The Israel Consumer Council is assisting consumers in preparing law suits for the Small Claims Court, as part of a larger effort to promote increased civil enforcement. The project is run with the support and funding of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, and was first implemented by the Consumer Council on January 2012 on a partial basis. Starting November 2012 the project has been expanded and implemented fully.
The project offers a solution to consumers' complaints that cannot be resolved through a direct approach to the business concerned. In such cases consideration is given to formulating a law suit on the consumer’s behalf, for submission to the Small Claims Court.
The statements of claim are drawn up by law students who have been given training both in handling consumer complaints and in the broader field of consumer protection law.
During 2012, a total of 384 complaints were referred by the Council’s Complaints Unit, to determine whether the issues are appropriate for drawing up statements of claim with the consumers involved
Following is a breakdown of the complaints referred, based on the areas dealt with by the Consumer Council:
Electrical appliances: 18% (this includes computer-related issues, and safety of electrical appliances beyond their warranty period)
Miscellaneous: 11% (this group includes areas in which only a few complaints were received)
Education and study courses: 6%
Tourism services: 6%
Clothing, shoes, accessories: 5%
Health clubs: 3%
Jewelry and watches: 2%
Breakdown based on the reason for the claim:
Unsuitability and fault in product: 41%
Cancelation of transaction regulations: 10%
Deceptive practices: 10%
Failure to provide the goods or services, in whole or in part: 9%
Cancelation of an ongoing transaction: 8%
Cancelation of a purchase from a door-to-door salesman: 5%
Cancelation of a long distance sale: 5%
Quality of service: 4% (in most cases, this related to poor or unprofessional service, which led to an injustice or even harm to the consumer)
Delay in delivery: 3% (this refers to a delay beyond the delivery date promised in the order form – which also constitutes deception under the Consumer Protection Law – or a delay which is clearly unreasonable, relative to the product purchased, although the seller did not indicate a specific date for delivery to the consumer in the order form.)
Failure to provide maintenance or repairs, under warranty, contrary to the law and the regulations: 2%
Failure to provide a statement of warranty, contrary to the law and the regulations: 1%
Flight delay/cancelation: 1%
Delay in the arrival of a technician, contrary to the law (Technicians Law): 1%
Cancelation of Transaction
12% of all the complaints that were referred for legal action dealt with the consumer’s legal right to change their minds and cancel a transaction that they had entered into, by virtue of the Consumer Protection (Cancelation of Transaction) Regulations.
Canceling a furniture purchase: 55%
Canceling the purchase of a product, with the product being returned in its original packaging: 10%
Canceling the purchase of an electrical appliance: 8%
Canceling the purchase of an item for the home: 8%
Canceling enrolment into a course: 6%
Canceling a cosmetics purchase: 4%
Canceling a subscription to an introduction or matchmaking service: 3%
Canceling a jewelry purchase: 3%
Canceling the purchase of a subscription or membership in a fitness club: 1.5%
Cancelation of the purchase of a watch: 1.5%
Up to the writing of this report, 150 claims had been filed with the Small Claims Court. The claims had been filed with 22 Small Claims Courts, from Safed in the north to Eilat in the south. The waiting time for a hearing currently stands at about 5 months. Of these cases, 59 have been concluded, with a success rate of 95% (!).
In the vast majority of instances, the parties reached a compromise, either outside the court framework or with the court’s encouragement.
56 of the claims ended with a ruling in favor of the consumers, with money returned or compensation paid totaling 214,000 shekels.
Consumer Council CEO, Adv. Ehud Peleg, says that this new service, being provided by the Council to the consumer public, firstly helps the individual consumer get what he is entitled to, notwithstanding the fact that the Council is a representative consumer organization and not a governmental enforcement agency. This is a way for the Council to help consumers obtain the protection of the courts, in order to exercise their rights. In addition, this service sends a clear, unmistakable message to businesses, that so-called “inadvertent” overcharging or similar shortcomings will no longer be tolerated, and that the Consumer Council now has the “teeth” to ensure civil enforcement of the law in favor of consumers, returning to them the rights that have been infringed. This reinforces the Council’s deterrent power, and sets up a concrete, accessible response to unfair business practices employed against consumers.