The consumer challenge / Adv Ehud Peleg
The Israel Consumer Council is the largest consumer organization in Israel. It is a statutory, non-profit corporation which works to defend consumers and protect their rights, by handling complaints, seeking solutions..
The Israel Consumer Council is the largest consumer organization in Israel. It is a statutory, non-profit corporation which works to defend consumers and protect their rights, by handling complaints, seeking solutions to wrongs done to consumers, and through education, enforcement and deterrence, and promotion of consumer rights.
The Council’s Main Fields of Activity
1. Enforcement and Deterrence
a. Handling specific complaints from consumers against business owners who infringed their rights
b. Assistance in filing law suits by consumers
c. Fundamental legal claims
d. Warnings in the media against businesses that have harmed consumers
e. Organization of extensive consumer campaigns
2. Promotion of Consumer Rights
a. Representing consumer interests against powerful commercial interests in Israel
b. Representing the consumer’s voice in setting standards for products and services
c. Improving the process for adoption and enforcement of laws that benefit consumers in various economic areas
d. Representing consumers in the Parlament's committees
3. Publicity and Education
a. Providing information to the consumer public on their rights and how to exercise them
b. Promoting intelligent consumer behavior from a young age
c. Encouraging the public to take an active role in protecting its rights
The Council’s Structure:
Complaints department; legal department; education and information department; council spokesman; economic department; volunteers.
The focal point of the Council’s work is in handling complaints from consumers. This takes two forms: providing assistance to individual complainants, and promoting solutions for more widespread consumer wrongs. The Council represents consumers in negotiations with businesses and service providers. The Council’s complaints staff deal with tens of thousands of complaints each year, and serve as the voice of the consumer to businesses. Complaints are submitted online through the Council’s website and are automatically fed into a computerized CRM system.
The information that comes in from consumer complaints also serves the Israel Consumer Council’s legal department in proposing amendments to legislation, filing law suits, class action suits and High Court applications, and representing the interests of consumers before the Standard Contracts Tribunal.
The Consumer Council has the authority to submit class action suits, to state its position before the Standard Contracts Tribunal, and to appeal decisions of the Director of the Antitrust Authority. The Consumer Council also puts pressure on regulatory bodies to strengthen legal protections for consumers. The Consumer Council’s lawyers participate regularly in sessions of the various Knesset committees, representing consumers in the Knesset’s oversight and legislative processes.
The Council’s economist helps formulate the Council’s policies regarding market failures that harm consumers. The role involves conducting surveys and comparative research to identify the factors that lead to market failures, and formulating approaches to limit harm to consumers.
The Consumer Council uses the media to publicize issues and present the voice of the consumer. The aim is to encourage the public to be active partners in exercising their consumer rights. The Council’s activities include regular press releases, educational campaigns, publication of information for consumers.
Education and Information Department
One of the Consumer Council’s major goals is to promote intelligent consumer behavior among the general public. Particular emphasis is placed on educating young people toward intelligent behavior as consumers – and this educational process starts from elementary school level and goes on right up to institutions of higher education.
Consumer education is a distinctive part of training the younger generation to take part in the modern life of a democratic state, and as a free citizens to make their choices responsibly and intelligently.
The Education and Information Department works to achieve these goals through a variety of activities, including:
• Syllabus development – development of content and activities on consumer issues, as these relate to the subjects taught in schools.
• Active Consumer Teams – establishment and operation of active consumer groups for teenagers and university students.
• School publicity campaigns over the course of the year and in the lead-up to World Consumer Rights Day
• Publicity campaigns in the general community – development of content and activities for public relations campaigns in the community.
In developing and running these activities, we have built up a close working relationship with the Ministry of Education, including the establishment of joint teams for program development and integration. We also work closely with community involvement coordinators in the local authorities and in institutions of higher education.
Consumer Representative Unit at the Standards Institute
One of the Israel Consumer Council’s areas of activity is to take part in the process of standards regulation, carried out in Israel by the Standards Institute.
This support for the process is carried out by Council representatives on the various standards committees at the Standards Institute. The representatives represent the interests of consumers in committee sessions (central committees, technical committees, expert committees). The Council’s representatives are all volunteers (mainly retired people) who were or are involved in areas closely related to the topics being dealt with by the standards committees.
Accredited Advocacy Volunteers (AAV) in the Small Claims Courts
Some months ago a unique cooperative venture was launched between the Israel Consumer Council and the National Council for Volunteering in Israel. Advocacy volunteers, who will work under the Consumer Council’s guidance, are being trained to represent consumers in the Small Claims Courts.
A group of volunteers has been trained to provide assistance to consumers who submit complaints against businesses to the Consumer Council, and whose complaints develop into law suits in the courts.
Consumer Rights Clinic
In the 2008/2009 academic year, the Law School at the College of Management – Academic Studies – launched a special clinic dealing with consumer rights. The clinic operates in conjunction with the Israel Consumer Council, with the aim of developing among its participants, the lawyers of the future, a commitment to consumer rights and a willingness to promote and strengthen them.
In addition to the legal materials studied in the clinic, the students are exposed to the work of the Israel Consumer Council, take an active part in preparing cases, writing opinions and, where necessary, supporting the submission of consumer litigation in the courts. What makes this clinic unique is the connection between the academic aspect of consumer law and its daily implementation as carried out by the Consumer Council.