Renault plays an important role in the field of electric mobility. With its Renault Zoe, for example, the French carmaker has launched what is probably one of the most popular e-cars in the whole of Europe. However, like all of the company’s other electric cars, the electrically powered compact car has one small drawback that does not go down well with all customers. For example, Renault relies on a rental model for the matching vehicle battery. Here, you have to pay a monthly rent for the installed battery. But what happens if you don’t do exactly that? In such cases, the French manufacturer can bring out the big guns. Without further ado, it can paralyze the car at a distance. A healthy gut feeling tells you that this can’t be right. Now, however, a court has also commented on this questionable practice.
Consumer Center v. Renault
While the engine block is usually the most valuable component in internal combustion cars, it is not necessarily the drive itself in electric cars. Instead, the battery probably represents the most expensive component. Renault took advantage of this fact and introduced an ingenious rental model. Buyers or lessees of an electric car benefit from a low purchase price (at first glance, at least) and then pay a monthly rental fee for the battery. Before signing the corresponding lease agreement, however, it’s important to take a look at the fine print.
Here you can find a clause that sounds too crazy to be true. If you receive a notice of termination from the associated “Renault Bank” for the rental agreement, you can no longer charge the battery without further ado. This approach, reminiscent of classic vigilante justice, was a huge thorn in the side of the consumer center in Saxony. Accordingly, it took the high road and went to court. The court decision was anything but surprising. Thus, the judges see Renault’s actions as a “form of vigilante justice.”
HRC Düsseldorf confirms first judgment
Renault did not want to accept the first-instance verdict without further ado. Accordingly, the company felt compelled to appeal. Now the Higher Regional Court (HRC) in Düsseldorf was to rule on the case. It, too, is not at all convinced of the legality of the clause and gave Renault another slap on the wrist.
The court classified this action as a prohibited interference with the supplier’s own power, because it is tantamount to encroaching on someone else’s property without the existence of a legally binding judgment. This is a form of vigilante justiceJudge Neumerkel
But the verdict could have a much greater significance. Finally it is not less than a question of principle whether one may deal with refusers of appropriate rent payments in such a way. While the blocking of the charging option is now definitively considered a prohibited clause, this is not yet the case for comparable methods. For example, there are also manufacturers who can activate the parking brake of their vehicles if payment defaults should be relevant. We hope that clarity and, above all, fair contractual clauses will soon be ensured in this métier.