Friday

9th Dec 2016

Investigation

VW: EU's action plan is 'nothing new'

  • EU commissioner Jourova (third from the left) meeting with VW representatives (Photo: European Commission)

Volkswagen Group's “EU-wide action plan”, announced by the European Commission, to fix diesel cars with cheating software is “actually nothing new”, a spokesman for the company told EUobserver on Thursday (22 September).

EU justice and consumer affairs commissioner, Vera Jourova, said Wednesday, after meeting with one of the members of the Volkswagen Group's (VW) management board, that the German car company “committed to an EU-wide action plan today, which is an important step towards a fair treatment of consumers in the EU”.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But Nicolai Laude, VW spokesman for the “diesel issue”, told this website that what the commission calls an action plan relates to “what we agreed already with the German authority”.

Indeed, almost a year ago, the managing director of Volkswagen Group UK, Paul Willis, had already promised that the cars equipped with cheating software would be repaired so they would be in line with EU legislation.

“We have an absolute obligation to fix these cars, to put them right and to make sure that they have the same characteristics and the same miles per gallon as we committed to. That is what we are committing to do,” Willis told members of the House of Commons in a hearing on 12 October 2015.

Top news

The announcement that Volkswagen “committed to an EU-wide action plan to bring the affected cars back into conformity” topped the daily press release from the EU commission on Thursday, and was one of the three announcements at the daily noon briefing by commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

“Volkswagen agreed to inform the customers by end 2016 and to have all cars repaired by autumn 2017,” the press release said.

According to an EU commission official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, it was these deadlines that was new.

“By the end of the year everyone should have been contacted,” the official said, adding that VW had not been given a timetable before.

For his part, Laude said that VW had already expected to have every customer informed by the end of 2016.

Indeed, as early as December 2015, VW had said consumers would “shortly" be informed. Surely the company did not mean a one-year time period.

So is it the promise that cars will be fixed by autumn 2017 that is the newsy element of the announcement?

“If you would like to say so, yes,” said the VW spokesman, adding that the public and authorities "probably didn't expect anything different" than the cars being fixed by the date. In autumn 2017, it will be two years since the scandal erupted.

The commission official had said VW was expected to share details with the commission next week, and that the action plan itself was not yet ready. Rather, VW had committed to producing an action plan, the contact said.

Disappointment

Civil society groups expressed disappointment.

“This action plan does not seem to contain any new elements when comparing it with VW’s commitments back in 2015. Recalling the cars is not even the bare minimum that consumers expect from VW,” said deputy director-general Ursula Pachl of European consumer lobby group BEUC.

Greg Archer, of the environmental lobby organisation Transport & Environment, was equally critical.

“The commission's statement demonstrates its abject failure to hold VW to account and the arrogance of the company towards its customers,” he said.

“VW drivers have been repeatedly told their cars will be recalled and the announcement they may have to wait another year for the fix is disgraceful.”

US vs EU

The difference between how authorities in the US and the EU have reacted is stark.

In the United States, where authorities had forced VW to admit to cheating on the emissions tests, the German company agreed to a €13.2 billion settlement to compensate consumers and clean up the environmental damage. Meanwhile, the company may still face substantial penalties.

In Europe, however, VW has refused to offer financial compensation to owners of affected cars, despite 8.5 million of the 11 million cars with cheating software are operating here.

“A commitment to inform consumers is hardly a sufficient remedy when a company has breached European Union consumer law,” said BEUC's Pachl, adding the commission “should not accept such poor promises.”

The EU commission official said compensation was discussed at the meeting between Jourova and VW, but could not give details.

The meeting between Jourova and VW official Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz was “a very good, positive, constructive meeting”, according to spokesman Laude.

He added they have agreed to meet again before the end of the year.

The meeting came two weeks after Jourova had said that it "seems" that VW had broken EU consumer laws.

Update: On Friday 23 September, VW spokesman Nicolai Laude called EUobserver to say he had misunderstood the question, and that part of the action plan is in fact new. He has yet to send a statement to explain which part.

Investigation

Why doesn't the EU have a road transport agency?

There are EU agencies covering maritime transport, aviation, and railways, but road transport never got its own. Some MEPs are now advocating one, to the chagrin of many member states.

News in Brief

  1. Council of Europe critical of Turkey emergency laws
  2. Italian opposition presses for anti-euro referendum
  3. Danish MP wants warning shots fired to deter migrants
  4. Defected Turkish officers to remain in Greece
  5. Most child asylum seekers are adults, says Denmark
  6. No school for children of 'illegal' migrants, says Le Pen
  7. Ombudsman slams EU Commission on tobacco lobbying
  8. McDonald's moves fiscal HQ to UK following tax probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  2. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  3. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debated on the Future of the EU at the Winter Mingle
  4. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  5. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  6. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  7. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  9. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  10. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  11. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  12. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  2. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  4. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  5. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)
  6. Access NowTell the EU Council: Protect our Rights to Privacy and Security
  7. ACCAThe Future of Audit Means Adaption to Today’s Global and Digital World
  8. Swedish EnterprisesNew Rules for EU Anti-dumping Measures
  9. European Jewish CongressTakes Part in Building Resilient Communities
  10. UNICEFUniversal Children’s Day: UNICEF Calls for Global Action on Child Rights Violations
  11. Counter BalanceThe EU Bank Cannot be a Key Player in Europe's Response to the Plight of Refugees
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsEvidence of Human Rights Violations and International Crimes in Crimea