"The consumer engagement is not a Catholic wedding" - acknowledging the modification of the perception according to which a consumer contract should not allegedly bind the consumer to the service provider for long-term periods. If in the past, this trend began in the field of cellular phones, this year this went on with vacation units and gyms. An evident trend is that in the coming years, other communication fields will enter into this list, in which it will be possible to shorten or to get free from long-term agreements.
· The Law for Release of Vacation Units and Gyms was enacted: after nearly 20 years, 40,000 vacation units' owners will be able to free themselves from binding transactions with "Club Hotel", with no cancellation fees or fines.
· Increased competition in the field of migration services in cellular phones - calls and surfing on the net: the costs of calls from abroad to Israel and the use of cellular Internet abroad have always constituted serious damages to the travelers' bank accounts. The proposed reform in this field will allow customers to choose their own overseas suppliers among all cellular providers in Israel – as opposed to the current situation where a customer of a cellular company is obliged to purchase calls packages exclusively from this company.
"Time is expensive and is worth money" - 2014 has also been characterized by a rise in the importance of the service provided to consumers. Regarding service providers in telecommunications and mobile phones, importance that the consumer should not have to wait endlessly for basic telephone answering has been acknowledged for. This was achieved through the approach that time is also money, and in extreme cases – it is worth a lot of money to the consumer. This trend has begun and will continue next year, also in relation to waiting times for movers and to various service providers in the consumer's home.
· In order to prevent technicians from not keeping their appointments in the consumers' homes, and following the "Technicians Act ", a company sending a technician must call from an identified number so that the consumer may call him back.
· Consumer's wait times for service centers - the "3 Minutes" Law: this year, the law requiring human response in free customer service has been expanded to provide an answer in the service center within 3 minutes (in the past, this happened only in case of malfunctions and defects) for all types of services, including for verification of financial issues.
· Considering the number of complaints against HOT regarding the level of service and waiting times to fix problems and in the call center, the Consumer Council has turned to the Council for Cable and Satellite and asked to temporarily reduce the cost of subscription packages.
The consumer's money
· "A Cup of coffee does not have to cost 18 NIS" - we are witnessing a gradual process in which the consumers realize that they are a force affecting the economy and that they may make a difference by themselves.
· A clear example is the story of "Cofix" and others who have followed their example. This idea also continues to spread to other consumer products such as detergent and clothing. In 2015, a chain of supermarkets in the city centers will be established - "Super Cofix", will offer all of its products at a uniform price of five Shekels.
· A year of struggles / protests - Milky protest, Celiac struggle, peppers protest, the struggle of consumers in Haifa and Kiryat Yovel – the consumers protest against high prices and share on social networks.
· The Food Act has been approved - the purpose of the law is to increase competition in food and consumer goods fields in order to reduce consumer prices.
· The great losses of giants retailer (Supersol and Mega), along with increased competition and lower prices in all food chains (Tiv Taam, Supersol and Mega), due to a change in consumption habits of the Israeli public because of the high cost of living and comparisons between prices.
· Reduction of prices of basic consumption goods following the ongoing checks conducted by SEMEL (Consumer Council Patrols) - the networks compete for price and consumers are increasingly comparing prices.
· Governmental intervention for the reduction of prices of food and beverage in hospitals, the airport and the Israeli railways (captive audience).
· Including white cheese and sweet cream in the list of products under price control.
· Increasing competition in the cellular market- Package prices drop, along with technological problems in which the companies are trying to increase their profitability (the story of free tablets).
· Marketing margin in vegetables and fruits - Consumer Council, in cooperation with the Farmers Association, has filed a bill to limit the marketing margin in vegetables and fruits.
· Increase of the marketing of private label in food chains (especially Supersol).
· Class action against Tnuva for 235 million NIS - the Consumer Council filed a charge against Tnuva claiming the company has misused its monopoly in the field of dairy products, in order to charge excessive prices in respect of packaged cheese prices out of government control.
· Governmental involvement in the price of basic consumer products (dairy products, fruits and vegetables) and beyond the introduction of more products under price control.
Legal procedures to promote consumers interest
· Iqtec story - Over 100,000 consumers have received requests for payment for content services that were not aware of. The Consumer Council has filed a class action against Iqtec and was partner in proposing a bill that would limit letters sent by attorneys without proof of debt by the company.
· E-Digital Affair – The Consumer Council has filed a class action against E-Digital and E-Con Group in respect of the refusal to supply spare parts for iPad and iPod, forcing consumers to purchase another product or give up their device.
· Cancellation of discriminating conditions of consumer in contracts in the Standard Contracts Tribunal: The Consumer Council has submitted a request to revoke discriminatory terms in the standard contract of "Pisgot College" and has stood with the consumers in another case, in which "Flying Carpet" was required to approve the contract, and asked to cancel or modify a large number of discriminating terms.
· Law of Monetary Sanctions – from January 2015, Fair Trade Authority will have the authority to impose financial sanctions on companies and businesses that will violate the Consumer Protection Act.
The situation of fairness
The purpose of the fairness index, developed by the Consumer Council and the Research and Economics Administration, is to provide the Israeli consumers with tool to assess the state of fairness in business and, this way, to make informed purchases, and to improve fairness in commercial life in Israel. Fairness is honest and transparent conduct of the business to consumers without trying to deceive them or to take advantage of their weakness or distress.
Israel Consumer Council CEO, Lawyer Mr. Ehud Peleg: "2014 has been a year filled with consumer developments, and we hope that this blessed trend will continue in 2015 with the constitution of a new Knesset. However, out of tens of thousands of complaints the Israel Consumer Council receives and out of the diagnosis of serialization of prejudices inflicted to consumers, we regretfully determine that the level of fairness in the business sector has not improved in the past year. This is a recurring feature in many fields and in different ways, according to which the name of the game is an attempt to make profit while taking advantage of the innocence, the lack of knowledge or the distress of the consumers. Faced to this unacceptable culture, the Consumer Council has not contended himself with providing assistance to consumers in restoring their rights against businesses that have prejudiced them, but has also worked on much wider range against these unacceptable phenomena. Along with the research director at the Ministry of Economy, we have developed the economic fairness index, initiated several legislative motions aimed to increase the protection of the government and carried out many investigations presenting to the public the way they have been prejudiced or the way businesses unfairly earn at their expense. In addition, the Council, along with the Ministry of Education, has initiated a multi-year program on education to fairness that will teach third to twelfth graders, how to ensure better standards of fairness among tomorrow's business owners and service providers.