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Bill to impose tough penalties on erring carmakers to be introduced in Australia

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon from South Australia is leading the legislative push to introduce a bill in Australia’s Federal Parliament that would require fuel figures published by carmakers to be based on actual, on-road test data and to impose tough penalties on “wildly inaccurate” claims.

Describing Volkswagen’s emissions tampering scandal as “out and out fraud”, the senator told Australia’s ABC radio that he wants to eliminate “wiggle room” from official fuel figures.

“The figures we’ve seen recently are that some vehicles can burn between 25 and 133% more fuel than claimed by their manufacturers,” he said. “That is a huge discrepancy and that’s why we need to tighten up both Australian consumer law, but also the rules surrounding emission standards and consumption figures, so that consumers actually know what’s going on.”

Dynamometer testing is used in measuring fuel economy and emissions in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Commission have announced plans to introduce “real driving emission” testing procedures that should help eliminate the difference between lab-derived statistics and actual on-road driving.

“What we actually need here is a revamp of fuel consumption disclosure to include typical road use,” Xenophon said.

Xenophon said his proposed amendment would make it easier for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and individual consumers to lodge a complaint action against an erring carmaker.

He also said testing needs to be changed to reflect “typical road use and driving” — a move that is also supported by the nation’s leading consumer group, Choice. It wants independent testing as well as a fuel efficiency standard.

Australia is the only country in the developed world that doesn’t mandate a minimum performance, Choice Campaigns Director Matt Levey said. “We think that’s an absolute farce,” he said.