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Car emissions regulator accused of conflict of interest in light of VW scandal

The test body responsible for testing car emissions receives 70 per cent of its income from the companies it is investigating, it has been revealed.

The Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) receives 69.91 per cent of its income from car manufacturers like VW, its latest annual report reveals. This has lead to lawyers accusing it of a major conflict of interest.

Car manufacturers pay the VCA to certify their vehicles are meeting emissions and safety standards. Funding is also received from the government, the Guardian article explained.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced last month the VCA would be re-running tests on various diesel cars in the UK and conducting an investigation into their real-world emissions results.

The news comes in the wake of the VW scandal, which found the German manufacturer had been using software to allow its cars to produce up to 40 times more pollution than is permitted.

VW’s share value has since declined by a third. 1.2 million vehicles in the UK are involved, including 79,838 VW commercial vehicles, 131,569 Skodas, 393,450 Audis and 76,773 Seats. Diesel cars from other manufacturers have also been found to emit higher emissions than claimed.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews told the Guardian: “These figures show the agency relies for funding on the very industry it is meant to be investigating. We need a robust, transparent and independent investigation into whether the use of so-called ‘defeat devices’ are widespread in the UK car industry.”

“Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin must act now to ensure an outside body investigates this scandal. We cannot continue to risk the health of thousands of people a year by allowing watchdogs to have a too cosy and too close relationship with polluters,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT) said: “To help provide value for taxpayers, the VCA cover their operating costs by charging manufacturers for the services they provide. This is the case with many regulators, including the ORR. Whilst the VCA charges the industry for its services, its governance framework is set by Government.”

The EU said it plans to implement a more realistic emissions test by 2017, although details of which are unknown.

A number of independent reports by the likes of Which and What Car have found car manufacturer fuel economy figures to be inaccurate.

Given how consumers have been so grossly misled, perhaps an independent body would be the right move.

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