The European Commission has launched legal action against seven countries, including the UK, over the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
The nations – which also include Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Greece – failed to clamp down on the emissions cheating exposed by the “dieselgate” scandal.
Volkswagen used “defeat devices” in its cars to hide the true levels of emissions during tests in around 11 million cars worldwide, including more than one million in the UK.
The German car manufacturer has had huge fines in the US over the scandal.
However the UK, Germany, Spain and Luxembourg have been accused of not imposing the same kind of penalties over Volkswagen’s use of illegal software.
The Commission also accuses the UK and Germany of breaking the law by “refusing to disclose” the details on breaches of EU emission laws gathered in their national investigations earlier this year.
The Czech Republic, Lithuania and Greece are said to have not included the possibility of fining the carmaker.
The Commission has sent letters of formal notice to all seven countries, which now have two months to respond.
Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said “Abiding by the law is first and foremost the duty of car manufacturers but national authorities across the EU must ensure that car manufacturers actually comply with the law.
“For the future, the Commission has tabled proposals to introduce greater European oversight and to make the type approval system more robust. We expect the European Parliament and Council to reach an agreement swiftly.”
The UK Department for Transport said it is “surprised by this extraordinary step” by the Commission as it has had legislation in place since 2009 to tackle this issue and “made them clear to them earlier this year”.
A spokesperson added: “The UK will be responding in the strongest terms. We were the first country in Europe to complete our own tests on diesel vehicles to ensure the issue was not industry-wide and we published our results in full earlier this year.
“The government takes the unacceptable actions of VW extremely seriously and we continue to push VW to complete their fix programme in order to bring their vehicles into compliance as soon as possible.”
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said: “Germany is the only European country to have implemented a comprehensive list of measures to prevent unauthorised use of defeat devices.”