The CJEU on the protection of the interests of an individual purchaser of a vehicle equipped with an unlawful defeat device

Last week (21 March 2023), the Court of Justice delivered its judgment on the case No C-100/21, QB v. Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

In the dispute in the main proceeding, QB brought an action for damages against Mercedes-Benz Group before the Regional Court of Ravensburg (Landgericht Ravensburg, Germany), seeking compensation for the damage allegedly caused to him by the defendant 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 is prohibited by Regulation (EC) No 715/2007.

According to German law (§ 823 BGB) a right to compensation may arise in respect of ordinary negligence where a law intended to protect others has been infringed. Since it was doubtful whether Regulation No 715/2007 – read in conjunction with Directive 2007/46/EC, applicable ratione temporis – might be qualified as such and what kind of damages could be awarded, the referring Court asked several questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. In a nutshell, it asked whether the relevant provisions of Directive No 2007/46 and Regulation No 715/2007 must be interpreted as protecting the specific interests of an individual purchaser of such a vehicle, and, regarding the calculation of the amount of compensation, whether it is necessary, in order to give practical effect to EU law, that the benefit derived from the use of the vehicle not be offset against the right to compensation or be offset only to a limited extent.

In the decision, the Court of Justice stated that Arts 18(1), 26(1) and 46 of Directive No 2007/46, read in conjunction with Art 5(2) of Regulation No 715/2007 must be interpreted “as protecting, 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, within the meaning of the latter provision”. Moreover, “EU law must be interpreted as meaning that, in the absence of provisions of EU law governing the matter, it is for the law of the Member State concerned to determine the rules concerning compensation for damage actually caused to the purchaser of a vehicle equipped with a prohibited defeat device, within the meaning of Art 5(2) of Regulation No 715/2007, provided that that compensation is adequate with respect to the damage suffered”.

Although the dispute in main proceedings was purely domestic, the Court’s reasoning may well apply to cross-border tortious cases too.

On Rome II Regulation, the readers of RDIPP may refer to:

Filippo Marchetti, 2017, No 4, 883 ff.;
Paola Ivaldi, 2013, No 4, 869 ff.;
Lidia Sandrini, 2013, No 3, 677 ff.;
Cristina M. Mariottini, 2012, No 3, 647 ff.;
Luís de Lima Pinheiro, 2008, No 1, 5 ff.;
Alberto Malatesta, 2006, No 1, 47 ff.;
Russell J. Weintraub, 2005, No 3, 561 ff.