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Comparison with consumer protections ends VW model process message

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Hamburg / Berlin (Reuters) – Volkswagen can close another chapter in dealing with the diesel scandal.

90 percent of the eligible diesel owners agreed to the laboriously negotiated comparison with consumer protectors. Shortly before the extended registration period expired, 235,000 comparisons had been checked positively, the Wolfsburg-based carmaker announced on Thursday. A total of 750 million euros would now be transferred to them – amounts between 1350 and 6250 euros per customer. Another 17,000 applications are still being examined. The Federal Consumer Association (VZBV) then withdrew its model lawsuit against Volkswagen. In order to facilitate such class actions in the future, the association calls for changes in the law.

The procedure for the so-called model declaratory action before the Higher Regional Court in Braunschweig can be terminated seven months after the start. It was the first, much-noticed process for this type of class action, newly introduced in Germany, with which consumers can pool their interests in court. The judge favored a settlement early on in order to shorten the procedure, which could otherwise have taken several years.

Because of the complex procedure, the consumer advocates are calling for changes to the law for a more effective class action in Germany. The lawsuit, in which damaged VW customers had to register for the model declaratory action, is superfluous and only causes bureaucracy and time pressure, said VZBV boss Klaus Müller. In view of the impending recession due to the coronavirus crisis, significantly more people would probably have benefited from the comparison without a register of complaints. It would also make sense if the competent court could make a binding decision on mandatory arbitration. “Legislators have to make improvements here.”

Müller referred to the VW lawsuit as a historic proceeding. It has compensated more consumers than ever. “But the road was bumpy,” he said, referring to the 18-month back and forth from the filing of the lawsuit to the settlement.

Volkswagen has provided a total of EUR 830 million in damages for manipulated diesel for 262,000 customers. At the end of February, the carmaker had agreed on a comparison with VZBV at the end of February. In return, the beneficiaries must waive future lawsuits. Volkswagen wants to curb the burden of the diesel scandal, which has already cost the group EUR 31.3 billion.

MANIFULED EXHAUST GAS VALUES

Originally, 470,000 people had registered for the model declaratory action. The final figure was lower because the negotiations agreed to only consider diesel owners who bought their car before January 1, 2016. After that, according to Volkswagen, the buyers should have known that their diesel had been manipulated. Plaintiffs based abroad were also not taken into account, and duplicate and incorrect information was deleted from the register. In September 2015, the carmaker admitted that it had styled millions of emissions from diesel cars using software.

However, the legal battle over compensation is far from over with the comparison: more than 70,000 lawsuits against VW are still pending before the courts. When the Federal Court of Justice first hears a diesel owner’s claim for damages (VI ZR 252/19) against the car manufacturer from Tuesday (May 5), it will ultimately be decided whether the Wolfsburg-based company can financially resolve the exhaust gas crisis after almost five years – or with more Have to calculate claims. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will rule in the foreseeable future in a case involving defeat devices. Depending on the outcome of this proceeding, further lawsuits could arise not only against VW.

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