(Reuters) – Owners of vehicles equipped with so-called defeat devices are entitled to compensation from the vehicle manufacturer, an adviser to the EU Supreme Court said on Thursday in a case against Mercedes-Benz.
Defective devices are mechanisms or software that can change vehicle emission levels, leading to disputes over whether manufacturers use them to mask the actual pollution levels in their vehicles. Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that they used software to trick US emission tests on certain diesel engines.
Judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union are not bound by the advice of their Advocates-General, but follow them in most cases.
German lawyer Claus Goldenstein, representing 42,500 clients with an interest in the case, said the opinion was significant by including negligent, not just intentional, conduct by companies, which would facilitate the enforcement of claims.
Advocate General Athanasios Rantos also said that it was up to the EU members to determine the methods for calculating the compensation and to ensure that it was in proportion to the loss or damage.
Mercedes-Benz said it remained to be seen how the court would rule and noted that the opinion was not binding.
The case was taken to German court by the buyer of a used Mercedes C 220 CDI, whose exhaust gas recirculation system operated within a temperature range. At colder outdoor temperatures, recirculation decreases, leading to increased nitric oxide emissions.
The court in Regensburg provisionally ruled that this constituted an illegal device of defeat.
The German court asked the European Court of Justice whether the buyer of a vehicle equipped with such a device is entitled to compensation from the vehicle manufacturer under EU law and how this compensation should be calculated.
In May, Volkswagen said it would pay £ 193 million ($ 242 million) as part of an out-of-court settlement to around 91,000 British drivers over its diesel emissions scandal.