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Saturday, 9 January 2016

Brussels seeks new powers to oversee carmakers -

The Financial Times reports (5 January) that the European Commission is seeking new powers to police compliance with emissions rules. It recognises that regulatory problems failed to pick up the issues detected by the authorities in the U.S. The Commission wants to be able to review the national regulators who are responsible for assessing the safety and environmental performance of cars, extending possibly to the power to demand extra test and to apply sanctions.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against VW in early January, but nothing similar has yet happened in Europe. Instead, national governments are still investigating whether VW has done anything illegal. The enforcement of EU emissions legislation at national level is a significant weakness in the system.
The former environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik, had called for the Commission to be given powers across the board like those of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. The latest proposals are limited to the automotive sector.
The Commission is also considering reinforcing the existing ban on defeat devices, through the imposition of a disclosure obligation like that in the U.S. Clean Air Act so that manufacturers would have to declare all emissions control devices installed in their cars. The Commission's spokeswoman said that this would widen the base for legal action, creating new possibilities for imposing sanctions when breaches occured.
Another suggested change would make it easuer for regulators in countries other than the one in which a car was first approved to require recalls. The commission is also looking at the conflict of interest that may arise when testing centres are paid by the carmakers whose products they are testing, and to introduce spot checks to evaluate on-the-road performance.
The paper quotes Monique Goyens, director-general of BEUC, a consumers’ lobby group, saying: “The financial relationship between carmakers, national authorities and private testing services needs to be broken up to ensure greater independence. Random conformity testing such as in the US is also needed to put a further check on the system.”
The Commission is also calling on VW to offer a compensation package to customers in the EU similar to that it has given U.S. customers, who have had two $500gift cards and three years' free servicing. So far, VW has declined to make such a gesture in Europe.

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