a first collective action launched in France for companies

The Brandeis Paris office is launching a first class action funded in France to compensate companies affected by dieselgate, which own models from the Volkswagen group, but also from Renault and PSA between 2009 and 2019.

Almost 8 years after it broke out, will dieselgate finally lead to compensation for owners of affected vehicles in France?

The case of rigged diesel engines actually arose in 2015 in the United States, initially involving Volkswagen. But, subsequently, other manufacturers have also been involved in distorting the real emissions of their vehicles, such as the Renault and Stellantis groups (resulting from the merger between FCA and PSA).

If Volkswagen has already paid billions of dollars in fines and compensation in the United States since 2020, procedures have also resulted in Europe, Germany or England. In France, an individual obtained the first conviction of the German group in 2021, but the procedure has already been referred to the Bordeaux Court of Appeal.

No down payment

But perhaps it is on the side of companies that a method can lead to a significant wave of compensation. The Brandeis Paris office, a company specializing in litigation with high economic stakes, is launching the first collective action funded in France within the framework of dieselgate. A legal action following the indictment of Volkswagen, Stellantis and Renault in the spring of 2021 for the offense of aggravated fraud.

First step, identify the companies involved and the number of vehicles eligible for compensation. For the plaintiffs, there is no cost to pay: the class action is fully funded by the company Bench Walk Advisors, based in London and specializing in litigation financing. In the event of legal success, it will recover a commission of approximately 30% of the damages obtained, but there is a risk that the scheme will fail.

“It is estimated that there will be 3.6 million vehicles concerned in France: 900,000 from the Renault group, including Dacia, 900,000 for the Volkswagen group and its various brands and 1.8 million at PSA (Peugeot, Citroën, DS and Opel) “, explains Marc Barennes, lawyer and founding partner of the Brandeis Paris office.

Between 2000 and 3000 euros as compensation per vehicle

Companies that own these vehicles between 2009 and 2019 (between 2009 and 2015 for Volkswagen group models) are invited to contact the Brandeis Paris office, which will examine each case and expect to get between 2,000 and 3,000 euros in compensation per model.

“Many companies that contacted us have fleets of more than 5,000 vehicles”, underlines Marc Barennes.

For a fleet of this size, the compensation could be between 10 and 15 million euros. Not to mention the fact that more than 10 years, a company may have renewed models.

“With fleet turnover every 3 to 5 years and taking into account the weather, a company with 3000 vehicles can have a total of 6000 concerned,” continues Marc Barennes.

For the lawyer, there is no minimum of vehicles, but it is the fleet from 50 vehicles that can find a certain interest there, with compensation between 100,000 and 150,000 euros.

In terms of timing, the Brandeis firm recommends contacting him in the next few weeks, as the constitution of the file can take several hours, especially for the largest fleets.

“It remains ideal to complete the file within 6 months so that civil parties can form in the ongoing criminal proceedings and that they can rely on the evidence gathered by the investigating judges to establish guilt and their damages. is pronounced in the context of the criminal decision”, defined Marc Barennes.

It will be necessary to be patient, with a long procedure and a court decision that could fall in 2025, or even in 2026.

Also hope for private owners?

The class action seeks to recover damages for two injuries. The moral damage and reputation is first, “related to the negative environmental and human impact of these vehicles” that emit more pollutants than announced. But also material damage, with a price higher than what should have been paid “if the company was not deceived about the characteristics and performance of the vehicle”, whether in purchase, rental or leasing.

The individual drivers formed as part of the procedure carried out by the CLCV association can, according to Marc Barennes, “also benefit from the progress of this collective action carried out for companies”.

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