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9 Sep 2019

Secretariat of the Committee for Legal Affairs

Legal Affairs Committee of Swiss upper house supports civil liability of companies

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[Note: This is an unofficial summary translation by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre of the Swiss Parliament's press release. The original is available in FrenchGerman and Italian. See above for more context.]

4 September 2019

The Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of States concluded the detailed content discussion of the indirect counter-proposal to the Responsible Business Initiative, which it had begun at its meeting on 12 August 2019. The Committee proposed by 7 votes to 5 with 1 abstention to adopt the counter-proposal in the overall [plenary] vote. 

With 8 votes to 5, the Committee supported a counter-proposal which includes civil liability of companies. A minority requested that the liability provisions be removed and the proposal to be limited to mandatory due diligence and reporting. With 7 votes to 6, the Committee, like the National Council, refrained from proposing a subsidiarity regulation. A minority requested its introduction. They believe that the plaintiffs, where reasonable, should take action against subsidiaries abroad.

By 7 votes to 2 with 4 abstentions, the Committee requested the introduction of a special arbitration process. This is intended to settle disputes arising from claims brought against a company under the civil liability provisions included in the indirect counter-proposal. The Committee proposes the National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises as the special arbitration authority. The Committee has introduced this new arbitration process in order to restrict access to justice and thus prevent an increase in court cases. 

The Council of States will discuss the matter in its autumn session.