The law firm taking Volkswagen (VW) to court on behalf of more than 50,000 UK car owners has accused the car giant of insulting consumers’ intelligence by refusing to admit wrongdoing in the alleged emissions cheating scandal.

In papers filed at the High Court on Friday, VW denied it had deceived consumers by designing and installing an illegal ‘defeat device’ to manipulate the results of emissions tests.

The device, which the claimants say was installed in certain diesel engines, detected when emissions were being checked under test conditions and turned on pollution controls that were not employed in normal driving conditions.

The German car firm is facing one of the biggest consumer group action cases in British legal history. More than 50,000 former VW car owners are part of the claim and have until October this year to join the action.

In its defence, drafted by silks from Henderson Chambers and Brick Court Chambers, VW also denied that owners of affected vehicles had suffered any loss or damage.

Consumer rights firm Slater and Gordon – which is leading the action – said VW’s Friday evening submission would anger affected motorists in the UK.

Gareth Pope, specialist group litigation lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: ‘It has been two years since the scandal broke, yet still VW has done nothing to compensate owners in the UK despite the fact 1.2 million people owned affected vehicles.

‘It’s important VW is held to account. We have built up a case with normal, hard-working people who have bought a car in good faith but have been taken for a ride by a car giant. It’s now time for them to hit back.’

The claim is being financed by litigation funders Therium Capital Management and Ferguson Litigation Funding. Solicitors’ firms Leigh Day and Chesterfield-based Your Lawyers are also acting on the case. VW is being represented by magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

The first pre-trial hearing is expected in early 2019.

A spokesperson for VW said instigation of UK legal proceedings was unfounded, and that it will robustly defend any litigation.

They added: ’We do not believe that the relevant software is a prohibited defeat device. Our UK customers have not suffered any loss or damage as a result of the NOx issue. The vehicles are safe and roadworthy, and perform as advertised. The residual value of the vehicles has been not affected as a result of the NOx issue.

’We have implemented the technical measures in over 860,000 vehicles in the UK and in approximately 6.4 million vehicles across Europe, with the overwhelming majority of customers in question fully satisfied.’