The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection rules on violation of collective consumer interests; when we sue for damages before the civil courts, we seek redress for violation of our individual interests. In other words, an UOKiK decision may avail an individual claimant insofar as it may help prove that a violation has been committed, but such individual claimant must still demonstrate that he suffered harm as a result, explains Bernadeta Kasztelan-Świetlik of GESSEL.

Jolanta Ojczyk:  The President of UOKiK has imposed on Volkswagen a penalty in excess of PLN 120 mln in connection with the Dieselgate scandal. Can such a decision, which may still be subject to appeal, be of assistance in the struggle for compensation ?  Does the company now face a barrage of suits by owners of cars running on diesel and carrying the software which enabled manipulation of exhaust emissions tests ?

Bernadeta Kasztelan-Świetlik: Of course, it’s always easier once the UOKiK decision has gone through all the stages of ordinary appeal. In such an event, when an individual claimant files a suit, the court – now able to refer to the final UOKiK ruling to the effect that the law has been broken – can limit its proceedings to quantifying the damage suffered by the claimant as a result of such unlawful conduct and to awarding damages accordingly. That said, I would assume that Volkswagen would be looking to appeal the present decision, not only on account of the amount of the penalty and the hope that it might be reduced, but also on account of the potential claims for damages by customers. The intervening period may, conceivably, see exploration of the possibilities for settling out of court. This is all in the realm of speculation at the moment, but such stalling on the part of the business enterprise should come as no surprise – the enterprise is perfectly within its rights in seeking to appeal the penalty.

 

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