German consumer group files class action suit on behalf of Volkswagen owners

Environment

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German consumer group vzbv filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) on Thursday over diesel emissions tests rigging, using new class-action rules which came in on Nov. 1, potentially making it easier to win damages from companies.

FILE PHOTO: A fuel tank cap of a diesel car is pictured in Berlin, Germany, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

VW has already had to pay compensation over the emissions scandal in the United States to car owners. But in Germany, VW was able to strike a deal with regulators to fix emissions with a software update, allowing its cars to retain their road-worthiness certification.

The class action lawsuit seeks to ascertain whether owners of cars with type EA 189 diesel engines had been intentionally harmed by the carmaker’s use of engine management software designed to disguise excessive pollution levels.

Volkswagen said on Thursday the possibility of class action suits did not change its standpoint that there was no legal basis for consumers to make claims in connection to the diesel issue in Germany.

Around 40,000 consumers have expressed interest in joining the lawsuit before a statute of limitations on claiming damages expires this year, vzbv said.

Owners of VWs with diesel engines have seen the value of their cars tumble after regulators found they produced excessive levels of pollution. Regulators have even sought to ban diesel cars from inner cities, further denting residual values.

In response to the so-called dieselgate scandal, lawmakers amended class action rules in Germany, making it easier for individuals to join group lawsuits without having to file a new case.

Whether consumers are entitled to damages and what form these damages may take, will need to be established in a separate lawsuit.

Vzbv has said it wanted to get compensation for some 2 million owners of diesel cars that were not as environmentally friendly as VW said they were at the time of purchase.

VW admitted in 2015 it had used illegal engine control devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests.

Reporting by Hans Edzard Busemann. Additional reporting by Jan Schwartz. Writing by Edward Taylor. Editing by Jane Merriman

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