Verdict: Car buyers can be entitled to damages if the defeat device is not permitted

Important verdict in the diesel scandal
ECJ: Car buyers may be entitled to damages if the defeat device is not permitted

Exhaust fumes come from a car’s tailpipe

© Marijan Murat / DPA

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

Car buyers can claim damages from the manufacturer if they have suffered damage due to an illegal defeat device installed in the vehicle. EU law protects the interests of individual buyers, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg replied on Tuesday to questions from the Ravensburg District Court. This must decide on a lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz because of the thermal window.

With this technology used in many models from different manufacturers, the exhaust gas cleaning in diesel vehicles is controlled depending on the outside temperature. In an earlier judgment, the ECJ ruled that the thermal window was an inadmissible switch-off device – but allowed exceptions to protect the engine from sudden dangers.

Now he explained that for the specific case at hand the German court would have to determine for itself whether the technology was to be classified as inadmissible. So far, claims for damages have only been denied by the highest court in Germany because of the thermal window, since it is not a question of intentional damage. The ECJ stated that the individual EU member states must set rules on damages.

Note: This article has been updated.


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