Money For Members

Why are the Swiss so trusting when it comes to paying bills?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why are the Swiss so trusting when it comes to paying bills?
Many businesses will trust you to pay your bills. Photo: Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Many Swiss businesses still adhere to the old-fashioned belief in the honesty and integrity of their customers, writes Helena Bachmann.


Several years ago, I went to a shop to purchase a rug.

I found one I thought would fit into my living room but wasn’t sure whether it would match the décor.

No problem, the salesperson said. Take it home and see how it looks. If you like it, call and we will send you a bill. If not, bring it back.

The salesperson didn’t know me from Adam, but the only thing he asked for, aside from my ID, was my address and phone number.

For all he knew, he might not see the likes of me, or the rug, ever again.

But since this time, others have shared similar stories with me — the kind of stories that show that the Swiss are — rightly or wrongly— inherently trusting people.

Paying bills

If you come from a country where you must immediately pay for a service provided — for example, for a plumber or electrician — than the Swiss system may seem strange to you.

While some such people may ask for outright payment, the vast majority won’t.

Instead, they or their company will send you an invoice — typically within 30 days — and you will then have another 30 days to pay it.
READ ALSO: What you should know about Switzerland's new slips for paying bills online


Why are the Swiss so trusting?

Part of this may be that the Swiss like rules and expect everyone to live by them.

A study carried out in 2019, which compared ‘civic honesty’ of people around the world, revealed that Switzerland’s population is the most "morally correct." 

How did the researchers know this?

The experiment they conducted in 355 cities in 40 countries involved finding out how many people would return a wallet full of money to its rightful owner.

Switzerland easily topped the honesty scale, with more than 70 percent of people returning the found wallets (Norway also did well in this survey).

"On the whole, countries which are more democratic and where citizens feel they are a part of the decision-making process tend to score higher on civic honesty,” the study’s authors reported

This doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone in Switzerland is trusting and everyone is trustworthy.

The service provider (such as the above-mentioned plumber or electrician, but it could be any professional), inherently trusts you to pay the bill when you get it.

They will not say “pay now because I don’t trust you.” That is just not the Swiss way.


What happens if you don’t pay?

When you receive your bill by mail or electronically, you have 30 days to pay.

Most people will stick to this timeline. If they don’t, it’s often the case of forgetting to pay rather than not paying intentionally.

Once a reminder arrives (usually after another 30 days), they will settle the bill at that time.

But if you still don’t pay despite reminders to so, you are opening yourself up to debt collection proceedings.

The debt enforcement office can order your assets and income to be seized to pay the creditor's claims.

In such a case, authorities will instruct your employer to transfer the portion of your future salary directly to the debt enforcement office. They can also seize valuables that you own so that they can be auctioned off.

Obviously, this is the absolute worst-case scenario that you want to avoid at all costs (pun intended).

READ ALSO : What happens if I don't pay my Swiss bills on time


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