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(LEAD) Court orders Volkswagen to compensate car owners for mental distress

All Headlines 17:44 August 23, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with new information throughout)

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Friday ordered Volkswagen, Audi and their Korean unit to compensate local consumers for mental distress caused by their emission manipulation scheme and improper recalls.

The Seoul Central District Court issued a ruling on a lawsuit filed by some Korean owners of Audi and Volkswagen cars fitted with the so-called defeat devices designed to cheat emissions tests.

The court awarded 1 million won (US$825) in damages to each of the plaintiffs over their emotional anguish, but dismissed their claims of property damage and fraud loss allegedly caused by the emissions rigging and deceptive advertisement.

"The defendants actively betrayed consumer trust. Their violation of laws is severe, and in addition they issued recalls, unlike in the United States, only after they were pushed back by public opinion," the court said.

"This issue of vehicle-related misconduct must have caused psychological damage beyond the level acceptable to ordinary people."

But the court said the cheating did not affect consumers' choice of cars and does not constitute a vehicle defect, so the plaintiffs' argument about property damage cannot be accepted.

Barun Law, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, reportedly estimated that the ruling will benefit about 2,400 Korean consumers.

It is the second verdict in a series of civil lawsuits that thousands of Koreans have filed in connection with the so-called dieselgate scandal since 2015.

In July, the same court ruled Volkswagen Group, Audi Volkswagen Korea and local dealers violated the advertisement act and ordered them together to pay back 10 percent of sales prices, ranging from 1.56 million won to 5.38 million won, in damages to each of 79 plaintiffs who bought the cars after the law was revised in August 2013.

The logo of Volkswagen (Yonhap)


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