The Swiss Competition Authority (SCC) fined German car manufacturer BMW CHF156 million (around USD163 million or EUR130 million) on 24 May 2012 for restricting cross-border trade between the EU and Switzerland. Since the rules applied by the SCC in this area are effectively the same as those which apply to trade between EU/European Economic Area (EEA) countries, the case provides yet another warning of the care which companies need to take in this area.
BMW had included in contracts with its dealers a clause requiring them to sell new vehicles under its BMW and Mini brands only in the EEA. Switzerland is not in the EEA so, for example, a dealer in neighbouring France or Germany could not sell to a customer in Switzerland, even if approached directly. A number of complaints were made to the SCC by Swiss customers who had therefore been unable to purchase a BMW or Mini outside Switzerland. The SCC, like its counterparts in the EU/EEA countries and like the European Commission (EC), is highly vigilant in relation to restrictions against cross-border trade, particularly bald restrictions such as that applied by BMW.