The Big Felafel


Don’t Get Angry – Get Empowered about Consumer Rights in Israel!

As new immigrants, part of our induction into Israeli society is new rights, discounts, a bit of money and lots of customer service fights – whether it be at the bank, over the phone or just waiting in line. Most of us know about the money and rights part, but the fighting for basic consumer rights is something that even after you do it, even after several times of doing it, even after learning your lesson and never doing it again- you still feel surprised, annoyed and stressed out from each experience.

Most immigrants will tell you that after a while you just get used to the new way of customer service and accept it. You try not to let things get under your skin because you’ll go nuts. And besides, the bureaucratic system is the way it is and no one is going to change that.

Friends and fellow immigrants, change is not only for Obama, the time for consumer rights to exist in Israel has come. Or at least for me it has, and I’m on your team, so whether you like it or not, we are about to fight the battle of consumer rights culture in Israel.

Two weeks ago, I went to Pelephone headquarters in Jerusalem to fight a NIS 17 monthly internet charge that they added to my phone bill. After waiting almost a half hour for a customer service representative, I was told that I had to pay the fee according to their new rule which they state is: Any phone that can access internet will pay an access charge for internet. So what does this mean? Well, even though I feel that having internet at work and at home is enough for me and I would rather spend the NIS 17 a month on chocolate bars, that’s just too bad because I am forced to pay the fee.

This ridiculous charge is added on to another outrageous charge that I only found out about while fighting the internet issue; which is, that I am still paying for a phone that broke months ago. Yes, it turns out that if your phone breaks and you get a new phone, you still have to pay for the old, broken phone as well as your new phone. And, even if I went to another cell phone company, since clearly I hate Pelefone at this point, it wouldn’t matter because I would have to continue to pay for the two phones, so they still get my money.

After arguing and even using tears as a weapon (didn’t work), I left angrier then I have ever been, and that is hard to do. I wanted to leave Israel and never come back. Yes, I am used to fighting with customer service. And yes, I am aware that there is no customer service in Israel. But that does not explain or justify charges for a product I don’t want.

Once the anger subsided and I thought about the situation it occurred to me that this was actually happening for a great reason. I am not going to get pooped on any longer. I am going to fight for consumer rights because they can and do exist…somewhere. If I allow the internet fee to continue today, then tomorrow it’s a TV fee on my phone for NIS 100 (and that obviously includes the TV tax, another point of anger). And that trend does exist, how else could you explain the internet tax in the first place?

I have already informed Pelephone that I plan to sue them or start a class action suit. While they believe that I am angry, I’m not sure how much they believe in my fight. I am writing this post to ensure that I plan to fight this until the end. And I don’t know exactly what the end is. It could be reversing the forced internet fee for all Pelephone customers or all cell phone holders in general (since this fee exists with several companies). The end may be a fight for consumer rights against big companies, monopolies and the general bureaucratic system. But no matter what I am fighting it.

And I already have support. Through my research, Janglo posts and joining consumer rights groups that I never knew existed; I have found helpful people that unfortunately have also gone through this awful process. They have given me their contact info and advice and for that I thank them.

I have created a list below (please feel free to add), of ways to fight your own battles. And keep in mind, don’t get angry, get empowered. We can only create change if we believe change will come.

Consumer Rights Organizations, Councils, Groups and more:

The Israel Consumer Council:76 Mzah St., Tel Aviv 65789; Tel: 03-560-4671/72

Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor – Department of Consumer Affairs: Yitzchak Kimchi, Esq. is in charge. His number is: 02- 6662590 His assistant: 02- 6662593 and 02-6662596

The Israeli Council for Consumerism: Fax number: 03- 6241035

Jerusalem Consumers Rights:  02-666-2034

Websites and online resources:

Groups:


Another Lesson Learned: Just be a Crybaby

When you are an American attempting to live in Israel life can feel like a smashed banana. It is a feeling of knowing that something beautifully bright and ripe can turn into a mushy dark shriveled mess. And that is exactly how I feel when I lose a battle in Israel.These battles that new immigrants are sometimes forced to learn become vital lessons for survival in Israel. I would like to share my lesson with you in hopes that you can gain something from my horrible experience, without having to actually experience it.

Lesson 239: Don’t be a Tough Guy…Just be a Cry Baby

My parents taught me to always stand up for myself. However, it is difficult to keep that goal in Israel. Whether it is at the municipality, tax authority, social services or at the bank, it seems like everyone is out to screw me.

Case in point is my most recent battle with Bank Leumi. In November my improv group performed for a Jewish Agency Internship group. We were told we would be paid as long as we provided an invoice to the sponsor of the night’s event, Bank Leumi. We gave the invoice to the Jewish Agency before the show and they informed us it would be passed along to Bank Leumi and we should be paid two weeks after the show.

Of course you and I both know that two weeks came and went and we were not paid. After another two weeks I was in contact with the Jewish Agency to check up on our payment. And that is when I went from ripe banana to black mush. I was bounced back and forth between the Jewish Agency, Bank Leumi and our bank, Discount, for the next two months. First the Jewish Agency said we still needed an accountant number and then Bank Leumi told us that we needed another document. When we would go to Bank Discount they insisted we had already given the proper information and it was ridiculous for Bank Leumi (or any client) to insist for more info in order to pay us. Continue reading this entry »