Dieselgate: EU disappointed with VW's treatment of customers
By Peter Teffer
The EU's highest official in charge of consumer affairs is “disappointed” that Volkswagen is unwilling to give even a non-financial compensation to consumers who had bought a diesel car equipped with cheating software.
“My optimism is decreasing since last year October, when I was very clear about what I would like Volkswagen to do,” EU justice and consumer affairs commissioner Vera Jourova told EUobserver on Monday (20 February).
She wants the German carmaker to provide the 8.5 million Europeans with affected cars with a “gentleman's gesture”.
“Some bonus for inconvenience, something like prolonging of the guarantee period on the engine, or something of this nature,” said Jourova.
It is 522 days on Tuesday since the news broke that Volkswagen Group had fooled authorities with illegal devices that made the car switch into a more environmentally friendly mode during the official test.
Jourova has had three meetings with Volkswagen officials, most recently on 6 February with CEO Matthias Mueller.
“And I still have nothing as a clear concrete response. I informed Mr Mueller that I have been disappointed by the approach to this non-financial bonus and I am still hoping there will be some positive change,” the Czech politician said.
Jourova added she lacked “the tough competence to push for something concrete”, meaning that the European Commission does not have the jurisdiction to act.
She said some national consumer authorities had the power to take legal action, which could result in financial compensation.
The treatment of consumers in Europe differs starkly from that of those in the United States.
There, Volkswagen has agreed to financially compensate affected consumers.
Last week, an American court gave preliminary approval to a settlement between VW and the owners of approximately 75,000 affected Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche vehicles with a three litre engine.
Depending on the model, consumers will receive between around €6,656 and €15,237.
It follows an earlier settlement with owners of cars with a two litre engine, who were entitled to €4,600 and €9,000 each.
But the scale of affected cars is different. In the US, some 482,000 cars are affected. The number of cars with cheating software in Europe is 17 times as large.
Last Summer, VW CEO Mueller said offering a similar compensation scheme in Europe would “overstretch” the German company.
For example, if every European consumer received €4,600, Volkswagen would have to set aside €39.1 billion.
“This is an important European company, which employs 600,000 people. I am not here [as] an advocate of Volkswagen but I must see also this aspect,” said Jourova.
She said Europe is “missing” a single court that would have been able to rule on compensation for all European consumers.
Meanwhile, Germany is not willing to apply the same threats as the US.
While Volkswagen was facing potentially high fines in the US, German authorities have said on the record that Volkswagen did not need to be punished beyond having to repair the affected cars.