Switzerland: Switzerland's competition authority has at times found itself powerless to act in the face of cartels. This has recently changed - the revised Federal Act on Cartels provides for substantial monetary fines in cases of major restraints of competition. Companies operating in Switzerland are facing a legal framework which no longer differs from other major European jurisdictions, says Franz Hoffet
The famous Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche had a key role – although involuntary – in bringing about the latest amendment to the Swiss Federal Act on Cartels, which entered into force on 1 April, 2004. When the company was hit with record fines of $500m (£283m) and €465m (£319m) for its participation in the vitamin cartel by the US and European authorities, the Swiss Competition Commission could do nothing about this: under the rules in place since 1995 the authorities only had power to impose monetary fines once a company’s specific conduct had been prohibited and the company, nevertheless, repeated the same conduct. Furthermore, according to general principles of Swiss administrative law, the authorities had neither the power to issue a decision prohibiting the cartel, given that Hoff-mann-La Roche had already stopped its participation in the vitamin cartel when the Swiss authorities learned about it, nor the power to impose monetary fines.
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