Monday

18th Feb 2019

VW 'seems' to have broken EU laws

  • Jourova: 'We, as the commission, cannot behave as though nothing had happened' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission is looking at how to help consumers to enforce potential compensation claims against Volkswagen, whose emissions cheating seems to have breached two EU laws.

But Vera Jourova, the commissioner responsible for consumer rights, said on Monday (5 September) in Brussels that the patchwork of different legal regimes in EU states would make it more “complicated” for Europeans to seek redress than for their US counterparts.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Former commissioner Antonio Tajani (l), now an MEP, had been warned about emissions discrepancies but did not investigate (Photo: European Commission)

She said the German carmaker appeared to have fallen foul of two EU laws - the consumer sales and guarantees directive and the unfair commercial practices directive.

“These pieces of legislation set high standards for all the member states to enforce in case these rules are breached. It seems to be the case in so-called Dieselgate,” she said.

“We, as the commission, cannot behave as though nothing had happened.”

She noted that the EU consumer sales directive could oblige VW to replace dodgy cars, to repair them, or to offer a reduction in price.

But she said it would be up to independent courts at national level to issue rulings on financial compensation.

She also said that in the US, national authorities can seek collective compensation for consumers, but that in some EU countries it would be the job of consumer NGOs to act, while in others individuals would have to “take it into their own hands” to challenge the giant company.

"In the European Union, the way to damages is more complicated than in the United States," she said.

Jourova already asked for written information from consumer groups and national regulators on the case.

She got the answers in late August.

She said everybody had complained about lack of information from VW, while Die Welt, a German newspaper, reported on Monday that 20 member states had concluded that VW broke one or both of the EU laws.

Next steps

Jourova plans to meet face-to-face with the groups and regulators on 8 September and 29 September before deciding how to proceed.

She said she would also meet VW lobbyists “on their own request”, adding: "It is not my intention to come with strong action without fair communication with the company."

Jourova did not specify what she meant by “strong action”, but she indicated that she has little power other than to ensure that national regulators have properly implemented the “breached” EU laws.

"I cannot say I am going to take a stricter approach. I want them [member states] to look at the valid legislation and see what they have to do,” she said.

“We expect all the authorities to act in the strong interest of consumer groups.”

VW issued a statement to the Reuters news agency saying that Jourova’s analysis was unfounded.

"Notwithstanding, in the meantime we are in regular and constructive dialogue with the Brussels authorities,” it said.

VW has set aside €13.2 billion to pay off unhappy US clients, but is also facing law suits by regulators in at least three states that could see the price tag go up.

Harsh light

It has refused to pay anything to EU customers whose cars have polluted the air more than the company had claimed.

VW argues that because laws in the EU and the US are different, Europeans are not entitled to the same type of redress.

The affair has also cast a harsh light on national EU regulators and on the EU commission.

A French parliamentary inquiry concluded in August that years of inaction by national authorities responsible for checking emissions in real life "constitutes incitement to fraud".

An ongoing European Parliament inquiry, as well as leaked commission memos obtained by EUobserver, has also indicated that the commission could have suspected there was a problem with carmakers cheating years ago, but failed to properly investigate abuses.

Investigation

Tensions rise again among Dieselgate MEPs

Centre-right MEPs want to put centre-left MEPs in the witness stand, and accuse the centre-left chairwoman of not being impartial.

Investigation

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

Consumer affairs commissioner Jourova said Volkswagen has "committed to an EU-wide action plan", but the promise contains little news value according to the carmaker itself.

Investigation

VW lobbyist met German EU commissioner

VW spent €2.8m on lobbying in Brussels in 2015. Earlier this year, it met with commissioner Oettinger to discuss "diesel emissions", even though it's not his portfolio.

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

News in Brief

  1. Visegrad countries meeting with Israel called off
  2. EU ministers call climate change 'direct and existential threat'
  3. Seven MPs leave Britain's Labour Party
  4. Czech PM: May's EU elections 'most important ever'
  5. 'History will judge us': May tells MPs on Brexit
  6. Trump warns EU on release of Islamist fighters
  7. Venezuela expels 'conspiratorial' MEPs
  8. Holocaust dispute upsets Israel's EU lobbying

Opinion

Eastern Europe Matters

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic reflect on 10 years of the Eastern Partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  2. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  3. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  4. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  5. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  6. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  7. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  8. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us