The prices of products sold in a store must be displayed according to specific standards.
The price is an important purchasing criterion. It must be displayed clearly and accessibly to allow the consumer to compare different offers and not be misled. It is also a powerful competitive tool. It is, therefore, a highly regulated area.
The main legislation governing the display of prices is the Swiss Ordinance on the Indication of Prices (OIP) of 1978. This is regularly revised. The last amendment was on 5 November 2014 and affected the telecommunications sector. The principles of the OIP are the same as those in European directives: the prices of goods must be shown in stores and in store windows in which they are displayed.
The same principle applies to the provision of services, at least for around 30 activities listed in the OIP, such as hotel catering, beauty treatments, telecommunications, travel offers, dental care, veterinary services and notarial activities. For these sectors, consumers must be aware of the price before buying the service. Some other services are subject to specific rules (e.g. insurance, medical services and lawyers).
A practical guide drawn up by the SECO is available on its website. This deals not only with goods but also with services, advertising, as well as price comparisons and reductions. An information leaflet for traders entitled “Correct indication of quantities and prices” can also be downloaded free of charge from the SECO website.
It is mandatory to indicate the price of goods being sold in a store. A few basic rules:
- Retail price. The price actually payable by the consumer must be shown in CHF. This is the retail price, which includes public taxes (e.g. VAT), copyright royalties, all non-optional supplements, etc.
- Unit price. The unit price (price per liter, kilogram, meter, etc.) must be displayed for measurable goods, i.e. those for which the retail price is calculated according to the quantity sold.
- Pre-packaging (pre-packed measurable goods). For measurable goods packed before sale (e.g. apples in plastic packaging), both the retail price and the unit price must be shown (e.g. yogurt, 480 g CHF 2.40/100 g CHF 0.50), apart from a few exceptions. It is therefore necessary to indicate the unit price for sales per item, for goods with a retail price of under CHF 2 or spirits in containers of a nominal content of 35 cl or 70 cl.
- Bulk selling. The unit price must be mentioned for non pre-packed goods (e.g. courgettes, CHF 5.5/kg), except for those sold per unit, such as sausages weighing up to 200 g, certain specialist cheeses weighing up to 150 g and some fruit and vegetables.
- Display. Prices must be displayed on the goods or in their immediate vicinity. They must be shown in clearly visible and easily legible figures.
- Shop windows. For products in shop windows, it must be possible to read prices without hindrance and it must be possible to clearly identify to which item they relate.
Special rules exist for certain categories of products:
- Wines and spirits. Bottles of wine and spirits are considered as pre-packed goods. Their retail price and their unit price must therefore be mentioned. The unit price does not have to be shown when sold by 1, 2 or 5 liters and by their multiples or decimal sub-multiples and for spirits in containers with a nominal content of 35 cl or 70 cl.
- Food packed in liquid. For products preserved in liquid (e.g. pickles), the unit price must relate to the drained weight.
Displaying prices on the internet
The display of prices also concerns products sold on the internet. As for goods offered in store, the amount that the consumer has to actually pay must be indicated in Swiss francs. This is the retail price which includes all non-optional elements such as public taxes, copyright royalties, etc.
In principle, delivery costs must be included in the price indicated. But this is not always possible, for example when delivery is offered above a certain amount, if different shipment methods are offered or if costs vary according to the weight of the order. In this case, the terms must be shown clearly and visibly alongside the product price. The delivery total must also be shown. If, due to space requirements, this information cannot be shown next to the price, it may be presented via a hypertext link.