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Swiss car importer ordered to pay CHF4.2 million CO2 penalty

Dozens of new cars are shown loaded onto transport structures.
Keystone/Steffen Schmidt

The Swiss federal court has rejected the appeal of a car importer against a fine of CHF4.2 million ($4.6 million) imposed by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) for abusive practices.

In its ruling, published on Friday, the court also clarified a number of points relating to private CO2 exchanges set up by some importers. 

In 2012, Switzerland introduced CO2 emission regulations for first-time registered cars with the aim of reducing them to an average of 130 grams CO2 per kilometre by the end of 2015. If the average emissions of all vehicles of an importer exceed this threshold, the federal government charges a corresponding penalty. 

The SFOE concluded that the appellant company had acted to evade the penalty. To establish the amount for 2015, it based its calculations on a volume of 440 cars, instead of 145 as reported by the importer, and set the penalty at CHF4.2 million. The federal court has now confirmed this amount. 

Friday’s ruling will have an impact on the criminal proceedings against a former employee of the Swiss Federal Roads Office and two members of the board of directors of the importing company involved in the case. According to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, which brought the prosecution before the Federal Criminal Court, the two board members allegedly paid the former Swiss Federal Roads Office employee to manipulate the numbers, thus preventing their company from paying CO2 penalties. 

CO2 penalties 

The federal court also recalled that the company had been registered with the Swiss Federal Office of Energy as an importer since 2012 and until 2018 operated a CO2 exchange that allowed it to sell vehicles to other importers to reduce or offset the amount of the penalty. 

The federal court consider that private CO2 exchanges operated by importers are permitted. The same applies to transfers within these exchanges of CO2 emission values of other importers’ vehicles. 

Although exchanges are not mentioned in the CO2 Act, the latter provides for the possibility of setting up associations to trade emission rights. According to the federal court, these rights are comparable to the CO2 emission values of vehicles. Whether importers sell their emission rights on an exchange or join emission trading associations is considered the same thing.  

Adapted from Italian by DeepL/kc/amva

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles. 

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR