Swiss competition watchdog eyes BMW

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Switzerland's competition authority said on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into German car group BMW, following signs that its dealers abroad were refusing to sell to Swiss residents.

"The Competition Commission (COMCO) has opened an inquiry against BMW Group because it may be preventing the sale of new vehicles to clients in Switzerland," the official monopolies watchdog said in a statement.

Comco said it had information that the German group's BMW and Mini distribution network was forbidding sales to clients resident in Switzerland, potentially violating competition rules on territoriality.

Buyers can benefit from cheaper car prices in neighbouring countries thanks to the strong Swiss franc and differences in sales tax, a move encouraged by consumer groups that fear monopoly distribution networks in Switzerland are keeping prices artifically high.

A BMW spokesman has told AFP that its dealers elsewhere in Europe did not sell cars to customers "living in Switzerland".

The company could risk a fine of up to 10 percent of its turnover over the past three years, COMCO has said.

© 2010 AFP

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