Exclusive: European industry commissioner demands action from VW

Wed Jan 20, 2016 11:02am EST
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By Barbara Lewis and Gernot Heller

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's justice minister and Europe's industry boss raised the pressure on Volkswagen to compensate European consumers as well as U.S. drivers for its diesel emissions scandal, potentially adding to a hefty bill.

Volkswagen has been mired in scandal since September when it admitted it had cheated U.S. tests by using software known as "defeat devices" to mask nitrogen oxide emissions.

In the United States, Volkswagen Group of America has promised goodwill compensation worth $1,000 each to tens of thousands of vehicle owners.

But in Europe, VW officials have said they will repair vehicles to remove illegal software, but have no plans to pay consumers compensation, arguing they have suffered no loss.

Europe's Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, who has had a series of meetings with VW and will meet Chief Executive Matthias Mueller in Brussels on Thursday, wrote to him on Jan. 15 with a list of demands.

High on the list is that the estimated 8.5 million European owners of VW cars fitted with illegal software, out of 11 million worldwide, should be compensated.

"I would like to ask you to reconsider your stance regarding compensation and reflect on the ways to offer compensation also to the European consumers," Bienkowska says in the letter seen by Reuters.

The EU executive can apply only moral and political pressure in a very different legal framework from the United States.   Continued...

File photo of Volkswagen cars parked outside a VW dealership in London, Britain November 5, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/Files