Prices in Geneva airport tax-free shops: a rip-off

A TV consumer defence programme investigated prices in the duty-free shops inside Geneva airport, and found many items neither tax-free nor cheaper than elsewhere!

It was the TV programme "A Bon Entendeur" on Tuesday 14 February which revealed than a number of items on sale in the duty-free shops inside the airport (between the Customs and the aircraft) are not actually duty-free. Worse, they may be significantly more expensive than the same items bought outside the airport. Chocolates and sweets were particularly cited: just the sort of things that you might want to buy before catching your flight. To quote the actual text on the web site

A Cointrin, le Duty free ne porte pas toujours bien son nom. Une grande partie des produits sont vendus à un prix plus élevé que dans les boutiques en ville.

In the introduction to the programme, it was stated that airports have become true commercial centres, and that Geneva airport profits handsomely from them. This is even more so, now that these shops can be visited upon arrival as well as on departure. However, is it reasonable to sell items which are not actually tax-free and to charge high prices? 20120214_ABE.JPGThe person who had noticed this particularly mentionned a packet of Boules Lindor, being sold in the duty-free for CHF 28.50, whereas the standard price in Coop was CHF17.95 (sometimes less when on special offer). However, the investigation of the programme found many more examples, including packets of M&M, where the duty-free store charges more (CHF9.90 instead of CHF5.70) for less (430 gm instead of 500 gm).

By a coincidence, in the letters column of The Times today, a correspondent who travels frequently all over Europe, complains that the price of bottled water is considerably marked up once you have passed through Security.

In all of these cases, the sellers have essentially a non-competitive captive market: something which almost inevitably pushes up prices unless there is some kind of price supervision. The report suggests that there is no such supervision: Geneva Airport, like Zurich and many airports around the world, have selected "The Nuance Group" to run the duty-free shops, quite possibly for an engagement fee and perhaps a share in the profits. It is then hardly surprising that prices can be unreasonably high, and that the airport thus also profits.

20120214_ABE2.JPGWhat I, and the programme, find unacceptable is the fact that items may not be tax-free, but that apparently the shops do not clarify what is duty-free (alcohol, cigarettes and cosmetics) and what is not: you have to look at the receipt to see this difference. I wonder how any visitor to Switzerland feels when he or she takes back a "tax-free" box of chocolates for the family, only to be told that it could have been bought more cheaply in the local supermarket!

IMHO, the airport management should do its own price supervision, even if this produces less profits. However, having once had to pay over CHF 7.00 for a simple coffee in the airport Altitude restaurant, I suspect that this will remain just a pious hope.

09:00 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (2) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook


Buy your chocolate or supermarket perishable goods in the city center.It is maybe less expensive than buying them in Geneva airport duty free shops in the transit aera(after security check point).Don't forget that duty free goods means with no taxes and VAT and it is only authorized on cigarettes,spirits and other beverages,fragrance and perfume.The last quoted items are less expensive than in Geneva city center or the main check-in area.

Posted by: jérôme | 02/16/2012

Well that's why I buy some chocolates for friends whenever I pass by...Amsterdam Schipol our Swiss sweets are quiet a few euros cheaper...interesting in it !?

Posted by: Globetrotter | 02/18/2012

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