BERLIN (AP) – The European Union’s highest court ruled Thursday that buyers of Volkswagen cars fitted with software installed to cheat diesel emissions tests can sue the automaker in the country where they bought the car rather than seeking damages in Germany.
The European Court of Justice was asked to weigh in on the matter by a state court in Klagenfurt, Austria, which is considering an Austrian consumer protection group’s claim for damages on behalf of 574 customers. Germany-based Volkswagen disputed the international jurisdiction of Austrian courts, the European Court of Justice said.
The European court found that the place where the damage occurred was where the cars were bought from a third party — in this case, Austria.
It said in a statement that “a motor vehicle manufacturer which is established in one member state and engages in unlawful tampering with vehicles sold in other member states may reasonably expect to be sued in the courts of those states.”
In 2015, U.S. regulators caught Volkswagen using software that turned emissions controls off once cars had passed emissions tests. The company has paid out billions of euros to cover fines, settlements and recalls.