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Swiss vote brings fixed prices closer
01.01.70 | Philip Jones
The Swiss book trade has moved one step closer to the reintroduction of fixed book prices, after the economic committee of the Swiss parliament narrowly recommended a return to regulation.
Fixed book prices were abolished in Switzerland in May 2007 after the Swiss government supported a court ruling that the Net Book Agreement (NBA) in the German-speaking region of Switzerland was an illegal cartel.
The vote for a new countrywide federal book price law was very tight: 13 committee members voted in favour and 11 against the notion with one abstention. The bill will now go in front of the country's parliament.
"This decision is an important step to getting fixed book prices back and with them a strong book industry," said Marianne Sax, president of the Swiss trade organisation Schweizerischer Buchhändler und Verleger-Verband (SBVV). But she also conceded that it was by no means certain that the parliament would vote in favour of the bill. Observers are widely expecting another cliffhanger after a number of MPs declared their opposition to fixed prices in recent months. The committee concluded that past experience of retail price management for books in Switzerland and other countries had shown a positive impact on the trade.
The bill, initiated by the late parliamentarian Jean-Philippe Maitre, will be fine-tuned by the committee in October and is expected to go before the parliament in spring 2009. If it succeeds it will regulate book prices—with room for some discounts—throughout the three linguistic regions of Switzerland. At the committee's discretion a further hearing of supporters and opponents of the "Loi Maitre" may or may not take place before the autumn.
While a majority of bookshops in Switzerland stick to publishers' recommended prices or offer discounts only on a very restricted level, others, led by online bookseller Ex Libris and chain booksellers Weltbild and Orell Füssli, have been luring customers with discounts of up to 30%.