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Car shipments controversy BMW must pay multimillion-franc fine, Swiss court rules

The case against the Munich-based luxury car manufacturer was first sparked by a customer complaint in 2010.

(Keystone)

Switzerland's highest court has confirmed a CHF157 million ($158 million) fine against German luxury carmaker BMW for blocking car shipments to Switzerland.

The fine was originally levied on BMWexternal link by Switzerland’s Competition Commissionexternal link (COMCO) in May 2012 for preventing Swiss residents from buying BMW cars from the European Economic Area (EEA) and importing them to Switzerland, after the strong francexternal link made prices in Switzerland up to a quarter higher.

The EEA includes members of the European Union, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, but not Switzerland.

The decision by the Swiss Federal Court, made public on Friday, upholds the 2015 ruling by Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court. BMW had appealed this decision.

Judges in Lausanne saidexternal link that while the export ban had been arranged abroad, it had affected Switzerland.

Patrik Ducrey, COMCO deputy director, told Swiss public television SRFexternal link that the decision was very significant for COMCO because it sent a clear signal “that hindering parallel and direct imports is illegal according to the cartel law and can be punished”. 

BMW, which is the third-biggest selling brand in Switzerland according to data from Auto Schweiz, declined to comment on the court’s decision, according to Reuters and DPA.

2010 complaint

The case began in 2010 when a Swiss customer was prevented from buying a new car from an authorised BMW and MINI dealer outside Switzerland and complained to COMCO.

A week later, Swiss television, in a report on the subject of motor vehicle imports, stated that BMW prevented imports of vehicles of their brands into Switzerland, thereby keeping prices in Switzerland on a high level. Subsequently, COMCO received several complaints from prospective buyers residing in Switzerland. More than half of the complainants had been informed of a directive from BMW regarding the sale of motor vehicles in Switzerland.

COMCO investigated and found that the contractual export prohibition agreed between BMW and its dealers was an unlawful agreement affecting competition under the Swiss Cartel Act. It then imposed the multi-million fine.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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