the first collective action launched in France for companies

The Brandeis Paris office is launching a first-class action funded in France between 2009 and 2019 to compensate companies affected by dieselgate, which owns the Volkswagen group as well as Renault and PSA.

Almost 8 years after its launch, will the diesel gate finally bring compensation to the owners of the cars concerned in France?

The incident of supplied diesel engines really took off in the US in 2015 and initially involved Volkswagen. However, other manufacturers were later accused of misrepresenting the real emissions of their cars, such as the Renault and Stellantis groups (as a result of the merger between FCA and PSA).

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

No down payment

But perhaps it is on the side of the companies that a procedure can cause a serious wave of compensation. The Paris office of Brandeis, a firm specializing in high net worth litigation, is launching the first class action funded in France under Dieselgate. A trial in the spring of 2021 after Volkswagen, Stellantis and Renault were charged with aggravated fraud.

The first step is to identify the companies concerned and the number of vehicles eligible for reimbursement. There are no costs for plaintiffs to pay: the class action is fully funded by Bench Walk Advisors, a London-based litigation finance company. In the event of a legal victory, he will recover a commission of about 30% of the damages obtained, but he risks the failure of the procedure.

“There are estimated to be 3.6 million cars in France: 900,000 from the Renault group, including Dacia, 900,000 for the Volkswagen group and its various brands, and 1.8 million from PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Opel),” he explains. . Marc Barennes, lawyer and co-founder of the Brandeis Paris office.

Compensation between 2,000 and 3,000 euros per car

Companies that owned these cars between 2009 and 2019 (2009-2015 for Volkswagen group models) are invited to contact the Brandeis Paris office, which will investigate each case and expect to receive compensation between 2,000 and 3,000 euros. according to the model.

“Several companies that contact us have a fleet of more than 5,000 vehicles,” emphasizes Marc Barennes.

Compensation for a fleet of this size could therefore be between 10 and 15 million euros. One cannot fail to mention the fact that models are renewed in one company for 10 years.

“With a fleet turnover every 3-5 years and taking into account the period, a company with a fleet of 3,000 vehicles can thus have a total of around 6,000,” continues Marc Barennes.

There is no minimum vehicle for a lawyer, but fleets of 50 cars that can find some interest there with a compensation of 100-150,000 euros.

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

“Ideally, it remains to complete the file within 6 months to be able to organize civil parties in the ongoing criminal proceedings and refer to the evidence gathered by the investigating judges to determine the crime and the damage caused to them. The civil compensation will be announced after the criminal decision,” said Marc Barennes. .

Then you have to be patient with the long procedure and court decision, which may fall in 2025 or even 2026.

Hope for private owners?

The class action lawsuit seeks damages for two injuries. Moral damage and reputation were first declared to emit more pollutants than “related to the adverse effects of these means on the environment and man”. Also, pecuniary damages in excess of the price that would have been paid if “the company had not been deceived as to the quality and performance of the vehicle” at the time of purchase, rental or leasing.

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

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