Switzerland debates ending zero tolerance policies for tickets bought too late

Switzerland debates ending zero tolerance policies for tickets bought too late

It’s the bain of every rushed commuter and family; even if you make your train and purchase your ticket just as it is pulling away from the station, it is not considered valid and you may face a fine if you are unlucky enough to have your pass checked. Now, the official Consumer Protection Foundation has launched a campaign for transport providers to be more fair when it comes to customers buying late tickets.

Zero tolerance policy for late bought tickets in Switzerland

Under the current system, for anyone who boards a train but purchases a ticket on their mobile phone after departure, a surcharge or fine is issued during the ticket inspection. In recent years this has led to a multitude of hard-luck stories, such as the case of a woman who was fined 115 francs for buying her ticket to Zurich five seconds too late. 

What’s more, anyone fined 100 francs or more by the authorities is admitted to a special “fare evader register” - and anyone on the register caught without a ticket again is subject to higher fines and legal action in some extreme cases. As of December this year, 412.000 people are on the list. 

Swiss consumer groups call for rail ticket reform

The Consumer Protection Foundation noted that ticket collectors are not allowed to use their discretion to waive unfair fines. They added that the current system means that a ticket is only considered valid once the transaction is completed, instead of when the user hits "buy" on their mobile phone, meaning any drop in connection to the internet could lead to “innocent” people getting fined.

Sara Stadler from the foundation told 20 Minuten that the fines were being applied in a “customer-unfriendly manner.” She, along with Swiss transport ombudsman Hans Höhener, called for a “sensible solution” to the problem, such as a grace period of two minutes after departure so that people are given more of a chance to purchase their passes.

Alliance SwissPass commits to reform

In response, Alliance SwissPass (the organisation responsible for tickets in Switzerland) wrote in a statement that their current “zero tolerance” system serves as a deterrent, especially for those who use public transport for short journeys - such as a 30-second trip on a tram, for example. They noted that in comparison to other public transport systems around the world, being able to buy a ticket for a train after it departs is already quite a novelty.

Nevertheless, the company did say that it was working on reforms to make the system fairer. However, it refused to commit to a timeline.

Thumb image credit: Michael Derrer Fuchs /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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