BRUSSELS -- Environmental groups must be allowed to legally challenge auto regulatory bodies which allow cars to be fitted with emissions software that may be illegal, an adviser to Europe's top court said.
The opinion by Advocate General Athanasios Rantos at the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is non-binding. CJEU judges, which usually follow such recommendations in four out of five cases, will rule in the coming months.
German environmental association Deutsche Umwelthilfe took its grievance to a German court after the country's motor transport authority allowed Volkswagen Group to install software that worked as a temperature window device.
The green group said such software is an illegal defeat device.
The German court dismissed Deutsche Umwelthilfe's challenge, saying it has no standing to take legal action. However, it also asked the CJEU for guidance.
CJEU court adviser Rantos backed the German group, saying environmental groups defend the general interest.
"Approved environmental associations must be able to bring legal proceedings to challenge an EC type-approval of vehicles equipped with 'defeat devices' that may be prohibited," he said.
"A so-called 'temperature window' device can be permissible only under strict conditions," Rantos said.
VW admitted in 2015 to cheating U.S. diesel engine tests, plunging it into the biggest crisis in its history and costing it more than 32 billion euros ($35.5 billion) in vehicle refits, fines and legal costs so far.
The case is C-873/19 Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Approval of motor vehicles).