A round of government inspections has revealed that a third of Israeli businesses are defying price controls, selling food products at well above the mandated ceilings, and without required labeling, Globes reported on Sunday.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of the Economy and Industry said that in the first half of 2017, one of three inspected businesses exceeded the price control – twice as many as in the same period last year.
Violations were found chiefly in the prices of eggs, but milk, cheese, and sour cream were also involved.
Eggs were being sold for 10-12 percent more than the maximum permitted price of NIS 10.55-12.50 per dozen (depending on the size). Milk, which should sell for no more than NIS 5 for a bag of 3% milk and NIS 5.75 for a carton of 3% milk, has also been priced at 10 percent above that.
Inspectors visited 4,752 businesses across the country, and 72 percent of the violations were in grocery stores and minimarkets, mostly in the central region.
Some 500 complaints were filed, in which 183 cases of illegally high prices were found at the consumer sales point (sometimes more than one violation at a sales point), compared with only 120 cases of such violations in all of 2016.
Altogether, there are 22 products, including bread, eggs, milk and dairy products, hard cheese, and salt, which are subject to government price controls.
The ministries are taking a sterner approach than in the past, and in the more flagrant cases are prosecuting owners and managers and imposing significant fines.
For example, a court recently imposed a maximum NIS 15,000 fine on a minimarket owner in Rishon LeTzion for charging above the maximum price on various necessities, including bread and milk. In Modiin, a pastry shop was fined NIS 22,600, plus an additional NIS 226,000, to be imposed if the store persists in flouting the law.
Ministry of the Economy and Industry chief prosecutor Advocate Yuval Avraham said, “Let it be emphasized that in contrast to allegations by business owners in this field, what is involved in most cases is not an accidental exceeding of the price amounting to a few shekels from a single person, which is also fundamentally unacceptable, illegal, and harmful to someone unable to afford basic commodities, or who finds it difficult to afford them. What is happening here is systematic charging of more than the maximum price from the entire public, especially economically disadvantaged people. The Ministry of the Economy and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development are determined to take all necessary measures to deter business owners from violating the law and charging excessive prices, and will continue to act in order to step up enforcement and impose the most severe penalties on those responsible.”