On 18 September 2015, the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Volkswagen had confessed to using so-called ‘defeat device’ software in a number of vehicles in order to meet US air pollutant emissions standards. These devices feign better emission output when tested in the lab compared to on-the-road situations – where the cars gravely exceed the legal limits.


It soon became clear that the scale of the issue is global, with 11 million cars affected, including 8 million vehicles in Europe.

For BEUC and our members, two fundamental problems have to be tackled now in light of this massive scandal:

  • Millions of consumers in Europe have bought a car that has an illegal device installed and does not match the specifications of the certificate of conformity and the sales contract. These consumers deserve to be compensated for their loss;
  • The EU needs to build a surveillance system which would require truly independent and on-the-road testing. If we are to restore consumer trust in emissions and fuel consumption programmes, such a system needs to be implemented without delay. The reform – adopted in 2018 – of the EU law on car type-approval and market surveillance will lead to more robust testing and ensure EU oversight of the activities of national type-approval authorities. The new rules will enter into force in September 2020.
  • The EU needs to establish a collective redress procedure for all consumers across all European countries to provide victims of mass damage like in the VW fraud with a realistic perspective to pursue their rights. In April 2018, the European Commission adopted a “New Deal for Consumers”, including tougher sanctions for companies that act illegally and a collective compensation tool (collective redress).

Together with our member organisations we take action to help affected consumers get their car back in line with legal requirements and to receive compensation. At the same time, we are pushing the European institutions to ensure better car emission and fuel consumption testing standards and controls are put into place across the EU.

While Volkswagen’s unprecedented fraud has been centre-stage of the attention, it became clear that the problem of incorrect and potentially illegal NOx emissions is much broader. In January 2017, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that FIAT Chrysler had installed defeat devices in its vehicles. The same year, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Italy for failing to respond to concerns about insufficient action taken regarding the emission control strategies employed by Fiat. More recently, in June 2018, the German Transport Ministry ordered Daimler to recall 238,000 vehicles which were found to contain unauthorised emissions-cheating software. Daimler agreed to the recall but contested having used defeat devices. Dieselgate has brought to light that the car industry has been deliberately misleading millions of consumers and endangered our health. Political action to identify the causes of this fraud and find solutions to avoid it from happening again are critical to restore consumer trust not only in the car sector but also in European and national enforcement systems.

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BEUC is coordinating the activities of national consumer organisations at the European level and also working closely with our sister organisation Consumers International at the global level. In tackling this vital issue for consumers, we have made our concerns known to key European stakeholders.


Letter to Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commission

On 22 September 2015, we sent a letter to Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska – European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs – asking her: “What plans does [the European Commission] have to improve the oversight of EU vehicle test procedures and will it launch an investigation into the possible use of installed software designed to manipulate type approval tests in the EU?”.


Letter to Mr. Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen Group

In 2 October 2015, we also sent a letter to Mr. Matthias Müller – newly-appointed CEO of Volkswagen Group – in which we highlighted our concerns about the possible impact (including financial implications) for consumers. We also called on Volkswagen to take a number of actions that address the effects of this disappointing revelation to consumers.

Click here for our response to VW's reply letter.

Read the joint letter sent together with our German member vzvb to the German Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Mr. Alexander Dobrindt.


Public conference: 'Fitness Check for the Car Sector'

In the presence of the European Commission’s Justice and Consumer Affairs Commissioner we held a public conference entitled 'Fitness Check for the Car Sector' to highlight how consumers suffered from the scandal and what steps need to be taken to correct consumer harm.


BEUC’s presentation to the CPC network

On 16 October 2016, BEUC presented its work on the VW Dieselgate scandal to the network of national consumer protection authorities (CPC network). The CPC network adopted a joint position requesting VW to improve its practices.


Second letter to Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commission

On 9 December 2016, BEUC issued a letter to Commissioner Bieńkowska responsible for transport in which it requested the European Commission to test cars before and after the recall. In its reply the Commission stated that it does not have the necessary powers to intervene directly through market surveillance activities such as car testing.


Letter to Directorate General for Justice and Consumers, European Commission

On 26 January 2018, BEUC wrote to Mr Francisco Fonseca Morillo, Deputy Director General, and Mrs Marie-Paule Benassi, Head of Unit, to inform them about the results of a survey conducted by four of its members (Test Achats/Test Aankoop, OCU, DECO, and Altroconsumo) which showed that more than four out of 10 drivers who had their car software repaired reported that the update had a negative impact on their car. BEUC called on the Commission to take all measures necessary to ensure that VW upholds its commitment with regard to their guarantee promise on the consequences of the “fix”.

Following the Dieselgate revelations, BEUC asked VW to take swift action to restore consumer trust. Few years later, our following demands are still not met:

 

  • Offering financial compensation for any damages caused by or related to the ‘defeat devices’ installed in vehicles purchased by consumers – including the value depreciation of the affected vehicles;
  • Ensuring that car owners receive consistent and transparent information about the recall and providing full and detailed information of the technical analysis, the modifications to be made and the effects on the performance, safety, air pollutant emissions and fuel consumption;
  • Fulfilling any other consumer claim based on consumer sales law, including cancellation and repayment of the purchase price or proportionate reduction of the purchase price and damages for any loss;
  • Ensuring that any alterations or repair work conducted on affected cars will result in the emissions performance matching EU emissions limits based on real world performance without negative impact on the cars fuel consumption, durability or performance or any other feature.

If we are to restore consumer trust the EU needs to overhaul the current testing regime. To do so, it is essential that:

 

  • The European Commission develops an on-the-road testing protocol of a car’s fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions. Disappointingly, the Commission failed to introduce a real-driving emissions test for CO2 in its regulation proposal published in November 2017 setting CO2 emissions standards for cars and vans in the post-2020 period., Such a test is essential to ensure that progress in fuel consumption savings are not only made on paper but delivered in the real world.
  • The type approval and market surveillance  law which was adopted in April 2018 provides for a more robust market surveillance mechanism (incl. conformity-testing in-use vehicles and spot checks conducted by independent testing services and overseen by EU authorities).

 


See also our campaign page 'The great fuel consumption scam'.

Existing fuel consumption test procedures allow car manufacturers to manipulate results. This is in turn used for fuel consumption claims which mislead consumers as to the true fuel consumption levels of their car. The consequence is paying more for fuel costs than reasonably expected. We reveal the tricks used by car manufacturers and the shockingly higher fuel consumption results. Although the new laboratory test WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) which started in September 2017 and will be finalised in 2018 should contribute to reduce this gap, a significant difference between test and real-world fuel consumption levels will remain when cars are actually on the road. The gap could even increase again during the 2020s. That is why a real world driving test for CO2 emissions must be developed and made mandatory during the type approval procedure. It could be coupled with a robust ‘not-to-exceed’ limit, as is the case for air pollutant emissions such as NOx.

In addition, the EU Commission should finally recognise that judicial collective redress procedures are the only way for consumers to obtain compensation in certain situations as in the VW fraud. The recent EU Commission “New Deal for Consumers” proposing a collective redress tool is an important first step in this direction.

To provide you with the latest information on the emissions scandal, BEUC has composed this dedicated webpage as well as a Q&A, emphasising – amongst others – how European consumers are affected and what their rights are.

 

1. What has Volkswagen done wrong?
2. How many and which vehicles have been affected?
3. Why do air pollutant emissions matter?
4. Why didn’t authorities spot the defeat devices?
5. Why should the installation of defeat devices concern consumers?
6. What is the possible impact on an owner with an affected vehicle?
7. What rights do EU consumers have if their vehicles have been affected?
8. Should we expect other car makers of using defeat devices?
9. Is there also a problem about other car emissions such as CO2?
10. What legislative action is needed to improve vehicle testing?
11. What must Volkswagen do to restore trust amongst consumers?
12. Does the proposed repair affect a car's emissions or performance?


1. What has Volkswagen done wrong?

On the 18th September 2015 the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Volkswagen had confessed to using so called ‘defeat device’ software in a number of vehicles in order to meet US air pollutant emissions standards. The devices can sense when the car is being tested under official conditions and in turn will switch on emissions control systems to their fullest. When the car is not being tested and the car is being used on the road, emissions control systems will work at a lower capacity and in turn will lead to higher emissions.

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2. How many and which vehicles have been affected?

The Volkswagen Group (including Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat) has stated that 11 million vehicles have been affected globally, including an estimated 8 million vehicles in Europe. It has been reported that 5 million Volkswagen branded vehicles, 2.1 million Audis, 1.2 million Skodas, and 1.8 million vans in addition to 700,000 Seats have been affected.

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3. Why do air pollutant emissions matter?

The exhaust gasses emitted from motor vehicles include many air pollutants including nitrogen oxides (known as NOx for short – including nitric oxides and nitrogen dioxide). The amount of NOx that can be emitted by passenger cars are regulated under both US and European legislation and in high concentrations have been linked to the development of respiratory conditions such as asthma, reduced lung growth in children and bronchitis. NOx also contribute to eutrophication and can mean for severe environmental damage including reductions in water quality. Some affected Volkswagen Group diesel cars have been found to exceed US emission limits. Authorities in Europe are investigating if EU NOx emission limits have also been exceeded.

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4. Why didn’t authorities spot the defeat devices?

Evidence indicating the use of defeat devices was discovered by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and West Virginia University after conducting emissions tests on vehicles using on-the-road emissions testing equipment. This evidence was presented to US authorities who in turn secured a confession from VW that defeat devices had been used. One of the problems with both US and EU testing regimes as things stand is that cars are mainly tested in laboratories which makes it difficult, if not impossible for authorities to discover the use of ‘defeat devices’ without conducting additional investigations.

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5. Why should the installation of defeat devices concern consumers?

For consumers, buying a passenger vehicle can be a complex process where upon multiple criteria will be considered. For many consumers the environmental and health impacts that can result from the emissions of air pollutants will be an important factor. In this regard, many consumers will have bought a vehicle based on the green claims made by car makers and in the understanding that the vehicle would have legally met emissions limits. They would also have bought the vehicles in the belief that the car’s emissions control systems would function in normal use as they would under official tests. In Europe, VW has admitted that diesel vehicles have been fitted with this defeat device software. There have also been reports that this software is able to recognise EU regulated tests.

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6. What is the possible impact on an owner with an affected vehicle?

Aside from the fact that vehicles with installed defeat devices will emit higher amounts of air pollutants than otherwise expected, a consequence of the use of the devices means that the vehicles will need to undergo some form of alteration or repair work in order to remove the devices and ensure that the car’s performance matches standards as laid out in promotional materials, the contract held with the owner, or as required under law.

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7. What rights do EU consumers have if their vehicles have been affected?

First and foremost, consumers have the right to receive the vehicle with the specifications promised in the contract. Any repair work or alterations needed to accomplish conformity with the contract and to meet standards set out in marketing material or required under law, must be free of charge for consumers. Depending on the Member States’ law, consumers may be entitled to get compensated for the decreased vehicle (resale) value or have the contract rescinded.

On top of that, consumers should receive financial compensation. VW has deliberately deceived car owners into buying ‘dirty’ cars instead of the aspired and advertised ‘clean’ cars. European car drivers have been misled about the quality and performance features of their vehicles. They bought a car with a prohibited defeat device which they would otherwise probably not have purchased. And they suffer both economic damage (the potential loss in value of the cars) and health damage (higher than allowed output of dirty emissions). The level of distress suffered by owners of affected vehicles is also more than enough to expect financial compensation. Particularly because the majority of car owners are still waiting for the ‘repair’ of their car or have been left in the dark as to when the repair will take place.

Besides, national legislation might provide for additional rights.

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8. Should we expect other car makers of using defeat devices?

German, French and US investigations have revealed excessive emissions for a range of other car manufacturers. Opel, Mercedes and Renault are – within different jurisdictions – conducting voluntary recalls. On 12 January 2017, the US EPA has announced that FIAT Chrysler installed defeat software in some of their vehicles. In May 2017, the European Commission opened an infringement procedure against Italy for insufficient action regarding the emission control strategies employed by Fiat Chrysler. More recently, in June 2018, the German Transport Ministry ordered Daimler to recall 238,000 vehicles which were found to contain unauthorised emissions-cheating software. Daimler agreed to the recall but contested having used defeat devices. Until a full investigation is conducted into the possible use of ‘defeat devices’ amongst all car makers, it is not possible to say with certainty which car manufacturers except from Volkswagen also use ‘illegal’ defeat devices. Such an investigation should be conducted at the European level and also inspect the use of defeat devices or similar tools for the purpose of influencing fuel consumption/CO2 emissions testing programmes. What is clear is that results from on-the-road tests have shown that diesel cars of different car makers are on average approximately seven times higher than the limits set by the Euro 6 emission standard (whereby cars are measured in laboratory conditions). And for fuel consumption, recent evidence shows that on average motorists across Europe are achieving a fuel consumption performance almost 40% higher on the road than when it is tested under official laboratory conditions.

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9. Is there also a problem about other car emissions such as CO2?

The discovery of the defeat devices has added to longstanding concerns about manipulation of vehicle testing programmes. For example, concerning the measuring of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption in the EU, there are numerous tactics that car makers can employ to improve their official values such as over inflating tyres, using special lubricants and removing the car’s alternator which will all improve test results and in turn meaning car owners end up paying more in fuel costs than otherwise expected (see ‘the Great Fuel Consumption Scam’ for more info). Over the past 15 years the situation has been getting worse as research undertaken by the ICCT has shown that the gap between official figures and real-world figures has grown from 8% in 2001 to 42% in 2015 Altroconsumo, our Italian member, tested two cars (a VW Golf and a Fiat Panda) following the official testing procedure resulting in emission figures up to 50% above the car makers’ advertisements – a difference which could not be explained with known test flexibilities.

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10. What legislative action is needed to improve vehicle testing?

The European Commission needs to develop an on-the-road testing protocol of a car’s fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and disappointingly, it did not seize the opportunity of its November 2017 regulation proposal setting CO2 performance standards for cars in 2025 and 2030 to extend the real driving emissions test to CO2.

In the first half of 2018, the EU adopted the much-needed reform of the type-approval and market surveillance framework for cars. New rules, which will enter into force in September 2020, will provide for more robust in-conformity testing requirements and better EU oversight of the activities of national type-approval authorities.

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11. What must Volkswagen do to restore trust amongst consumers?

  • Ensure that a full recall of the vehicles affected in Europe will be communicated in a consistent and transparent way to the owners, providing a full and detailed information on the nature, content and purpose of the technical analysis and modifications to be made and on their aftermath and effects on the performance, safety and standard requirement (namely the ones on gas emissions) of the vehicles concerned;
  • Offer in any case timely financial compensation for any damages caused by or related to the ‘defeat devices’ installed in vehicles purchased by consumers – including the depreciation of the value of the affected vehicles;
  • Ensure that any alterations or repair work conducted on affected cars will result in the emissions performance matching EU emissions limits based on real world performance, or, where lower, the advertised emission levels for the relevant vehicle;
  • Ensure the fulfilment of any other consumer claim based on consumer sales law, including cancellation and repayment of the purchase price or proportionate reduction of the purchase price and damages for any loss.

 

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12. What legislative action is needed to improve vehicle testing?

The recall measures which are proposed by Volkswagen Group have to be validated by the respective type approval authority (e.g. the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt in Germany). However, a test by Italian consumer group Altroconsumo, a BEUC member organisation, of an Audi Q5 showed an increase of NOx emissions after the removal of the defeat device (They were 25% higher than legal limits allow). The German magazine Auto Motor Sport in their May 2016 edition showed that the fuel consumption of a “repaired” VW Amarok increased by 0.5 litre per 100 kilometre when tested on the road. A recent survey conducted by BEUC member organisations (DECO, Altroconsumo, Test Achats/Test Aankoop and OCU) noticed an increasement in fuel consumption and the loss of engine power on cars after the recall.

These test results are very concerning because they indicate that the fix proposed by VW is either not working or is having a detrimental impact on the performance of some of the affected cars. Furthermore, little is known about the long-term impacts of removing the defeat device on the vehicles and the durability of the emissions control systems that should now be working in the real world. This is why BEUC has called on the German testing agency who approved the fix, but also their national counterparts, to urgently re-examine the solutions to repair the affected cars and that they publish these results.

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Across Europe, BEUC member organisations have been following the VW scandal closely, providing advice to consumers and calling on the automaker to put in place measures that would restore trust in the company. Four of our members, in countries where such legal procedures exist, have brought groups actions to court to claim compensation for affected consumers. Below we give an overview of our members activities:


 

Austria | Belgium | France | Germany | Italy | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Switzerland | The Netherlands | UK

 

 


Austria, Verein für Konsumenteninformation   

VKI was tasked by the ministry of social affairs and the Bundesarbeiterkammer to take legal actions against VW. Affected VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda drivers could register their claims until 20 May 2018. VKI brought group actions in front of 16 courts representing a total of 10,000 consumers. According to VKI, compensation should be paid because of the decrease in value of affected cars as well as negative consequences of the software update.

To date, the focus of the proceedings has mainly been on jurisdiction issues as Volkswagen takes the view that Austrian courts are not internationally competent for the dispute against Austrian car holders represented by VKI. The regional courts answered the question of international jurisdiction in diverse manners: some courts partly affirmed while others partly denied. On 27 March 2019, the Landesgericht Klagenfurt made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice seeking clarifications about the competence of Austrian courts for the lawsuits against VW. On 2 April 2020, CJEU Advocate General Campos Sanchez-Bordona issued his Opinion (case C-343/19 VKI/Volkswagen, see also the press release) and took the view that Volkswagen can indeed be sued by the purchasers of manipulated vehicles before the courts of the Member States where the vehicles have been purchased.

A decision of the European Court of Justice is expected in the coming months.

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BELGIUM, Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop   

Test Achats/Test Aankoop launched a collective action on 15 June 2016 before the Brussels Court of First Instance (Tribunal de première instance de Bruxelles). Affected consumers registered via the organisation’s website. In December 2017, the court ruled the case admissible to proceed. In December 2019, the mandatory negotiation period expired. Court hearings are scheduled for the beginning of 2022. In the meantime, Test-Achats and Volkswagen continue their discussions to reach a settlement agreement. After vzbv and VW in Germany concluded a settlement agreement, Test-Achats and Euroconsumers sent a letter to EU Commission President Van der Leyen and Justice Commissioner Reynders requesting all EU consumers affected by the Dieselgate scandal to be treated equally and fairly.

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FRANCE, UFC-Que Choisir / CLCV       

In France, UFC-Que Choisir was appointed as member of a national independent testing commission created to investigate the dieselgate scandal. The commission was composed of a wide variety of stakeholders: a consumer organisation (UFC-Que Choisir), an environmental organisation, parliamentarians, electronic and data processing experts, representatives of the French authority tasked with consumer protection and the Ministry of Ecology. This Commission developed a protocol which it used to run vehicle tests in order to determine the level of pollution in real driving situations of a number of vehicles (both Volkswagen and non-Volkswagen cars) and to decide whether or not a defeat device had been used. The work of the Commission was summarised in a report published on 29 July 2016 confirming the systematic use of defeat devices across the industry, as defined by Regulation 715/2007,but left it to the court to determine whether or not the use of these defeat devices was legal. As a result, four criminal cases were filed in France against Volkswagen, Renault, Fiat and Peugeot Citroën and are still ongoing. UFC-Que Choisir and CLCV joined all cases as private parties.

In October 2018, the Paris High Court of First Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) submitted a request for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice seeking clarifications on (inter alia) the interpretation of the concept of “defeat device” under Regulation 715/2007 (case  C-693/18 – CLCV and others). On his Opinion, the Advocate General clarified the notion of “defeat device”, which includes technologies, strategies and mechanical or software-based components which allow emissions (including NOx) to be reduced upstream, like the ERG system, as well as those which treat them and reduce them downstream, after their formation.
The decision of the European Court of Justice is expected in the coming months.

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Germany, vzbv   

In January 2020, vzbv and Volkswagen reached an out-of-court settlement to compensate drivers affected by the dieselgate emissions scandal. This was the result of a model case (Musterfeststellungsklage) launched by vzbv against the car maker on behalf of more than 400,000 consumers. This resulted in the following:

  • Approximately 260,000 consumers in Germany who joined vzbv’s case can receive between 1,350 and 6,257 euros, depending on the car model and age. That comes down to a total of 830 million euros. Those wishing to take up this offer had to confirm so by April 2020.
  • Those who wish to reject the offer can still bring individual claims by October 2020.
  • The criteria for obtaining compensation are supervised by a third party.
  • Consumers who joined vzbv’s case but who (a) were not living in Germany at the time they bought the car or (b) bought the car as of 2016, are not covered by this agreement. Court proceedings for those consumers will therefore continue.

In parallel, on 25 May 2020, the German Federal Court (Bundesgerichthof – BGH) issued a landmark ruling on an individual dieselgate-related lawsuit confirming that Volkswagen’s manipulation of car emissions has harmed consumers and that they are due compensation. Additional decisions from the German Federal Court in the context of dieselgate are expected in July 2020.

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ITALY, Altroconsumo   

Altroconsumo is defending more than 22,000 affected car owners. Altroconsumo’ court case was bolstered by their test of an Audi Q5 after the removal of the defeat device revealed that NOx emissions were 25% higher than legal limits allow. The case was ruled admissible in May 2017. First hearings took place in June 2018. Court proceedings are currently ongoing. In parallel, a public body also fined Volkswagen for using unfair commercial practices and misconduct in the dieselgate scandal.

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LITHUANIA, Lietuvos vartotojų organizacijų aljansas 

Our Lithuanian member (Lietuvos vartotojų organizacijų aljansas) coordinated consumer organisations in the Baltic States with the aim of launching a legal action with assigned claims. However, the lack of an effective redress tool and logistical difficulties forced the organisation to cease its efforts.

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LUXEMBOURG, Union Luxembourgeoise des Consommateurs 

In the absence of collective redress instruments in Luxembourg, ULC selected 4 individual test cases of ULC members. These individual ‘assignations’ were introduced before the Tribunal d’Arrondissement in Luxembourg-city. ULC does not appear but supports the full costs given the importance of the test-cases. Defendants are car seller/Luxembourg importer VW and Audi as car manufacturers. The legal basis is the Luxembourg Unfair Commercial Practices Directive with a request of partial reimbursement of the purchase price. Court proceedings are ongoing.

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PORTUGAL, DECO  

DECO has filed a lawsuit against VW, SEAT and the Portuguese main importer SIVA in October 2016. The lawsuit comes on top of its petition to the Portuguese Ministry of the Environment to investigate the fraud and define sanctions. Court proceedings are ongoing.

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SLOVAKIA, Spoločnosť ochrany spotrebiteľov 

Due to the absence of collective redress tools available in Slovakia, our member SOS started to examine cooperation with professional legal service providers. A public campaign was kicked off by SOS to reach out to consumers. However, the idea of launching a court case ultimately had to be dropped due to a lack of resources.

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SLOVENIA, Zveza Potrošnikov Slovenije (ZPS)   

Since April 2018, Zveza Potrošnikov Slovenije (ZPS) has been cooperating with the claim platform MyRight to sue VW before the regional court of Brunswick (Germany) on behalf of 6,200 car owners in order to obtain compensation for consumers. During hearings in February 2020, the Brunswick Regional Court took the view that MyRight does not have legal standing to represent foreign claimants and need an additional registration to collect claims which are subject to a foreign law. Proceedings are ongoing.

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SPAIN, OCU 

On 19 July 2016, OCU filed a class action against VW-Audi Spain Group joined by 7,500 of its members. In early 2017, OCU tried to reach a settlement but Volkswagen did not present itself for the hearing scheduled to that purpose by the Madrid court. The action was ruled admissible in April 2018. Hearings took place in February 2020.

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SWITZERLAND, Fédération Romande des Consommateurs (FRC)

Since there is no group action mechanism currently available in Switzerland, the Fédération Romande des Consommateur (FRC) cooperated with the claim platform MyRight to start an action before the Brunschwing Regional Court in Germany. In May 2020, the court dismissed the action and took the view that MyRight does not have legal standing to represent foreign parties.

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THE NETHERLANDS, Consumentenbond

In September 2016, Consumentenbond filed an official complaint to the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). As a result, ACM imposed the (at the time) maximum fine of €450,000 on the VW Group for undertaking unfair commercial practices. ACM confirmed its decision on 6 December 2018. VW appealed the decision and the case is now being reviewed by the administrative court of Rotterdam. In December 2019, the Rotterdam Court decided to suspend the proceedings and to wait for the CJEU decision expected to clarify the notion of “defeat device” (case  C-693/18 – CLCV and others, see also below).

Consumentenbond is actively involved in the ongoing procedures as an interested party. In March 2020, together with the Volkswagen Group Diesel Efficiency Stichting, Consumentenbond sent a letter to VW, with a 2-week ultimatum for VW to initiate negotiations on compensation. However, VW did not reply to the ultimatum. In June 2020, Consumentenbond, in collaboration with the Volkswagen Group Diesel Efficiency Stichting (VGDES), started an action against Volkswagen.

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UNITED KINGDOM

On 6 April 2020, the London High Court issued a judgement on preliminary issues in the context of a Group Litigation Order gathering approximately 91,000 owners or lessees of VW, Audi, Skoda and SEAT cars, all of which used a particular VW diesel engine with type designation EA 189. The court ruled that the affected vehicles did contain defeat devices, which is “a fundamental subversion of the test and the objective behind it”. As the judge added, “it destroys the utility of the test because it makes it impossible for performance under it to be the approximation of normal driving conditions and performance which it is intended to be”. A full trial of liability will now continue.

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POLAND

In January 2020, the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) issued a fine of 120M PLN (approximately 28.3M EUR) against VW Poland for misleading commercial practices. This is the highest sanction in UOKiK's history for violation of the collective interests of consumers. “I took into account the fact that the practice lasted 8 years - there were no settlement proposals from the company during the proceedings. The company acted to the detriment of consumers because it made unethical recommendations that dealers should not accept legitimate consumer complaints. Incorrect information in advertising materials caused disinformation – such information referred to Volkswagen's environmentally-friendly attitude, whereas in fact the cars were not environmentally-friendly. Manipulating exhaust emissions is denial of an environmentally-friendly attitude”, UOKiK President said. UOKiK’s press release also highlighted, “the findings of the Office as to the practice used are binding for common courts when handling individual cases concerning the practices challenged in the decision. Consumers may also refer to UOKiK's decisions when making a complaint.”.

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BEUC member organisations, Test Achats/Test Aankoop, OCU, Altroconsumo and DECO recently conducted a large survey of 10,600 car owners in their respective countries about whether they are facing problems with their car after the software update by VW. The results showed that more than 4 out of 10 drivers of those who have made the software update report a negative impact on their car. The most common complaints were the increase in fuel consumption and the loss of engine power. In addition, many consumers had to pay for repairing the car after the software update.

Please click here for the contact details of all of BEUC's members.

On 28 September 2016 BEUC organised the "Fitness check on the car sector in Europe – Vehicles testing and emission scandal" conference. The goal of the conference was to take stock about the consumer detriment of the dieselgate scandal, the ongoing investigation into the car sector and what solutions exist to clean up the car sector in Europe.
 

The first outcome of the conference already happened on the same day. European Commissioners Věra Jourová and Elżbieta Bieńkowska issued a statement in support for consumers to obtain compensation from Volkswagen. This statement echoes the Commissioner’s remarks when speaking at our conference. While the Volkswagen scandal was the obvious elephant in the room, a much broader range of issues was addressed during the day: From policy-makers’ and industry’s response to the ensuing scandals to vehicle type approval and consumer redress.

We have created an online story to summarise the highlights of the conference. You can have a look at the pictures of the conference on our Flickr-account.

Contact Card

The European Consumer Organisation
Europäischer Verbraucherverband
Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs

Rue d'Arlon, 80 Bte 1 
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Tel: +32 2 789 24 01
E-mail:

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Director
Johannes Kleis