Healthcare kept price watchdog busy in 2021

As a result of the price watchdog's intervention, the cost for Covid laboratory tests was reduced slightly Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Costs for the health sector, gas and digital payment transactions all ended up in the cross hairs of the Swiss price supervisor last year. The Covid-19 pandemic also left its mark.

This content was published on February 28, 2022 - 11:54

Price watchdog Stefan MeierhansExternal link said on Monday, in a statement accompanying his annual report, that he had addressed fees for Covid laboratory tests and vaccinations and had sent formal recommendations to the government to reduce prices.

As a result, the prices for laboratory tests had been reduced slightly. However, they are still too high, according to Meierhans. The flat rates for the administration of vaccinations were even increased instead of reduced.

Swiss price watchdog

The role of the Swiss price watchdog was established in 1973. In office since 2008, Stefan Meierhans is Switzerland’s seventh and longest-serving watchdog. It’s a unique role with no true peers around the globe, except for Italy’s similarly nicknamed Mister Prezzi, a position created a decade ago. Other countries have monopoly or trade commissions, cartel offices or consumer protection ombudsmen performing similar functions.

The Swiss price watchdog keeps a constant eye on how prices develop, with a view towards preventing abuse by public or private monopolies. He takes action based on his own observations as well as the public’s. Through mutual agreements, he tries to set fair prices, but if that doesn’t work out, he can issue a directive that can be challenged at the Federal Administrative Court.

When it comes to prices set by the state, the Swiss price watchdog has a “recommendation right”. The authorities must consult him before raising prices, and he can suggest alternatives to prevent a price hike. Upon announcing higher prices, the authorities must cite the watchdog’s recommendation and explain why they decided not to follow it.

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An updated price comparison of generic medicines showed a clear over-inflation of Swiss prices, the statement said. Compared with 15 other countries, the prices of the cheapest generics of 20 patent-expired active ingredients with high sales in Switzerland are on average more than two-and-a-half times as expensive (165%), and the patent-expired original medicines are 64% more expensive.

Agreement with Swiss Post

The price watchdog reached an agreement with Swiss Post on various prices and measures for parcel and letter delivery for 2022 and 2023. The main component is advantageous new parcel delivery for small and medium-sized businesses. In exchange, letter postage for A and B Mail was increased slightly. However, Meierhans rejected an increase in parcel prices.

Gas prices rose sharply last year. As a result, the price supervisor opened several investigations into price increases from autumn 2021, which the gas companies justified with the increased costs for the procurement of natural gas. These investigations are still ongoing.

In the area of financial services, the fee model of Worldline (“SIX”) for the newly introduced VISA debit cards (VPAY and Visa Debit) and MasterCard Debit was analysed. Meierhans said he had found that disproportionate price increases had resulted for larger transaction amounts. He said he had spoken to the market-leading company and reached an amicable agreement which protects businesses from unjustified price increases for higher transaction amounts.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

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