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'VW may have broken EU consumer rules'

Industry news

Brussels, Belgium - Volkswagen appears to have violated European Union consumer protection rules, a top EU official said on Monday, pointing to complaints about a lack of transparency from the carmaker uring its emissions scandal.

in september 2015 the United States discovered a device in several VW diesel models that lowered emissions readings when a car was put through testing, meaning polluting cars were recorded as meeting environmental standards.

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File photo of embellished VW logo on a Volkswagen: Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

Volkswagen later admitted that it had installed illegal software in some 11 million cars worldwide, 8.5 million of them in Europe.

The European Union's commissioner for consumer protection, Vera Jourova, said on Monday “it seems to be the case” that two pieces of EU legislation - regulating unfair commercial practices and the sale of consumer goods - were breached in the VW case.

Enforcing consumer protection rules is the responsibility of EU member states, but the bloc's executive - the European Commission - has begun coordinating action on the VW scandal.

Jourova said national authorities and consumer organisations had spoken of a “lack of information provided from Volkswagen to consumers, so a kind of lack of transparency”.

The company for instance did not give consumers enough information on redress measures and treated them differently from country to country, commission sources said.

Oversight failings

Jourova is set to explore the issue further with representatives from national consumer protection organisations during talks on Thursday. Meetings with national authorities and VW officials are also foreseen, she said.

“I want the national authorities to gain the best protection and best redress within the legal framework,” Jourova said, while also underlining the need for “fair communication” with VW.

The European Parliament, meanwhile, is conducting an inquiry into alleged failings by the commission and member states in their oversight of car emissions testing ahead of the VW scandal.

Former EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajani denied on Monday in a hearing with the parliament's inquiry committee that he had done anything wrong, following a media report that his office had ignored warnings about car emission discrepancies.

“I never received any evidence or information about defeat devices being used by car manufacturers to cheat on emissions,” said Tajani, who now serves as a member of the EU parliament.

“We were not in the thrall of the car industry,” he added. “I can show you documents showing that there was some industry resistance against the choices made by the commission. Those are tangible facts; everything else is nonsense.”

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