Sarcastic sentence from the EU Court: No to Italy’s fine for Volkswagen, Germany’s fine is sufficient

Italy will not be able to collect the 5 million euro fine imposed on Volkswagen, which was found guilty of selling reinforced diesel cars to around 700 thousand Italians. This was determined by a decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Reason? The German automaker has already been sanctioned in Germany for the same reason. Thus, while Berlin can fill its coffers with 1 billion euros, our country may be left empty-handed.

diesel gate

The story is about the Dieselgate scandal. In September 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency discovered that diesel cars marketed by Volkswagen on the US market contain software that alters the measurement of nitrogen oxide emissions, making them lower than actual ones, thus allowing compliance with legal limits. It was later revealed that this device was also used in vehicles sold in Europe and that the application was also used by other car manufacturers, including Fiat.

In the US, Volkswagen moved quickly to compensate affected drivers, agreeing to pay nearly $15 billion to settle civil lawsuits in 2016. Things progressed more slowly in Europe. The automaker paid a fine of 1 billion euros to the German state in 2018, following the decision of the Braunschweig prosecutor’s office that it did not object.

In Italy, the situation is different: Although the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) fined Volkswagen 5 million euros for approximately 700 thousand reinforced vehicles sold in our country in 2016, that is, before the German authorities did. He opposed the sanction and applied for Lazio’s TAR. After TAR rejected the objection, the German company did not give up and appealed to the Council of State. Who was it that asked for an opinion from the EU Court before making a decision?

“Ne bis in idem”

And so we come to today: Luxembourg judges found that the $5 million fine imposed on Volkswagen could not be imposed because it violated the principle of “ne bis in idem” in Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In summary, the principle of “ne bis in idem” stipulates that a person (whether a citizen or a company) cannot be tried twice for the same crime. The fine paid by Volkswagen in Germany concerns not only souped-up cars on the German market, but also all 10.7 million vehicles equipped with a device that changes emissions detection. Therefore, from the perspective of the EU Court, it is as if it had already paid for the cars sold in Italy. So, even though this (joke within a joke) was implemented before the German sanction, the Italian sanction was discontinued.

However, the EU Court leaves an open door: the principle of “ne bis in idem” can be overruled if “three conditions are met”, that is, if the accumulation of sanctions does not constitute an “undue burden on the party concerned”: a “clear and whether there are ‘definitive rules’ and whether the legal proceedings to be collected are ‘sufficiently coordinated and expeditious’.

Zero compensation in Italy

With this decision, 7 years after the scandal broke out, Italy and Italian consumers still do not have a single euro fine or compensation left in their pockets. Although the Venice Court sentenced the German company in 2021 to pay compensation of up to 3,300 euros (100 million in total, according to Altroconsumo) to 63 thousand drivers, Volkswagen appealed, effectively blocking the implementation of the decision. Also in this case, the attitude towards Italy was different from that taken in the USA, UK or Germany, where the global auto giant has already agreed to pay compensation of up to 6,200 euros per person to 260 thousand German consumers. . Total 830 million.

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Source: Today IT