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Books Government

Swiss Voters Reject Book Price Controls 129

Posted by timothy
from the abbie-hoffman-smiles dept.
New submitter hinterwaeldler writes "In 2007 Switzerland abandoned book price control (which requires publishers to fix prices for their books and forbids any dealer to sell at another price), reducing prices by 30% to 50% for online buyers. The brick & mortar book stores lobbied the parliament into creating a bill to reinstate the price fixing, against which a referendum was taken by liberals and the Pirate Party, forcing a popular vote. On March 11, after an intense debate, Swiss voters decided against book price control (German-language original) with a majority of 56%."
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Swiss Voters Reject Book Price Controls

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  • by ControlFreal (661231) <niek@NoSPam.bergboer.net> on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:38AM (#39339343) Journal

    ... because that is exactly what this initiative ("Buchpreisbindung") was aiming for. Protectionism is wrong, no matter what you name it.

  • by DingerX (847589) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:25AM (#39339847) Journal
    The German-speaking Cantons all had majorities against the ban. The French-speaking cantons all had majorities [i]in favor[/i] of the ban. Swiss-Germans outnumber everybody else by a wide margin, so they won.

    The argument for price-fixing is the same one behind the death of record stores. Remember record stores? Turns out there are a few hits out there that most people buy, and then those interested in music have wider interests, and therefore want a broader catalog to choose from. The record store business model is built on selling those hits and using some of that revenue to pay for the space to hold a broad selection and the expertise to guide customers. Even before the internet was making dents in music sales, the big labels were already running exclusive deals with Walmart and Target, sinking the record store business model. The same thing is going on with books: the competition to worry about isn't the internet; it's the big chains that can serve 80% of the market by distributing a handful of best-sellers, and screw the rest. And it's the publishers themselves, who cut deals with the big chains on their top sellers, and in so doing, contribute to killing off the market for their own books.

    And yes, it's protectionism in the same way mandating broadband to rural areas is protectionism.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:36AM (#39340025)

    I'm Swiss, so I think I can give some insights in the vote.

    The law wasn't so much about online retailers, but more about big retail store (Walmart-like) that could sell bestseller at a much lower price than independent bookstore because of agreement they (apparently) have with importers.

    Now, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, most books are imported from France. Basically, there is only one importer for each book and this situation allow the importers to fix outrageous prices (up to 80% more than the price in France for the same book). Now, an independent bookstore cannot put any pressure on the importer since the importer has the monopoly on a range of books. Big retail store can put more pressure on the importers because the importers somehow depend on them.

    So, this law was a way to protect the independent bookstores and allow a governement body to fix limit on the swiss price/french price ratio.

    The situation is kind of different in the German part of Switzerland, because they have some kind of regulation by the association of bookstore. Interestingly enough, all of the French-speaking county accepted the law, but all the German-speaking one refused it (so it got refused because we have more German-speaking).

    Now, there are some other way to fight against the book importers cartel and the "Swiss competition commision" said it will start an investigation about the prices and possibly illegal agreements between big retail store and monopolistic importers.

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