Notwithstanding the unmistakable reforms that have taken place in the industry, telecommunications is still the area which generates the most inquiries to the Consumer Council. This complex area, with the most honey traps, tops the list of complaints to the Consumer Council for the sixth year in a row. Almost one quarter of the inquires received by the Council (23%) related to telecommunications issues (telephone, internet, multi-channel television, and so on).
At the same time, for the first time in some years, the Report indicates a drop of 3% in inquiries related to telecommunications, compared with 2011. Over the past year, significant changes have taken place in the industry: a number of consumer legislation amendments have come into force, and a number of new cell phone companies have entered the market, thus increasing competition and reducing prices for consumers.
The many changes taking place in the telecommunications industry over the past year, the cancelation of penalties for transferring from one company to another, and opening the market to competition – all these have led to consumers complaining less, and making more use of their right to obtain proper service and move to a different company. Adv. Ehud Peleg: “The telecommunications field is a wonderful example of the influence that consumer legislation can have. When power moves into the hands of the consumer, he knows what to do with it. Based on our analysis, about 80% of the consumer complaints to the Council are found to be justified, which once again proves that the Israeli consumer faces a business environment which is not necessarily marked by fairness toward consumers.”
Examples of consumer complaints in the telephony sector: unnecessary charges for services not ordered, a lack of transparency in the bill, charges imposed unlawfully, and not refunding money on time.
Other key findings in the Report:
• A sharp jump in complaints (compared with 2011) on cosmetics – a 159% increase; housing – 43%; infrastructure – 37%; electrical goods and computers – 31%; clothing – 26%; and food – 23%.
• A sharp fall in complaints on health issues – a 36% drop.
• What do consumers complain about in connection with electrical appliances? Delivery of faulty goods, and recurring defects in new products (about half of the complaints), a shortage of replacement parts, and refusal of sellers to attend to problems with the products under warranty.
• In regard to food (23% increase in complaints), consumers complain about the lack of price labeling, foreign objects in the food, deceptive sales campaigns, and so on.
• In the transport area (increase of 20%), the complaints relate to late arrivals, drivers skipping stops, poor service, and poor signposting.
• In connection with education (up 16.5%), the complaints raised were the use of standard contracts with clauses that are disadvantageous to the consumer, difficulties in cancelling a transaction, and the exertion of pressure on consumers by sales representatives to “sign on the dotted line.”
• With health complaints (a drop of 36%), the complaints were serious: exploitation of the fact that the elderly and the sick are in a state of distress, in order to get them to sign long-term contracts; negligence in care or treatment; and so on.
• In connection with insurance – vehicle, household, and life insurance (an increase of 24%), the complaints relate to automatic renewal of insurance policies, difficulties in canceling policies, and so on.
• In the area of electricity supply (a rise of 29%) – receiving inflated electricity bills based on estimates, demands for compensation for damage, etc.
• In regard to gas (up 72%), the main complaints are over increases in the prices of gas, and the late arrival or non-arrival of technicians (which is regulated by the “Technicians Law”).
• Another example of where consumer legislation has significant influence is in the area of tourism, where a new law came into force in August – the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancellation or Change of Conditions), 5772-2012, which defines conditions and standards for compensation and assistance to passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled. As a result of this law, we received numerous inquiries from consumers who wanted to know about their right to compensation, or who found that there was a marked difference between what they booked (what the consumer had been promised) and the accommodation actually provided – location and standard of the hotel or holiday house.
Finally, from which town did the most complaints come? And the least? (See the table at the end of the attached report.)
• A comparative index of towns, based on the number of complaints per 1,000 residents, clearly shows that those towns with residents from higher socioeconomic strata also file more complaints. Inversely, those towns or communities in the periphery are ranked lower, and their residents are less likely to make complaints.