Governmental regulations can quickly cause administrative overload for small and medium enterprises because the implementation costs are disproportionately higher than for large companies. The SME compatibility test was introduced to assess the special situation of SMEs with any new regulatory measure.
On 21 October 1998 the Federal Council accepted the Forster motion 96.3618, which, together with the Durrer motion 99.3284, triggered the introduction of a SME compatibility test (in short: SME Test). The Forster motion demanded that any legislative process had to consider the economic and administrative implications of new laws for SMEs, and to show those consequences in the bill message, just as the financial implications for the federal government must be shown. A Regulatory Compliance Cost Assessment (RCCA) must be conducted before drafting the bill message.
The SME test shall deliver information for the way forward. Since most regulations have an economic impact on businesses, the Federal Council must take measures to protect businesses from excessive administration, additional investments or administrative obstacles, and make sure their entrepreneurial independence is not unnecessarily restricted. In order to assess the consequences of a bill, the administration needs to question about one dozen selected SMEs. The results of this consultation are not necessarily statistically representative, but shall be designed as case studies to visualise possible implementation issues.
Until 2012, most SME tests were conducted by SECO on behalf of the extra-parliamentary expert commission SME Forum, usually during the consultation phase of the measure in question. This procedure has proven to be of value.
Since 2013, the federal offices have been responsible for conducting these SME tests in the scope of the RCCA. It has appeared that conducting the SME tests in an early stage of the legislative process, and under the direction of the federal office responsible for drafting the bill, the survey results are more significant in meaning and importance. SME tests have already been fully integrated in the RCCA processes in many OECD countries.
However, the SME compatibility test will continue to be available to the extra-parliamentary expert commission SME Forum. The SME Forum has been entrusted by the Federal Council to analyse laws and ordinances that have high administrative repercussions. Based on its evaluation, the SME Forum submits proposals, from an SME's point of view, to the responsible federal agencies on how to simplify or change regulations.