AROUND 220,000 car drivers in the Netherlands, England and Wales joined forces on Tuesday in what could become a pan-European lawsuit against German car maker Volkswagen, seeking compensation over its ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal.
UK law firm Harcus Sinclair and Dutch Foundation ‘Stichting Volkswagen Car Claim’, a U.S.-style class action on behalf of an estimated 180,000 Dutch VW car owners, have teamed up in a move that has the potential to spark a wave of coordinated litigation across Europe.
VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker, has said about 11 million cars worldwide were fitted with software to cheat diesel emissions tests that are designed to limit car fumes blamed for respiratory diseases and global pollution.
The company has already agreed to spend up to $25 billion (€22.31 billion) in the United States to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and has offered to buy back approximately 500,000 vehicles.
But it has not reached a similar deal in Europe and faces billions of euros in claims from customers and investors.
The car maker has offered European drivers a software update for all affected vehicles, but lawyers say this does not resolve the problem and they are demanding adequate compensation.
The Dutch Foundation, which has been trying to reach a ‘reasonable settlement’ with VW since 2015, told Reuters it was also ‘cooperating’ with partners representing drivers in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and was in talks with others in Spain, France, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and Scandinavia.
The expanding lawsuit is seeking compensation for damage suffered by VW, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and/ or Porsche car owners, alleging VW and supplier Bosch were responsible for the sale of cars that breached toxic nitrogen oxides emissions rules.
‘To date, the owners of the 8.5 million affected European cars remain in the cold,’ said Harcus Sinclair, which launched its case in January 2016 and has signed up about 41,000 English and Welsh VW drivers.
A London trial is expected in early 2019.