WASHINGTON – In the wake of accusations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that Fiat Chrysler (FCA) illegally installed software that increases harmful tailpipe emissions, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today called on the Federal Trade Commission to explore whether the company deceptively marketed its “EcoDiesel” vehicles.
Nelson’s call for investigation comes a day after the EPA accused the company of installing illegal software that may hide pollutants in some 104,000 U.S. trucks and SUVs sold since 2014. The affected vehicles are 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines.
The allegations made against FCA are similar to ones the EPA brought against Volkswagen in 2015 when it admitted to deliberately installing software to cheat emissions tests. Nelson called on the FTC to investigate VW’s deceptive advertising claims of being green and environmentally friendly, eventually leading to a $10 billion settlement that required the company buy back, terminate leases, or modify affected vehicles, in addition to compensating all affected consumers.
In a letter sent today to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Nelson wrote: “If the EPA’s allegations against FCA are true, the company may be in violation of the federal law prohibiting ‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices.’ If so, the commission would be able to seek consumer redress similar to the Volkswagen settlement.”
Nelson submitted several examples to the commission of various claims FCA has recently made to market the affected vehicles:
• “Love the planet along with great fuel economy? Then the Jeep® Brand’s Diesel engine will ring true. It lets you adhere to your principles and get extra points for embracing innovative technology.” (2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee)
• “Proudly, the EcoDiesel meets and even exceeds the low emissions requirements in all 50 states.” (2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee)
• “Clean by nature” and “Clean by design” (2015 Ram 1500)
Below is the text of Nelson’s letter. A pdf of FCA “EcoDiesel” marketing materials is attached.
January 13, 2017
The Honorable Edith Ramirez Chairwoman
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Chairwoman Ramirez:
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) installed, but failed to disclose, eight types of Auxiliary Emission Control Devices (AECDs) in approximately 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines. According to the EPA, FCA’s failure to disclose this software, which allegedly increase nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, is in violation of the Clean Air Act.
The allegations against FCA have a similar ring to deceptive actions taken by Volkswagen, which intentionally installed “defeat devices” in millions of vehicles worldwide to reduce tailpipe pollutants during official emissions testing. Unlike Volkswagen’s admission, FCA vociferously denies EPA’s allegations and asserts that the company has done nothing wrong.
In September 2015, I wrote a letter to you urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Volkswagen’s deceptive marketing practices of its diesel-engine vehicles. In that letter, I noted that while “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are both exploring civil and criminal actions against Volkswagen, respectively, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has an appropriate role in investigating the company’s actions.” In June 2016, the FTC announced a settlement with Volkswagen in which the automaker agreed to spend over $10 billion to compensate affected consumers.
Once again, I urge the commission to play an active role in the ongoing investigation of FCA and to act accordingly on behalf of American consumers.
As I noted in my September 2015 letter and as reflected in your settlement with Volkswagen, “[t]he commission can seek consumer redress for Volkswagen’s deception, and it can also seek a full panoply of equitable remedies that would force Volkswagen to take actions to specifically address consumer harm.” If the EPA’s allegations against FCA are true, the company may be in violation of the federal law prohibiting “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” If so, the commission would be able to seek consumer redress similar to the Volkswagen settlement. Attached are examples of FCA’s marketing materials for certain “EcoDiesel” vehicles, which, among others, claim to be “clean by nature,” for consumers who “Love the planet,” and to have “low emissions.”
As the nation’s premier and independent consumer protection agency, the FTC can once again be an additional cop on the beat that uniquely looks out for average Americans who may have been harmed by deceptive corporate practices. As it did in the Volkswagen scandal, I urge the commission to appropriately exercise all of its authority on behalf of American consumers.