Eitan Cabel asks court to enforce consumer rights laws

MK says he had exhausted all other options in attempt to compel gov't to implement two laws to protect consumers.

February 10, 2010 05:05
2 minute read.
eitan cabel portrait ugly 298.88

eitan cabel 298.88. (photo credit: Knesset [file])


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MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) set a precedent on Tuesday when he struck back against what he described as the undermining of the Knesset by government ministries, by petitioning the High Court of Justice against the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

Cabel said that he had exhausted all other options in his attempt to compel the government to implement two laws to protect consumers that he sponsored years ago.

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“I found myself forced, as funny as it sounds, to come and ask for help from the High Court of Justice against the executive branch and against the legislature itself. I know that this is precedent-setting,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, “but I found myself completely helpless.”

In 2005, Cabel sponsored a bill to allow consumers to return purchases for full cash refunds rather than for time-limited credit to be used at the same store. The bill passed all three Knesset readings, and in the fine print, Cabel empowered the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to determine the criteria for such returns. Three MKs have led the ministry in the ensuing five years, but at no point did the ministry ever issue the criteria.

The legislation has therefore been rendered useless, Cabel said.

A second law, sponsored by Cabel in 2006, is supposed to block polluting companies from receiving government aid packages. It has also yet to be put into practice, for similar reasons.

“Failure to follow the strictures of a law is a criminal offense, whether it is a private citizen or a government body that fails to do so,” complained Cabel.

He said that the brunt of his criticism was not directed against any specific minister, but rather toward the “ministry bureaucrats and legal advisers, who are meant to outlive politically-appointed ministers” in the problematic ministry.

Cabel said that he had spoken with current Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), as well as with Deputy Minister Orit Noked (Labor), who was tasked with dealing with consumers’ rights, but to no avail.

Cabel said he viewed his petition to the High Court as a last resort, and recognized that the never-before-taken step of a member of the legislative branch appealing to the judicial branch against the executive branch had its drawbacks.

“It weakens the legislature, and the executive authority, but I was left with no other option. I met with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) a number of times to discuss the problem, and I aired the issue before the heads of the relevant Knesset committees, where hearings were held to discuss it.

“I received the support of the speaker, and I really hope that in the future, the speaker will announce that ministries and ministers who harm the status of the Knesset will not be allowed to advance bills or budgets in the Knesset. In doing so, they would be told that if you paralyze the MKs’ efforts, the Knesset will not allow you to function.”

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor said it had yet to receive the petition, and that it would submit a response to the court after reading it.

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