Model declaratory action against Mercedes-Benz Group
Last amended: 15/07/2022
Table of contents
Basic information about the action
Why is the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv), bringing a model declaratory action against Mercedes-Benz Group AG (formerly Daimler AG)?
The authorities have recalled a number of vehicles manufactured by Mercedes-Benz Group AG (formerly Daimler AG). According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, KBA), the reason for the recalls was the use of illegal defeat devices. By fitting vehicles with such devices, manufacturers can ensure that the vehicles comply with the legal emissions thresholds during the type approval process. However, once the vehicles are on the road, they exceed these thresholds by a significant margin. Such vehicles should never have been approved in the first place. They will be taken off the road if their owners do not arrange for the software in the vehicles to be updated. According to the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH), the conclusion of a purchase agreement for a vehicle that cannot be registered constitutes damage for which compensation can be claimed.
Mercedes-Benz Group AG denies having acted unlawfully and harmed consumers. For this reason, vzbv seeks a declaratory judgement which formally establishes that illegal defeat devices were installed in certain vehicle models and that Mercedes-Benz Group AG acted intentionally and contrary to public policy in this regard.
Many consumers received recall letters in 2018, which means that the corresponding claims ran the risk to become time-barred at the end of 2021. By joining the action, consumers had the opportunity to suspend the limitation period for their claims while the court is hearing the model case.
Which findings are sought from the court?
The court is requested to rule that defeat devices were installed in certain vehicle models and that, by fitting such devices, Mercedes-Benz Group AG acted intentionally and contrary to public policy. This is the basis for any claims to damages by consumers.
How can registered consumers benefit from this action?
First, the model declaratory action is intended to prevent individual claims from becoming time-barred. Joining the action suspends the limitation period for the claim while the court is hearing the model case. Consumers have the chance to wait for the ruling and then decide how to proceed. The judgment will also be binding for all (German) courts, which will then make a detailed decision on the claim for damages if a consumer has joined the proceeding. As part of the model declaratory action, the participants will also be relieved of the majority of the work required to conduct court proceedings. vzbv will bear the full risk of legal costs. Consumers can register their claims in the claims register free of charge.
If a favourable judgment is obtained, consumers who have joined the action will no longer have to dispute the question of whether Mercedes-Benz Group AG intentionally fitted vehicles with defeat devices, and – if so – which ones. Currently, individual proceedings may still founder on this question, depending on the arguments brought forward in the case.
If a settlement is reached, as in the model case against Volkswagen AG, consumers could derive claims directly from this. They could receive payments directly and would no longer have to pursue their own lawsuit. However, it remains to be seen whether this will happen.
What would be the risks of this action compared to the other available options?
As with all legal actions, the model declaratory action also entails the risk that the court does not decide in the consumers’ favour.
A judgment against vzbv would also be binding for all registered consumers. If the court does not rule in favour of consumers, those who joined the action will not be permitted to bring another action against Mercedes-Benz Group AG in this regard.
In addition, not even a favourable judgment would guarantee consumers a direct payment claim. Certain aspects (such as the exact amount of the damage) depend on the circumstances of every individual case, which vzbv is unable to take into account in the action. If it is not possible to resolve the individual case out of court, consumers will have to enforce their claims again as part of an individual action. The Federal Court of Justice assumes that consumers will have to bear the costs of use for the kilometres they drove with their car if they choose to rescind the purchase agreement. This could mean that the compensation that consumers would receive is lower if the model declaratory action is conducted in stages than if they had taken direct legal action.
Taking part in the model declaratory action is of interest for consumers who do not currently intend to take direct legal action due to the risks involved. In that case, they would benefit at a later point in time from the comprehensive and binding rulings which the Higher Regional Court Stuttgart or the Federal Court of Justice makes in their favour. Please note that it is not possible to enrol in the register anymore.
Who is the action for?
Which vehicles are affected by the model declaratory action?
The model declaratory action covers various models from the Mercedes GLC and GLK range which have been subject to official recalls. It covers the following models:
GLC 220 d 4Matic
GLC 250 d 4Matic
GLK 200 CDI
GLK 220 CDI
GLK 220 CDI 4Matic
GLK 220 BlueTec (4Matic)
GLK 250 BlueTec (4Matic)
Can consumers find out how to join the action?
Th claims register has been closed of July 11th 2022. From that day on, consumers cannot enrol in the claims register anymore.
What should participating consumers keep in mind during the procedure?
For as long as consumers participate in the model declaratory action, they may not bring their own legal action in parallel. Consumers should obtain individual advice on this from a legal professional. Certain deadlines apply for registering and deregistering from the claims register.
Is it possible for consumers to deregister?
The last possibility to deregister was on July 12th 2022. From that day on, consumers cannot withdraw their registration anymore.
How much time do consumers have to pursue their own claims after a positive ruling?
Consumers will benefit from the suspension of the statute of limitations for a further 6 months after a favourable judgment becomes legally effective. The date on which claims become time-barred depends on the circumstances of each individual case. Consumers have at least 6 months after the end of the model case procedure to pursue their own claims.