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Lawmakers seek rules to prevent emission test fraud

In a backlash against Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scandal, politicians here are seeking to impose heavier fines on any fabrication in the automobile accreditation processes.

Rep. Lee Seok-hyun of the major opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy on Monday said he would submit a proposal, dubbed the “Volkswagen bill,” that raises the ceiling of fines imposed on automakers who use fraudulent emissions, fuel-economy or safety test results.

“The current regulation does not reflect the market reality and public sentiment. Because environment tests have a great impact on the public, we need stricter rules against any irregularities,” Lee stated, explaining the reasons for the submission.

Currently, carmakers who hand in exaggerated fuel mileage are imposed a fine amounting to 0.1 percent of their sales capped at 1 billion won ($854,000). The fine for emissions results that are different from the accredited results is 3 percent of the sales capped at 1 billion won.

But the bill will seek to extend the ceiling to a 10 billion won cap, 10 times higher than the current standard, Lee said. The suggestion will be studied at the parliament by the end of the year, Lee said.

This is the second time lawmakers have sought to regulate automakers for dishonesty.

In February, Rep. Lee Un-ju submitted a bill raising the fine to 1 percent from the current 0.1 percent when Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group and Ssangyong Motors were revealed to have overstated fuel efficiency.

The second submission was triggered by the recent Volkswagen scandal, where the German carmaker was ordered to recall half a million products in the U.S. for manipulating emissions results. It caused a ripple effect in Korea, with a couple of consumers seeking litigation against the carmaker for a refund, and the government is scheduled to launch an investigation into cars distributed in Korea.

Yonhap news agency reported that the Environment Ministry is also inclined to stricter regulation.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)



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