More than 7,000 Spanish buyers have already joined the macro-class action lawsuit against Volkswagen for the Dieselgate emissions manipulation scandal, and it is estimated that they will exceed 10,000 when the case is presented at the end of the year. According to Vilches Abogados, the law firm that runs it (under the umbrella of the platform « Affected TDI»), Those affected aspire to obtain compensation of up to 6,000 euros per vehicle.
“This is the largest civil lawsuit in terms of grouping of affected people,” he explains Manuel Vilches placeholder image, managing partner of Vilches Abogados. In Spain there are 683,626 victims of the installation of an emission handling device in the EA 189 diesel engine, in models of the Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi and Seat brands sold from 2009 to 2015. The deadline to join the lawsuit will remain open until end of December, since at the end of the year the period to claim will expire.
In May, the automaker, the world’s leading vehicle manufacturer, reached an agreement with some 200,000 German buyers to compensate buyers of the affected vehicles with between 1,350 euros and 6,250 euros. Other individual judgments have forced the manufacturer to buy back the affected vehicle, discounting the depreciation. In the United States, it compensated those affected with between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars and repurchased the cars from the users who demanded it, following an agreement of 17,500 million with the judicial authorities. Agreements have also been reached with buyers in other countries, such as Australia.
In Spain, on February 17, the civil trial was held that began the organization of consumers and users OCU, which claims 3,000 euros for the more than 7,500 affected. Said trial has been awaiting sentence for seven months. The OCU considered that the civil procedure was the only possible one for those affected, after the complaint was dismissed through the administrative procedure and the criminal procedure was transferred to Germany.
Depreciation and moral damages
The cause of the Affected TDI will ask for moral and material damages, understanding that there was a contractual breach by Volkswagen, which according to its calculations, meant a depreciation 8 to 10% of the value of the cars affected, as a deactivating system designed to throw false values on the test bench is included in the vehicles, something specifically prohibited by European regulations. Vilches, in addition, details that in the last months two judicial sentences have opened the way: «They have opened the doors to a mega case, to be able to go all together».
The lawyer refers to a ruling of March 11 in which the Supreme Court enables the power to claim directly from Volkswagen without the need to sue dealers, as had to be done before. The sentence, as this newspaper advanced then, unanimously resolved an appeal in which the buyer of a vehicle claimed compensation for damages for the installation in the engine of software that manipulated the results of the polluting emissions measurements , with the result of jointly and severally condemning both to pay compensation – 500 euros in that case – to the buyer. In the judgment, the High Court reasons that “the automobile manufacturer bears the responsibility of the final purchaser for the fact that the good placed on the market does not meet the technical characteristics announced by the manufacturer. This responsibility is joint and several with that of the seller.
“That ruling”, say from Vilches Abogados, “definitively clarified the legal doubts that could exist regarding the matter. Now there is no possible contrary interpretation, the success of the claims is practically assured and the only thing that remains to be determined is the amount of the compensation ”. “A second ruling, in July, of the Court of Justice of the European Union, clarified that each affected person can sue Volkswagen AG, the German parent company -and manufacturer of the affected engines-, regardless of the country in which they bought the vehicle », Says Vilches.
For now, in Spain there have been some individual compensation, although Volkswagen has not reached an agreement with the buyers, as has happened in Germany or the United States. “They are waiting for me to prescribe,” says Vilches, who insists that the TDI Affected platform “derives from the American spirit», Since the firm is the one that bears the costs and has even taken out insurance for the costs. “Nothing like this has ever been done in Spain.”
The firm already has experience at Dieselgate. «We have 600 vehicles already litigating in Germany», Says Vilches. To litigate with the German giant, the platform has mobilized a team of more than a hundred people, including lawyers, professors in civil and procedural law, documentary experts, attorneys and a psychosocial team with several experts. “Against a giant you have to go with a very large group behind you,” he says.
The scandal, which affects eleven million vehicles, led the German consortium to lose 40% of its capitalization in two weeks, cutting 3,000 jobs in Germany. It has also accelerated the decline of diesel technology, which in 2010 accounted for 70% of registrations and today is around 25%, forcing the electrification of the sector and turning the entire industry upside down, with increasingly restrictive emissions regulations. So far, the Dieselgate scandal has cost Volkswagen more than € 29 billion in car review calls and court proceedings.
It also led to the conviction of some executives of the brand in the United States, where the fraud was uncovered, and the arrest of the former president of Audi, Rupert Stadler. Stadler, who spent four months in prison, and the consortium’s former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, are currently on trial in Germany for fraud, and face up to ten years in prison.