Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Defeat At The Highest Level

Novachannel AG has rarely been out of the news this year, and again and again it has been condemned for its business practices. Today’s news is actually the culmination of a story that has gone on since 2006.

In that year the Swiss secretariat (SECO) brought civil a case against Novachannel based on unfair competition they, quickly won in the lower courts with Novachannel ordered to cease mailing the deceptive contracts. As is almost always seen with these guides, Novachannel appealed, first to the district court and finally to Switzerland’s Supreme Court; appealing allowed them to continue mailing the forms and to continue to rake in the cash, the income almost certainly outweighed the legal costs.

You can read SECO’s press release here: English | German | Italian | French

While appealing may have made financial sense in the short term by getting this case into such a high court, Novachannel may have dealt a fatal blow to the Ludenbach model of deceptive form. SECO’s case appears to have painted a fairly broad picture of the scam and the overall layout of the form. This is very important because it has been a ruse of guides to draw courts into detail and then to simply produce a variant of the form which addresses these minor details. In such instances prosecutors are forced to return to court while all the time the guide is making money. There has also been a risk of stalemate, where a form would emerge which still mislead but where legal channels to prevent it became exhausted.

Switzerland’s laws are closely aligned to those of the EU countries so this case will resonate in countries like Spain, Portugal and Germany where associated guides continue to operate. Indeed the laws in these countries are often stricter than those in Switzerland, they just need to be implemented! Now we have a very significant ruling showing that this form of deception can be stopped by civil action.

Of course for Novachannel and the company’s former CEO Michael Rowe it does not end here, there is still a huge criminal investigation into the activities of the former Ludenbach companies. Also The Portuguese company, United Directories bought many of Novachannels disputed contracts and has continued to harass victims from outside Switzerland

Christian Bütikofer has published information on the court case in the Swiss Newspaper Tages Anzeiger (Scan below) In the article he goes on to flag up the new Portuguese outfit which is being fronted by a certain Debora Schaer (Schär). He cites anonymous sources who state that she previously worked for Micael Rowe of Novachannel as a secretary, if this is verified it will cast significant doubt on the assertion that United has no link with Novachannel.

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