloomberg reports.

The FTC Act prohibits companies from “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” and is frequently used by the agency to bring civil complaints against businesses that mislead consumers about their products.

VW regularly advertised its “clean diesel” branded vehicles with slogans like “this ain’t your daddy’s diesel,” likely in an attempt to target consumers in the market for a vehicle with cleaner emissions.

Additionally, the company’s website prominently touted its vehicles as better for the environment than alternatives.

“Stinky, smoky, and sluggish. Those old diesel realities no longer apply,” the VW website stated. “Enter TDI Clean Diesel. Ultra-low-sulfur fuel, direct injection technology, and extreme efficiency. We’ve ushered in a new era of diesel.”

However, as the EPA announced on Sept. 18, and VW confirmed days later, the carmaker rigged the emissions control systems of more than 500,000 cars in the U.S. — and around 11 million worldwide — with a device that cheats emissions tests.

A spokesperson for VW tells Bloomberg that the company is cooperating with all agencies that have approached them, but declined to comment on any specific investigation.

While it’s unclear if the FTC’s probe will lead to action against the carmaker, a spokesperson for the agency previously told Consumerist that consumers affected by this recall could file a complaint with the agency if they feel that they were misled into making the purchase.

Those interested in filing a complaint related to the Volkswagen recall and potential deceptive advertising issue can do so by visiting ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-382-4357.

Volkswagen’s Advertising of Rigged Diesels Probed by FTC [Bloomberg]