Directory scams: Swiss Federal Supreme Court rules in favour of SECO
Bern, 29.10.2009 - On 1 October 2009 the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, as the court of last instance, upheld a civil suit filed by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO against the directory company NovaChannel AG for unfair competition. The ruling prohibits the company from continuing to use misleading application forms.
NovaChannel AG operates a TouristDirectory which offers dubious benefits. Until just recently it had been sending out a single page form to businesses people based abroad. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO has received a flood of complaints against NovaChannel AG from foreign businesses people. In the belief that the offering was free they signed the form and subsequently received a bill from NovaChannel AG and its collection agency to pay the questionable amount.
The opening text of the form gives the impression that the offering is free and that the Tour-istDirectory is the ideal platform for attracting new customers. The terms of the contract are found right at the end of the form: anyone signing the form and returning it to NovaChannel AG is concluding a minimum three year contract for which payment is required. The company’s advertisement appears on a CD. The signatory of the form is required to pay an annual fee of €989 for the advertisement and €98 for the CD. This gives a total sum of €3,261 over a three year period. At the end of the three years the agreement is tacitly renewed for one year unless it is terminated by giving three months’ notice to the end of the calendar year.
On 28 December 2006 SECO filed a civil suit on behalf of the Swiss Confederation with the District Court of Lucerne-City against NovaChannel AG for breach of the Unfair Competition Act. The purpose of the suit was to ban the use of the misleading forms.
On 1 October the Swiss Federal Supreme Court upheld the previous rulings by the District Court of Lucerne-City dated 14 April 2008 and by the Superior Court of Lucerne dated 16 January 2009. The ruling prohibits NovaChannel AG from continuing to use its misleading forms and asserting its monetary claims associated with its forms. In addition, it authorises the SECO to publish the operative part of the ruling in the Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce as well as in a daily newspaper in the following countries, with the costs being awarded against NovaChannel AG: Belgium, China, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Great Britain, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain, South Africa, The Czech Republic, Turkey, Hungary and USA.
The precise grounds for the ruling by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court have not yet been published.
Address for enquiries
Ressort Recht, SECO, Tel. 031 322 77 70
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs
Last modification 05.01.2016