Commission unsure if it can force VW to provide compensation

Antonio Tajani said the EU would not ditch the Spitzenkandidaten system. [European Commission]

After the European Commission called for VW to be “fair” in compensating victims of the dieselgate scandal, questions have been raised over its actual capacity to force the German carmaker to do so. EURACTIV’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.

On Thursday (21 January), El?bieta Bie?kowska, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, came out in favour of VW compensating European drivers in a similar way to what the German car giant is offering to US consumers.

“I would like to ask you to reconsider your stance regarding compensation and reflect on the ways to offer compensation also to the European consumers,” Bie?kowska, Poland’s representative in the Juncker Commission, said.

>>Read: Industry Commissioner tells VW to compensate European drivers

In the United States, where the Dieselgate scandal first broke, VW has offered anyone affected a voucher worth $1,000 (around €900). It can be redeemed at all VW dealers and is good for three years of breakdown and recovery services. In Europe, where around 2.4 million cars are affected in Germany alone, according to the most recent information no compensation is going to be paid.

It is a move that Minister for Consumer Protection Heiko Maas (SPD) has called for.  Instead, VW has only offered to fix the cars that were fitted with the so-called defeat devices and to provide rental cars as an alternative form of transportation.

Commission may be powerless

Whether the European Commission with be able to compel VW to pay out is unclear. A Commission spokesperson referred to existing EU law on consumer protection, in which compensation may be provided if replacement or repair of the product has not been carried out properly or in a timely fashion.

The legislation also makes mention of compensation in the event of misleading advertising. “We are not yet in a position to ascertain if these provisions can be applied to this particular case, because all the facts are not on the table yet,” said the spokesperson.

>>Read: VW may have used EU funds illegally

Ismail Ertug MEP (SPD) expressed his expectation that “the Commission can be tougher in the internal market that the US authorities”. Ertug is one of five German politicians that make up the new committee formed to deal with scandal, which was announced on Thursday by the European Parliament. The 45-member panel has been tasked with investigating the failings of the European Institutions in uncovering the scandal.

Daimler CEO calls for new form of testing

Antonio Tajani, the former Internal Market Commissioner, and his successor, Bie?kowska, are both expected to come in for criticism. The committee will formally start proceedings on 1 February.

>>Read: Jaguar to enter world of electric motorsport

During a visit to Brussels, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that the scandal had led to consumers mistrusting the entire car industry. During a press conference, he called for the EU to come up with new tests, although a compromise proposal currently with the Parliament is considered to be insufficient.

This article was also published by EURACTIV Germany.

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