"Dieselsenat": BGH cashes clause in car loan contracts

Mercedes buyers did not give up their right to sue for damages in the diesel scandal when they took out their car loan.

"Dieselsenat": BGH cashes clause in car loan contracts

Mercedes buyers did not give up their right to sue for damages in the diesel scandal when they took out their car loan. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) declared a corresponding clause in the Mercedes-Benz Bank loan agreements to be invalid. (Az. VIa ZR 1517/22)

The reason for this has nothing to do with the diesel problem, as the presiding judge Eva Menges explained in Karlsruhe. Since the clause is too broad and therefore ineffective overall, diesel plaintiffs also benefit from the judgment.

The plaintiff in the case had financed his car through the Mercedes-Benz Bank. The contract states that the borrower assigns current and future claims against Daimler to the bank as security - "for whatever legal reason".

The man later demanded compensation from the Mercedes-Benz Group, as Daimler is now called. He claims his car is equipped with various illegal defeat devices and emits more toxic exhaust fumes than permitted while driving.

Because of the clause in the financing contract, the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Stuttgart was of the opinion that the man was not entitled to sue. The top civil judges now see things differently: the plaintiff has not effectively assigned any claims, said Menges.

Clause includes different requirements

The justification is a bit complicated and has to do with the fact that the clause includes very different claims. According to the judges, this also includes claims that consumers incur if they exercise their right of withdrawal after concluding a loan agreement. This unlawfully worsens the position of buyers. In the specific case, the plaintiff had not revoked his car loan at all. Regardless of this, the Senate declared the clause invalid.

This is likely to affect a larger number of contracts, because according to the findings in the Higher Regional Court judgment, the objected clause "regularly" is found in the loan conditions of Mercedes-Benz Bank. Mercedes did not want to comment on this when asked.

The office of Dr. stole

The Stuttgart judges now have to clarify in a second attempt whether the content of the man's complaint is justified. Mercedes said: "We assume that the Higher Regional Court will continue to regard the lawsuit as unfounded even after a renewed referral."

Mercedes could not prove any intention to defraud

So far, diesel plaintiffs had actually bitten their teeth at Mercedes. Because unlike VW with the scandalous engine EA189, Mercedes and other car manufacturers could not be proven to have fraudulent intentions. According to the case law of the BGH, claims for damages are ruled out.

However, a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in March could fundamentally change that. The Luxembourg judges set the hurdles for damages much lower. According to this, car buyers would have to be compensated even if the manufacturer had negligently used an inadmissible exhaust gas technology. The question now is what the BGH makes of it for German jurisdiction. The "Diesel Senate" wants to deal with the issue in a hearing on May 8th. Then it's also about a Mercedes.

Other car banks should not be affected by the BGH ruling on the clause. The law firm Goldenstein Rechtsanwälte, which is also very active in the diesel scandal, announced at the hearing in mid-March that it had examined thousands of financing agreements. "As far as we know, only Mercedes-Benz Bank had the audacity to fend off claims for damages against the respective parent company through clauses in general terms and conditions." Lawyer Claus Goldenstein now explained that the BGH had prevented an imitation effect with its judgment.