Volkswagen’s efforts to evade dual penalties in the wake of the dieselgate scandal hinge on whether the infractions are truly identical or merely bear resemblance, as clarified by Europe’s highest court on Thursday.
Ultimately, the decision rests with an Italian court, which will base its judgment on guidance provided by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg, as reported by Reuters.
The case revolves around Volkswagen’s contestation of a 5-million-euro ($5.4 million) antitrust fine imposed by Italian authorities in 2016. This fine was the result of misleading advertising by Volkswagen concerning vehicles equipped with illicit emissions control mechanisms.
Volkswagen argues that it should not face dual penalties for the same transgression, particularly as it had already paid a 1 billion euro fine in Germany in 2018. The diesel emissions scandal has inflicted a financial toll of more than 32 billion euros on Volkswagen, covering expenditures for retrofits, fines, and legal expenses.
In 2019, the Italian court dismissed Volkswagen’s appeal, asserting that there was no case of double jeopardy since the Italian fine was based on a distinct legal foundation. Subsequently, Volkswagen escalated the matter to the Italian Council of State, which sought guidance from the CJEU.
The CJEU judges underscored that double jeopardy “may only be invoked when the facts underpinning both sets of proceedings or the two penalties in question are indistinguishable. Mere similarity of these facts is insufficient to trigger double jeopardy.”