Swiss Antitrust Body Fines Nikon CHF12.5 Million For Overpricing
Switzerland's antitrust body Thursday fined Nikon Corp's
(7731.TO) Swiss unit 12.5 million francs ( $13.2 million), saying
it had overpriced its products and breached import rules.
As the Swiss government strives to clamp down on excessively
high Swiss consumer prices, the Competition Commission said Nikon
had obstructed retail imports of Nikon products and had exerted
pressure on dealers in Switzerland to buy Nikon camera products
only via Nikon's Swiss unit. This, the commission said, allowed
Nikon to charge excessive prices for its products during spring
2008 and autumn 2009.
Nikon denies the allegations and said it will contest the
decision in court.
Efforts in Switzerland to reduce prices for retail goods have
increased this year as Swiss consumers flock to neighboring Germany
and France to benefit from lower prices in response to massive
gains by the franc against the crisis-hit euro.
The high prices focused attention on price-setting procedures
used by some Swiss units of foreign firms. As the franc gained more
than 20% against the euro earlier this year, some retailers kept
prices unchanged while others cut prices sharply.
The competition commission said its ruling against Nikon was
based on email evidence it found after raids on the company's Swiss
headquarters last year. The emails indicated that Nikon forbade
retailers in Switzerland from buying Nikon products outside
Switzerland in a bid to protect prices and margins, the body
Nikon said "an economic study of the Swiss camera market is
clearly contradicting these allegations." It added that a study by
Swiss think-tank BAK concluded that the camera market in
Switzerland was fair during the period in question. BAK confirmed
it had made such a study but declined, for the moment, to say what
the conclusion of the study was.
Switzerland has always been one of Europe's most expensive
countries, a fact usually blamed on high salaries here. But
researchers found that the bulk of Switzerland's cost base for
retail products stems from high costs for distribution and imports,
initiating several investigations by the Swiss Competition
"We have several investigations ongoing," said Vincent Martenet
of the Swiss Competition Commission. "Investigations center on the
car industry, the cosmetics and outdoor clothes industries," he
said. Among them, German car maker BMW AG (BMW.XE) is under
investigation into whether it is preventing sales of new cars to
Swiss residents outside the country's borders. That investigation
was launched last year.
-By Goran Mijuk, Dow Jones Newswires, +41 43 443 80 47;