The 22nd Chamber of the Dutch-speaking Court of First Instance in Brussels will examine on October 10 the admissibility of a class-action brought by the Test-Achats consumer association against the Volkswagen group and the D’Ieteren car dealership, according to Bart Volders, lawyer for the consumer defence group. Test-Achats has collected 7,000 files on consumers duped by the car giant, which admitted in September 2015 that it had installed software capable of falsifying pollution test results on 11 million vehicles worldwide. In late June, Volkswagen agreed to pay out 14.7 billion dollars to settle the dispute in the United States, but it has refused to do likewise in Europe, where 8.5 million vehicles are said to have been affected, 320,000 of them in Belgium.
In its class action, Test-Achats accuses Volkswagen and D’Ieteren, the distributor of its vehicles in Belgium, of fraudulent practices and demands the reimbursement of the vehicles sold in Belgium without any obligation for the Belgian clients to return them. Of the 7,000 files, only proprietors of vehicles bought after September 1, 2014 – about a third – are eligible because class action has only been possible in Belgium since that date.
The procedure has three phases, Volders explained. In the first, the admissibility of the complaint is examined. This is followed by a period of negotiation aimed at arriving at an out-of-court settlement. If the parties fail to settle, the case is tried by the court.