The purchaser of a vehicle equipped with an unlawful defeat device has a right to compensation from the car manufacturer where that device has caused damage to that purchaser.
The judgment of the Court of Justice in case C-100/21 deals with the liability of manufacturers of vehicles fitted with defeat devices.
The proceedings are initiated after the Regional Court for Civil and Criminal Matters in Ravensburg (Germany) heard a claim for damages between a private individual (QB) and the Mercedes-Benz Group. By that action, QB seeks compensation for the damage allegedly caused to him by Mercedes-Benz Group by equipping the vehicle he purchased with software that reduces the exhaust gas recirculation rate when outside temperatures are below a certain threshold. Such a defeat device, which results in an increase in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, is prohibited by Regulation No 715/2007 on type approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles.
In German law, a right to compensation may arise in respect of ordinary negligence where a law intended to protect others has been infringed. Accordingly, the German court asks the Court of Justice whether the relevant provisions of Directive 2007/46 establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles (‘the Framework Directive’), read in conjunction with Regulation No 715/2007, must be interpreted as protecting the specific interests of an individual purchaser of such a vehicle.
The Court notes that in accordance with the Framework Directive, the vehicles must receive EC type-approval, which may be granted only if the type of vehicle in question satisfies the provisions of Regulation No 715/2007, including those relating to emissions.
In addition, the Court notes that, in accordance with the Framework Directive, car manufacturers are also required to issue a certificate of conformity to the individual purchaser of a vehicle. That document, which is required inter alia for the purposes of the entry into service of a vehicle, certifies that the vehicle complied with all regulatory acts at the time of its production. The certificate of conformity thus allows an individual purchaser to be protected against the manufacturer’s failure to fulfil its obligation to place on the market vehicles which comply with Regulation No 715/2007.
Those considerations lead the Court to conclude that the Framework Directive establishes a direct link between the car manufacturer and the individual purchaser of a motor vehicle intended to guarantee to the latter that that vehicle complies with the relevant EU legislation.
Consequently, the Court considers that the provisions of the Framework Directive, read in conjunction with those of Regulation No 715/2007, protect, in addition to public interests, the specific interests of the individual purchaser of a motor vehicle vis-à-vis the manufacturer of that vehicle where that vehicle is equipped with a prohibited defeat device. The Member States are therefore required to provide that the purchaser of such a vehicle has a right to compensation from the manufacturer of that vehicle.
More information: PRESS RELEASE No 51/23