‘A mask doesn’t cost more than a franc’: Anger as Swiss hairdressers add coronavirus surcharge

Open since Monday, April 27th, Swiss hairdressers have drawn criticism for adding a coronavirus surcharge to the usual price of a haircut.

‘A mask doesn’t cost more than a franc’: Anger as Swiss hairdressers add coronavirus surcharge
A hairdresser and a customer wearing protective gear in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

While some customers have criticised the move, hairdressers have said it was necessary to cover the significant losses they have incurred due to the coronavirus. 

The surcharge, which has ranged from CHF1 to CHF5 in hairdressers across the country has been charged to cover the costs of masks, disposable aprons and disinfectants used to prevent the spread of the virus. 

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Speaking to SRF magazine Espresso, customers have said that the move is akin to profiteering. 

“There are some who are making money off the coronavirus crisis. I don’t think that’s right,” one customer said. 

“A mask doesn’t cost more than a franc.”

The hairdressers themselves have however said including the surcharge should be a decision made by each salon on the basis of the underlying circumstances. 

Coiffeur Suisse, the industry representative body, said that surcharges have not been made mandatory but are up to the discretion of individual salons. 

Brigitte Hodel, Vice President of Coiffeur Suisse, told SRF that not only were salons forced to purchase additional protective material, but that more work was needed to clean and prepare the salon in between customer visits – which could mean fewer appointments across the day. 

Many salons are keeping every second chair free, which also means fewer customers despite a surge in demand for hairdressing services. 

Hodel also said customers who brought their own protective equipment would be able to pay a lower amount, while emphasising that the surcharge was only temporary. 

“When everything normalises again (after the coronavirus crisis) we will surely cancel this surcharge.”

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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad