Monday

19th Aug 2019

Consumers, MEPs want better redress after dieselgate

  • The Volkswagen 'dieselgate' affair highlighted the different protections for US and EU customers. (Photo: Dave Pinter)

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and 38 MEPs wrote a letter to European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker on Wednesday (11 October), asking for binding legislation on collective redress to protect European consumers.

The measure would provide consumers "with a tool to claim the right to get compensation when a company's actions lead to a mass damage," said Monique Goyens, BEUC's director general.

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

The issue emerged in the aftermath of the dieselgate scandal, when German carmaker Volkswagen refused to compensate European consumers affected by the engine tempering to cheat emissions tests, which involved some eight million cars in the European Union.

In September 2015 the US Environment and Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that the German carmaker had cheated on emission tests. Soon after, it became clear that the issue was on a global scale, with over 11 million cars affected worldwide.

More recent examples include when the Irish airline Ryanair refused to inform passengers about their right to be compensated, after cancelling thousand of flights.

Exceptions to the rule

With a few exceptions - Italy, Belgium, Spain or, Portugal, that have a relatively well-functioning collective redress system - EU consumers are unable "to band together to claim their rights when they have suffered detriment," the letter says.

In the United States, by contrast, customers can easily file a joint class action and claim compensation in court. And it was precisely because of a threat of class action that the German multinational delivered a compensation package costing billions of euros for affected car owners.

"It's totally crazy," said MEP Merja Kyllonen, from the left GUE/NGL group, who co-signed the letter.

"Those companies that are working in Europe are taking better care of other areas' customers," she told EUobserver.

She added that EU consumers "pay similar prices for products" as those in the US, "so," she concluded "why aren't they getting the same compensation or payback?"

Studies, consultations...but little action

So far, the European Commission has carried out studies and public consultations supporting a collective redress scheme at EU level.

In June 2013 it published non-binding recommendations to all member states to create collective redress mechanisms at national level.

During a meeting in Brussels in March 2017, the commissioner for consumers affairs Vera Jourova met representatives from consumer protection authorities of 22 European countries. She agreed on the necessity of coordinated action to help Volkswagen owners.

Jourova "encouraged national authorities to use all the possible means to protect consumers" from dieselgate's consequences, Commission spokesman Christian Wigand told this website.

According to MEP Nicola Danti, from the centre-left S&D group, the Commission's proposals have not been particularly incisive.

"With this letter, we are eager to provoke a reaction within the Commission," explained Danti, who is also coordinator within the EU Parliament's committee on internal market and consumer protection and co-signed the document.

He said that the EU executive has been mainly concerned about "not damaging the European industry."

Danti added that consumers "have to be protected", since stronger consumers "make [the] system of production and protection ... stronger [for everyone]."

For his part, in his state of the union speech in September, Juncker criticised the way the car industry had misled consumers and declared himself to be "shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled", calling "on the car industry to come clean and make it right", hinting that a change of stance is ongoing within the Commission.

Commenting on the BEUC's letter, Commission spokesman Wigand said that the EU executive intends "to further strengthen public and private enforcement" of consumer rules, as Juncker suggested.

In this respect, he added, the Commission is already dealing "with the reform of the consumer protection cooperation regulation" and will propose a "new deal for consumers" to "further strengthen ways of enforcement and redress for consumers" in the spring of next year.

In the next few weeks, the Commission will publish a report, looking at the implementation of the Commission's recommendation on collective redress from 2013 that could be a key element for next steps.

Investigation

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.

Investigation

VW to EU: We will fail on recall promise

German carmaker told EU commission in a private meeting it expected only 75 percent of cars will be fixed by the end of 2017.

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.

Exclusive

Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

A European financial regulatory body set up after the financial crisis is at loggerheads with the European Commission over whether to carry out a transparency review of certain financial products. The reason: Brexit.

News in Brief

  1. Trump turned down: Greenland not for sale
  2. UK Libdems would back Clarke or Harman as new PM
  3. Six countries agree to take 'Open Arms' ship migrants
  4. Gibraltar judge: Iranian ship should be released
  5. Increasing fears of a global recession
  6. Far-right hate crimes on the rise in Germany
  7. EU steel tariffs have 'worked well' so far
  8. Italian court: Migrant rescue ship can enter Italian waters

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  2. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  3. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  4. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  5. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide
  6. US offers Johnson helping hand on Brexit
  7. Italy: New government without Salvini in the making
  8. Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us