Thursday

18th Jan 2018

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”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

VW 'seems' to have broken EU laws

EU commission trying to help consumers seek compensation from Volkswagen, whose emissions cheating appears to have breached two EU laws.

EU urges consumer groups to go after VW

European consumer groups met in Brussels to discuss strategy and tactics on how to have Volkswagen Group compensate owners of cars with cheating software.

VW 'partially' delivers on EU-wide plan

German carmaker had promised the EU that all its citizens who own a diesel car with cheating software would be informed by the end of the year, but now it says it needs more time.

VW diesel repairs could take until 2019

German car company has fixed 5.4 million of the 8.5 million European diesel cars that were equipped with emissions-cheating software. Some consumers have decided to shun Volkswagen Group forever.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan parliament elects separatist speaker
  2. Czech government resigns
  3. MEPs back tighter export rules on cyber tech
  4. Annual eurozone inflation at 1.4 percent in December
  5. EPP group calls for 'European Netflix'
  6. Ex-MEP Goulard slated for senior French bank post
  7. Luxembourg speaks out in support of Palestinian state
  8. Danish fishing communities to be hit hard by Brexit, says report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other Border Regions on How Countries Can Work Together to Generate Growth
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  4. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  5. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  8. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  9. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  10. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  11. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  12. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties