How to keep legally afloat in 2020

A flotilla of inflatables on Lake Lucerne in 2018 Keystone

Various new or tweaked Swiss laws entered into force on January 1 – from faster internet (and marriages) to how much alcohol can be drunk by the skipper of a rubber dinghy. Here is a small selection of these changes. 

This content was published on January 4, 2020 minutes


Good news for hoarders of old money: the 20-year time limit on exchanging old banknotes has been shredded, meaning owners of old 1,000-franc notes and other denominations can exchange them at the Swiss National Bank at any time. The decision applies to bills of various denominations starting with the sixth seriesExternal link issued in 1976.  


Good news too for those wanting to get married in a hurry: the previous ten-day waiting period between receiving official permission to marry and the wedding ceremony has been dropped. This means a couple can now tie the knot immediately after getting the green light from the local registrar. Requirements for permission have not changed. 


The average level of emissions from carsExternal link registered in Switzerland may not exceed 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre. The level was previously 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Importers who exceed this average value must pay a penalty. 


Spot fines are no longer limited to traffic offences. People can now be fined up to CHF300 ($308) for violations such as smoking in public places, consuming cannabis, telephoning on a bicycle or for the improper transport of weapons. 


Until now claims arising from personal injuries have been time-barred after ten years. However, this turned out to be too short for victims of asbestos, for example. The statute of limitations has therefore been extended for some crimes to up to 20 years. 


The legally prescribed minimum speed in the basic internet service provided by Swisscom, the majority state-owned telecoms company, has increased from 3 to 10 megabits per second (Mbit/s). The minimum upload speed has increased from 0.3 to 1 Mbit/s. 


Doctors, laboratories, hospitals and health institutions must now report any data relating to diagnosed cancers to cantonal registries or to the childhood cancer registry. The law obliges all cantons to finance and maintain these registers. Patient confidentiality is guaranteed. 


In May, Swiss voters agreed to reform the country’s ailing pension system, supporting an additional CHF2 billion ($2.05 billion) cash boost every year for the old-age pension fund, thanks to a larger contribution by the state, companies and employees. As a result, the pensions contribution rate will increase by 0.3 percentage points. 


The shredding of living male chicks is now banned, even though the practice was no longer used in Switzerland. Instead, about three million male baby chickens are gassed with CO2 a year because it’s not worth rearing them for commercial reasons.  


The alcohol limit for dinghy captains, introduced six years ago, has been abolished. The limit had been 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – the same as for drivers on the road – but the authorities admittedExternal link it was tough to enforce “and these boats pose less of a danger than motorised boats”. However, dinghies may still only be steered by a person who is fit to do so.


Travellers who enjoy bringing home delicacies from faraway lands, take note: importing fruits, vegetables, plants, cut foliage, and products made from certain types of wood from outside the European Union is now allowed only upon presentation of a phytosanitary certificate – a plant passport, if you will. Without it, travellers risk seeing such goods confiscated and destroyed. Fans of pineapple, coconut, dates and the notoriously fragrant durian can breathe a sigh of relief, however. These fruits are exempted from the new law on plant health,External link which aims to restrict the introduction of diseases and pests harmful to flora.

Did we forget any important changes? Let us know in the comments section.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?