4 auto groups accused of deception in ‘dieselgate’ scandal


With four giant car groups indicted in the Diesel Jet scandal, millions of French car owners could claim damages, but it is still difficult to estimate the potential bill.
After accusations from the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2015, Volkswagen admitted supplying 11 million cars with software capable of making them appear less polluting during lab tests, according to AFP.
After five years of investigation in France, this week the groups “Volkswagen”, “Renault”, “Peugeot” and “Citroen” were charged with “deception regarding goods dangerous to human or animal health”. An indictment against Fiat Chrysler will be considered in early July.
This paves the way for a possible trial in France, which will result in deterrent penalties and billions in fines for manufacturers, as well as compensation for owners of vehicles whose value has decreased after the scandal was exposed in September 2015.
“In the event of a criminal prosecution, all buyers of new models of these brands can become a civil party” and seek compensation, said Raphael Bartolome of consumer advocacy agency UVC-Co Schwazier.
But Renault, Volkswagen, Stellants, the new parent company of Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat Chrysler promise nothing to do. A panel of experts appointed in France after the scandal in 2015 revealed anomalies in the emissions of cars from several brands.
At the end of 2016, the General Directorate of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Anti-Fraud revealed differences of up to 377 percent between the performance of some Renault diesel models when tested in the laboratory and when used in real conditions.
This includes hundreds of thousands of vehicles in France, more than 950,000 Volkswagen vehicles, 900,000 Renault vehicles and 1.9 million Peugeot and Citroen vehicles sold between September 2009 and September 2015, according to the department.
“All manufacturers have used pollution control systems that stop working in certain temperature or speed conditions,” Bertrand Olivier Decroux, a member of the expert committee, told French newspaper Les Echos.
The expert added, “The difficulties faced by the judiciary are related to proving the intent to defraud during the issuance of certificates” about the level of emissions.
For his part, Gilles LeBourne, Renault’s engineering director, said Tuesday that “there have never been any cheating programs in Renault engines.”
“Pollution control systems have been calibrated in order to keep technology and people safe,” he added. He added that the differences in emissions were “neither new nor surprising” and were in line with the old standard for measuring emissions.
After it was prevalent in Europe during the first decade of the 21st century, diesel declined due to the scandal, as its market share collapsed in favor of gasoline and then hybrid and electric cars.
The offense of “deception regarding dangerous goods” is punishable by a fine of 750,000 euros and the fines can be increased to 10 per cent of the annual turnover “in proportion to the interest derived from the infringement”.
Based on the total annual transaction volume, the Directorate General of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Anti-Fraud estimated the maximum fines at €5 billion for BSI and €3.58 billion for Renault.
However, the fine is expected to be much less and will be determined “in a manner proportionate to the benefits derived from deception” in accordance with the applicable texts. For Renault, this means that the fine will be 1.68 billion euros, equivalent to 10 percent of the turnover of 900,000 diesel cars, not 10 percent of the group’s total turnover.
“We believe that there should be deterrent penalties, criminal penalties in the form of fines, or even other penalties, while at the same time compensating the damages caused to the owners of the vehicles,” Francois Laforge, a lawyer for about 100 of the plaintiffs in the case, told France Info radio on Wednesday.
In France, Volkswagen was first asked in April to pay €4,000 in compensation to the owner of one of the cars in question, about 15 per cent of the purchase price.
The question is which of the other owners, and from which brands, will be able to claim compensation on the basis that their vehicles do not meet the advertised specifications, and how many will there be?
On the other hand, the German group “Volkswagen”, the manufacturer of cars, announced yesterday that it was exposed to an information hack that led to a data leak at one of its suppliers, affecting the information of more than 3.3 million people in North America.
“We recently discovered that a third party obtained without permission the personal information of current and potential customers of a supplier with whom Audi, Volkswagen and some franchisees in the United States and Canada cooperate for sales and marketing activities through Internet”.
According to AFP, the leaked information was collected between 2014 and 2019 and placed on an unprotected electronic file by this supplier, whose name was not disclosed by Volkswagen.
The German company indicated that the hacking affected sensitive information used for purchases or loans, including driver’s license numbers, belonging to about 900,000 current or potential Audi customers in the United States.
The leaks also included less sensitive information, including names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, for about 3.1 million Audi customers in the United States and 163,000 in Canada. The hack also affected the data of about 3,300 customers of “Volkswagen” in the United States.
The group confirmed that it is communicating with the people concerned, explaining that it has notified the relevant authorities. In recent weeks, several US companies have been subjected to informational attacks with varying scope of influence.
And fast-food chain McDonald’s announced Friday that the data of its customers in South Korea and Taiwan was leaked during a cyber attack. Meat giant GPS Group also said that earlier this month it had to pay $11 million in virtual bitcoins due to a cyber attack.
Weeks ago, the “Colonial Pipeline” company, which transports nearly 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the eastern coast of the United States, was forced to pay $ 4.4 million to computer hackers, a ransom part of which was later recovered by the US authorities.


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