This coming Tuesday at 10 AM, the State Control Committee, under the auspices of MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), will discuss consumer protection and fair trade.

The State Comptroller emphasized that the Israeli consuming public and especially the weaker segments of society like new immigrants, the elderly and minors are frequently at a disadvantage against businesses due to, amongst other things, the sophistication of many sellers and the lack of information regarding products. Therefore the state will enact legislation for the protection of the rights of consumers and will create a government system for the implementation and enforcement of the laws on the matter of consumerism.

The consumer legislation in Israel includes about 20 laws that place obligations on business owners, mainly regarding disclosure and labeling. They also prohibit tricking the consumer or taking advantage of their crises. The appointee in charge of consumer protection and fair trade is also the head of the Authority for Consumer Protection and Fair Trade, which is the government authority as established by an amendment to the Law for Consumer Protection made in 2006 and is responsible for the enforcement of the Consumerism Law. The Israeli Council for Consumerism is a government company which serves as a consumer organization.

The State Comptroller found in his examination that the Israeli Consumer lacks an address to send complaints to, or to clarify their rights because there are numerous government agencies that take care of public complaints regarding consumerism. The consumer is not informed of the specific role of the different agencies and therefore doesn’t know where to send their complaints in order to receive help. Up to the end of the examination (November 2012), more than 6 years after the amendment to the law, the organizational structure of the authority had not yet been built and the jobs have not been filled.

The Comptroller added that the Ministry of Economics’ details regarding enforcement in the field of consumer protection between 2010 and 2012 teaches that the there is an inefficient use of resources in this area. More than half of examinations of the law focus on non-serious crimes that consumers can deal with easily. Meanwhile, there are a large number of crimes for which no sanctions have been levied and enforcement for most violations rely on warnings or an administrative fine only. It was also clarified to the comptroller that the scope of the assistance given by the state to the citizen through the fund for the sponsorship of class action lawsuits in the Ministry of Justice is very small and that the fund is not taking advantage of all of their resources and is not publicizing their actions.

Similarly, it was made clear that the authority is not coordinating with other agents on these matters and that there is no follow up on the implementation of the recommendations of the Ministry of Justice according to which the government ministries must coordinate installation of regulations which are intended to help consumers with the head of the authority. Additionally, there is overlap between the work of the authority and the council, for example, on the matter of education and information.