On 15th January 2020, the Polish Antitrust Office (UOKiK) imposed a penalty on VW Group Polska in the amount of PLN 120 m for (a) misleading customers that Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda and Audi cars were environmentally-friendly and met the requirements for nitrogen oxide emissions and (b) issuing guidelines for sellers of these cars which suggested that consumers' complaints should not be taken into account, even though there was a clear defect.
This is the highest penalty in the history of UOKiK for violation of consumer rights in Poland.
The UOKiK is another consumer protection authority in Europe to issue a decision on this matter.
The UOKiK established that VW Group is liable for:
- disseminating false information in advertising materials which suggested that Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda and Audi cars were environmentally-friendly and met the requirements for nitrogen oxide emissions; this took place from 2008 to January 2016.
- providing incorrect nitrogen oxides emission parameters in EC certificates of conformity; this took place from 2008 to January 2016.
- issuing guidelines for sellers of these cars which suggested that consumers' complaints should not be taken into account, even though there was a clear defect; this took place until February 2016.
- According to the UOKiK, the company acted to the detriment of consumers because it made unethical recommendations that dealers should not accept legitimate consumer complaints. Incorrect information in advertising materials caused disinformation – such information referred to Volkswagen's environmentally-friendly attitude, whereas in fact the cars were not environmentally-friendly. In addition to the financial penalty, the President of UOKiK ordered that all consumers who bought cars from the VW Group with the EA 189 EU 5 engine should be informed of the decision. The company should also publish the decision on its website.
The decision of the Polish Antitrust Office is not final, as it can be appealed against in court. If the decision becomes legally binding, the consumers will be able to pursue their claims for damages in common courts. The findings of the Polish Antitrust Office as to the practice used are binding for common courts when handling individual cases concerning the practices challenged in the decision. Consumers may also refer to UOKiK's decisions when making a complaint.
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