Once in a while the consumer feels that service providers have total disregard for his time and ignore the fact that for him too "time is money", sometimes excessive amounts of money.
The State Comptroller’s review of price control on dairy products, which was discussed in the Knesset a few days ago, dealt with how public servants have been dragging their heels and turning a blind eye to the government sector, costing the public hundreds of millions of shekels from its own pocket.
The State Comptroller revealed, among other things, that the decision from 2006 to remove price control on a number of dairy products, such as cottage cheese, was taken through improper and unprofessional means, contrary to both professional opinions and the decision of the former government.
Moreover, the State Comptroller announced that the Joint Pricing Committee of the Finance Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry had not even bothered to follow the results of this unfortunate decision, even after the price of products removed from price control began to dramatically rise to an unreasonable level.
Furthermore, the Pricing Committee failed to address the endless warnings of representative consumer organizations ‒ the Consumer Council and the Consumers Association ‒ as well as the research the Consumer Council presented in the Knesset on November 2010.
The situation was not even remedied after the cottage cheese protest in the summer of 2011, or after the recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee which was established following the protest.
It seems that the Pricing Committee was in no hurry, despite the fact that during all this time the public continued to pay the high prices in the wake of the unfortunate decision taken.
The Consumer Council calculated that between 2007 and 2011 the Israeli public funded, for cottage alone, an increased cost of over NIS 760 million, compared to what it would have paid had cottage cheese remained under price control, as dictated by market conditions.
Following the Trajtenberg Report, the Food Committee was established ‒ comprising members of the Finance Ministry, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry ‒ in order to examine the reasons for the high prices. Unfortunately, the Committee decided to make do with solutions that would develop future competition, but did not intervene regarding existing prices.
In light of the State Comptroller’s grave report, we should address with caution the predictions of government committees regarding future results.
What the consumer public has trouble understanding is why the situation is not being immediately remedied, so that we won’t continue paying unnecessary money.
In the Knesset debate, the Consumer Council demanded the implementation of the only step that would lower prices in the short time, and to resume price control of one product from each category of basic food until the new economic policy provides, for a change, proven results on the ground.
Non-enforcement of price control on the basic food basket, so necessary for a dignified existence for many consumers in Israel, adds insult to injury, and costs consumers precious time, both literally and figuratively.
"Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of," said Benjamin Franklin.
To paraphrase the saying, we need to tell both public servants from the business sector and the government sector ‒ "Don’t waste our time, for this is the stuff the cost of living is made of."
* The writer is the CEO of the Israel Consumer Council.