Survey reveals scale of “high-price island” Switzerland

The report published on Tuesday concluded that Swiss businesses and consumers could save over CHF3.3 billion a year if they were able to source such products directly abroad. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Every year the Swiss spend CHF1.9 billion ($1.9 billion) more than their neighbours for clothing purchased online in Switzerland, as consumers are prevented from accessing the same items outside the country, a comparative survey has shown. 

This content was published on February 25, 2020 - 12:59
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The study by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland analysed 1,000 products bought online in Switzerland this year. These included catering equipment, healthcare devices, research and educational equipment and materials, clothing, contact lenses, body care products and perfumes, and food and baby products. 

The report published on Tuesday concluded that Swiss businesses and consumers could save over CHF3.3 billion a year if they were able to source such products directly abroad. 

The biggest annual cost-saving would be in the clothing sector (CHF1.9 billion), followed by the hospital sector (CHF 600 million), and for personal body and facial care products (CHF 292 million) and perfumes (CHF 149 million), it said. 

Swiss families could save CHF78 million a year if they could order nappies and baby food directly abroad at the same prices charged in, for example, Germany. 

Swiss prices are notoriously high for many products and services when compared globally. In 2018, according to Eurostat, Swiss clothing and footwear was 22% higher than the European Union average, while food prices were 63% higher. 

The study focused on orders placed online. Owing to geo-blocking, a common practice where retailers prevent online shoppers from buying cheaper products or services from sites abroad, or because foreign suppliers refuse to deliver to Switzerland, firms and customers are forced to purchase products either from retailers or manufacturers in Switzerland or through exclusive importers.

Tuesday’s survey was commissioned by the campaigners behind the “Fair Prices” initiative, which handed in signatures in December 2017 to trigger a nationwide vote on the issue of affordable consumer goods. The Swiss parliament is due to examine the initiative proposal on March 9.

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