The first major consumer lawsuit in Germany opened on Monday against Volkswagen, bringing together hundreds of thousands of customers seeking redress over the so-called dieselgate scandal.
The first hearing in the trial began shortly after 10:00 at the Regional Court of Brunswick, relocated for the occasion to the convention centre. A second hearing is scheduled for November 18.
In September 2015, the German group of twelve brands admitted having installed fraudulent software on 11 million vehicles to manipulate their toxic gas emissions. These revelations gave rise to a cascade of lawsuits, in several countries, against the car manufacturer and the company managers.
The case has been brought by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) on behalf of consumers. VZBZ Director Klaus Müller said they decided to take Volkswagen to court because the faked emissions tests “deliberately and unethically harmed its customers and therefore (Volkswagen) has to pay compensation.”
However, Volkswagen claims that “there is no damage and therefore the claim is unfounded”.
“To this day hundreds of thousands of vehicles are still in use,” insisted Martina de Lind van Wijngaarden, a lawyer for the company.
Since the scandal broke in 2015, the company has had to pay out more than 30 billion euros in legal expenses, fines and compensation, primarily in the United States.
In Germany, so far, VW has paid three fines totalling 2.3 billion euros. The trial that began this week is expected to be one of the longest in German history.
The review of the collective motion is expected to last at least until 2023 due to a possible appeal to the Federal Court, according to Volkswagen. In addition to the class action lawsuit launched on Monday by the owners of nearly 450,000 vehicles in Germany, 61,000 other lawsuits have already been filed by individual customers.