EU seeks to coordinate consumer action against Volkswagen over Dieselgate

BRUSSELS/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Commission will meet consumer groups this week to make sure they are doing enough to seek compensation for European drivers affected by Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE cheating of diesel emissions tests.

A Volkswagen logo adorns a sign outside a dealership for the German automaker located in the Sydney suburb of Artarmon, Australia, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova told a news conference on Monday the “Dieselgate” scandal was a pan-European Union challenge and the Commission was assessing whether there had been breaches of two sets of rules that apply across the bloc.

They are the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive - which prohibits companies from touting exaggerated environmental claims in their sales pitches - and the Unfair Commercial Practises Directive, both of which apply across the EU.

“(They) set high standards for all the member states to enforce in case these rules are breached. It seems to be the case in so-called Dieselgate,” Jourova said.

Consumer groups and national authorities gave feedback in recent weeks showing that Volkswagen had not provided sufficient information to consumers, she said.

Volkswagen said it considered the allegations of the EU Consumer Commissioner unfounded and rejected them.

“Notwithstanding, in the meantime we are in regular and constructive dialogue with the Brussels authorities and institutions,” Volkswagen said in a statement.

Jourova plans to meet consumer associations this Thursday and national protection agencies on Sept. 29, as well as Volkswagen on an unspecified date.

“It is not my intention to come with strong action without fair communication with the company,” she said. “I cannot say I am going to take a stricter approach. I want them to look at the valid legislation and see what they have to do.”

Jourova did not say what that “strong action” might be.

The Commission has said it is for national organizations and authorities to pursue Volkswagen as they see fit.

But it is also keen to ensure EU rules are enforced to the full, and has shown with its huge demand for back taxes from Apple AAPL.O that it will take on multinationals itself when it feels it can and it is necessary.

Jourova has been working with consumer groups to pressure Volkswagen to voluntarily compensate customers in Europe for its diesel emissions test cheating, as it has in the United States.

Volkswagen has pledged billions of dollars to compensate drivers in the United States, but has so far rejected calls for similar payments covering the 8.5 million affected vehicles in Europe, where different legal rules weaken the chances of winning a pay out.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Philip Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by Jan Schwartz; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman