VW emissions scandal: EU unable to protect its consumers against large multinationals

 

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European governments and officials seem incompetent to protect on the one hand their car consumers and on the other the environment, despite the crucial role Europe played in the climate change agreement that was signed last December in Paris.

VW’s diesel emissions scandal has revealed so far that the multinational framework in Europe is much more beneficial for large businesses than in the U.S. This is a result of multinationals investing loads of money and time in lobbying our good European policymakers.

Europeans do care significantly about the environment according to a Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the European Parliament. Consequently, VW’s scandal is surely creating deeper thoughts whether European leaders are acting in their citizens’ interest.

European officials knew it all

The European Commission has claimed to change the way national authorities certify that cars are in line with all the environmental and safety requirements. The surveillance of the vehicles is meant to be increased while testing will become more independent in the future.

Even if these proposals seem quite promising, it is not certain whether they are going to be implemented or bring positive outcomes at the moment where there are documents obtained by Spiegel which reveal that European officials were well aware of the VW diesel scandal since 2010 but didn’t act. More specifically, the diesel emissions cars tests that were conducted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in 2007, 2011 and 2013 showed that the Nitric Oxide (NOx) emissions levels were a lot higher than the approved ones.

The extreme pressure that was exercised upon the EU officials by the car industry was enough to bury the case and not continue any further investigations. How easy is it now to convince the European consumers that the national governments and EU officials will do their job finally? Unfortunately it is quite difficult and that is why they have recently decided to take matters into their own hands.

European consumers to fight VW alone

While American Volkswagen owners are about to receive approximately a 20.000 dollars compensation for the firm’s deception, EU owners will instead get a software update together with short length of plastic tube. The latter is mainly due to the differences in law which protect EU corporations from suits brought to the court by dissatisfied consumers.

Nevertheless, this does now let down European VW owners, who gather together via lawyers in Berlin, Paris and all around Europe to claim the reimbursement of 5.000 euros per car.

BEUC urges governments to protect consumers

The tests that were conducted by Altroconsumo, member of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), in order to ensure that diesel emissions are reduced after the removal of the deceiving device in the EU vehicles came out negative. The NOx emissions were found to be 25% higher than before. Hence, it seems that VW’s solution is rather counterproductive. Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC commented on this issue that: “This is another blow for EU consumers and a new dimension of the VW scandal. This test by our Italian member clearly demonstrates that VW’s solution to deactivate the defeat device is not reliable”.

Undeniably, the EU consumers need to be fairly compensated and the EU officials and leaders should be pointing to that direction. As the situation currently holds, although the evidence is clear, not a single European car owner will receive any remuneration, because there is an evident lack of governmental will to challenge the giant German automaker.

European Parliament suggests more emission scandal investigations

Will the recent disclosures be able to make the Old Continent change its policies and act in favor of its consumers? The European Parliament has already set an inquiry committee in order to investigate the scandals of falsified car emissions measurements. The Committee’s next meeting is taking place on August 30 where Günter Verheugen, former European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry (2004-2010) and the automotive supplier Faurecia, a market leader in emission control technologies for light and commercial vehicles are also invited to express their professional views. That seems to be a positive step but it is not yet enough to change things drastically any time in the near future.

All in all, the power of large corporations to lobby heavily our good EU policymakers in favour of their own interest is indisputable and if national governments do not start acting according to their consumers’ benefit in the future the EU will be run by a bunch of shareholder moguls of a handful of multinationals.

At the moment the EU consumer is left alone to fight against giant VW which is most likely to get away with it if one also considers that it requires a lot of organisation and funds for such a firm to compensate 8.5 million EU car owners.

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