Frequenters of Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center had better know their rights, because a number of stores within the mall are ignoring them completely.
The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry recently inspected 91 out of the 400 stores within Tel Aviv's oldest mall to determine whether or not they honored consumers' rights to a fixed price and information about the product they were buying.
On Wednesday, the ministry revealed that 12 of the 91 - most of which were clothing, cosmetics, or hair salons - had been written up.
"Thirteen percent is very high for a single location," said Yaakov Malul, supervisor of the Tel Aviv and Central Region within the ministry, whose staff conducted the inspection. "In other areas, usually about four to five percent of the stores receive notices."
Upon entering a store, Malul and his staff present a certificate stating that they work for the ministry, and that they are checking for a number of elements within each store.
"First, stores must clearly display their prices," said Malul. "Particularly in salons, there must be a large board with all of their prices displayed. We saw hairdressers charge NIS 50 to one person, but if someone walked in wearing a suit and tie, they would be charged 80 or even [more]."
Within regular stores, the standard for displaying prices is also important.
"In every other type of store, the price of an item must be displayed on the item itself," said Malul. "It's not enough to put the price on the shelf. Because if you bring that item to a cashier, he might put a different price into the register."
That ties into the second element Malul looks for: cashiers respecting the correct prices and current sales. Cashiers often get away with ignoring or altering an ongoing sale without the consumer noticing, Malul said.
Malul and his staff also look for certain pieces of information displayed on the items, especially in clothing stores.
"On each item of clothing, the manufacturer must be visible, as well as laundry directions and what type of material it is made of," Malul said. "Clothing stores must display their prices inside the store and outside, in the display window."
Many of the stores, according to Malul, knowingly break the rules to get away with charging higher prices.
"There are many managers that want to pretend they don't know these laws," Malul said. "But believe me, they all know them, because we've been doing these inspections for a long time. We've managed to do these inspections quite frequently."
Over the past 10 months, 727 complaints have been filed by Malul's staff from around the country, and fines often accompany them.
"Fines for a regular store are usually NIS 400, and if it's a chain of stores, it can be 800. If it's a second offense, we double the fine. And if they continue to break these laws, they usually find themselves in court."
Eitan Goldman, Dizengoff Center's general manager, stressed that the ministry's findings did not reflect poorly on the mall itself, but on the stores within the mall.
"This has nothing to do with Dizengoff Center," Goldman said. "Our company is a service company that is responsible for all public utilities within the mall. We are not responsible for the commercial matters of each store. The ministry didn't involve us in this inspection, and we didn't know it was going on."
When asked why the Dizengoff Center's stores were written up at over twice the normal rate, Goldman said, "that's because we have so many more stores than the other areas."
Malul believed the findings warranted extra inspections at the Dizengoff Center.
"After seeing that 13% were written up, I swore to myself to have repeat inspections at the Dizengoff Center over the next few months," Malul said. "We want to show the businesses there that the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry is a presence on the ground, and that it's defending consumers' rights to pay a fair price."