Volkswagen should act according to the Directive on unfair commercial practices
The EU consumer authorities and the European Commission sent a joint letter to the CEO of Volkswagen urging the group to swiftly repair all cars affected by the “dieselgate” scandal. This is part of a coordinated action by EU consumer authorities to make sure that the Volkswagen group respects consumer law in the aftermath of the scandal and is proactive towards the consumers concerned. Consumer authorities across the EU continue to receive indications that many of the cars affected have not been repaired yet.
After talks with Commissioner Jourová in 2016, Volkswagen committed to repairing all affected cars by autumn 2017. Today EU consumer authorities, under the leadership of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), are urging Volkswagen to confirm, within one month, that this plan will be upheld. They demand full transparency in this process, including a detailed account on what has been achieved and what remains to be done. The Commission has requested that all affected Volkswagen cars should be brought into full conformity with type approval rules, therefore Volkswagen should guarantee to resolve any potential problem arising after the repairs.
Commissioner Jourová said: “I am pleased to see that consumer authorities, as enforcers of EU law, are united in their approach concerning Volkswagen, and that they insist that our demands are respected. More than 8 million consumers in different Member States have been affected by the VW case. When there are pan-European problems like this, only by acting together can consumer authorities ensure that EU consumer law is respected everywhere in the Union. With today’s joint position, EU consumers can be sure that both consumer authorities in Member States and the European Commission are on their side and that any half measures will not be accepted.”
The consumer protection authorities expect feedback from Volkswagen on the following points, among others:
Transparency and communication: Volkswagen should individually inform consumers about the repair as soon as possible. Volkswagen should provide consumers with enough information to allow them to make a well-informed decision. In line with the Directive on unfair commercial practices, it should include information such as:
o The precise and clear reasons why the car has to be repaired;
o What the repair entails;
o What they have to do to get their car repaired;
o What can or will happen if they do not have their cars repaired;
o In which Member States cars which have not been repaired will stop being roadworthy and when.
Inform second-hand car owners and consumers outside Volkswagen dealerships: Consumers that have bought their vehicles outside the Volkswagen dealership or are maintaining it outside of such a dealership (e.g. second-hand cars, cars bought directly from importers), Volkswagen should maximise their efforts to inform these car owners.
The Trust-Building Measure: Consumer authorities welcomed the trust building measure announced by the Volkswagen group, which gives consumers an assurance about the repair. Today consumer protection authorities asked Volkswagen to actively communicate this to all concerned; not to limit it to only certain parts of the car nor to a given time-period; and to make it a legally-binding assurance that the cars’ overall performance will be retained post-repair.
Support for car dealers in the repair process: While the responsibility for ensuring car type conformity lies with manufacturers, under the Sales and Guarantee Directive it is the seller who is responsible for any defect at the time the goods are delivered. The authorities ask Volkswagen to use all possible means to facilitate the car dealers’ work.
Extension of the repair process: The EU consumer authorities ask Volkswagen to confirm the timeframe in which all cars will be repaired. Should the repair process take longer than autumn 2017, Volkswagen should commit to extending the period for a free repair of the software as long as necessary in order to respect its duty to ensure all cars conform to EU consumer law.
EU consumer authorities ask Volkswagen to reply within one month to their request and engage in a dialogue at the European level. It will be up to each Member State to decide the next course of action if Volkswagen does not react to this common position or an agreement cannot be reached. Authorities may take action appropriate to their local circumstances including enforcement action where necessary.
The EU Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Regulation links national consumer authorities in a pan-European enforcement network. Thanks to this framework, a national authority in one EU country can call on their counterpart in another EU country to ask them to intervene in case of a cross-border infringement of EU consumer rules.
The cooperation is applicable to consumer rules covering various areas, such as the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Consumer Rights Directive or the Sales and Guarantee Directive.
Under the CPC framework, authorities regularly review issues of common concern for consumer protection in the Single Market and coordinate their market surveillance and eventual enforcement actions. The Commission facilitates the exchange of information among authorities and their coordination.