Diesel Scandal

Germany’s 10-Percent Solution

Joyce Ertel Hulbert
VW’s customers in the US are angry too, but at least they have the law on their side. Picture source: AP.

Cries are growing louder in Germany about the need to compensate consumers for the diesel fraud debacle, but proponents are running into a big obstacle: German law doesn’t really do much to protect consumers.

Ideas such as an across-the-board compensation to diesel car buyers of 10 percent of the new-car price or opening up the possibility of a class-action suit all founder on the reality that German law would have to be changed and that won’t be easy.

Take a class-action suit, for instance. Long since a reality in the United States, this type of legal action, which seeks legal recourse for whole groups of people without each having to sue individually, is not possible in Germany and has met with political opposition in the past. Only now, in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal and possible collusion among automakers, are politicians beginning to countenance such an action.

Under current law, the evidentiary burden for individual complaints is quite heavy, especially since the question for diesel car owners is what might have been if only the emissions were as low as claimed. Even harder is the case that the consumers might have considered a different innovative option had they known the truth.

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