Although we made Aliya only  some three months ago, my wife Ida and I visited Israel often in the years previous and had a good idea what to expect when we moved here.

Unfortunately, when it came to the provision of goods and  services,  it  turned out that our expectations were realized.

I had my own law practice in Toronto for almost 35 years.  The overwhelming majority of my practice involved civil litigation with some criminal work as well.  For the readers from the UK , I was the equivalent of a Barrister.

When a person came into my office with a potential case, my first concern was not whether   s/he would win or lose but rather

  1. If we win, can we collect?
  2. Who was really accountable for the wrong committed? and
  3. Do we have the evidence to prove  liability and damages ?

If these three questions could be answered satisfactorily, then my client would not be  wasting money in retaining me.

As new olim, particularly from English speaking countries, we are dealing with a regulatory and legal system which appears similar to the one from the “Old Country” yet still seems a maze. Nevertheless, it’s the one we have to deal with and learn about.

The coming blogs will deal with consumer issues, such as rights under the Israeli consumer legislation and how to ensure those rights are enforced.   I will try to help you through the maze.

I remind the reader that I am not an Israeli lawyer and that no information given here is to be  relied upon.  You should  consult your own Israeli lawyer.

The primary statute  dealing with the regulation of   practices in the marketplace is the Consumer Protection Law of 1981 (CPL).  It deals with the provision of either goods or services.

The CPL is an extremely long statute which attempts to be very comprehensive.  A review of its  history shows  that numerous amendments  have been made over the years as new, often deceptive, practices have arisen which required a legislative response.

Nevertheless, by its nature the CPL is very general.  Consumer cases and situations usually have very unique facts, so, before one embarks on attempting to right a wrong committed against them, it is strongly recommended one seek advice, either from a lawyer or a consumer association to prepare the necessary documentation and discuss the situation generally.

The majority of cases involving the CPL  take place in the Israeli Small Claims Courts.  An important fact to remember here is that, while lawyers are not permitted to represent parties in the Small Claims  Court, this can be circumvented if the party itself has a lawyer on staff.  As consumer cases often involve larger corporations, usually as Defendants, it can be expected that the Defendant corporation will be represented by one of its employee lawyers.

This is another reason to get help in preparing your case again either by   consulting  a lawyer or the consumer associations available.

The first part of the CPL is a   long   list  of practices which, by commission or omission , seek to mislead the consumer. Some of the more common ones  relate to  the quality or nature of  goods sold   or services provided, the failure to notify the consumer as to the return policy of the goods sold, the maintenance requirements  of the goods sold  and the requirement to provide accurate details as to the location and identity  of the manufacturer of the goods sold and their  date of expiry if applicable.

Some of the more specific prohibited activities include interfering with the consumer leaving the premises, taking advantage of poor language skills on the part of the consumer, harassing the consumer into making a purchase, impeding the consumer from getting independent advice regarding the advisability of the   purchase, or in any way intimidating the consumer into making a purchase.

The CPL imposes positive duties of disclosure on the dealer.  These duties include the requirement to report any defect or quality of the commodity which materially diminishes the value of the commodity.  Generally the dealer is also required to publish any material fact relating to the commodity  as determined and proclaimed  by the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. These duties of disclosure are also to be followed by any service providers.

Credit purchases can be  a very complicated area and are also  covered by the CPL. The statute mandates that every contract for the credit  purchase of  goods or services  contain the following information:

  1. The credit price and the cash price;
  2. The rate of the interest included in the credit price, as calculated on an annual basis;
  3. The nature and amount of any other addition to the price;
  4. The amounts of payments of the credit price, and in a conditional sales agreement, otherwise known as a hire purchase transaction, of the actual amounts and date of each payment ;
  5. Any condition which will have an adverse effect on the  consumer’s rights  and all details regarding rate of  interest and details of each  fine to  which s/he will be subject if s/he fails to comply with any of the conditions of the transaction;
  6. Any condition about rules of evidence, legal procedures or regarding  the jurisdiction of  a Court in which matters relating to the credit purchase are to be adjudicated;
  7. Any other particular.

It is very important that one ensures that contract cancellation be done properly. The Israeli legal system can be very draconian in the remedies it gives to a creditor party seeking to collect on a debt. Although the system is slow, it can be very effective.  For example, it is not unheard of that a person seeking to leave the country will be stopped from doing so  because s/he owes money under some form of judicial  or  government Order relating to a debt.

Consumers  often  find themselves  owing money to a goods or service provider because they did not properly cancel a contract. The supplier takes the position that the contract  is still ongoing and  will seek to enforce the amounts  said to be owing, often through the credit card information provided.

The CPL provides that cancellation of a contract can take place either verbally or in writing.  It is strongly recommended that all cancellations be made in writing. You may be required to fill out a prescribed  form as per the original contract.  The  person cancelling the contract must provide their  name,  address, and  ID Number.  Delivery of the cancellation should be done   personally, with the obtaining of an acknowledgment  of delivery, or by registered mail or by fax and keeping the fax transmission sheet. Email delivery is not advised unless there is obtained  an acknowledgment of receipt.

Remember, if there is some sort of future disagreement between yourself as  the sender of the cancellation notice and the recipient, then the onus will be on you to show that the delivery of the cancellation notice was made and that it was made in the proper format.

Neither Jack Copelovici nor the Times of Israel is liable for any consequences arising from anyone’s reliance on this material, which is presented as general information and not as a legal opinion.  Please consult your own lawyer.