Volkswagen (VW) was ordered on Monday to partially reimburse a customer who had bought a car with a rigged diesel engine.
The ruling is expected to influence tens of thousands of proceedings, five years after the scandal known as Dieselgate erupted.
The German car manufacturer equipped its cars with a software that made them appear less polluting than they actually were.
In doing so, Volkswagen “knowingly and systematically misled” authorities for several years “with an eye on profitability,” judge Stephan Seiters said.
Volkswagen will now propose out-of-court settlements to settle “a large part of the 60,000 individual cases in progress,” the group said in a statement.
Judges of the German Federal Court (BGH) ruled that the purchase of a car equipped with a rigged engine constituted damage in itself, even if, as Volkswagen argued, the vehicle is still usable.
This first significant Dieselgate ruling against VW in Germany concerned Herbert Gilbert, a 65-year-old pensioner who bought a second-hand Volkswagen Sharan diesel in 2014, one of the 11 million vehicles in which Volkswagen admitted that a rigged software had been placed.
By returning his vehicle to Volkswagen, the pensioner is entitled to a refund, the court ruled, but this “must take into account” the use of the vehicle and therefore its loss in value over time, thus excluding a full refund of the purchase price.
The decision comes after the end in April of an unprecedented lawsuit in Germany, similar to a US-style class action, involving hundreds of thousands of claimants.
Volkswagen will pay at least €750 million to compensate 235,000 customers under an out-of-court settlement. The scandal has already cost VW more than €30 billion.
The Brussels Times