The EU begins legal action against emissions test cheating by carmakers.
The European Union began legal action on Thursday against Germany, the United Kingdom and five other member states for failing to police emissions tests by carmakers after the Volkswagen diesel scandal.
Amid mounting frustration in Brussels over what EU officials see as governments colluding with the powerful car industry, the European Commission is wielding its biggest available stick in an attempt to force nations to clamp down on diesel cars spewing health-harming nitrogen oxide pollution.
German officials — who say the EU law is poorly framed — had expected Brussels to stop short of confronting the EU’s leading power and by far its biggest car manufacturer.
Thursday’s action was a sign that the EU executive, under pressure from the European Parliament, is keen to prove its worth to voters.
Germany, the UK, Spain and Luxembourg stand accused of failing to impose the kind of penalties Volkswagen has faced in the United States over its use of illegal “defeat device” software to mask real-world NOx emissions blamed for respiratory illnesses and early deaths.
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said: “Germany is the only European country to have implemented a comprehensive list of measures to prevent unauthorized use of defeat devices.”
The European Commission also accused Berlin and London of refusing to share details of suspicious findings revealed by national investigations into the “dieselgate” scandal — without which it cannot carry out a supervisory role.
“This goes far beyond Volkswagen,” said an EU source, adding that officials had more cases planned in a push to force cars spewing up to five times legal NOx limits off the road.
Thursday’s notice is the first step in what is known as infringement procedures, allowing the EU to ensure the bloc’s 28 nations abide by agreed EU-wide regulations. Member states have two months to respond.
If they fail to do so convincingly, the EU may take them to the EU court.
In a system the European Commission is seeking to overhaul, national watchdogs approve new cars and have the sole power to police manufacturers — though once approved in one country, vehicles can be sold across the bloc.
Highlighting the system’s shortcomings, the Commission said another three countries — the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Greece — do not have provisions in national law allowing for fines against carmakers in case of breaches.
European consumer lobby BEUC hailed the cases, saying not enough had been done to protect EU citizens — a year since the United States caught VW cheating and went on to win compensation for its consumers. “It is a strong rebuke of Germany and other countries’ inaction,” said BEUC head Monique Goyens.
Germany is the only European country to have implemented a comprehensive list of measures to prevent unauthorised use of defeat devices.” Alexander Dobrindt, German transport minister