For the purpose of identifying and locating towns, villages, etc., it is essential to ensure that place names are readily comprehensible and easy to spell and write down – not just for the inhabitants of the region concerned, but for everyone who wants to visit the place in question or obtain information about the region. In the age of the Internet, place names are among the most frequently used criteria for performing searches and obtaining information.
The cantonal authorities are responsible for the designation of place names, in close collaboration with the cantonal nomenclature commissions and involved municipal authorities.
The Swiss Federal Office of Topography (swisstopo) contributes towards this process in a co-ordinating capacity, for example by ensuring that proposed place names do not give rise to any confusion. It also formulates recommendations for the cantonal nomenclature commissions so that the need to change existing place names can be avoided as far as possible.
Any name change of a municipality (for example as the result of an amalgamation) is subject to a consultation procedure at the federal level, which has to be implemented by the Swiss Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying (a unit within swisstopo) and calls for official approval, as well as publication in the Swiss Federal Gazette.