Page turned on fixed book price

Parliament has endorsed a plan to re-introduce fixed prices for books in Switzerland, but a cross-party committee has vowed to challenge the decision in a nationwide vote.

This content was published on March 18, 2011 minutes

On the final day of the three-week spring session, both chambers narrowly agreed to return to a policy which had been under pressure for nearly 20 years and which was lifted for the majority German-speaking part of the country in 2007.

Supporters on Friday said set book prices helped protect a cultural good which was crucial in a multilingual country such as Switzerland.

In theory such an agreement promotes non-price competition between booksellers in order to promote little-known or otherwise culturally interesting books rather than catering only to readers of blockbusters.

However, opponents, mainly from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and the centre-right Radicals and the Liberal Greens, argued there was no need for the state to prop up the book trade.

A committee has announced it will force a nationwide vote on the issue, saying fixed prices were outdated and could easily be undercut by online shops.

A fixed book price agreement exists in most European countries; notable countries without an agreement are Britain and the United States.

The consequences for consumers are inconclusive: some studies suggest no fixed book price agreement results in cheaper bestsellers, but bookshops then charge more for less popular books.

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