European Commission takes action against UK over emissions scandal

The European Commission has today (8 December) announced it will be acting against seven member states, including the UK, for failing to penalise Volkswagen over emissions violations.

The Commission will act against the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Spain and the United Kingdom claiming that they have failed to fulfil their obligations under EU vehicle type approval legislation.

Volkswagen was found to have installed 'defeat devices' on some diesel vehicles

Volkswagen was found to have installed ‘defeat devices’ on some diesel vehicles

Volkswagen was involved in the ‘dieselgate’ scandal in September 2015, when the German carmaker admitted it had cheated emissions tests for some of its diesel cars, which raised concerns about the way national authorities were policing emissions tests (see story)

Under EU vehicle type approval rules, member states are responsible for checking that a car model meets all EU standards before it can be sold on the single market, and must have effective and dissuasive penalties systems in place to deter car manufacturers from breaking the law.

Where a breach of law takes place — for example by using defeat devices to reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems — these penalties must be applied.


Today, the Commission is addressing letters of formal notice to the Czech Republic, Greece and Lithuania because they have failed to introduce such penalties systems into their national law.

The Commission is also opening infringement undertakings against Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the United Kingdom — the member states that issued type approvals for Volkswagen Group in the EU — for not applying their national provisions on penalties despite the company’s use of defeat device software.

Additionally, the Commission has taken the view that Germany and the United Kingdom broke the law by refusing to disclose, when requested by the Commission, all the technical information gathered in their national investigations regarding potential nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions irregularities in cars by Volkswagen Group and other car manufacturers on their territories.

A letter of formal notice is a first step in an infringement procedure and constitutes an official request for information. The member states now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward, otherwise the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion, which could be brought to the European Court of Justice.

Commissioner Elżbieta BieÅ„kowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Abiding by the law is first and foremost the duty of car manufacturers. But national authorities across the EU must ensure that car manufacturers actually comply with the law.

“For the future, the Commission has tabled proposals to introduce greater European oversight and to make the type approval system more robust. We expect the European Parliament and Council to reach an agreement swiftly.”


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