Volkswagen appears to have violated EU consumer protection rules, a top official from the bloc said Monday, pointing to complaints about a lack of transparency from the German automobile giant during its emissions scandal.
Brussels (dpa) - The United States discovered last year a device in several VW diesel models that lowered emissions readings when a car was put through testing, meaning polluting cars were recorded as meeting environmental standards.
Vera Jourova, European Union (EU) Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, gestures as she presents the results of the 2016 Consumer Markets Scoreboard in Brussels, Belgium, 05 September 2016.
The carmaker later admitted that it had installed illegal software in some 11 million cars worldwide, 8.5 million of them in Europe.
The European Union‘s commissioner for consumer protection, Vera Jourova, said Monday "it seems to be the case" that two pieces of EU legislation - regulating unfair commercial practices and the sale of consumer goods - were breached in the VW case.
Enforcing consumer protection rules is the responsibility of EU member states, but the bloc‘s executive - the European Commission - has started coordinating action on the VW scandal.
National authorities and consumer organizations have spoken of a "lack of information provided from Volkswagen to consumers, so a kind of lack of transparency," Jourova told journalists in Brussels.
The company for instance did not give consumers enough information on redress measures and treated them differently from country to country, commission sources said.
Jourova is set to explore the issue further with representatives from national consumer protection organizations during talks on Thursday. Meetings with national authorities and VW officials are also foreseen, she said.
"I want the national authorities to gain the best protection and best redress within the legal framework," Jourova said, while also underlining the need for "fair communication" with VW.
The European Parliament, meanwhile, is conducting an inquiry into alleged failings by the commission and member states in their oversight of car emissions testing ahead of the VW scandal.
Former EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajani denied Monday in a hearing with the parliament‘s inquiry committee that he had done anything wrong, following a media report that his office had ignored warnings about car emission discrepancies.
"I never received any evidence or information about defeat devices being used by car manufacturers to cheat on emissions," said Tajani, who now serves as a member of the EU parliament.
"We were not in the thrall of the car industry," he added. "I can show you documents showing that there was some industry resistance against the choices made by the commission. Those are tangible facts; everything else is nonsense."
EU member states agreed in principle on Wednesday to use road testing from 2017 to help evaluate diesel car emissions, on top of the laboratory tests that have been at the heart of a scandal around the German automotive giant Volkswagen.
The emissions scandal that already has cost Volkswagen billions of dollars and damaged its made-in-Germany reputation broadened Monday to include 3-litre engines in Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche light duty diesel vehicles.
Eleven EU countries, including the bloc's economic powerhouse Germany, failed Monday to reach agreement on a disputed financial transaction tax, according to Spanish Finance Minister Luis De Guindos, who expressed hope that a deal can be clinched next month.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to "tighten the law and change the culture" by cracking down on tax evasion and discouraging "aggressive" tax avoidance on Monday, following the British use of tax havens revealed in the Panama Papers.
The Greek government is presenting new measures to raise value added tax (VAT) on food and services in order to save 1.8 billion euros as one of the preconditions set by international creditors for additional aid for the struggling country.