(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The ITIM religious services and lobbying group won a legal battle on Thursday against four local religious councils who were charging couples registering for marriage extra money for marriage certificates they did not need.
Last March, at least six local religious councils were found to have been charging additional marriage registration fees over a period of several years for marriage certificates that are supposed to be provided as part of the NIS 700 registration fee.
The councils told couples that the extra fees were for a more attractively designed marriage certificate than the standard one, but couples were not given the option to take the standard certificate.
The religious councils of Haifa, Givatayim, Bat Yam and Sderot were engaged in this practice, charging between NIS 30 and NIS 70 for the “designer” marriage certificates.
Other councils engaged in this practice stopped the procedure before being brought to court.
ITIM said that according to documents it has seen, the alternative certificates cost NIS 12 to produce.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Judith Shitzer agreed with ITIM’s argument that the extra charges were unlawful, but ordered the two sides to come to an agreement.
The religious councils agreed that within seven days they would stop charging money for the alternative marriage certificates without explaining that a standard certificate is available for no extra cost.
For six months, however, the councils will be allowed to continue offering the alternative certificates on condition that the couples who agree to the alternative document sign a document explaining that they are entitled to the standard certificate without extra charge.
After six months this practice will also cease, unless regulations are formally changed.
A decision on the award of legal costs has yet to be made.
“I’m glad religious councils [will] no longer be overcharging couples for services that they don’t need, and that we were able to save couples unnecessary costs,” said ITIM director Seth Farber.
“Religious councils cannot operate outside of the law and ITIM continues to ensure that any form of corruption is not tolerated, especially in the religious Jewish establishment,” he said.