Timely protection

A recently enacted law guarantees explicit recompense when technicians and repairmen keep us waiting.

September 27, 2008 22:37
3 minute read.
Timely protection

repairman 88. (photo credit: )

As of this week, we are promised, clear legal stipulations will attach specific price-tags to our time. A recently enacted law, which now goes into effect, guarantees explicit recompense when technicians and repairmen keep us waiting too long. Effectively implemented, this legislation could be the harbinger of a very desirable change imposed on those who otherwise demonstrate contempt for our time. The notion that time is money dates back to antiquity. In 430 BCE, the Greek orator Antiphon argued that "the most costly outlay is time." But in Israel it's hardly ever the universal maxim. While value is certainly ascribed to the time of some - governmental agencies, pricey professionals, commercial firms, organized labor and service-givers, all of whom keep ordinary citizens at their mercy - the precious moments of Mr. and Ms. Average Israeli are frequently treated as having negligible, if any, worth. Gripes about losing entire work days while waiting for tardy workmen aren't new. In a previous attempt to address the issue, clauses were incorporated into the existing Consumer Protection Law requiring service providers to show up within two hours of the promised appointment. But this statute is a rarely enforced dead letter. Companies ignore it with impunity and impudence. TO CORRECT this flagrant disregard for the law, MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and David Tal (Kadima) initiated Amendment 24, popularly dubbed the Technicians Law, which will levy a NIS 300 fine for a two-hour delay, without need to prove damages, and a NIS 600 fine if the technician is three hours late. The service-provider may offer other compensation, but the consumer's consent is required. The service provider may also reschedule ahead of time - but no later than 8 p.m. the previous evening, and only on condition that an alternative appointment is fixed within "reasonable parameters." Even this law offers wiggle room: Those who have hitherto abused consumers' rights and time might now "adjust" by offering appointments too many days away, or hiring more staff to meet more stringent timetables, but then passing on the higher overhead to the clientele. But whatever the outcome, the amendment represents a praiseworthy attempt to move away from a culture of utter disdain for the public's time and patience - the same sort of disdain that the latest labor dispute at Ben-Gurion Airport so deplorably illustrates. To those dependant on airport services, it doesn't matter who's right in this particular tussle. Some quarrel or other occurs with cyclical regularity at the airport and nobody can routinely count on departing or arriving as planned. SOME 900,000 passengers will pass through Ben-Gurion in the course of this holiday season. A foretaste of the feared chaos was served up for most of last Wednesday in the form of a deliberate slowdown by employees, from baggage handlers to flight controllers. As anticipated, all operations ground to a near-halt. The Histadrut Labor Federation has, moreover, declared an official work dispute at the airport and threatens more labor trouble unless the Treasury ratifies a deal, initialed by management and employees, that calls for pay hikes and giving tenure to temporary employees. The bottom line in these seemingly perennial airport disputes, no matter what their merits, is that travelers, most of whom are on tight schedules, are forced to suffer for a cause that does not remotely concern them. Their time is toyed with. Sometimes, the Histadrut deems it tolerable to plunge the airport into industrial disputes that don't even directly affect airport personnel - such as a strike some years ago in solidarity with unpaid staffers in insolvent municipalities. Disrespect for the time of others is common to inconsiderate repairmen, striking airport employees and those who are responsible for them. It's part and parcel of the same phenomenon. That is why we welcome Amendment 24, albeit amid concern that, as happened with earlier well-meaning consumer legislation, it will not be effectively enforced. The proof of the pudding will be not in the good intentions, but in the implementation. Acted upon, Amendment 24 could considerably improve our quality of life. Respecting one another's time is a fundamental part of trust.

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