Despite heavy criticism from various commercial associations, the Swiss government intends to go ahead with a revision of the Act on Cartels of October 6 1995. As the Swiss Federal Council declared on April 4 2001, the government is determined to win parliamentary support at least for the core issue of the revision, which involves the tightening of sanctions.
According to the Federal Council, the Swiss Cartel Law, brought into force in 1996, has shown signs of weakness that demand its swift improvement. The power to impose fines is to be added to the arsenal of sanctions at the disposal of the Swiss Competition Commission. In the recent past, EU and US antitrust authorities repeatedly imposed heavy fines against Swiss corporations. The Swiss Competition Commission, in the same cases, was confined to formally taking note of a breach of antitrust law and to decree the disbanding of the agreement. Only if the decree had been disregarded could a fine be imposed. Not least because of this long-winded procedure, the Competition Commission was sometimes accused of being a toothless tiger.
As direct sanctions were always preceded by a warning, the gains that unlawful behaviour brought generally remained untouched. To establish an effective deterrent, the Swiss government regards the imposition of direct sanctions against hard-core cartels as a necessity.
Parliament will open the debate in spring 2002. Because the government seems determined to take a hard stance on this issue, and since the commercial associations, well represented in the parliament, seem equally determined to oppose the project at least in its present form, a heated debate is to be expected. Should the project get through parliament without major changes, another alignment of Swiss competition law with EU and US legislation would take place.