The ‘im holech’ factor

Once companies, have a standing order to remove funds from our bank accounts, they have the power to dip into that account and take what they want.

im holech 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
im holech 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is a concept in Israel called im holech – which loosely translates into: if it works.
Basically, im holech means that money is deducted by a company on the off chance that the hapless customer will not notice nor make a fuss if he does. I have recently fallen foul of this factor a number of times.
For example, during a 48-hour stay in hospital, I ordered the use of cable TV for a 24-hour period. The cost was NIS 35 plus NIS 10 for earphones. I could satisfy my need to watch episodes of House just prior to spinal cord surgery – as it turned out, not a wise choice, but that’s another story.
A few weeks later, with the surgery long forgotten, I was shocked to discover that I had been charged NIS 175 for a period when I had not even been present in the hospital. When I finally tracked down the company providing this service, I was told that, despite having specifically ordered the TV for a period of 24 hours, I was obliged to inform the company that I had indeed left the building. Hence the deduction from my account of five days worth of TV service.
“Do you honestly think that the only thing a recovering patient has on his mind is to talk to the people who provided the TV?” I spluttered to the obnoxious representative. “And hey, why stop at five days – for all you know, I’m still in hospital wallowing in repeat episodes of House.”
In the end, after an hour’s hysterical spluttering, the company agreed to return the money they should never have deducted in the first place.
A week ago, I discovered that my mobile phone service provider had deducted NIS 140 over and above the amount agreed to in my plan. When I finally reached one of their representatives, I was told that I owed the company money – from April 2011.
“You were given a discount on a device that you shouldn’t have been given,” he told me. “And now the company is taking it back.”
While I steamed at the sheer gall of a company that feels free to claim money from two years ago without so much as a by-your-leave, the rep continued to blame me, the customer, for what he termed had been a mistake. “You didn’t complain when you received the discount, did you?” he sneered, to be topped off by, “And now you’re getting excited for nothing.”
The following day, I marched into a local branch of the company and dramatically announced my intention to transfer to their competitor. The ease and speed with which the support staff member returned my NIS 140 left me speechless – and disarmed. A few keystrokes on the computer and my purported debt was removed.
Coming fast on the heels of this outrage, I discovered that despite paying off my mortgage so that not so much as an agora remained, the company that had been insuring the mortgage continued to deduct a premium from my account.
“It takes 30 days to process,” their representative told me.
“Why does it take 30 days to update your computers?” I’d asked but no response was forthcoming, until I looked at my credit card statement. The answer was there; a premium for insuring a nonexistent mortgage had been deducted by the insurance company owned by the bank that had mortgaged my house.
In this case, I instructed my credit card company to recall the sum and to block further deductions from the insurance company.
Why do they do it? Simple - because they can. Once companies, both private and state-run, have a standing order to remove funds from our bank accounts, they have the power to dip into that account and take what they want. They are depending on their customers either not noticing the discrepancy in their monthly statements, or noticing it but lacking the emotional energy and time required to combat it.
The practice of im holech will taper off if we, the public, remain alert, check our bank and credit card statements assiduously and are willing to invest time and energy into resolving unjustified withdrawals.
We have to be prepared to dedicate a few hours of our precious time to sitting on the phone, listening to irritating music while a cloying voice informs us how important our call is to them. If necessary, we must visit the branch office of the offending company and threaten legal action, or the withdrawal of our business in favor of their competitor.
The time has come to prevail on our lawmakers to legislate laws that protect the public from this unscrupulous practice. It should be illegal for any company to deduct a sum that is not consistent with the amount stipulated in the contract, with an allowance of a small extra sum to allow for fluctuations in the cost of living or the number of days in the month. Anything beyond this agreed amount would oblige the company – by law – to first inform the customer of a possible aberration to the agreed amount; the company would then be powerless to deduct more money until the customer has provided confirmation that the withdrawal is justified.