On 20 November the Amsterdam District Court ruled that the Dutch Volkswagen Car Claim foundation (Stichting Volkswagen Car Claim) is competent to defend the interests of affected Dutch car owners in the class action against Volkswagen et al. This means that the District Court will now examine the merits of the claims brought by the foundation. Stichting Volkswagen Car Claim is now a front runner among European initiatives to take Volkswagen to court in order to obtain redress for car buyers duped by the scandal, which is better known as “Dieselgate”. Foundation board member Guido van Woerkom commented: “The court confirmed today that the foundation is a solid interest group meeting the highest requirements. The ruling expresses appreciation for the determination the foundation has displayed since October 2015 on behalf of all car owners affected by Dieselgate. The foundation will not stop until its members are duly compensated.”
On 2 May 2018, Stichting Volkswagen Car Claim (“Stichting”) started a class action against a group of defendants, including Volkswagen, Audi, Škoda, SEAT, Pon's Automobielhandel, Bosch and the authorised Volkswagen dealers. The Stichting seeks a declaratory judgment to the effect that these parties have acted against the best interests of all Dutch car owners affected by Dieselgate. The class action will enable Dutch car owners to recoup their losses from the defendants named above. In fact, if the court finds in favour of the Stichting, the car owners may be authorised to claim the dissolution of their purchase contracts and demand a refund of the purchase price.
The class action is divided into three stages. In the first stage, it was established that the Amsterdam District Court has jurisdiction to hear this case. In the second stage, the Amsterdam District Court judged yesterday that the Stichting is competent to defend the interests of affected Dutch car owners in this class action against all defendants. The District Court also held that the Stichting has put up sufficient safeguards for the interests of the affected Dutch car owners. Another issue raised during the proceedings was the question whether the District Court considers there to be a reasonable case that Dutch car owners have been disadvantaged by Dieselgate. The District Court followed the Stichting's argument that there is a reasonable case that such disadvantage may have been suffered.
The action will now enter its final stage, in which the District Court will examine the merits of the claims put forward by the Stichting. The hearing is set for early 2020.
Van Woerkom: “As the District Court will look into the merits of the Stichting's claims, Volkswagen and the other parties can finally be held to account. In Europe, the Volkswagen group has never been called upon to defend its actions in the Dieselgate scandal in a court of law before. That is about to change. In other European countries, Germany for instance, courts are also inching closer to an assessment of the merits of class actions brought against Volkswagen. We are proud to say that our initiative is now the front runner in this trend.”
More information about Stichting Volkswagen Car Claim and the legal action can be found on www.derclaim.nl.
The AKD team working on the case is led by Patrick Haas.