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Diesel scandal Swiss take part in Volkswagen class action suit

Behind bars: new Volkswagens parked in front of the factory in Wolfsburg, Germany

(Keystone)

How best to gain compensation for Swiss car buyers affected by the Volkswagen diesel scandal? While the Consumer Protection Association for French-speaking Switzerland (FRC) is taking part in a European class action lawsuit in Germany, its equivalent in the German-speaking part of the country is going it alone. 

The FRCexternal link said on Monday it was following the path taken by the European Consumer Organisationexternal link, which it considered the most promising. Affected Volkswagen owners in Switzerland who want to take part in the suit can register online at MyRightexternal link

It has been more than a year since Volkswagen agreed to pay more than $20 billion (CHF19 billion) to settle criminal charges and civil claims related to the German company’s sale of nearly 600,000 cars with “defeat devices” designed to beat US emissions tests. 

Volkswagen admitted to illegally rigging cars to turn off diesel emission controls when not on test stands. Subsequent investigation found that many diesels by other manufacturers met official test standards but emitted far more pollution during every day driving, often by exploiting legal loopholes that permitted them to turn off controls at certain temperatures. 

This is the first time the Consumer Association for French-speaking Switzerland has pursued such a course of action. 

Taking a different approach, the Consumer Protection Organisationexternal link in German-speaking Switzerland (SKS) on Thursday filed suit in Zurich against Volkswagen and AMAG, Switzerland’s largest car dealership. 

The aim of this is to determine whether Volkswagen and AMAG tricked car buyers and broke Swiss law. SKS is looking for compensation of between CHF3,000 and CHF7,000 per vehicle. 

‘Complementary’ 

The two processes are complementary, covering all interests at both a local and international level, according to Sophie Michaud Gigon from the FRC. 

She points out that the SKS is not a member of the European Consumer Organisation and that courts in German-speaking Switzerland come down more often on the side of consumers. Nevertheless, she believes a large-scale action has a greater chance of success. 

Cécile Thomi from the SKS disagrees, pointing out that because Volkswagen is such an important employer in Germany, the risk is that the verdict will go in its favour. 

She also believes a suit in Switzerland benefits from proximity: the interests of affected drivers in Switzerland will be taken into account more before a Swiss court.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts

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