To mark World Consumer Rights Day, the Israel Consumer Council has performed a number of informational, educational and legislative activities:
Publicity Campaign: “Read the Bill”
On March 1, 2011, the Israel Consumer Council launched a broad campaign aimed at bringing about a conceptual and behavioral change among consumers, in terms of how they look at the invoices and accounts that they receive regularly, for services such as cell phones, municipal taxes, electricity, television and water. A survey by the Council showed that about 40% of consumers do not read the accounts that they receive, and cannot understand them. The estimated cost to the public was reported to be about one billion Israeli Shekels ( about 300 Million US$) per year.
The internet publicity campaign is based on the idea of the various companies saying “Thank you!”, that is, for the profit that they make as a result of consumers not reading their bill. Consumers are invited to read the online guide, and thus save hundreds of Israeli shekels each year.
In conjunction with the campaign’s launch, fictitious accounts for payment were sent to members of the Israeli parliament and to government Ministers, in order to get the message across: not checking the account may cost the consumer a great deal of money.
• Internet-Based, User-Friendly Guide
The Israel Consumer Council website has displayed a friendly interactive guide with a collection of different accounts, with clear instructions about how to read and understand the bill, how to analyse it, common consumer complaints in the area, and an explanation of various legal aspects.
• Involvement of Activists, College Students and School Students in the Campaign
18,000 members of Maamatz, members of the Consumer Council’s nation-wide consumer club, active in educational activities and campaigns against consumer wrongs, have been asked to pass fictitious accounts to their friends by e-mail, and to distribute them in mail boxes of apartment buildings, and so intensify the message virally.
In addition, the Consumer Council’s Active Consumer Teams – college students, who are active in dealing with consumer complaints and are involved in the Council’s educational campaigns – have also been involved in the campaign. Dressed as representatives of the various companies, they were positioned at commercial and academic centers, and "thanked” passers-by for not having checked their accounts proposing them to use the guide on the Council’s website.
The Israel Consumer Council’s involvement in developing a program for financial education
With Israel’s accession to the OECD, the Israel Economic Council at the Prime Minister’s Office, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, has launched a program for financial education, in which the Consumer Council developed the chapters on intelligent consumerism. The program is aimed at 10th grade classes.
The program was presented as part of World Consumer Rights Day events, at a special session of the Parliament’s Economics Committee and Education Committee devoted to the topic of intelligent consumerism. Other educational programs developed by the Consumer Council were also presented at that event.
• Amendment to the Bank of Israel Law
In the legislative sphere – the goals and functions set out in the Bank of Israel Law (which regulates the activities of the State of Israel’s Central Bank) do not include the need to protect consumer rights. The Consumer Council has initiated the process to make the necessary amendment to the law. The proposed amendment will be presented at the Knesset’s Finance Committee in the context of the theme of 2011 World Consumer Rights Day: Consumers For Fair Financial Services.