For members


EXPLAINED: The rules around returning Christmas gifts in Switzerland

Whether it’s one tie too many, an ugly vase, a useless gadget, or even a partridge in a pear tree, you might want to bring some of the presents you received back to the store for a refund or exchange. Are such returns allowed in Switzerland?

Pretty wrapping can hide a useless Christmas gift. Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash
Pretty wrapping can hide a useless Christmas gift. Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

Sure, some people feel guilty about returning a present they got from friends or family; after all, it’s the thought that counts and you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

But unless you actually got a longed-for horse with a good set of teeth, chances are you might not want to keep some of the items gifted to you — no matter how well-intentioned.

Can you just bring these objects back to the store where they were bought?

It depends.

Unless a retailer specifically stipulated during purchase that no returns or exchanges will be allowed — which is sometimes the case with deeply discounted or end-of-the-line merchandise — you should, in principle be able to do so.

However, here too some conditions are attached.

You must have a receipt or exchange voucher

A sales receipt is issued when the purchase is made and most retailers routinely offer vouchers allowing exchanges as well.

But if the item you want to return is a gift, you may not have the sales receipt, which means returning the present for a cash refund may be difficult. If however, you got the voucher along with the gift, then you can exchange it for something else or possibly get store credit for later use.

If you do have the proof of purchase, you should bring back the items within the pre-determined period of time — usually 30 days.

Also, the item must be in its original condition, that is, unworn and unused. In case of an electrical appliance that breaks after use, it will be refunded or exchanged according to conditions of its warranty.

What about online purchases?

Perhaps someone ordered a Christmas gift for you on the Internet and had it sent to you by post.

In this case, returns are less problematic: you have the right to send the merchandise back according to conditions outlined by the seller.

Usually, you can return anything that is undamaged and still in its original packaging for a full refund.

If the packaging has been opened, most Swiss online retailers will deduct a minimum amount of 10 percent. That’s because electronics stores can’t resell products for the full price if they have been opened.

What happens if package comes from abroad?

This is a very pertinent point because, as we already explained in a previous article, under the Swiss law it is possible to obtain a domain name ending in .ch, even though these companies are located abroad. This has proven to be misleading to many Switzerland-based customers, including, perhaps, the person who purchased the gift for you.

Unless specific exclusions apply — usually spelled out in the sales contract— you can send the items back. However, since they will be shipped abroad, you will have to pay higher charges than if you were mailing to a company in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Reader question: Under what conditions can I return a purchase to a store in Switzerland?

The Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau has more information about your rights to a refund.

So what’s the bottom line?

If you receive a gift with a sales receipt or exchange voucher, returns and exchanges should be easy.

The same applies to sending back merchandise that has not been tampered with but, you may have to pay shipping charges.

If neither option is feasible, you can always try to re-gift the unwanted item to someone else (after all, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure).

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For members


EXPLAINED: What you are still allowed to do in Switzerland this Christmas

Recent government measures restrict many festivities traditionally associated with the holiday season. But some activities are not banned.

EXPLAINED: What you are still allowed to do in Switzerland this Christmas
Despite restrictions, Swiss Christmas can still be merry. Photo ny AFP

It is certain that Christmas celebrations will be much different this year than we are accustomed to.

Switzerland’s government has ordered new national restrictions from December 13th to January 22nd to curb the increasing rate of Covid-19 infections. 

Among them are limits on the number of people allowed  to get together — up to five people from two households, with exceptions for up to 10 people from December 24th to 26th, and on December 31st for Christmas and New Year festivities.

This rule excludes large gatherings that are traditional in many families. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that a number of enjoyable activities that bring ‘comfort and joy’ to many people are still possible.


In stores, the number of square metres per customer is now 10 — up from four previously — to ensure more space and fewer people in stores at the same time.

This means a more pleasant shopping experience for everyone, as it will prevent overcrowding in the stores, which so often happens during the busy Christmas season.

Small get-togethers

Ten people is better than none. Think of these gatherings as more personal and intimate, where you can interact with people much better than during big blowouts. Plus, smaller groups make it easier to maintain distance between people rather than huddle together and facilitate virus transmission.

Eating out

Though restaurants and bars will have to close at 7 pm in most of Switzerland, they can stay open until 11 pm in the Swiss-French regions, which have managed to keep their infection rates under control for the time being.

This means you can still eat out, even if it’s only for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon coffee.

But on December 24th and 31st they can remain open until 1 am.


Unlike neighbouring countries, which have banned skiing this Christmas, Switzerland is allowing this activity, under strict conditions. 

Masks will be mandatory not only in closed spaces such as mountain trains and cable cars, but also on open-air chair lifts and T-bars, as well as in queues.

In addition, queuing will be regulated so it runs in an orderly manner and without major clusters.

The number of passengers in closed ski cabins will be lowered to two thirds of the usual capacity.

And cantons must ensure that they have the hospital capacity and the ability to undertake testing and contact tracing.

Still, despite a raft of rules, slopes are open, and that is good news for a nation of avid skiers. 

Outdoor activities

There are few rules in place for those who want to spend Christmas outdoors, whether hiking, cross-country skiing, sledding, or engaging in other winter activities.

Being outdoors in open spaces is safe if distances can be maintained.

So while some holiday activities are banned or scaled down, there is still lots to enjoy during the Christmas season.