Volkswagen facing group action from Swiss consumer body over Dieselgate

02 January 2018

2 January 2018

Swiss consumer protection organisation Stiftung fuer Konsumentenschutz (SKS) has filed a claim on behalf of 6,000 Volkswagen (VW) owners seeking damages over the Dieselgate scandal.

The claim, which also names car dealer AMAG, has been lodged with the Zurich commercial court. Similar suits have been filed in the Netherlands and Italy, as consumers look to achieve some form of compensation for buying vehicles fitted with ′defeat devices’, installed as part of the scandal. This saw the German manufacturer cheat emissions tests in the US, leading to compensation claims and vehicle buybacks of up to $30 billion (€25 billion).

However, the company has no plans to offer compensation in Europe or any other market, as it states it has not cheated tests in these markets. Although vehicles across the continent are being recalled to have the software removed, owners are not entitled to any other claim.

Sara Stalder, business manager, consumer protection at SKS comments: ′For months it has been clear that in the US, the several hundred thousand victims are compensated with over $20 billion (€16.6 billion), while also, tens of thousands of cars are bought back. VW has, however, refused to grant their European customers a compensation solution. Even worse, VW refuses any settlement negotiations on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. An accident? Not at all.

′Unfortunately, it is a logical consequence, as in Europe, including Switzerland, there is no harm to the consumers and therefore no possibility to deal with similar mass damages. Despite multiple invitations, the VW Group has so far refused to negotiate and instead ignores the claims of its customers in Europe, instead fobbing them off with non-transparent software updates.’

In a further statement, SKS said: ′The cars sold as environmentally friendly were overpriced from the beginning. Due to the manipulation of the exhaust system, they then lost even more of their value on the secondary market.’

The group added that it was assuming damages amounted on average to 15% of the initial retail price of the vehicles concerned and that, together with insurance companies supporting the legal action, it wanted to give Swiss-based car owners the possibility to enforce their rights without disproportionate financial risk.

Volkswagen said it would examine the details of the claim once it had them but said it saw no fundamental case as industry experts had not been able to establish any significant loss of value for VW diesel vehicles on the Swiss market.

′The trust and satisfaction of our customers are extremely important to us. However, we are of the opinion that there are no legal grounds for claims connected with the diesel issue,’ it said in a statement.

AMAG, which imports the cars into Switzerland, said in a statement on its website it did not understand why SKS filed the claim because prices on the secondary market for VW diesel cars were at least on the same level or even higher than those of competing models.

Earlier in 2017, a German court in Brunswick rejected a case which was seeking compensation for German owners of VW vehicles affected by the Dieselgate scandal. The court said that Volkswagen vehicles in Germany had not lost their road certification following the discovery of the software and customers had thus not been disadvantaged to the point where they deserved compensation.