E.U. opened legal action against seven countries who tolerated car emissions test cheating by carmakers

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Germany, Britain, Spain and Luxembourg stand accused of not imposing the same kind of penalties Volkswagen (VW) has faced in the United States over its use of illegal software to mask nitrogen oxides (NOx), blamed for respiratory illnesses and early deaths.Thursday’s notice is the first step in what is known as infringement procedures, allowing the EU to ensure the bloc’s 28 nations abide by agreed EU-wide regulations.

Member states have two months to respond. If they fail to do so satisfactorily, the EU may take them to the EU court in Luxembourg. The Commission said another three countries – the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Greece – do not have provisions in national law allowing for fines for carmakers in case of breaches. So-called “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests have been illegal under EU law since 2007. Europe’s Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska has repeatedly said the letter of EU law is clear and called on member states to respect its spirit.

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