We are in year four of the diesel scandal. The affair has already cost Volkswagen 30 billion euros: comparisons, lawyers, processes. An end is currently not in sight.
On the contrary, there may be further demands on the group. That could in fact be the consequence of the first model declaration action filed in Germany, which is being heard by the Higher Regional Court in Brauchschweig this Monday in the Stadthalle. It's all about this:
Who wants what from whom?
The Musterfeststellungsklage (MfK) is a kind of "Lex Volkswagen". Already at its introduction, the policy had considered the manipulation of Germany's largest carmaker as a possible application case, according to Kraftfahrtbundesamt a total of up to 2.5 million diesel vehicles are affected.
With the help of the MfK now complains the Verbraucherzentralezentrale Bundesverband (VZBV) representative of a total of about 449,000 cases against the largest German automaker. The number is the number of applications for claims at the Federal Office of Justice. If you subtract the car owners with affected second-, third- or fourth-VW diesels, it is still likely to go to hundreds of thousands of manipulated VW customers.
Consumers want to use the lawsuit with little effort and manageable risk against the powerful from the perspective of many citizens group - and hope for judicially recognized findings for possible subsequent claims for damages.
"The new type of procedure is a great opportunity to clarify questions for a large number of victims in a single case," says Sebastian Reiling, who is responsible for model determination actions at the VZBV. "That's also an important access to justice for me." Because complaining can be expensive. Reiling speaks of a "the largest economic scandal of the Federal Republic".
What chances does the lawsuit have ?
That is hard to say. The fronts between VW and the consumer advocates are hardened. More than a thousand pages have already been exchanged in the form of pleadings - plus even more extensive systems. Central is the question of whether the VW customers with the affected engines also have a damage. Reiling from the VZBV says: "The recall of the German Federal Motor Vehicle Authority states that Volkswagen has been cheating, and according to our legal opinion, the damage occurred the moment an affected car was bought."
VW on the other hand argues that the cars are technically safe despite the shutdown device of the emission control and could be used. "In our view, the customers have suffered no damage." This fundamental question is followed by the discussion as to whether or not possible damage can be eliminated by the software update. Again, opinions differ.
Often clients are already in court. Recently, however, some judges had decided in their favor, after the Federal Court pointed out that the illegal defeat device is a material defect. Recently, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt again spoke of an "intentional immoral damage" and the plaintiff "basically" the reimbursement of the purchase price ( AZ 17 U 45/19 ).
One thing is clear: the procedure in Braunschweig is likely to be even more complicated and more fragmented than already thought. Because the fourth Civil Senate already issued in the run-up to the trial, a so-called Notice, according to which he considers the overall objective of the VZBV that all owners of cars with manipulated VW diesel engines EA 189 "basically" compensation is entitled, not admissible. Reason: The judges around the chairman Michael Neef consider the many cases too different. You will therefore probably be dealing with the dozens of auxiliary requests with which the VZBV wants to cover all conceivable individual cases.
Can a comparison help?
A comparison could shorten the difficult process. Officially, there is only one more hearing in November, but it is estimated that the trial will last at least two years. The possibility of the appeal being filed, not even included. In Australia, on the other hand, VW has already made a settlement with class claimants. Volkswagen says that a comparison is "hardly imaginable" in Germany because of the high number of co-plaintiffs and their different case constellations.
Reiling from the VZBV criticizes this attitude: "In the US, VW has taken back cars on a large scale, paid into environmental funds in Canada, they have paid fines and in Germany, Volkswagen still takes the position that they had done nothing wrong clear discrepancy. " In addition, VW could possibly protect itself by a settlement from hundreds of thousands of lawsuits that could come after the model process on the group.
What consequences are possible for consumers?
There are basically three possible scenarios for the VW owners involved in the lawsuit:
- If it compares , the agreement between VW and VZBV would apply to all registered consumers.
- If the claim is successful , the connected consumers would have to individually claim damages in a further action on the basis of the findings of the court. It is conceivable that in this case arbitration boards will be set up to determine the amount of the claims or that customers will increasingly turn to litigation financiers who sometimes bear the cost risk against (sometimes high) commissions.
- If the VZBV is legally binding, the claims of the VW owners who have joined the lawsuit would also have expired. They could no longer complain before other courts.
Is it worth a single claim?
That is a matter of consideration. "The statute of limitations is inhibited and the registration in the register is free of charge, we bear the legal costs," summarizes Reiling from VZBV the benefits together. Nevertheless, the class action lawsuit, from which it is still possible to deregister until the end of the first day of the trial, may be the worse way for some. Because after her still another complaint comes, the person should prefer to complain himself, who can afford it, for example, thanks to a legal expenses insurance.
"The individual complaint is also a claim for performance, which means that at the end of the procedure you may also receive money directly," says Reiling. However, there is also no uniform picture of how these lawsuits go out: numerous proceedings are already pending at the Federal Court of Justice, and decisions are expected.
Read: The right tactic for dodgy VW customers
In the case of the speculative claim comes in the face of the plethora of plaintiffs yet another problem added to the VW also expected: With the duration of the procedure can also significantly change the amount that the group may eventually have to pay, because - also here are the opinions apart from the court often an amount for the use of the affected vehicle is deducted. The amount is higher in individual cases, the longer the car is allowed. According to VW, most affected vehicles in 2024 have only a small residual value, according to little money consumers could end up receiving. However, the VZBV also demands delinquency interest on any claims that could also increase with the duration of the process.
What else can go wrong?
The Braunschweig consumer suit is indeed the first after the introduction of this new procedural law. A test case against the Mercedes bank was already negotiated in Stuttgart already before - and here a consumer association failed. How well the new instrument works in Braunschweig should therefore be closely monitored in the Ministry of Justice. "It's a brand new law and a new type of procedure in which more questions still need to be clarified than others," says VZBV lawyer Reiling. For example, it is unclear whether the claims of car buyers residing abroad can be taken into account by them. They, too, had registered in large numbers in the complaints register.
With material from dpa