Antitrust chief: Consumer boycotts work

In Q&A, David Gilo explains the power of regular people.

SOCIAL PROTESTERS rally in Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
SOCIAL PROTESTERS rally in Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
“I am not trying to prove anything. I am trying to do my job, to protect consumers from harm to competition in the best way possible, with the greatest professionalism. I am doing what the economic analyses that we make dictate to protect the consumer,” Antitrust Authority Director General David Gilo told Globes Editor-in-Chief Haggai Golan during his interview program on Globes TV Wednesday. Gilo rejected claims that he is attacking tycoons in order to prove that he is not their servant.
Gilo said that the social protest was a success, and that it led to the establishment of the Committee on Concentration in the Economy, the Shani Committee and the Trajtenberg Report. “It is very important for consumers to organize and make their voices heard, because the individual consumer is very weak in society; he has no political power, no lobbyists.”
Here are excerpts from the Q&A between Gilo and Globes.
Globes: Do you think that the big groups in the economy count the Israeli consumer more than in the past?
Gilo: Yes. When consumers made their voices heard and organized, such as by launching a consumer boycott when they have enough evidence that a product is too expensive for their taste – this influences suppliers and wrecks their power to abuse their market dominance.
Globes: Some comparisons claim that products in Israel cost more.
Assuming this is the case, if you were to put your finger on the main reason for this, what is the main reason why products cost more in Israel than overseas?”
Gilo: There are several main reasons. First and foremost, markets are really over-concentrated, and in many markets there are only a few players.
As I’ve said, part of this is due to the privatization policy and allocation of state assets in the distant past. The Israeli market is blocked to imports in many cases, partly due to natural barriers, and partly due to barriers erected by the government. In any case, we are doing our best with the tools we have to correct the failures.
Globes: Do you think that the Israeli manager is more piggish than his foreign peers?
Gilo: At the Antitrust Authority, we have the impression from the markets we’ve examined that the cost of living problem is really worse than in other countries. The Trajtenberg Committee and the Kedmi Committee reached the same conclusion. This argument is therefore correct to a large extent: Israel has an especially bad cost of living problem and an especially severe market over-concentration problem.
Globes: The protest’s symbol, at least initially, was cottage cheese. As a consequence, you opened an investigation against Tnuva Chairwoman Zehavit Cohen, who was forced to resign. Where does this investigation stand now?
Gilo: The investigation into the concealment of documents and the nondisclosure of figures to the Antitrust Authority has been completed and sent to its legal department. It’s still there.

Globes: What are you waiting for? Will you file an indictment?
Gilo: Yes.