‘Nanny State’ or Consumer Protection? Knesset Debates Supermarket Shelving Practice

An employee arranges cereal boxes for sale at a supermarket in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)
An employee arranges cereal boxes for sale at a supermarket in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

New regulations will require supermarkets to separate products that are under government price controls from those that are not, the Knesset Economics Committee has decided. The decision was implemented at the urging of MK Ayelet Nachmias Warbin, who complained that the guidelines were being issued more than two years after the Committee was empowered to do so by a Knesset law that had been approved on the matter.

The guidelines will require markets to set aside a separate area on shelves specifically for government price-controlled items; in the bread section, a shelf with a prominent sign will point out locations of subsidized light, dark and challah bread, and in the dairy section, the milk and various milk products that are subsidized will be in their own section. The law is very specific as to the amount of space that must be allocated, as well as the color, size, and font of the sign.

In that way, said Nachmias Warbin, consumers will no longer be confused and will be able to spend their money more wisely. Several witnesses – including the legal adviser for supermarket chain Shufersal – said that the law was unworkable because it would require that supermarkets leave space empty when they ran out of subsidized items. The law was also too detail oriented – and the result would be that many stores would just decide it was not worth the hassle of selling subsidized products, which they are not required to do.

In response, Nachmias Warbin said that it was the fault of Shufersal and others that the law was necessary. “If you indeed wanted to sell subsidized items, you would do it properly,” she said. “Then we wouldn’t need these rules.”

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