EU to give more power to consumers

European Commission

The European Union have announced a proposal to give more powers to consumers to sue firms such as the Volkswagen Group after the diesel-emissions scandal showed the limits of consumer protection.

Wednesday’s proposal would allow some affected groups to launch collective action and consumer protection authorities higher sanctions for rule breakers.

“Consumer authorities will finally get teeth to punish the cheaters,” Europe’s Justice Commissioner, Vera Jourova, said to Automotive News. “It cannot be cheap to cheat.”

EU regulators say that, after VW was caught using software to cheat emissions test by U.S. authorities, they lacked the tools to ensure EU car owners received the same kind of compensation offered to US clients.

Jourova said only two national consumer protection authorities imposed fines on VW, amounting to 5.5 million euros.

“This is nothing in comparison to what Volkswagen paid in the United States,” she said.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said the move was long overdue but cautioned that judges and national authorities would still hold sway over what may be a laboriously lengthy process.

Business groups said the plan, which still need approval from national governments and the European Parliament, could lead to a proliferation of lawsuits, saying EU citizens already enjoy some of the world’s strongest consumer protection rules.

Defending the draft rules, Jourova said they would not allow US-style, profit-seeking class action suits. 

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