"Economically, it would be sensible not to sink into thousands of expensive claims with process financiers," said the head of the Federation of German Consumer Federation (VZBV) the Handelsblatt. "Therefore I advise: VW should think about settlement negotiations at very short notice. "His phone number is known. "It is in the interest of the injured consumers, the Volkswagen Group and the industrial location of Germany to conclude this inglorious industrial scandal."
At the same time, Müller emphasized that settlement negotiations were "not an end in themselves". "It must go then already for a relevant sum," said the VZBV boss. The main interest of consumers is: "They want to see money." Of course, they would also like a "clear verdict" about the fact that Volkswagen cheated. "But more important is the financial compensation."
At the Higher Regional Court of Braunschweig, Müller's association uses the new instrument of the model declaration suit. The VZBV acts in the name of around 470,000 diesel customers who demand damages from VW for manipulated emissions. In Braunschweig, it's all about whether VW acted unlawfully. Concrete claims would then have to enforce customers in their own procedures.
Read the complete interview here:
Mr. Müller, a big topic that affects their association, is the model case against VW. Are you satisfied with how it works?
The glass is clearly half full. The Higher Regional Court in Braunschweig has prepared very carefully for the procedure. The Federal Office of Justice has done everything to make the complaint register workable. We think that in tune with many of the many sentences that have been spoken, we will eventually see Volkswagen's damaged customers see money – and relevant sums of money.
VW could be active on its own and offer financial compensation. Would that be in your sense?
The main interest of consumers is: they want to see money. Of course, they would also like to have a clear judgment that Volkswagen has cheated. But more important is the financial compensation. We can imagine that VW will become active on its own initiative. We are open for settlement negotiations. Of course, such talks are not an end in themselves. It must then go to a relevant sum.
How realistic is a comparison?
Possibly threatening mass suits against VW carry a comparison after a declaratory judgment.
In what way?
There are a number of litigation financiers who are running mass lawsuits against VW for a commission of around 30 percent. We now hear that, following a successful designation suit, the percentage of commissions may well be under ten percent because the risk associated with the claim would be significantly lower. This scenario could lead VW to open for a settlement to avoid more lawsuits.
Do you really believe that?
In any case, economically speaking, it would be sensible not to run into thousands of expensive claims with litigation financiers. Therefore, I advise: VW should think about settlement negotiations at very short notice. My phone number is known. It is in the interests of the injured consumers, the Volkswagen Group and the industrial location of Germany to conclude this inglorious industrial scandal.
They said with reference to the case against VW that the glass was half full. So, are you only half satisfied with the new instrument of the model declaration suit?
The law suffers in two places. All we can do is determine if Volkswagen has cheated and harmed consumers. So we can not immediately complain about compensation. That is a mistake of the law. It would be much better if we could clarify that in one go. The second problem is the high bureaucratic burden of the complaint register, in which consumers have to register. And certain procedural issues are complicated.
So should the law be changed accordingly?
Yes. We wish a timely evaluation. The European discussion also gives us a tailwind here.
You mean the planned EU class action lawsuit.
Exactly. There is already some of what we want. This means that associations have a means of action, the possibility not only to determine the damage, but really to enforce claims for damages. That is why it is right to introduce a European consumer class action.
However, the debate on an EU class action has hardly progressed, it seems. What is your opinion about that?
European speeds have always been getting used to. However, I think it is positive that, after the Commission made proposals two years ago, there was a Parliamentary decision before the European elections. Now it is about progress in the EU Council. We would like to reach an agreement next year.
Are you confident that this will succeed?
It would be a success for Mme von der Leyen if she could finish the subject in the first year of her term. I hope she is pushing that forward very energetically.
It will not be easy. The economy sees the EU model very critically. Associations fear that a collective EU legal action could become a class-action lawsuit on the American model.
Here I have to appeal to the intellect and honesty in the German business associations. The same arguments have been heard for ten years against the model declaration. None of this has come true. For honest discussion, therefore, arguments that are demonstrably wrong do not have to be constantly repeated.
Why are the associations wrong?
American law enforcement tools are characterized by performance fees for lawyers. That is not part of any EU proposal. We also do not know any opt-out models. So that you automatically participate in a lawsuit, unless you actively contradict. And, most important, the US system is based on punitive damages. So not only a loss of value has to be paid, but also an additional fine. All this does not include the planned EU class action lawsuit. That's why the threat that builds the economy has nothing to do with reality.
Are there any red lines in your EU model?
A red line is that a class action lawsuit should not be an exclusive tool for only a few consumer organizations. In Germany, there are comparatively few model procedures so far. This is because the hurdles and expense of a model declaration suit are already considerable. Therefore, the circle of the plaintiffs may not be further limited. This should also be considered in an EU solution.
Mr Müller, thank you for the interview.
More: Read here how the VW customers want to get their money back in court.
Consumer protection (t) Consumer (t) Consumer (t) Product policy (t) Product liability (t) Fraud (t) (t) Klaus Müller (t) Automotive industry