A second German court in a month has ordered Volkswagen Group to provide compensation over the emissions-cheating scandal.
The statement from the three judges uses harsh language almost never found in court releases, underlining phrases such as ‘illegal manipulation of engine control’ and ‘illicit deviation of pertinent rules.’
The court in Hildesheim, only about an hour's drive from Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg, has ruled that Volkswagen must buy back a customer’s 2.0l diesel Skoda Yeti, paying the buyer the full price of his car, estimated at €26,500.
The court says that Volkswagen intentionally committed fraud, and therefore cannot defend itself by saying it has not clarified who was responsible for software that allowed the vehicle to cheat on emissions tests.
The 68-year-old customer bought the Yeti crossover from a dealership in 2013, according to local media. He took Volkswagen to court claiming that the car's value had been reduced by a fix applied to its engine software following a recall.
The suit argues that the plaintiff did not receive a legally compliant vehicle, even though it was in accordance with the contract of sale. As a result, he is entitled to reimbursement of the full purchase price and ‘not only an inferior value’.
The judges compared the scandal to the 2013 horsemeat scandal, where illegal horse meat was found in products such as frozen lasagne. They also compared it to the use of glycol antifreeze as a sweetener in wine in the 1980s.
Volkswagen spokesman Nicolai Laude said the carmaker is sure the ruling will be overturned at appeal, because the judges took a view that has been rejected by courts in other cities, including Cologne and Ellwangen.
According to the law firm Rogert & Ulbrich, which represents the Skoda driver, Volkswagen is ‘for the first time outside of warranty aspects, successfully being called out for its damaging acts in civil law.’ Previous complaints of this kind would not have been successful.
The judges in Hildesheim also backed arguments another group of lawyers have put forward in a 'sample suit' that is seeking payouts for thousands of Volkswagen customers. That complaint, filed in Brunswick in Volkswagen's home state, relies on civil tort law, rather than contracts, to allow more drivers to sue the company. Suits intended to compensate thousands of Volkswagen customers have been launched in Germany and the UK. The total cost of the scandal has now reached $20 billion (€19 billion) in the US alone.
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