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Diesel-gate Watchdog files complaint over Volkswagen scandal

Thousands of Volkswagen employees listen to an address by a senior official in Wolfburg, Germany on October 6

(Keystone)

A Swiss consumer watchdog has filed a criminal complaint in connection with the Volkswagen test emissions rigging scandal. This follows the first private complaint opened by a Swiss customer against the German car group. 

On October 5, a Swiss consumer association, known as the Fédération romande des consommateurs (FRC), filed a criminal complaint against unnamed individuals in connection with the VW affair for violation of the federal law against unfair competition, FRC secretary general Mathieu Fleury told Le Matin newspaper.

"We want to establish the facts and responsibilities in order to clear the path for victims who then file individual complaints," explained Fleury. 

"We can't launch an action for damages and lost interest in Switzerland. This is what's lacking when we talk about not doing a class action. But consumers need to take things in hand and take the necessary steps. A civil action is still essential."

The FRC has also launched an online platform to help consumers with their own individual legal claims against the German car group.

The watchdog’s complaint comes hot on the heels of a criminal complaint filed in Geneva last week by the owner of a Volkwagen Touran 2.0 TDI diesel car purchased in 2014. This private complaint was made against the German car group and individuals for fraud and damage to the environment.

The owner’s lawyers encouraged other owners affected by the Volkswagen emission scandal to file identical criminal complaints and thus participate in a joint legal action. According to Le Matin, around 80 other people have filed similar complaints in two days.

Costly rigging

Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn resigned on September 23, after Europe’s biggest carmaker admitted that cars were equipped with a software programme designed to cheat diesel emissions tests in the United States. An estimated 11 million cars, including five million Volkswagen passenger cars, are affected worldwide. A German bank has estimated that the scandal could cost the German group €50 billion (CHF54.5 billion).

Switzerland’s Federal Roads Officeexternal link has announced that around 130,000 diesel engine cars produced by Volkswagen between 2009 and 2014 could be affected by the scandal, which came to light last month. These include cars in the Euro5 emissions category, produced by Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen.  

A ban on registering "potentially manipulated" cars in Switzerland is now in force. However, vehicles of the same brands and types already circulating on Swiss roads are exempted from the ban and can still be registered when sold to a new owner.   

Amag, the largest importer of Volkswagens into Switzerland, said the owners of the affected vehicles would be individually contacted. VW has said it will have to re-fit the 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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