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Switzerland cracks down on cartels

Swiss consumers will benefit from the new legislation on cartels

(Keystone)

The Swiss parliament has voted in favour of new legislation to make it easier to clamp down on price fixers.

The legislation will give the Competition Commission greater power to fine companies which are found guilty of rigging prices and blocking competition.

"The new law will give the Commission the possibility to impose sanctions against cartels immediately upon realising that they have violated the law," Walter Stoffel, president of the Competition Commission, told swissinfo.

Thursday's decision by the Senate came after the House of Representatives had already approved the changes due to come into force next year.

Swiss consumers, who pay some of the highest prices in Europe, are expected to benefit most from the new law.

"The law will introduce a new system to stop cartels abusing dominant positions. This means the enforcement of the competition law will be much stiffer and mean more welfare for everybody, especially consumers," said Stoffel.

Price gap

Last year the Competition Commission, together with consumer groups, called for new legislation to reduce the price gap - sometimes as high as 30 per cent - between Switzerland and its European neighbours.

"There are prices, which are not subject to the normal market forces, like agriculture, and that is certainly an area that won't be influenced by this new law. However, car prices will definitely change," added Stoffel.

Another factor that keeping Swiss prices high is a ban on parallel imports - branded goods manufactured abroad to be sold at a lower price in Switzerland.

However, under the new legislation the ban on parallel imports will be lifted on videotapes and DVDs.

swissinfo, Billi Bierling

In brief

The new law will give Switzerland's Competition Commission the possibility to impose sanctions against cartels found guilty of blocking competition.

Swiss consumers, who pay up to 30% more than their European neighbours for some goods, will benefit most.

The new law will come into force next year.

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