Mass action against vw over diesel: mega-trial continues

The second day of hearings in the mega-trial against Volkswagen over the diesel fraud begins on Monday. A settlement is not in sight.

Employee parking lot in front of the VW plant’s administrative tower Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa

There is still no settlement in sight between the two sides ahead of the second day of hearings in the proceedings surrounding the model declaratory action brought by the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations against automaker Volkswagen. The consumer advocates want the Higher Regional Court to declare that VW "intentionally and immorally" deceived customers in the course of the emissions manipulations on diesel engines and that the customers are entitled to damages. VW denies that the buyers have suffered any damage. One of the issues before the court on Monday will be whether the claims are well-founded.

At the end of September, the largest trial to date concerning manipulated diesel vehicles began at the Higher Regional Court in . In the model declaratory action, one party conducted the proceedings on behalf of the other; if successful, the judgment applies to all persons who have entered their names in the corresponding register at the Federal Ministry of Justice. In this case, there are 468,000 entries. However, car buyers must sue for their claims individually.

They could be spared this if VW and the consumer advocates agree on a settlement. The carmaker would then be spared enormous legal costs. The consumer protectors are open to a settlement. Volkswagen has not approached the association so far, said Sebastian Reiling of the federal association. However, it is still unclear how many of the 468,000 entries in the register of complaints are valid, he added. There may be duplications, and car owners may have entered their names in the register whose vehicles are not covered by the lawsuit. Only when all entries have been evaluated can the economic value of a settlement be determined, he said.

If no settlement is reached, the case will likely go all the way to the Federal Supreme Court. So far, the case law regarding the emissions manipulations is not clear. Volkswagen points to several higher regional courts that have ruled in favor of the automaker. Consumer advocates, on the other hand, see the courts more on the side of diesel buyers. They also point out that VW is making settlements in order to prevent rulings by the highest courts that are of a fundamental nature.

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