Friday, December 21, saw a regulation come into force that requires producers of food products subject to price controls* to mark the packages of such products with the text “Price subject to government control.” This is intended to increase consumer awareness of the existence of cheaper, price-controlled, items. The new regulation is a follow-up to the regulation that came into force about 4 months ago, in response to recommendations from the Israel Consumer Council that were adopted by the Kedmi committee, under which retail food chains and businesses are required to post appropriate signs adjacent to stands displaying price-controlled products.
The purpose of the regulations is to let consumers know that there is sometimes a cheaper alternative, a price-controlled product, alongside the more expensive options. The reason behind the Council’s proposal to change the regulations was the lack of awareness of many consumers as to the availability of price-controlled products, the fact that it is not easy to identify them, and the fact that their lower prices were not generally known to the public, as could be seen from numerous surveys conducted by the Israel Consumer Council.
Inspections carried out by the Israel Consumer Council this week with the help of undercover “customers,” who visited supermarkets, minimarkets and kiosks in 25 locations across Israel, indicated that:
• In none of the kiosks and minimarkets checked (14) were the required signs on display.
• Only 4 out of 11 branches of the major supermarket chains displayed the required signs.
• 4 branches did not display any indication or list of price-controlled products.
• 3 branches were in partial compliance with the regulations: signs by the dairy produce but not by the bread or eggs; or, in another case, the display of a single sign in the store, listing all the price-controlled products, but with the sign posted far from the products themselves.
Adv. Ehud Peleg, CEO of the Israel Consumer Council, says that the public is entitled to be given information about its rights – and governmental price protection is an important consumer right in the fight against the cost of living. If the public cannot identify the products that are subject to price control, then they cannot choose them. Instead, consumers may choose similar products that cost much more. Adv. Peleg recommends that consumers give preference to the cheaper, price-controlled products, thus forcing manufacturers and stores to bring down the prices for other competing products in the same categories. Also, the Israel Consumer Council has recommended that the list of items subject to price control be expanded to include one product from each basic food type. This would act as an “anchor,” pulling down the prices of other products in the same category.
* Products subject to price control by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and the Ministry of Agriculture include bread, milk, salt, eggs, butter, and yellow cheese.