Brussels is to take action against seven Member States on the grounds they have “failed to fulfil their obligations” concerning European Union (EC) vehicle type approval legislation.

The European Commission (EC) maintains the States have failed to set up penalties systems to deter car manufacturers from violating car emissions legislation, or not applied such sanctions where a breach of law has occurred.

Countries involved are: Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Spain and the UK on the grounds they have “disregarded” EU vehicle type approval rules.

“Abiding by the law is first and foremost the duty of car manufacturers,” said Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME Commissioner, Elzbieta Bienkowska.

“But national authorities across the EU must ensure car manufacturers actually comply with the law. For the future, the Commission has tabled proposals to introduce greater European oversight and to make the type approval system more robust.

“We expect the European Parliament and Council to reach an agreement swiftly.”

In accordance with Article 46 of Directive 2007/46 and more specifically Article 13 of Regulation (EC) 715/2007, which is directly applicable, Member States must have effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties systems in place to deter car manufacturers from breaking the law, notes the EC.

Where such a breach of law takes place, for example by using defeat devices to reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems, these penalties must be applied.

The EC is addressing letters of formal notice to Czech Republic, Greece and Lithuania because they maintain they have failed to introduce such penalties systems into their national law.

The Commission is also opening infringements against Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the UK, the Member States which issued type approvals for Volkswagen Group in the EU, for not applying their national provisions on penalties, despite what it refers to as the “company’s use of illegal defeat device software.”

A letter of formal notice is a first step in an infringement procedure and constitutes an official request for information.

Member States now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

The European Commission is following national authorities’ policing and enforcement of EU rules in the automobile sector very closely.

Under the current type approval system (Directive 2007/46, which sets the general framework, and Regulation (EC) 715/2007, which sets the Euro 5 and Euro 6 emissions limits), national authorities are responsible for checking a car model meets all EU standards before it can be sold on the Single Market.

They should also take corrective and sanctioning action when a car manufacturer breaches those requirements.

The Commission says it has taken steps to make vehicles more environmentally-friendly and to restore consumer confidence, as well as introducing more robust and realistic testing methods for measuring both nitrogen oxides (NOx) and CO2 emissions from cars.

It has also proposed a Regulation on the approval and market surveillance of cars, which would ensure greater quality and independence of vehicle testing, more surveillance of those already in circulation and greater European oversight, including the possibility for the Commission to directly impose fines on car manufacturers or technical services which fail to comply with the rules.