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Everyday Money

Amazon in Switzerland: A Practical Guide

January 5, 2024 - Ralf Beyeler

Online retail giant Amazon is popular with Swiss shoppers. Here, moneyland.ch provides useful information about shopping online on Amazon in Switzerland.

The Amazon story began in the nineties with an online store for books. Today, Amazon is a globally active online retailer which sells nearly everything. Many consumers in Switzerland also shop on Amazon. This guide explains which things you should consider when shopping on Amazon from Switzerland.

Which Amazon online stores can you buy from in Switzerland?

Amazon does not have a Swiss online store. But many products can be delivered to Switzerland. Deliveries to Switzerland are offered by the Amazon stores for France (Amazon.fr), Germany (Amazon.de), and Italy (Amazon.it). Prices for the same product can vary between Amazon stores, so comparing offers can save you money.

Amazon's main online store, Amazon.com, no longer delivers to Switzerland. The same is true of most third-party retailers that sell on Amazon.com.

Which products can I buy when shopping on Amazon from Switzerland?

Consumers in Switzerland can order numerous products from the French, German, and Italian Amazon stores, and have them delivered to Switzerland. These include books, DVDs, and CDs, and other items like clothing, household items, cosmetics, and electronics.

But there are also many items which cannot be delivered to Switzerland. These include food items, alcoholic beverages, medical items, and some chemicals.

In addition to its own retail business, Amazon also functions as a platform on which third-party merchants can sell goods. Many of these merchants do not deliver to Switzerland. Some third-party merchants on Amazon may not ship certain items to Switzerland, even if the same or similar items would be shipped by Amazon itself.

How popular is Amazon in Switzerland?

According to estimates, consumers in Switzerland spend around 900 million Swiss francs on purchases from Amazon every year. That makes Amazon a leading online retailer in Switzerland.

However, Amazon is not the biggest online retailer in Switzerland. With a turnover of 2 billion francs per year, Swiss online retailer Digitec Galaxus is substantially larger.

How cheap is Amazon?

There is no straightforward answer to that question. Some products are cheaper on Amazon than at some other online stores. Other items are more expensive. One advantage of Amazon is that it deducts the foreign value added tax (VAT) and applies the much lower Swiss VAT. That further reduces the French, German, and Italian prices, which are often already lower than the going prices charged by Swiss retailers. For example, when you buy something on Amazon.de, Amazon deducts the German VAT of 19 percent, and then adds the 8.1 percent Swiss VAT instead.

You can get an idea of how Amazon's prices compare to those of other online stores using price comparison platforms like Toppreise.ch and Billigbuch.ch.

Are there any Swiss alternatives to Amazon?

Yes, there are many online stores on which Swiss consumers can shop. In addition to the large, well-known Swiss online retailers like Digitec Galaxus, Brack, Microspot, and Orell Füssli, there are numerous other online shops that are run by small and medium-sized companies. When you buy from these merchants, you help support local small businesses in Switzerland.

Do Swiss customs duties apply to deliveries from Amazon?

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU). When packages are delivered to Switzerland from a fulfillment center in an EU country like France, Germany, or Italy, the Swiss customs office levies customs duties and the Swiss VAT.

Amazon does not have a unified system for passing on these costs to customers. However, you can find information about shipping and the merchant in the online checkout.

Orders which are shipped by Amazon itself are relatively simple. In that case, information about shipping is shown in the checkout, regardless of whether the actual product is from Amazon or from a third-party partner merchant. For order shipped by Amazon, the entire Swiss customs process is handled by Amazon. The applicable customs duties are shown at the checkout. Currently, Amazon covers the fees for the customs clearance itself, but that could change in the future.

If an order is shipped by a third-party Amazon partner merchant, and not with the Amazon shipping service, then that merchant's terms and conditions for shipping apply. In that case, it is worth looking into how Swiss customs formalities are handled for shipments to Switzerland before you make the purchase.

Which payment methods can I use for Amazon purchases?

Amazon offers its customers in Switzerland numerous options for making payments. These include:

  • Debit cards like the Debit Mastercard and Visa Debit
  • Credit cards like Mastercard and Visa
  • Monthly billing (Amazon.de only)
  • SEPA direct debits (if your Swiss bank offers this service, and you set up the direct debit in order with your bank).

However, it is not possible to pay on Amazon using the Swiss mobile payment service Twint.

If you use a credit card or debit card to pay, then you can save money by using a card which has these features:

  • A favorable currency rate
  • No foreign transaction fee for purchases in foreign currencies
  • No foreign transaction fee for purchases from foreign merchants

Cards from neobanks are currently among the most favorable for buying from foreign merchants.

In which currency should I pay for my Amazon orders?

Orders from Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, and Amazon.it are charged in euros. Amazon gives you the option of seeing the total cost in Swiss francs, and paying in francs. That may be practical, but it is usually more expensive. Instead, you should pay in the currency being charged by the merchant. When shopping on Amazon's French, German, and Italian stores, you should pay in euros.

Which delivery options are available, and how much does shipping cost?

Amazon offers two options for deliveries: Standard shipping and express shipping.

The costs of Amazon's standard shipping vary depending on which items you order:

  • Books are always delivered from Amazon.de at no extra cost. Amazon.fr charges 6.99 euros for shipping to Switzerland for orders worth less than 25 euros, with no delivery fees for orders worth 25 euros or more.
  • Music, DVDs, and Videos have a delivery charge of 6.99 euros for shipping to Switzerland. This shipping charge is waived ford orders worth 39 euros or more.
  • Oversized items are shipped to Switzerland for 9.99 euros, regardless of the value of your order.
  • All other purchases have a shipping charge of 6.99 euros for deliveries to Switzerland. This charge is waived for orders worth 49 euros or more.

Amazon's express shipping always costs 9.99 euros for deliveries to Switzerland, regardless of which items you buy and the value of your order.

Important: The pricing above does not apply if your order is shipped by an third-party partner merchant, and not by Amazon itself. Each merchant can set its own shipping fees. The shipping costs are shown at the checkout.

How long does it take for orders from Amazon to be delivered to Switzerland?

Orders are shipped from Amazon fulfillment centers in EU countries. It normally takes several days for a parcel to arrive, once it has been sent. Amazon's standard shipping takes three to five days, while its express shipping takes three days.

Unlike some Swiss online stores, Amazon does not offer same-day deliveries in Switzerland. It is not possible to buy something at midday and receive it on the evening of the same day.

Is it worth getting Amazon Prime if I live in Switzerland?

It is perfectly possible to subscribe to Amazon Prime as a resident of Switzerland. However, there are few real benefits for Swiss consumers. You do not benefit from cheaper shipping, and most of the videos in Amazon Prime are not available either. For these reasons, Amazon Prime does not offer any real added value in Switzerland.

Are the product ratings on Amazon worth looking at?

Because many customers rate products that they purchase on Amazon, many items have ratings based on feedback from numerous customers. These ratings can be a useful guide for determining the value of products. But it is important to understand that product ratings can also account for fake customer ratings. These can be positive or negative. So it should be assumed that ratings tend towards polarization, with a disproportionate amount of very positive and very negative ratings.

Can I return items that I buy on Amazon?

Because Amazon orders are shipped to Swiss customers from a company in the EU, the EU rules governing the right to return purchased items generally applies. That means you can return nearly all products within 14 days of receiving them.

Additionally, products purchased from Amazon.de itself (not from third-party partner merchants) normally have a return period of 30 days.

For purchases from third-party partner merchants, the rules differ between merchants. If an additional return period applies in addition to the return period required by law, this will normally be shown on Amazon.

Does Amazon have a customer service center for Swiss customers?

Amazon does not have a customer service center in Switzerland. Any inquiries or complaints are handled by customer service centers outside of Switzerland.

As with many other companies, Amazon's customer services have received both positive and negative reviews from customers.

What are the downsides of Amazon?

Amazon is frequently criticized on various points. The working conditions at Amazon, with extreme surveillance of employees and low salaries, are frequently highlighted. The retail giant has also been accused of abusing its power as a market leader. Amazon's practice of destroying huge amounts of items returned by customers in new condition is hardly sustainable. Like other big corporations, Amazon engages in questionable tax-optimization practices.

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Expert Ralf Beyeler
Ralf Beyeler is the telecom expert at moneyland.ch and also covers other areas of personal finance.
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