Price ombudsman highlights achievements

Switzerland's price ombudsman, Werner Marti (pictured), says his recommendations on revised medical charges have saved consumers around one billion francs.

This content was published on February 24, 2000 - 12:16

Switzerland's price ombudsman, Werner Marti (pictured), says his recommendations on revised medical charges have saved consumers around SFr1 billion. Marti also said his office's negotiations with Cablecom, the banks and water providers had ensured a better value-for-money service.

Marti said during his review of 1999, that he had managed to look into a number of issues that were of direct concern to the consumer and encouraged large organisations to rethink their pricing policies.

The price ombudsman said that after examining the proposed increase in doctors' and hospital charges, he discovered that there were faults in them. He said that, if left unchecked, they could have added an extra SFr1 billion to health charges.

After talks with the cable provider, Cablecom, Marti said he managed to stop the company from increasing its charges to a flat rate of SFr24/month across the country. Instead, Cablecom agreed to a flexible fee ranging from SFr17 to 22/month.

Banking was another area in which the ombudsman said he had intervened on behalf of the general public. He said banks had initially turned a deaf ear on public criticism of their refusal to lower mortgage rates early in the year. But after his office got involved, Marti said they acted to lower their rates.

The price ombudsman also stepped in later in the year, when the banks raised their mortgage rates without waiting for official notification from the Swiss national bank of a rise in the interest rate.

Swiss ultilities were also a focal point for the price ombudsman's office during 1999. Marti said he had looked at the gas industry for the very first time and pointed out structural problems which led to supply problems and increased costs for the customer.

When it came to water rates, Marti drew attention to his success in managing to get the Lausanne region to agree to delay a proposed 10 per cent price increase.

The ombudsman also said he had managed to show that within the waste disposal industry, there was enough exisiting capacity to burn waste, and there was no need to build new plants in Ticino and Thun. However, he said it was still an open question as to when or whether the new plants would be built.

From staff and wire reports

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