BERLIN/BRUSSELS: The emissions scandal that has caused damage to Volkswagen's reputation has taken another turn, after the European Commission (EC) found it had broken consumer laws in 20 EU countries.
Citing sources within the EC, German daily Die Welt reported that the German carmaker has been judged to have broken the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive, which forbids companies from touting exaggerated environmental claims in their sales pitches.
Among other breaches, Volkswagen is also accused of breaking the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which also applies to all member states of the EU.
According to Reuters, Die Welt also reported that EC Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska has repeatedly invited Volkswagen to consider refunding consumers voluntarily, but she has not received an encouraging response.
Consequently, Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova has written to consumer associations across the EU to gather information and she will meet relevant representatives in Brussels this week.
"It already appears that Volkswagen clearly breached European consumer laws in most member states. That is why I think it is necessary that we get involved to coordinate on a European level," Jourova was quoted as saying by Die Welt.
As consumer protection laws in the EU are regarded as being stricter than in the US, the development comes as yet another blow to Volkswagen, which reached a $15bn settlement in the US, but has so far rejected calls for payments concerning the 8.5m affected vehicles in Europe.
That is a matter of concern for the company, as shown by comments made by its CEO, Matthias Müller, shortly after the deal to settle US claims.
He told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag at the time that a US-style compensation package for Europeans could "overwhelm" Volkswagen, City A.M. reported.
"You don't have to be a mathematician to realise that compensation at arbitrarily high levels would overwhelm Volkswagen," Müller said.
Data sourced from Die Welt, Reuters, Bloomberg, City A.M.; additional content by Warc staff