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Common Tariff 3a: A hundred thousand new SUISA business customers | plus video

With regards to Common Tariff 3a (CT 3a), SUISA has been managing all customers directly again since 01 January 2019. In order to do so, data of about 100,000 customers which received their 3a invoices via Billag in the past years, has been migrated into the SUISA systems. A new team of 16 staff is responsible for all customers of this tariff and provides customer service in four languages. In the meantime, more than 58,000 invoices have left the building – time to take a first provisional look back. Text by Martin Korrodi; Video by Sibylle Roth

On 15 February 2019, SUISA dispatched the first 1,000 CT 3a invoices for usage period 2019 to customers such as selling businesses, shopping malls, catering outlets or guesthouse landlords. Prior to the first dispatch, the migrated Billag data was analysed and manually cleaned up in order to ensure that the invoices were going to be correctly generated. The dispatch scope was intentionally kept small so that any technical or organisational problems could be detected and resolved quickly.

With increasing experience, the dispatch volume could be increased step by step – this way, after five months (February to June), more than half of the 3a customers have already received an invoice. Until mid-June, about 58,000 invoices were sent out with a total invoiced of nearly CHF 17 million. From April onwards, and in addition to the invoices, the first reminders had to be dispatched, from May the second reminders so that up to 20,000 mailings per month left the building.

CT 3a customer service in numbers

In line with the big number of invoices and reminders, the customer service must process a lot of feedback and queries. More than 2,000 phone conversations with customers were held in May alone, and about 600 electronic messages (contact forms and e-mails) were processed. Add to that about 160 mailings that reach us per month via traditional post.

What’s great is that many of our customers visit our website www.suisa.ch/3a and use the online portal for their queries and issues. Since the beginning of the year, 504 new customers registered online and obtained a CT3a licence, and 1,419 customers asked questions regarding their invoices via the online portal. The tariff allows a 5% discount to those customers who use the online portal for processing their CT 3a business with SUISA.

Under the leadership of Nevio Tebaldi, a team of 16 people is looking after the 3a customers; they share 12 full-time positions (1,200 in job percent). During the development phase, three additional people who support the team and take over duties in the field of data cleanup are available temporarily.

Frequently asked questions

The most frequently asked questions by the customers affect the new responsibility for the invoicing process from 2019. The systems change in terms of the radio and TV reception fees and the closure of the Billag AG seem to have created confusion so that customers do not always understand why they receive an invoice from SUISA and what the purpose of the owed fee is.

The confusion of the copyright fee with the radio and TV reception fees is probably due to the fact that Billag had dispatched both invoices until the end of 2018 – one of them on behalf of the Federal Office of Communication (Bakom) and the other one on behalf of SUISA. Within the commercial field, this co-operation made absolute sense since businesses which run a radio or TV set in their business location do not just have to pay the fee to the Bakom but – unlike private persons – require an additional licence for copyright pursuant to CT 3a.

From 2019, the starting point for radio and TV reception fees has changed fundamentally: A general fee is replacing the previously device-based reception fee. This general fee will be levied nationwide to all households and businesses. The obligation to pay the fee as well as the amount of the levy is, additionally, depending on the turnover of businesses: Businesses with a turnover of less than CHF 500,000 are exempt of the fee – businesses with higher turnovers are automatically invoiced by the Federal Tax Administration Office in a six-tier tariff category system.

With regards to the copyright fees based on CT 3a, there are, however, no major changes: The tariff continues to depend on the actual usage scope and is thus based on the area music is piped to. There is no turnover threshold – even businesses with less than CHF 500,000 have to pay a fee for copyright. The only “change” affects the sender of the invoices which is no longer Billag but SUISA.

The “successor” of Billag, Serafe AG plays no role for business customers since it exclusively invoices private households with the radio and TV reception fees on behalf of Bakom and has therefore nothing to do with businesses.

New contacts for businesses from 2019. (Graphics: Sibylle Roth)

 

Usage scope covered by CT 3a
The following usages are relevant for CT 3a: all exploitations in venues outside domestic and private circle or home life, such as in selling businesses, shopping malls, restaurants, lounges, office spaces, work spaces, storage spaces, company vehicles (car radio), ski lift stations, meeting rooms, seminar rooms, guest rooms (these are defined as guest and patient rooms as well as holiday homes), museums, exhibitions etc.
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With regards to Common Tariff 3a (CT 3a), SUISA has been managing all customers directly again since 01 January 2019. In order to do so, data of about 100,000 customers which received their 3a invoices via Billag in the past years, has been migrated into the SUISA systems. A new team of 16 staff is responsible for all customers of this tariff and provides customer service in four languages. In the meantime, more than 58,000 invoices have left the building – time to take a first provisional look back. Text by Martin Korrodi; Video by Sibylle Roth

On 15 February 2019, SUISA dispatched the first 1,000 CT 3a invoices for usage period 2019 to customers such as selling businesses, shopping malls, catering outlets or guesthouse landlords. Prior to the first dispatch, the migrated...read more

Invoicing licence fees for background music and TV reception in businesses as of 2019

Businesses that play background music on their premises or show broadcasts on screens are required to pay licence fees in accordance with Common Tariff 3a. As of 2019, SUISA will once again manage all customers under this Tariff directly. Text by Martin Korrodi

Invoicing licence fees for background music and TV reception in businesses as of 2019

Under copyright law, playing background music in a shopping centre like in the above example qualifies as a use outside the private sphere. That is why businesses need a licence, which they can obtain from SUISA in accordance with Common Tariff 3a. (Photo: Unsplash, Victor Xok)

Pursuant to the Federal Copyright Act (Article 10(2)(f)), the reception of broadcasts in businesses is a use outside the private sphere and is therefore subject to a licence. As a result, in addition to paying Billag reception fees – and conversely to private households – businesses which play radio or TV sets on their premises need to licence the authors’ rights under Common Tariff 3a (CT 3a). These licences are granted by SUISA.

Hitherto, Billag AG would invoice the licence fees under CT 3a for SUISA’s account. Since Billag was also responsible for invoicing radio and TV reception fees, the cooperation generated advantageous synergies. Both invoices could be issued to customers from a single source, saving time and effort on all sides.

Meanwhile, owing to a number of developments, this cooperation cannot be continued after the end of this year: thus in 2015, the Federal Act on Radio and Television was revised and the device-based reception fee was replaced by a general levy. This levy is collected from all households – regardless whether or not they actually possess a reception device.

Uses outside the private sphere are subject to licence fees

Under the new system, only businesses with turnover in excess of CHF 500,000 have to pay the licence fee. The State estimates that about 75% of Swiss businesses will not be required to pay the licence fee even if they receive broadcasts on their premises.

The minimum turnover limit does not, however, apply to authors’ rights. All uses of works outside the private sphere are relevant in terms of copyright law. In public areas like shops and restaurants, for example, background music – whether piped in from the radio, internet or a sound recording – is subject to a fee in accordance with CT 3a. And the showing of broadcasts or videoclips, from Youtube for example, also requires a licence from SUISA. Accordingly, many small businesses that do not pay radio and TV fees will still have to pay fees under CT 3a.

In addition to the change in the radio and TV remuneration system, in March 2017 the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) decided not to renew Billag’s collection agency mandate. Henceforth, household radio and TV fees will be collected by Serafe AG. For businesses, the fees will be collected by the Federal tax authorities in the framework of the VAT collection procedure. As a result, Billag has lost its main business activity and will wind up operations at the end of 2018. This is another reason why SUISA is obliged to reorganise its CT 3a-invoicing system as of the coming year.

SUISA to manage CT 3a for businesses as of 2019

After considering a number of options, it was decided in autumn 2016 that SUISA would once again manage CT 3a for businesses starting in January 2019. SUISA already issues invoices to about 2000 companies which do not have radio and TV reception but play background music from other sources (CDs, DVDs, etc.).

As of 2019, Billag’s 106,000 business customers will be taken over by SUISA; this six-fold increase in SUISA’s active customer count – realised in a single stroke – will trigger huge growth in processing volumes. Therefore task-oriented processes and largely automated IT infrastructure solutions will be essential to ensure the smooth and proper functioning of customer relations in the CT 3a area.

The necessary steps in this regard were initiated in the current year: a project team working in close cooperation with Billag is preparing the take-over of the customer portfolio at the technical and organisational levels. A customer centre is being established with the equivalent of 12 full-time positions (17 persons overall) to provide support and guidance, in writing or by phone, to CT 3a customers.

Multilingual CT 3a customer centre

To ensure as little change as possible for customers, the customer centre will take over Billag’s existing hotline number (0844 234 234). Moreover, an online portal will be set up to secure access to all relevant services. The customer centre will cater to all users, nationwide, in four languages (English, German, French, Italian).

The new team will also be responsible for market coverage. Since there are very few spontaneous declarations from users of background music, potential customers will be contacted and questioned about their practices as regards background entertainment. SUISA plans to conduct four direct mailing campaigns per year, each designed to reach about 10,000 businesses across all economic sectors.

The customer centre team started work on 1 November 2018. By the end of the year, the team will have received appropriate training, and systems and processes will be in place and fully tested. Officially, the customer centre is to open in the new year; it will be at the disposal of 3a customers as of 7 January 2019.

Complaints procedure
The tariff for background music and TV reception, CT 3a, was negotiated with the representative user associations (Gastrosuisse, Hotelleriesuisse, the umbrella association for rights’ users DUN, the Swiss Retail Federation, inter alia) in 2015 and 2016. It proved impossible to reach a consensus, and the proposed tariff was submitted to the Federal Arbitration Commission for Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights (ESchK). The draft tariff submitted by the Swiss collecting societies proposed an average increase of 14% in the fees for Billag customers. In November 2016, the Federal Arbitration Commission decided in favour of the collecting societies and approved the proposed tariff. However, several user associations appealed the decision to the Federal Administrative Court; proceedings are still pending. The appeal does not have suspensive effect and SUISA can start collecting fees based on the new CT3a in 2019. However, the distribution of the proceeds to the entitled parties must be stayed until a definitive ruling on the tariff is handed down.
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  1. Konrad Hugentobler says:

    Typisches juristisches Bla Bla. Definiert zuerst gefälligst mal, was genau Gebührenpflichtig ist und was nicht. Beispielsweise wird eine Firma ja wohl kaum Suisa bezahlen müssen, wenn ihre Mitarbeiter auf privaten Geräten Musik mit Kopfhörer hören. Was ist genau Berieselung? Ist es nun doch (noch) von Geräten abhängig? Muss eine Firma Suisa bezahlen, wenn Mitarbeiter auf ihrem Arbeitscomputer YouTube Videos schauen? Das wäre ja an Absurdität nicht zu übertreffen.

Leave a Reply

All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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Businesses that play background music on their premises or show broadcasts on screens are required to pay licence fees in accordance with Common Tariff 3a. As of 2019, SUISA will once again manage all customers under this Tariff directly. Text by Martin Korrodi

Invoicing licence fees for background music and TV reception in businesses as of 2019

Under copyright law, playing background music in a shopping centre like in the above example qualifies as a use outside the private sphere. That is why businesses need a licence, which they can obtain from SUISA in accordance with Common Tariff 3a. (Photo: Unsplash, Victor Xok)

Pursuant to the Federal Copyright Act (Article 10(2)(f)), the reception of broadcasts in businesses is a use outside the private sphere and is therefore subject to a licence. As a result, in addition to paying Billag reception fees – and conversely to private households...read more