Court orders compensation for Czech owners of Volkswagen cars

Photo: Robert Basic, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

A Czech court has for the first time recognised the right of Czech owners of Volkswagen cars to compensation linked to “Dieselgate”, an emissions scandal involving the German auto giant.

Photo: Robert Basic,  Flickr,  CC BY-SA 2.0
The Prague 8 District Court on Wednesday ruled that Czechs who owned vehicles produced by Volkswagen could receive CZK 220,000 each in compensation. The total amount the carmaker has been ordered to stump up is CZK 533 million.

The figure per owner corresponds to the amount paid in compensation to Volkswagen owners in the United States.

In 2015 Volkswagen-produced cars were found to have been sold with software in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, altering their performance to ensure more favourable results. The German auto manufacturer later admitted to the cheating.

Volkswagen lost the legal dispute with the Czech car owners as it did not respond to their compensation claims within the required time limit, leading the court to deliver what is called a “recognition judgement” in favour of over 2,400 car owners, who filed a class action suit at the Prague 8 court in September of last year.

Their case was taken by a Czech group named Safe Diesel, which was set up with the specific purpose of representing all of the injured parties.

The court verdict ordering Volkswagen to pay the full amount may be appealed, though solely on procedural grounds. The German firm said it would appeal the ruling.

A legal representative of Safe Diesel, František Honsa, said that it was a breakthrough in the European wing of the Dieselgate scandal, being the first successful class action claim of this kind on the continent.

Mr. Honsa said his team had succeeded in securing the same compensation for its clients as plaintiffs had won in the United States. He also said the claim would be expanded to take in other owners of doctored Volkswagen cars.

A spokesperson for the company Porsche Česká republika, which imports Volkswagens into this country, told Czech Television that he was confident that the automaker would succeed in overturning the ground-breaking decision on appeal.

The verdict does not relate to the Volkswagen-owned company Czech Republic-based Škoda Auto, which rejects Safe Diesel’s claims. It filed a separate action against Škoda Auto and it will be heard in a court case due to start in November of this year.