Court dismisses mass lawsuit against Audi

One of the biggest lawsuits in exhaust fraud ends with a defeat for the debt collection service provider Financialright. He has had claims from 3,000 Audi drivers assigned. This is exactly what bothers the Ingolstadt district court.

Audi is deeply involved in the exhaust gas manipulation scandal.

IIn the Volkswagen emissions scandal, the success of the trial in the German civil courts is currently on the part of the Wolfsburg-based automobile company. On Friday, the Ingolstadt district court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the debt collection service provider Financialright against the VW subsidiary Audi. For the class action, Financialright had claims from originally 3,000 Audi customers assigned and sued these claims in court at Audi’s headquarters with a value in dispute of 77.5 million euros.

The 4th Civil Chamber of the Regional Court came to the conclusion that the individual assignments of claims by the diesel drivers to the plaintiff are void because this authority for debt collection service providers is not covered by the Legal Services Act (RDG) and this disadvantages vehicle buyers. Financialright can appeal the judgment to the Munich Higher Regional Court (Az .: 41 O 1745/18).

According to the court’s notification, the civil judges had declared an assignment to a legal service provider to be possible in principle. This was based on the supreme court specifications from Karlsruhe, from the so-called “Lexfox” decision of the Federal Court of Justice of November 2019. In the case of the Wenigermiete.de offer, which reclaims excessively high rent on behalf of tenants, the federal judges extended the range of the The legal services provided by debt collection agencies are very generous. In the legal tech scene, it is a fundamental judgment in favor of the business models of many debt collection service providers who, like Financialright, address potential customers via the Internet and have their claims assigned to them.

Unreasonable disadvantage

In the mass lawsuit against Audi, however, the civil chamber found that the individual assignment agreements were already null and void. As an argument, they cited a passage in Financialright’s terms and conditions, according to which diesel drivers could incur costs for legal proceedings if Audi and the plaintiff revoke a possible settlement. The service provider advertises that it will assume all legal and litigation costs. This results in both “inadmissible economic pressure” for buyers and a conflict of interest in the relationship with Financialright, the judges conclude and speak of “unreasonable disadvantage” for the diesel driver. Without an effective assignment, Financialright could not assert the buyers’ claims itself, so the lawsuit had to be dismissed, said a court spokesman.

In a few months, it will be the second painful defeat for the debt collection service provider from Düsseldorf: The Munich Regional Court I was also of the opinion in the claim for damages in the so-called truck cartel that the scope of the collection permit was exceeded (FAZ of February 8). “We are still firmly convinced that Financialright’s business model does not violate the RDG. Two chambers of the Braunschweig Regional Court also see it that way, ”said Wolf von Bernuth, the plaintiff’s attorney, to the FAZ after the decision. The verdict from Ingolstadt will now be examined first and then a decision will be made on the next steps.

When asked what effects the ruling could have on other legal actions by Financialright, the partner of the Hausfeld law firm did not want to comment. At least in the dispute with the commercial vehicle manufacturers, there seems to have been a shift in strategy for a few weeks. Together with a logistics association, the debt collection service provider has started a project to purchase receivables in order to enforce damages against the truck cartel. The problem with the assignment of claims should no longer arise in this way.