DB accused of overcharging Swiss travellers via ancient exchange rates

DB accused of overcharging Swiss travellers via ancient exchange rates

Deutsche Bahn, the main provider of long-distance trains in Germany, has been criticised for charging travellers in Switzerland up to 20 percent more for food and drinks when their trains run in the alpine nation. The reason? The currency conversion rate they use is eight years old.

ICEs charge more for food and drink in Switzerland

While Switzerland is known to be a bit pricier than Germany, there are some moments when our bigger neighbour to the north takes those differences a step beyond the norm. According to a new report by 20 Minuten, Deutsche Bahn’s regularly delayed ICEs, which serve on routes between German cities and Basel, Zurich, Chur and Interlaken, have been criticised by travellers for the excessive markup they charge on food and drinks on board once they enter Switzerland.

The newspaper calculated that prices in Swiss francs are 20 percent more expensive than they are in euros. What’s more, Swiss and German travellers alike are unable to pay in euros once they cross the border. As a result, a 3,60 euro glass of beer costs 4,30 francs, and a Bolognese dish costs 14,70 francs instead of 12,20 euros. 

Deutsche Bahn uses 2015 exchange rates to calculate prices

20 Minuten explained that the sky-high prices are because the exchange rate they use to convert between euros and francs is actually from 2015, set at 1,2 francs to the euro. Bear in mind that the Swiss franc has gone from strength to strength in recent years and is now more valuable than the European centralised currency - the exchange rate at the time of writing is 0,96 francs to the euro.

The discovery has outraged Swiss consumer groups, with Consumer Protection Foundation spokesperson Alex von Hettlingen saying that "this behaviour is a real disgrace for train passengers in Switzerland.” “DB staff do not receive higher salaries for their work on Swiss soil. It is obvious that DB is skimming off the purchasing power of its Swiss customers, otherwise, it would have adjusted the prices long ago.”

Legal expert Favio Zanchi said that while Deutsche Bahn's pricing is legal, “In the interest of customer satisfaction, it would be welcome to regularly adjust the conversion rate to the actual market conditions or at least bring it close”. He also said that DB should allow passengers in Switzerland to pay in euros.

Swiss Federal Railways updates prices every month

For their part, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the main public transport provider in Switzerland, said that they do not follow Deutsche Bahn's lead. Spokesperson Moritz Weisskopf told 20 Minuten that “SBB food and drink menus currently have a one-to-one exchange rate. In Switzerland and Germany, you can pay in both Swiss francs and euros.”

He added that SBB will continue to analyse and modify their prices to be in line with exchange rates, with menus updated every month. Deutsche Bahn did not give the Swiss media an official response.

Thumb image credit: Chris Redan /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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