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Legal framework and regulation

This guide is provided to signpost some elements of Swiss law that may be of interest to international online merchants. It does not purport to be an exhaustive list and should not be taken as legal advice.

Swiss Federal law does not specifically mention ecommerce. For example, there is no right of withdrawal (returns period) under Swiss law. However, shoppers’ expectation is that this opportunity would appear in the terms and conditions. It is also interesting to note that a shopper can offer to purchase from a business, but it is for the business to accept that offer. This provides an opportunity for the retailer to check stock levels and the price before accepting the contract.

A range of laws apply to all business-to-consumer transactions including data protection, contract law, email marketing and advertising.

More in-depth information can be found via the website of the Federal Council at https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/federal-law.html. An English version of the information is available, but this does not have legal force. Seek local advice for appropriate guidance.

Data protection is regulated by the Federal Act on Data Protection (DPA) and the Swiss Federal Ordinance on Data Protection (DPO). The appropriate authority is The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner, www.edoeb.admin.ch, who provide non-binding guidance on interpretation and implementation. The DPA and DPO are currently being reviewed in a similar way to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, suggesting amendments to breach notification, among others.

In the event of a dispute, the contract law applied can be based on either the seller’s place of business or the customer’s residence. This choice is open to the customer, and cannot be waived ahead of the contract being formed. For example, an international business cannot insist on jurisdiction as part of the contract process.

Advertising is covered by the UCA. Key areas include accuracy of information and avoidance of misleading statements or information. The UCA also includes wider principles on advertising. In addition, self-regulation is encouraged through the respected Swiss Commission for Fairness which include requirements familiar to many businesses involved in advertising. For example, name of the company advertising and acknowledgement where an advert appears as editorial content.

Consumer rights are overseen by the Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau which can be found at: www.konsum.admin.ch

Typical areas of concern are returns due to faulty products, pricing and purchasing goods from abroad.

Contract law in Switzerland is not specific to distance selling, but B2C selling is covered by the Swiss Federal Act against Unfair Competition (UCA).

A few key information requirements — a retailer must:

• Disclose its identity and contact details in full (including email address), in a clear manner (imprint).

• Outline the technical steps necessary to conclude the contract. For example, the seller should explain the purchase procedure to the customer. This could include number of steps and actions taken on each step. These steps could include; confirming content of shopping basket; provision of payment details; order review; purchase and confirmation of contract.

• Providing appropriate technical means allowing a customer to identify and correct input errors prior to the placing of an online order.

• Order confirmation supplied independently of the website without undue delay and in good order. For example, via electronic communication such as email.

 

 

 

Demographics

Political and socio-economic environment

Online and mobile usage

Online shopping behaviours

Marketing and branding

Finance and payment

Logistics and delivery

References