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Competition Commission calls for tougher penalties

Competition Commission president Roland von Büren calls for stricter penalties

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland's Competition Commission is asking the government for wider powers to fight cartels and promote effective competition.

The call came on Friday at the presentation of the Commission's annual report in Bern.

"The Commission is convinced that a stronger cartel law would at long last be to the benefit of all, in particular to consumers, and small and medium-sized enterprises," said Commission president Roland von Büren.

It is calling on the government to introduce tougher measures when the Federal Act on Cartels and Other Restraints of Competition is revised.

In its annual assessment of the Swiss economy last month, the International Monetary Fund said progress had been made with the introduction of new anti-cartel legislation but the law "lacked teeth" and
should be reinforced by allowing for tougher penalties for offenders.

The Commission says in its report that the health care and the electricity market, which are both heavily state-regulated, are its current concerns.

It accuses market players in the health sector of trying to limit competition by making cartel-like agreements among themselves.

It feels there is no incentive for competition in a situation in which health care schemes have a contractual obligation with doctors and hospitals.

The Commission also makes the point that the cantons have little incentive to eliminate over-capacity in hospitals and reduce hospital charges.

It also says that at present, those health care schemes that have their costs under control are paying for the failures of others.

It recommends that in future, the health care schemes which provide services efficiently should be rewarded.

The report says that increasing competition pressure in the electricity branch might also result in market players making agreements among themselves.

It adds that the competition among the more than 1,000 electricity utilities in Switzerland will result in a process of concentration.

The IMF report urged speeding up of the liberalisation process in the electricity sector, arguing this would bring lower prices and more choice.

swissinfo with agencies


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