EU Seeks to Coordinate Consumer Action Against VW Over Dieselgate

A VW sign is seen outside a Volkswagen dealership in London. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters/File)
A VW sign is seen outside a Volkswagen dealership in London. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters/File)

The European Commission will meet consumer groups this week to make sure they are doing enough to seek compensation for European drivers affected by Volkswagen’s cheating of diesel emissions tests.

Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova told a news conference on Monday that the “Dieselgate” scandal was a pan-European Union challenge and the Commission was assessing whether there had been breaches of two sets of rules that apply across the bloc.

The rules are the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive – which prohibits companies from touting exaggerated environmental claims in their sales pitches – and the Unfair Commercial Practises Directive, both of which apply across the EU.

“[They] set high standards for all the member states to enforce in case these rules are breached, [which] seems to be the case in so-called Dieselgate,” Jourova said.

Consumer groups and national authorities gave feedback in recent weeks showing that Volkswagen had not provided sufficient information to consumers, she said.

Volkswagen declined to comment.

Jourova plans to meet consumer associations this Thursday and national protection agencies on Sept. 29, as well as Volkswagen on an unspecified date.

“It is not my intention to come with strong action without fair communication with the company,” she said. “I cannot say I am going to take a stricter approach. I want them to look at the valid legislation and see what they have to do.”

Jourova did not say what that “strong action” might be.

The Commission has said it is for national organizations and authorities to pursue Volkswagen as they see fit.

But it is also keen to ensure EU rules are fully enforced, and has shown with its huge demand for back taxes from Apple that it will take on multinationals itself when it feels it can and it is necessary.

Jourova has been working with consumer groups to pressure Volkswagen to voluntarily compensate customers in Europe for its diesel emissions test cheating, as it has in the United States.

Volkswagen has pledged billions of dollars to compensate drivers in the United States, but has so far rejected calls for similar payments covering the 8.5 million affected vehicles in Europe, where different legal rules weaken the chances of winning a payout.