On April 17, the European Parliament discussed the provisional agreement reached on the Report on Approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers, by Daniel Dalton (ECR, UK). MEPs were generally pleased with the progress made with this new legislation in the context of the Dieselgate and the findings of the Committee of inquiry into Dieselgate. MEPs welcomed the establishment of tougher requirements for car manufacturers and Member States’ authorities and better control and oversight by the European Commission. The Greens and S&D Group Members regretted that the report was not more ambitious and that they failed to create an independent EU agency to be tasked with the type approval of vehicles and market surveillance. MEPs were also particularly pleased that the new system would help restore consumer confidence and called for consumers having been misled in Dieselgate scandal to receive compensation as happened in the USA.
The following day, the European Parliament endorsed the provisional agreement reached in trilogue with 547 votes in favour, 83 votes against and 16 abstentions.
Daniel Dalton (ECR, UK) began by saying that this file represented a strong Europe-wide response to the Dieselgate scandal. He believed that this legislation would make cars safer and cleaner and, combined with RDE testing, would ensure that a Dieselgate would not happen again. While acknowledging the unique system that Europe has, namely national type approvals, which are mutually recognised across all EU countries, he said that Dieselgate had exposed some of its limitations due to the testing process, lack of enforcement and lack of market surveillance.
For years, motorists have suspected that the advertised fuel performance of their vehicles was inaccurate and exaggerated, Mr Dalton went on. “They were a joke, in fact”, he said. No one believed them, and Dieselgate proved them right. Millions of cars bought in good faith had been mis-sold due to deliberate attempts to manipulate laboratory test results. To many, it appears that Dieselgate affected everyone apart from the manufacturers who are to blame. Those affected are still waiting for proper compensation, whereas in the US, compensation has already been paid. So, motorists in Europe are angry, and they are rightly asking what the EU is doing about it. “We should all be concerned as well about the environmental damage of this, particularly in cities with poor air quality”, he said.
Mr Dalton said that, overall, Dieselgate had undermined trust in diesel vehicles. In his opinion, this package creates a rigorous and transparent framework for approving and checking the cars on EU’s roads for emissions and safety. The new rules also guarantee safety standards. Airbags and seatbelts are all covered in these rules. New testing, too, will ensure that environmental protections are upheld. Transparent testing is essential to ensuring that cars are safe and clean. Test results will, for the first time, be easily available for third parties online, who can check and verify results for cheating.
When something goes wrong, there must be a capacity to act, Mr Dalton was convinced, and under this regulation there are, for the first time, proper requirements for national authorities to significantly fine manufacturers at fault. If the national authorities fail to act, the Commission can levy fines instead. That European involvement and oversight is repeated in many parts of this regulation.
Mr Dalton confessed he was naturally sceptical of giving power to the Commission, but this scandal showed an umpire was needed to renew the trust that is needed in a system of national mutual recognition, he added. The Commission will be carrying out regular reviews of type approval authorities who allow cars to drive on the road to make sure that they are doing their job. There will also be a forum, chaired by the Commission, providing greater oversight and sharing best practice of national authorities. Once cars are on the road, national authorities, who failed to do so in the past, now have to check them. Hundreds of cars a year will be checked, with the spread of models and types to ensure that cheating will be caught.
The European Commission is also mandated to undertake spot checks on cars across the Union, targeted based on information Member States have to provide on their surveillance programmes. A double-check system to ensure that if another Volkswagen ever happened, it would be discovered quickly. Vehicles found not in conformity will also be subject to a rapid EU-wide recall system where needed.
For people affected by Dieselgate, this regulation makes the law clear that if consumers carry out repairs themselves to faulty vehicles later subject to recalls, they will be reimbursed for the costs incurred. Consumers also rely on an independent and healthy aftermarket for local and good-quality service.
Mr Dalton was pleased to have achieved improved access to manufacturer information for independent repairers. This makes the market stronger for the benefit of consumers.
In conclusion, this regulation delivers a stronger, more transparent system to ensure cars on our roads are safe and clean. It delivers for car owners, for the environment and for manufacturers, with standards fairly applied and appropriately applied across the board. Mr Dalton thanked all the shadow rapporteurs for their work, and Cameron Smith and Alex Davis in his office for the immense work that they have done. He looked forward to hearing his colleagues’ views in the debate.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner in charge of Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, was glad to be present at the debate in the Parliament as it allowed her to underline the importance she attached to this proposal
“Dieselgate opened our eyes and showed the need for far-reaching reforms”, she said. The EMIS Committee and the Commission’s own investigations revealed the shortcomings of the present system. She said that what they have discovered was not only concerning Volkswagen. The whole industry operated in a grey zone. Almost all companies bent the rules, some even cheated and the EU’s type‑approval authorities took their enforcement responsibilities very lightly.
“We are faced with a systemic failure of the type‑approval system in Europe. That needs to change radically and it needs to change urgently”, Commissioner Bieńkowska said. Enforcement of the type‑approval framework is the responsibility of the Member States, she emphasised, but the last two years have shown that only a few of them have taken serious action against emission-cheating.
She informed that no car manufacturer has been fined for cheating so far, and only a few Member States have issued mandatory calls for non‑compliant cars. This is one of the reasons she has consistently called for a reshuffle of the whole approval system, more checks on the ground and more EU governance.
In her view, the proposals that the Parliament would vote on the following day are a key instrument to achieve this. She reiterated her support for the Parliament’s request for compensation for consumers. She agreed that the situation in the EU was wrong when companies refused to compensate consumers for misleading information on environmental performance.
Commissioner Bieńkowska then referred to the previous week’s adoption by the Commission of the New Deal for Consumers initiative. It proposes legal instruments on representative actions and possibilities for consumer redress. At the last trilogue in December, as part of the discussion on penalties, the Parliament asked the Commission to make a declaration referring to the adoption of the New Deal for Consumers package to better protect consumers and ensure a more effective consumer redress mechanism, she recalled.
She had the pleasure of confirming that the text of this declaration, together with the other declarations, is being transmitted to Parliament’s services. If such rules had been in place when the Dieselgate scandal broke out, consumer organisations and independent public bodies could have launched representative actions and sought redress for the consumers affected. With this proposal, once adopted, victims of unfair commercial practices will be in a position to obtain remedies collectively, Ms Bieńkowska clarified.
Commissioner Bieńkowska welcomed the agreement between the Parliament and the Council. She looked forward to having a final deal tomorrow. With this vote, she said that the Parliament would send a strong and clear message to the players in this sector. She was equally pleased that the final outcome upheld most of the proposals from the Commission and improved some of them.
She was especially happy that the main pillars of the Commission’s proposals were confirmed. In her view, they are reinforcing the independence and quality of approvals that allow a car to be placed on the market, introducing an effective market surveillance system to ensure that cars placed on the market comply with EU rules, not only at the time of approval, but also when they circulate on the roads, and reinforcing the whole system with greater European oversight to ensure a coherent implementation throughout Europe.
Those three points are really crucial to ensuring that everyone involved complies fully with the rules and applies the requirements in a harmonised way. She commended the hard work of the Rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs. She acknowledged this was a huge effort and that it has not been an easy process.
The car sector is crucial for meeting the EU’s climate targets. To this end, Commissioner Bieńkowska stressed the importance of improving the measurement of real-life CO2 emissions as soon as possible.
Concluding, she believed that overall this was a good deal that significantly improved the present situation. She was sure that with the type‑approval package, as finalised, this would be a big step forward towards safer and cleaner cars in Europe. It would also help to rebuild the trust of citizens in their authorities.
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