Historic Settlement with VW Provides Roadmap for European Resolution

Washington, District of Columbia, UNITED STATES


A historic class-wide settlement has been reached in the United States on behalf of owners and lessees of 2.0 liter diesel Volkswagen (“VW”) vehicles in which VW had installed its illegal “defeat devices.” VW has agreed to provide settlement compensation of $10.033 billion for vehicle buybacks, lease terminations and additional cash payments to owners/lessees, as well as $4.7 billion to promote clean vehicles and reduce nitrogen oxides. Although additional potential fines and settlements may still occur, VW’s current accountability to the US market as outlined in yesterday’s settlement is just under $15 billion. 

On the heels of the VW settlement in the U.S., Hausfeld – among the world’s leading claimants’ firms – announced an ambitious plan on behalf of European consumers to continue to pursue VW throughout Europe. Michael Hausfeld, chairman of the international Hausfeld firm stated: “VW cannot cheat European consumers and escape accountability. Europeans are no less worthy of justice than their American counterparts. VW has concluded its package of payments to its U.S. consumers. At the same time, it is facing a similar responsibility to its European victims who have every right to expect equal redress.”

VW first admitted in September 2015 that it installed “defeat devices” in over 11 million diesel cars sold worldwide. Consumers filed more than 500 lawsuits in the U.S. arguing that VW defrauded them with false emissions claims and sought compensation for the premium prices paid for the vehicles as well as the cars’ diminished resale value. After consolidation of those cases in California, the judge overseeing the litigation appointed Michael Hausfeld as one of the members of a steering committee to help lead the case on behalf of consumers.  

Although VW initially committed to a “goodwill” compensation scheme for consumers in the U.S., offering up to $1000 per vehicle to affected owners, the company’s position has been to deny any such relief to its European customers. Now, with the US settlement providing additional compensation to U.S. consumers, Hausfeld and others are pressuring VW to come to the table to provide meaningful relief to European consumers.

“While this settlement is a good first start at remedying Volkswagen’s fraud, we hope Volkswagen will now turn its attention to Europe and offer similar relief to the far greater number of affected European consumers,” said Christopher Rother, head of Hausfeld’s Berlin office.  “Further, we have become increasingly concerned about the complicity of Bosch, who invented the defeat device utilized by VW, in defrauding 11.5 million consumers worldwide, and significantly harming our environment.”  Bosch remains a defendant in the U.S. litigation.

Europe, VW’s biggest market, has seen no formal EU or governmental efforts to provide justice, fairness, and restitution to car owners to date, even though VW has admitted that the company deliberately cheated customers in Europe, as well, and directly harmed European air quality as a result. The costs are just as real in Europe as they are in the U.S. – VW’s cheating means European owners have been hit with a loss of the vehicle value, increased running costs, and reduced performance, while their air quality has similarly been degraded.

Defeat devices are banned under European law, just as they are in the United States. VW has repeatedly refused to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing in Europe or to offer any equal remedy for European citizens, however, treating them as second-class citizens. Hausfeld asserts that European consumers are no less worthy of compensation and clean air quality in the interest of fairness and justice.

This is money rightfully due to Europeans cheated by VW,” said Michael Hausfeld in a recent press conference held in Brussels as he announced plans for a European VW litigation strategy. “There is no justification for VW favouring restitution to Americans over Europeans. Global misconduct must have global consequences for all on an equitable basis.

Michael Hausfeld visited Brussels this past week to meet with key Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) responsible for overseeing the VW investigation. While EU Industry Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska has repeatedly said there is no reason why European consumers should be treated any differently, no action has been taken: VW is exploiting the lack of a uniform collective redress tool in Europe to refuse any just payment to affected European consumers.

Hausfeld has been in talks with attorneys, fleet owners, and individual consumers all across Europe. 

On the heels of these discussions, myRight, a collecting agent licensed in Germany, has retained Hausfeld and launched two websites to sign up disappointed European owners of VW’s “unclean diesel” vehicles. (www.my-right.de and www.myright.com). European VW customers are invited to register at these sites.

About Hausfeld

Hausfeld is a leading global law firm with offices in Berlin, Brussels, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The firm has a broad range of complex litigation expertise, particularly in antitrust/competition, financial services, sports and entertainment, environmental, mass torts, consumer protection, and human rights matters, often with an international dimension. Hausfeld aims to achieve the best possible results for clients through its practical and commercial approach, avoiding litigation where feasible, yet litigating robustly when necessary. Hausfeld’s extensive experience with alternative and innovative fee models offers clients a diverse menu of engagement options and maximum flexibility in terms of managing their cost exposure. Hausfeld is the only claimant firm to be ranked by the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners as a top tier firm in private enforcement of antitrust/competition law in both the United States and the United Kingdom. For more information about the firm, including recent trial victories and landmark settlements, please visit: www.hausfeld.com.