Many new to Switzerland are shocked by the prices of things. High Swiss prices have not gone unnoticed by locals either, many of whom shop in neighbouring countries to avoid them.
However, cross-border shopping hurts the environment – more time is spent in cars – and hurts local Swiss retailers.
There are many reasons for Switzerland’s high prices. Among them is the relatively high wholesale prices some Swiss retailers are charged by importers, international producers, and sometimes local producers.
Wholesale prices that discriminate based on geography are a major bugbear for some Swiss retailers. They take flak from consumers for high retail prices that are largely forced on them by high Swiss wholesale prices, something invisible to consumers. Swiss book and print retailers are particularly hard hit by this phenomenon.
The Fair Price Initiative, an initiative aiming to fix this problem, reached the hurdle of 100,000 signatures to qualify for a popular vote in January 2018.
Those behind the referendum want the Swiss government to beef up the law on cartels and introduce laws to sanction abusive wholesale pricing. In addition, laws would be adjusted to make it possible for Swiss retailers to buy wholesale products abroad and to ban online geographic blocking.
Recently, the Federal Council said it opposed the initiative and offered a counter proposal.
According to RTS, the Federal Council would like to focus only on changing the law on cartels to allow Swiss retailers to buy products both in Switzerland and abroad in certain cases. It said that this narrower focus would allow some improvement without coming into conflict with Switzerland’s international trade agreements. In addition, it doesn’t want to ban online geographic blocking . It thinks this would be too complicated to implement.
Vote initiators are unhappy with the government’s counter proposal. They said that it would be ineffective and deplored the lack of a ban on online geo-blocking. In practice product owners find ways to thwart parallel imports. On the issue of geo-blocking or geo-price discrimination, a spokesperson for the consumer association FRC told RTS of how they found a jumper that was 30% more expensive on zalando.ch than it was on zalando.fr.