18th Mar 2018

EU urges consumer groups to go after VW

  • Consumer organisations feel Volkswagen has produced misleading advertisements (Photo: Volkswagen Belgium)

Thirty-one European consumer organisations met in Brussels on Thursday (8 September) to discuss ways to seek compensation from Volkswagen Group (VW), which had equipped 8.5 million diesel cars in Europe with cheating software.

The meeting was “an important first step”, said Christian Wigand, spokesman for the European Commission.

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  • EU commissioner for justice, Vera Jourova (l) thinks Volkswagen may have breached EU consumer rules (Photo: European Commission)

The talks were hosted by EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova, who earlier this week said it seemed VW may have broken two pieces of EU legislation - the consumer sales and guarantees directive and the unfair commercial practices directive.

The meeting “helped the European Commission to gather the information necessary to ensure the relevant EU legislation is properly enforced and it gave consumer organisations the chance to exchange information and best practices to be more effective in dealing with this case,” said Wigand.

It included consumer associations from the UK and the Federation of German Consumer Organisations.

In the United States, VW recently reached a settlement agreement with American consumers. The German company will cough up €9 billion for a compensation fund.

The cash can be used if VW customers want to return their cars. In addition, most owners of cars with cheating software will receive between €4,600 and €9,000 each.

Not Europeans, though.

Almost a year after the scandal broke, VW has maintained that it does not need to compensate European consumers.

Legal action has been relatively slow compared to other regions in the world, but during the summer, the Italian Competition Authority slapped a €5 million fine on VW for misleading adverts. It was the largest fine it could give.

A source with knowledge of the meeting said that it provided a space for the consumer authorities to be “inspired” by their counterparts from other EU countries.

Brussels-based consumer lobby group Beuc Thursday called it “reassuring that the European Commission is taking the side of consumers on the issue of receiving compensation for Volkswagen’s emission fraud”.

“National authorities in Europe have faltered for too long while consumers in the US, South Korea and Australia have seen governments act in their interest,” Beuc said in a press release.

According to spokesman Wigand, the pan-European “cooperation will be continued in the coming months”.


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.

VW dismisses complaints on Dieselgate fix

'I think customers who want to get information (...) are able to receive information if they want," VW management board member Hiltrud Werner told EUobserver. Consumer groups disagree.

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