New Law to Require ‘Sales’ to Be Real

A shopping mall. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM - Like consumers around the world, Israeli consumers are attracted to a store when they see the word “sale” – and are disappointed when that sale turns out to be less than expected. The Ministerial Law Committee feels the pain of consumers – and has thus authorized for legislation a law that would outlaw sales that really aren’t.

Under the law, which was initiated by Economy Minister Eli Cohen, a sale would have to offer a substantial discount off the regular price of items in order to qualify as a sale – and that discount would have to be off the regular price of an item, not the special “original price” which retailers are wont to adopt (and which is perhaps 20 percent over the real regular price) before they offer a discount, or off the “suggested retail price” that is never charged.

Under the proposal, an item cannot be put “on sale” unless it was sold for a higher price for at least thirty days prior to the sale. The item cannot remain “on sale” for a period longer than it was sold at regular price, with the latter requirement seeking to put an end to the phenomenon of the “eternal sale,” another practice that Cohen and consumer activists seek to do away with.

The law is the result of activity by consumer groups, which for years have been railing against deceptive practices of retailers, Globes reported. Various actions have been taken by groups against the phenomenon before; earlier in 2017, the Israel Consumers Union filed a class-action lawsuit against the Aprile cosmetics chain and the Mashbir Letzarchan department store chain, charging both with deceptively promoting a “sale” price on perfume that really wasn’t. The court ruled against the defendants, fining them NIS 625,000, but as the court did not require the stores to refund cash to the plaintiffs, they were able to fulfill the judgment by distributing discount coupons – a solution the Union severely criticized, as it essentially rewarded the chains by bringing more customers into their doors, exactly what they hoped to attain with the misleading advertising.

Commenting on the law, Cohen said that “my aim is for there to be a true discount when items go on sale. We seek to encourage true competition, and discourage efforts to trick consumers. We need more laws and rules to protect Israeli consumers. Consumers need to be equipped with a full set of knowledge before in order to make a buying decision.”