- It’s false that the Swiss authorities encourage the citizens to report when their neighbours maintain the temperature at their homes over 19 ⁰C.
- It’s not true that you will go to prison in Switzerland if you maintain the temperature at your house over 19 ⁰C.
- Imposing an upper limit on the indoor temperature during the cold months is currently just a proposal and even if it turns into a law there will be no fines or penalties for not complying with it.
We received a message from a reader of Factcheck.bg, containing a photograph of a poster, claimed to be issued by the Swiss government. The text on the poster encourages the citizens to report when their neighbours maintain a temperature above 19 ⁰C at their homes. The photograph is actively spreading through Facebook and gains the comments of many users (translated from Bulgarian):
“For those who don’t believe, just look at the ads at the stations in Switzerland”, “Where’s the communism?”, “We have already seen the “reporting” thing and some people in Bulgaria have even lived through it.”
The original text of the “poster” is as follows: “Your neighbour heats their flat above 19 ⁰C? Please, give us a call and inform us…”. In the bottom left corner there is a clarification that the person making the report will remain “anonymous”. In the bottom right corner, a reward of 200 Swiss francs is promised to the person making the report.
What are the facts?
According to the Swiss daily newspaper 20 Minutes the photograph is falsified. The given telephone number belongs to the press office at the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, so the newspaper contacted them for more details on the situation. The press office denied the existence of such posters and clarified that the Swiss government has nothing to do with such invocations.
Emanuela Tonasso, a member of the aforementioned federal department, said to the department of fact-checking at DPA that the case is “an abuse with the telephone number and the logo of the Swiss Confederation” and there is already an ongoing investigation.
We see more evidence about the falsity of the given “poster” in an Austrian website. According to that website the person who captured the image is unknown, but it first appeared on a Russian Internet forum. The Italian online issue Open reports that the “Russian journalist and propagandist” Vladimir Soloviev has posted the photo in his Telegram channel on 11th September 2022 where he currently has more than 1 million followers.
As of 15th September 2022 the image is marked by Facebook as misleading after being verified by independent fact checkers.
The images used for creating the “poster” are taken from stock photo websites
HoaxEye – a platform dealing with the identification of falsified and misleading images, shows how the “poster” was created as two stock photographs were overlaid. The first image shows a girl talking on the phone and the second one is a billboard panel at a station of the public transport.
Why exactly 19 ⁰C and will you go to prison for not complying with the law?
We can see publications about the planned 3 years of jail for not complying with the new energy saving rules in Switzerland throughout social media and different media platforms including UK-based websites such as the British Daily Mail.
What are the facts?
On 31st August 2022 the Swiss government announced the beginning of a voluntary campaign, which “encourages both users and businesses to save energy as there is a huge danger of gas and electricity shortage during the upcoming winter”. The recommended actions include: reducing the indoor temperature, using less hot water, turning off the lightning and the devices, which are not in current use. According to the Swiss Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin those measures are not only voluntary but “preventive” as well. He hopes that the government wouldn’t need to make them obligatory.
“A maximum of 19 ⁰C” could be a part of future measures
With the announcement of the voluntary campaign Parmalin declared that if those voluntary measures do not lead to the expected results and the country faces a severe shortage of gas then it’s possible that there will be additional actions taken.
The Swiss government has elaborated a draft document where all the additional measures are thoroughly explained. These include reducing the heating in gas-heated homes to a maximum temperature of 19 ⁰C as well as imposing a ban on the gas heating of swimming pools and holiday homes. Those measures are still being discussed though.
There will be no fines or penalties
The document with proposed measures does not include any penalties or fines. The misleading headlines talking about 3 years of jail for not complying with the rules refer to the Federal Act of National Economic Supply, which regulates the security of the national supply of essential goods and services in times of severe shortages. The law defines “severe shortages” as “a supply situation in which there is an extreme risk of immediate, major damage to the economy or considerable disruption to national economic supply.”
Those who violate this law are “liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding three years or a monetary penalty”. This however only applies when the violation is intentional and if it’s committed in an emergency situation of “severe shortages”, which is currently non-existent.
The photograph of a Swiss poster, which encourages people to report their neighbours who not comply with the recommended measures for energy saving in return for a prize money, is falsified. Such posters do not exist in Switzerland. Representatives of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy assure that the image is fake and that there is an investigation in process. Maintaining the indoor temperature under 19 ⁰C is currently voluntary and there will be no fines or penalties for not complying with this measure.
Written by Slavena Zaharieva
Edited by Mina Kirkova
Translated by Vanessa Nikolova