At the beginning of the hearing on the model claim of consumer advocates against Volkswagen, the Higher Regional Court (OLG) Braunschweig made it clear that it wants to examine very carefully to what extent the car buyers have incurred potential damage.
A settlement that could shorten the complex process, the court considers worthwhile - but there are some obstacles.
The Higher Regional Court has to deal with the model declaration action that was introduced last November. Representing hundreds of thousands of consumers, the German consumer association Bundesverband (vzbv) and the ADAC want to find out that VW has damaged its customers with the engines affected by the diesel scandal "intentionally and immoral". Before this new form of law came into effect, every consumer had to sue one company for damages individually, even if many customers were affected in a similar way.
One of the key questions is how clear the damage is for the VW customer
How comparable the individual cases are among the VW buyers but actually, and to what extent the buyers have suffered damage through the exhaust gas scandal, is one of the difficult questions in the model procedure, which must clarify the Senate to the Chairman Judge Michael Neef. Above all, the court made it clear that it wants to weigh it up carefully.
Thus, on the one hand, the allegation of immoral and intentional damage to diesel buyers are "very seriously considered," announced Neef, referring to the previous case law of various higher regional courts. Among other things, it had been argued that immoral behavior was already given by the deliberate concealment of the control software.
On the other hand, the Brunswick OLG wants to take a close look at whether damage to customers is actually obvious. It is to be clarified, for example, whether the announcement of the exhaust gas scandal in September 2015 led to a loss of value or only the much later beginning debate on driving bans in German cities. VW admitted four years ago that it had installed illegal software in millions of its brands around the world. This left the emission of nitrogen oxides only on the test bench, but not in daily traffic.
Volkswagen argues that customers have not suffered any damage, as all vehicles could be used in traffic and are safe. Several reports also confirmed that the vehicles had suffered "no loss in value due to the diesel issue".
Many questions of legal consideration
For Volkswagen, it was also "a very important statement" of the Senate, that if it came to damages, the use of the vehicles should be deducted, said Volkswagen lawyer Martina de Lind van Wijngaarden.
Ralf Stoll, Advocate of the Consumer Advice Center, welcomed the fact that most applications from the plaintiff's side were considered admissible. "And basically, when it comes to people's claims, the court has also given us some clues that make us very hopeful," he said. "Of course, we are always open for a settlement," he added. "The point is that people come to a result relatively quickly."
Settlement negotiations, however, the court finds it difficult at the moment. Although the court is at every stage of the proceedings on an "amicable dispute resolved," said Judge Neef. A comparison could save consumers an individual claim, depending on the outcome of the designation procedure, and would certainly be in their favor.
However, since the claims of the consumers who have complied are very different, a fair and reasonable distribution is difficult. For example, it is crucial when the affected diesel cars were purchased and how much they were used.