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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Swiss car insurance: Why do foreigners pay higher premiums?

Overcharging foreign nationals for auto insurance is banned in the European Union, but in Switzerland it is not only allowed, but also widely practiced.

Swiss car insurance: Why do foreigners pay higher premiums?
Higher premiums: discrimination or statistics? Photo by JESHOOTS.com

Depending on the motorist’s nationality, Swiss insurers charge up to 60 percent more for car insurance premiums, regardless of the number of accidents or the make of the car, according to an article in the Sunday edition of Blick.

For Mustafa Atici, president of the migrant section of the Social Democratic Party, this practice “is pure discrimination. Thousands of people have to pay more without ever having caused an accident”.

He conceded that many young immigrant drivers may be more often involved in crashes, “but punishing everyone who has the same nationality is not fair”, he said.

In March, the consumer site Comparis.ch published a chart showing how much more foreigners pay for car insurance, based on their nationality and when compared to Swiss drivers.

Kosovars, Albanians, Serbs and Turks bear the brunt of this practice, paying on average around 60 percent more than the Swiss.

Premiums for Portuguese, Spanish and Italian drivers are also two-digits higher, while the surcharge on the French, Swedes, Austrians, and Germans is the lowest.

And premiums also vary from one insurance carrier to another. As this Comparis chart shows, in some cases individual prices are up to 90 percent higher.

How do insurance carriers justify this disparity between nationalities and between the Swiss and foreign drivers?

For insurance companies, this practice has less to do with discrimination and more with statistical risk profile.

For instance, if a man of foreign origin causes an accident with a high-powered car, all of these factors are included in the statistics.

If this happens more than once, a risk profile is created and applied to all people with the same characteristic.

“The individual premium for some may appear unfair, but the calculation of premiums is based on statistics”, according to Comparis’ mobility expert, Andrea Auer.

“Even if they have never had an accident, any driver is likely to be subject to an additional premium because the risk assessment is not individual, but collective”, Auer said.

READ MORE: MAPS: Which Swiss canton has the worst drivers?

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For members

LEARNING FRENCH

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in Swiss French

It's a very common experience to have to give out your phone number or email address in Switzerland, or take down the address of a website, so here's how to do this if you're in the French-speaking part of the country.

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in Swiss French

The correct names for punctuation marks used to be fairly low down on any French-learner’s list, but these days they are vital whenever you need to explain an email address, website or social media account.

Likewise if you want to talk about websites, or social media posts, there are some things that you need to know. 

Punctuation

Obviously punctuation points have their own names, and making sure you get the periods, dashes and underscores correct is vital to giving out account details. 

Full stop/period . point. Pronounced pwan, this is most commonly heard for Swiss websites or email addresses which end in. ch (pronounced pwan ce ash).

If you have a site that ends in .com you say ‘com’ as a word just as you would in English – pwan com.

At symbol @ Arobase – so for example the email address [email protected] would be jean pwan dupont arobas bluewin pwan ce ash.

Ampersand/and symbol & esperluette

Dash – tiret

Underscore _ tiret bas 

Forward slash / barre oblique

Upper case/capital lettersMajuscule (or lettre majuscule)

Lower caseminiscule

The following punctuation points are less common in email or web addresses, but worth knowing anyway:

Comma , virgule. In French a decimal point is indicated with a comma so two and a half would be 2,5 (deux virgule cinq)

Exclamation mark ! point d’exclamation – when you are writing in French you always leave a space between the final letter of the word and the exclamation mark – comme ça !

Question mark ? point d’interrogation – likewise, leave a space between the final character and a question mark 

Brackets/parentheses ( ) parenthèse

Quotation marks « » guillemets 

Numbers

If you need to give your phone number out, the key thing to know is that Swiss-French people pair the numbers in a phone number when speaking.

So say your number is 079 345 6780, in French you would say zero septante-neuf, trois-cents quarante-cinq, soixante-sept, huitante (zero seventy-nine, three hundred forty-five, sixty-seven, eighty ).

Mobile numbers in Switzerland  begin with 079 or 078 (zero septante-neuf or zero septante-huit).

Social media

If you want to give out your Twitter or Instagram handle, the chances are you might need to know some punctuation terms as described above.

Otherwise the good news is that a lot of English-language social media terms are used in Switzerland too.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have the same names in Switzerland and have entered the language in other ways too, for example you might describe your dinner as très instagrammable – ie it’s photogenic and would look good on Instagram.

On Twitter you can suivre (follow), aimer (like) or retweet (take a wild guess). You’ll often hear the English words for these terms too, though pronounced with a French accent.

There is a French translation for hashtag – it’s dièse mot, but in reality hashtag is also very widely used.

Tech is one of those areas where new concepts come along so quickly that the English terms often get embedded into everyday use before the French-speakers can think up an alternative.

READ MORE: French-speaking Switzerland: Seven life hacks that will make you feel like a local

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