By Kate Abnett and Victoria Waldersee
BRUSSELS, Jul 14 (Reuters) – The software that Volkswagen AG used to alter car emissions at certain temperatures constitutes an illegal defeat device if it was used for most of the year, the highest court ruled on Thursday. UE in a sentence that, according to the company, confirms that its software was allowed.
The ruling by the European Court of Justice (CJEU) is the latest step in a series of cases following the German carmaker’s 2015 admission of wrongdoing in the so-called “Dieselgate” scandal.
“A device that ensures compliance with the emission limit values for nitrogen oxides only in the temperature window constitutes, in principle, a defeat device,” the CJEU said in a statement.
The sentence refers to the software that Volkswagen installed to control the recirculation of exhaust gases, in order to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) that can cause respiratory problems in humans.
The court said this software reduced recirculation, eventually to zero, at temperatures outside 15-33 Celsius, increasing NOx emissions above EU legal limits.
The court said that temperatures below 15C are normal in the EU and that the defeat device had therefore degraded emission controls under normal use.
If a device was strictly designed to prevent serious engine damage that could cause an accident, then it might not be illegal, the court said, but even in this case, the defeat device would be illegal if it worked most of the year on normal driving conditions.
“Volkswagen AG sees its legal position confirmed by the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union. According to the criteria that the EU court has established in its ruling, the temperature windows used in VW Group vehicles are allowed “Volkswagen said in a statement.
“They protect from immediate risk to the engine in the form of damage or accidents. The risks are so serious that they represent a concrete danger when operating the vehicle,” he said.
Austrian consumers who bought the affected vehicles between 2011 and 2013 are trying to void those sales contracts.
Austrian courts dealing with software-related cases must decide whether the devices were allowed in the specific cases to which the case relates, the EU court said.
The court said a seller may be required to repair or replace goods that do not conform to their sales contract and that failure to do so could entitle the consumer to a price reduction or cancellation of their order.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Additional reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Editing in Spanish by Benjamín Mejías Valencia)