seco submits request for prosecution in cases of dubious business practices regarding business directories
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco) has submitted requests for prosecution with the relevant cantonal prosecuting authorities against several Swiss companies for unfair business practices. The move was taken after a number of complaints from abroad relating to misleading forms for entries in a business directory.
Several Swiss companies exercise dubious business practices relating to business directory entries from bases in Switzerland. The forms in question usually give the impression that the entry is free. In actual fact, by completing and signing the form the persons concerned are concluding a contract running for several years. The fees charged for the directory entry bear no relation to the benefits. In order to collect the fees for these entries, the company initially sends out reminder letters, followed by debt collection agents. Ultimately, the matter revolves around the commercialisation of a mistakenly placed signature. These practices have resulted in a number of complaints from various countries around the world aimed at the Swiss-based directory company or at Swiss debt collection agencies. seco is therefore obliged to submit a request for proceedings to be launched against the directory company NovaChannel AG and the debt collection agencies OVAG International AG and Premium Recovery AG. As both debt collection agencies also represent foreign business directory firms such as the European City Guide from Valencia, Spain, Construct Data Verlag AG from Vösendorf, Austria and TVV Verlag GmbH from Hamburg, Germany – there is reason to suspect an international scheme of dubious business practices.
In order to streamline the criminal investigation, the complaints submitted by seco in the cantons of Zug and Lucerne are being examined by the examining magistrate’s office of canton Lucerne. In July 2005 it was able to seize the relevant company documentation from NovaChannel AG, OVAG International AG and Premium Recovery AG. The relevant prosecuting authorities will have to decide whether or not the complaints brought against the business practices in question fulfil the offence of unfair competition. Under federal legislation, seco is entitled to file actions against unfair competition.
Bern, 6 Septembre 2005
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs
tel. +41 (0)31 322 28 14