Overpriced Swiss goods: competition commision should attack problem

BERN, SWITZERLAND – The upper house of the Swiss parliament says it wants the competition commission, Comco, to tackle the problem of goods sold for a higher price in Switzerland compared to neighbouring countries. The commission’s primary task has been to go after price-fixing cartels, but the Conseil des Etats says that the problem of Switzerland as an expensive “island” in the middle of Europe persists despite changes that should have forced prices down.

The move had strong support in the house, despite the opposition of Minister for the Economy Johann Schneider-Ammann, who argued that there is no precedent in European law that can be applied and that it will be impossible to enforce it outside the country, where many suppliers are based. The economics commission of the upper house also refused to back the idea in January, when it voted 7-5 against a motion to expand Comco’s tasks to include higher prices set for Switzerland by distributors and retailers.

Cosmetics are high on the list of products that are sold more cheaply in neighbouring countries, as are pharmaceutical supplies, furniture and computer products.

Yesterday’s vote creates a project that will now need to be worked out with the lower house and the government before it can become law, but the upper house’s signal was clear: prices must fall, and Comco should be involved in ensuring that happens.