Law fines firms whose technicians keep customers cooling their heels

After Israeli consumers spent years showing uncharacteristic patience by sitting and waiting for technicians to show up to service their various gadgets, a new law that passed the Knesset Monday will allow them to earn their sweet - or in this case, pricey - revenge. The legislation known as the "Technicians Law" easily passed its second and third readings, and will now impose a NIS 300 fine on companies whose technicians show up two hours late for appointments. That, however, is petty change in comparison to the fine that companies will face should the servicepeople prove even less punctual - after an additional hour, the fine is doubled. The law, sponsored by MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and David Tal (Kadima), seeks to provide teeth to an existing law that requires companies to establish a two-hour time window for each appointment in which technicians are supposed to service their clients. The law applies to products covered by warranty, as well as to services provided such as cable or satellite TV, Internet and telephone service. Companies will have three months to prepare themselves and plan their strategies for improving punctuality before the law goes into effect. Customers will not be required to prove personal damages as a result of the serviceperson's lateness - the very fact of the lateness, said legislators, is damage enough. The only way out for offending companies is to offer a product whose value is equal to the fine to be paid - and even that is pending the customer's agreement. Prices will increase and technicians will begin to take less repair calls due to the bill, said Zeev Krool, owner of Arie Kroll Engines, Ltd. Instead of providing repair services in one day, the bill will force technicians to appear on time, but complete the repairs over a series of days, he said. Due to the unpredictability of repair time for different calls, a technician cannot know the exact time it will take to fix the object, Krool said, adding that they are only able to accurately estimate time for calls after they complete the total repairs. The bill will generally affect large companies, according to Avi Goldstein of Goldstein Berger Appliance Services and Repairs. Small service companies are comprised of mainly one or two technicians, he said, who mostly arrive on time for their repair calls, adding that large companies are the ones that tend to be late. "Anything that makes the service branch better is good," Goldstein said. "But, the question is whether it is going to be enforced. A [NIS] 300 fine for [technicians] who don't show up on time sounds wonderful, but if it's going to take five years of court cases to collect the money, then it's not going to be worth it."