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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor is aiming to strengthen and broaden consumer protection regulations, particularly in the area of "distance selling."
On the back of an array of complaints, Minister Eli Yishai, has ordered Itzhak Kimchi, who is in charge of consumer protection at the Ministry, to focus on dealing with misleading pricing cases in fields other than proper campaigns, as well as the display of prices and price indications that hurt the consumer and the economy.
An internal survey showed that there was an array of "deceptions" carried out by many group in so called "distance selling" deals including cable companies, companies that supply services via Internet sites and cellular phone companies.
Last week, Yishai summoned a meeting with ministry officials including Kimchi, Gabriel Maimon, Director-General Udi Shintel, Deputy Director-General and Tomer Moskowitz, the ministry's legal adviser, in an effort to examine additional actions that can be taken to make progress on consumer protection issues.
In the coming weeks, Kimchi is expected to present the results of the examination regarding these issues including proposals for implementation.
Separately, an examination by the Ministry confirmed misleading pricing of LCD and plasma screens at Blue Square's Mega discount supermarket chains, which violates consumer protection regulations.
According to an examination at one of the Mega stores, prices for these products are advertised without the inclusion of transportation costs of NIS 190 or NIS 250, which the consumer is obliged to pay. Consumer protection regulations require that the advertisement of prices must include all additional costs that can not be reversed.
As a result of Blue Square's pricing tactic, the products appear cheaper to the consumer than they are in reality and are therefore misleading. In addition, Kimchi, blasted Mega's dollar-product campaign advertised in newspapers.
"To the dollar price, value-added tax needs to be added," Kimchi noted.
As such Kimchi said Blue Square chains were breaching consumer protection regulations regarding the advertisement of prices, which were non-inclusive and regarding the advertisement of prices that were not in the Israeli currency. Kimchi ordered Blue Square to make necessary corrections concerning these cases.
"We will continue to make attractive and competitive offers whether for LCD and Plasma screens or the dollar campaign," said Blue Square in response. "We welcome the remarks by the supervisor on consumer protection and will act according to his instructions."
Blue Square has just come out with a corrected leaflet advertising campaign offering dollar-priced items, while simultaneously displaying the corresponding price value in shekels, inclusive of VAT.