From now, all citizens in Israel will be able to obtain – at no cost – information on a shopping basket of 40 products, from 150 points of sale throughout the country. Adv. Ehud Peleg, Consumer Council CEO: “This is part of the Consumer Council’s campaign against unreasonable profit margins in the food industry, and our fight – together with consumers – against the cost of living.”
The Consumer Council Patrol project (in Hebrew, SEMEL – Sayeret Hamoetza Letzarchanut) is a group of “trusted consumers,” working under the auspices of the Consumer Council, who will serve as the Council’s “eyes” in the field, keeping an eye on the level to which consumer rights are respected by businesses, and working to increase awareness of those rights, both among businesses and among consumers themselves.
The Israel Consumer Council, in addition to its work in protecting and representing consumers, is also heavily involved in improving consumers’ awareness of their rights, among other things through the Consumer Council Patrol project. Adv. Ehud Peleg, Consumer Council CEO: “The proposed activities reflect the importance that we attach to improved protection of consumers, and to conveying a message of honesty and fairness in Israeli commerce, as a common denominator among manufacturers, sellers and consumers.”
The Consumer Council Patrol will operate on two main fronts: monitoring prices and watching for wrongs done to consumers. As a first step, tomorrow (Wednesday, 13.2.13) the Council will launch a price comparison tool for consumers, which will appear on the Council’s website and will be available to all citizens of the State of Israel, at no cost, as a public service.
About 50 volunteer patrol members will visit businesses over the course of the week, in the guise of innocuous customers. They will have with them a list of 40 products, and will report on the prices of these products at the various points of sale in their patrol area. Each week, the Council will report on about 150 stores, so that every two weeks, over 300 different points of sale across the country will be checked. The website will provide information on price levels, and indicate the name of the supermarket chain or store, the name of the branch, its location, and the date on which the price was recorded.
The weekly data published by the Consumer Council will come with the recommendation that consumers take the information into account when deciding where, and at what price, to make their purchases. This move is part of the Consumer Council’s fight against the unreasonable profit margins that exist in the food industry. The SEMEL Project website provides consumers with a tool to compare prices between the various supermarket chains. A consumer visiting the site will be able to find out which are the cheapest supermarkets in his geographical area, will have the information to analyze the data, and can then make an intelligent decision as to where he would like to make his purchases. In addition, the consumer can compare the prices for a particular product that he would like, between the various supermarket chains and stores in his neighborhood.
The Consumer Council Patrol members will also observe the conduct of businesses toward consumers, looking at various aspects of consumer rights, such as: price marking, display of products subject to price control, advertising, and sales.
In cases of wrongs done to consumers, the patrol members will document the wrong – on video or tape – and will fill out a detailed report form which will be sent to the Consumer Council. The Council will inform the business involved of the findings, will call on them to correct their inappropriate conduct toward consumers, and will inform them that a further site visit will be conducted. If it is found, on the subsequent visit, that the shortcoming still exists, the Council will report its findings to the Fair Trade Authority, a unit of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, or take legal action against the business concerned in the Small Claims Court.
Adv. Ehud Peleg, CEO of the Consumer Council, says: “The Consumer Council Patrols join a series of actions being carried out by the Consumer Council, in its constant struggle for the right of consumers to fairness, and its fight against the cost of living. The ability to set high prices at the retail consumer level relies to a large extent on the difficulties faced by consumers in trying to compare prices and make intelligent buying decisions: where to go shopping, which products are better to buy at certain stores, and which stores should be avoided. Now consumers have access to a tool that gives them the knowledge, ahead of time, as to the buying opportunities in his neighborhood, and where he can make what would be, for him, the most economical purchase. Based on this data, consumers can decide which stores they will go to, and what products they will buy in each location.”