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EU starts legal action against seven countries over car emissions

Published 09 December 2016

The European Commission is taking legal action against seven member states, including the UK, for failing to properly regulate car emissions, after the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

The Commission opened infringement procedures against the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Spain and the UK, claiming that they have failed to fulfil their obligations under EU vehicle type approval legislation.

It noted that the states have failed in setting up penalties system to deter car-makers from violating against car emissions laws or not applying any sanctions, when a breach of law had taken place.

The Commission said that according to Article 46 of Directive 2007/46 and more specifically Article 13 of Regulation (EC) 715/2007, which is directly applicable, member states should have an effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties system to deter car-makers from breaking any laws.

And when such breach of law has taken place in the form of defeat devices, the penalties must be applied.

Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the UK have been accused of not applying their national provisions on penalties against Volkswagen despite the company using illegal defeat devices to cheat on emissions.

The Commission noted that the UK and Germany have refused to disclose technical information gathered by their respective national investigators on the nitrogen oxide emissions and irregularities in the vehicles of Volkswagen and other car manufacturers in the two countries.

Though, the final reports were submitted by the UK and Germany, the methodology used in the investigation process has not been disclosed.

It has sent formal letters of notice to the Czech Republic, Greece, and Lithuania, for failing to introduce such laws in the first place.

The Commission has taken important steps to make vehicles more environment-friendly.

As part of the effort, it has introduced realistic testing methods for measuring nitrogen oxides (NOx) and CO2 emissions for car.

European Commission Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said: "Abiding by the law is first and foremost the duty of car manufacturers. But national authorities across the EU must ensure that car manufacturers actually comply with the law.

“For the future, the Commission has tabled proposals to introduce greater European oversight and to make the type approval system more robust. We expect the European Parliament and Council to reach an agreement swiftly."

Image: Automobile exhaust gas. Photo: Courtesy of Ruben de Rijcke/Wikipedia.