In the case of illegal exhaust technology: ECJ strengthens the rights of diesel buyers

Status: 03/21/2023 11:38 a.m

According to a judgment by the ECJ, diesel owners can more easily claim damages if illegal exhaust gas technology is installed. In the specific case, it was a Mercedes-Benz – but other manufacturers are now threatened with lawsuits.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) lowers the hurdles for claims for damages by diesel buyers in the event of inadmissible exhaust technology. The Luxembourg judges ruled in a Mercedes case that the car manufacturers could also be liable if they had simply acted negligently without any intention of fraud.

This could have major implications for German case law. Because at the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) plaintiffs only had a chance of compensation if they were deliberately and intentionally deceived by the manufacturer in an immoral way.

Claudia Kornmeier, SWR, on the further judgment on the diesel scandal from the European Court of Justice

tagesschau24 11:00 a.m., March 21, 2023

These strict criteria were only met with the VW scandal engine EA189. Negligent action is now sufficient for the ECJ – which is easier to prove.

The judges in Germany must now implement these requirements. In order to await the ECJ ruling, courts of all instances had shelved mass diesel proceedings in which this question was important. At the BGH alone, more than 1900 revisions and complaints about non-admission are pending, the clear majority had been postponed because of the ECJ proceedings.

Mercedes may have to pay compensation

The background to the proceedings was a claim for damages from Germany against Mercedes-Benz because of a so-called thermal window. Thermal windows are part of the engine control system, which throttle exhaust gas cleaning at cooler temperatures.

Car manufacturers argue that this is necessary to protect the engine. Environmental organizations, on the other hand, see it as a tool that helps to make car emissions appear smaller under test conditions than they are in real traffic. The ECJ considers these thermal windows to be permissible only within very narrow limits.

Mercedes-Benz may now have to pay compensation to the complaining diesel owner. The ECJ ruled that the buyer is entitled to compensation if he suffered damage as a result of the defeat device.

EU law protects the interests of the individual buyer, the court in Luxembourg replied to questions from the Ravensburg district court. This must decide on a lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz because of the thermal window. (Az. C-100/21)

ECJ: In principle, diesel drivers are entitled to compensation for “thermal windows”.

Klaus Hempel, SWR, 21.3.2023 11:18 a.m

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