Luxembourg (dpa) - In the VW exhaust scandal, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has strengthened the rights of consumers across Europe.

According to the judgment, injured parties do not necessarily have to go to court against the automaker in Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered. Instead, they can sue VW for damages in the country of the car purchase (Case C-343/19).

The background is the case of 574 VW customers in Austria who have ceded their claims to the Austrian Association for Consumer Information (VKI). He sued Volkswagen on behalf of the Klagenfurt Regional Court for damages amounting to 3.6 million euros. In addition, Volkswagen must therefore be held liable for all as yet unquantifiable and future damage.

The VKI argued that if they had known about the manipulation, customers would either not have accepted the car at all or would have accepted it at a price that was at least 30 percent lower. The market value and purchase price of the vehicles is significantly lower than the price paid due to the built-in shutdown devices.

Under EU law, the courts of the country in which the defendant is domiciled or domiciled are normally responsible. Volkswagen therefore argued that the Klagenfurt court lacked international jurisdiction over the lawsuit. The Austrian judges asked the ECJ to interpret EU law.

The CJEU now basically decided that in cases such as the VW exhaust scandal, there was an exception to common jurisdictions. The location of the causal event - i.e. the installation of the manipulation software - is in Germany. However, the damage is only realized when a customer buys the car at a price that is above the actual value. In this case, the damage - an impairment due to the difference between the purchase price and the actual value due to the manipulation software - only occurred in Austria.

The Luxembourg judges also made it clear that Volkswagen could have expected to be sued in the countries in which the company sold the cars. The Klagenfurt court must now rule on the class action lawsuit of Austrian consumer protection groups.

The emissions scandal is a major legal battle for Volkswagen worldwide. In Germany, the first model lawsuit has now ended with a settlement. Depending on the model and age of their car, around 260,000 diesel customers get between 1,350 and 6,257 euros.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200709-99-729254 / 2

EUGH documents on the case

ECJ communication