Friday, 28 March 2014

Consumer Rights in Israel: Refund Policies

Many who make Aliyah do not realise that they have rights! Rights are available on many fronts. Most notably every person living in Israel has consumer rights. There is a terrific site available for those wanting to know their rights as a consumer. It is in Hebrew with an English version to it (The Israel Consumer Counsil.) The Hebrew (המועצה הישראלית לצרכנות) is especially beneficial when it comes to searching for something you're wondering about. You best be clear on the exact words that will describe the situation you are seeking.

Today's blog post is a winner! That's because one of the rights many are not aware of is being show up here clearly for those who have wondered about it! The law was instituted on the 14 December 2010 - and it's all about refund policies!

The famous question asked by all is, "If I purchase an item and within a short period of time realise it is not what I want, am I entitled to a refund?" The best example to give is when purchasing a faulty item which clearly doesn't work. One can also extend this to purchasing something, arriving home, and realising it's just not what one thought it was. At this point, one has not used the item, it is still in its original packaging and clearly shows that one has not in any intentional (or even unintentional) way broken it (which would bring the blame upon the consumer naturally.)

So here's the deal: You see a fancy looking landline phone you'd like. You purchase it. You plug it in at home, and the quality is simply awful! First point - learning your lesson not to judge a book by its cover! Second point: It doesn't matter what the salesman thinks of the phone - especially when he believes it's the best, nobody else has had problems with it, he uses it himself and is especially not prepared to test it out in the store to show you just how badly it does actually work! The salesman - after all, wants nothing more than to make his sale and walk away with his profit. He's not really interested in you owning a great phone (don't be fooled!) 

Third point - you need a different phone after all! You take the phone back. It's all still brand new. The owner of the store / salesman now looks at it and refuses to refund you.

Rule 1: He may not do this. You mention this to him, so he reluctantly offers you a credit. Rule 2: He may not do this either! In fact, if you have paid cash, he MUST reimburse you cash - no arguments! If you paid on a credit card, he MUST refund you on the SAME credit card. It's really simple! Don't ever let another store trick you into accepting a credit (which you may never use or want - as has actually happened to yours truly. Years later, the ink used on the credit slip even rubbed off!!!)

That's what is great about the consumer rights site. A brief look in at the law shows this up clearly:

קניתי מוצר בחנות והתחרטתי
?האם ניתן לבצע ביטול עסקה ולקבל את כספי חזרה

ב- 14/12/10 יכנסו לתוקף תקנות הגנת הצרכן (ביטול עסקה), המקנות לצרכן את הזכות לבטל עסקאות מסוימות באופן חד צדדי וללא סיבה כלשהי, ולקבל את כספו חזרה.

מדובר בזכות חרטה החלה על עסקאות "צרכניות", השונה מהזכויות האחרות הקובעות בחוק הגנת הצרכן כגון: זכות להתנתק מעסקה מתמשכת, זכות לבטל עסקה בשל הטעיה או ניצול מצוקה, זכות לבטל עסקת מכר מרחוק או עסקה ברוכלות.

מדובר בזכות חרטה ולא בזכות הביטול מכוח חוקים אחרים, שחלים על כל סוגי עסקאות – צרכניות ולא צרכניות : לדוגמה הזכות לבטל עסקה בשל הפרה מהותית של ההסכם, הזכות להחזיר מוצר ולקבל השבה מלאה במקרה של פגם במוצר

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Radio Interview: The Costs of Renting in Israel - From the View of a Minister of the Knesset

If you're not yet living in Israel and thinking of making Aliyah - you'll need an introduction into the housing market. To clarify one thing, this blog is about sharing things as they are. We don't hide anything - and want to make it clear, we're here to help and assist. Mostly this blog is real because we understand what being a real person is all about - when it comes to making as large a move as coming to live in the Land of Israel.

As for housing, everyone knows you can either buy or rent - but few acknowledge the real costs involved. Having watched a variety of forums said to assist one in making Aliyah I've personally seen a two-sided approach. There are those who are a part of the "haves" who have little mercy when it comes to acknowledging the needs of those others who are a part of the "have nots." Though this is not the place for discussing the actual costs of purchasing a home, a brief look at some of the main sites on the Internet sharing prices throughout all Israel points to the need of being exceptionally wealthy to be able to own one's home in Israel. For those from the USA they have the advantage (even with the lower dollar!) that their money goes up. Those from such locations as South Africa (and there really are those type of people living here!) receive far less for their any money they have earned overseas. In perspective, an American coming to Israel with $100 000 will at least have some ₪350 000 to use in purchasing a home. A South African coming with R100 000 will have all of ₪30 000 to his name. On a basic home of one million shekels it is clear, the American will have an advantage. He will never understand the South African. Let alone one who arrives with literally nothing and who is tied in to a minimum wage job paying just over ₪4000 per month!

Back to our survey... What's fascinating regarding the responses of the "haves" is their very often angry feelings towards those of the "have nots", as they feel that having usually comes about through starvation, deprivation and a variety of other "important good attributes" to master. I was personally told by a young lady of about 22 recently married, who explained that she and her husband were able to make the down-payment on their home by purchasing food that was on special only. She maintained this behaviour for all of about the two to three months of her engagement and was able to pay some 350 000 Shekel (at least as I had calculated it) towards her new home. She suggested we do the same. 

Recently I heard of another young family man who had managed to save his down-payment up by simply eating bread for breakfast, lunch and supper and treating himself to eggs once a week! I'm not sure how long he went on like this for, and he didn't share how much he was actually making nor his job, but on that minimum wage job - even without eating, renting, using communications, transport, medication, clothing and other necessities, one could save the necessary deposit if one maintained this for about 10 years at the very least (for a very small room/apartment,) let alone he did it by just eating bread!

In vain I had tried finding some sort of comfort from someone who would speak the truth about how one can ever raise the sort of money needed for a down-payment without either having worked seriously hard beforehand and earned it (perhaps overseas) or by being given a gift (something which I felt well applied to the first young lady in the story above!)

For the rest of us - we are subjected to the rental market. It's a jungle out there. But don't believe me. I haven't actually done the liquid-only diet for three months to say honestly that I'm not able to come up with the huge deposit money. I heard this interview just last night and was most grateful to hear a Minister of the Knesset (MK) speaking about HIS own battle in owning his own apartment and the terrible jungle out there in terms of rentals. It's a world where landlords may raise rents to their hearts' content. They may throw one out onto the street (literally) when payment does not come through (forget the law so many will tell you about!) Rental homes can be anything from a hole to a place with three walls. Mold may be common and never attended to. Electricity fittings, windows and other home necessities may never be fixed - even before one moves in. But the renter has no choice - because if he cannot afford his own home and he needs a roof over his head, he must take whatever comes his way. Many never understand this. Many never see it - especially when they are overseas, and especially when they are already taken care of.

There needs to be some sort of law for rentals. Something that gives honour and respect to the renter as much as allows the landlord his opportunity of renting his home. There needs to be some sort of standardization. With some 2 million out of some 7 million people renting in Israel, the issue is an urgent one. The renting situation is draining the lower-earning individual from every shekel he owns - all at the expense of his health and his ability to ever save for buying his future home. Yes, it's a jungle!

Don't believe me. Take a listen to this powerful interview and get another realistic look at things. I hardly believe Minister Hilik Bar has ever considered the liquid/bread diet only, but I'm sure if it was realistic, he might let listeners know more about it. If nothing else, at least he could also own his own apartment!

Just click here to be taken to TLV1 radio and listen to "I'm an MK, I'm a tenant and I want the law to protect tenants rights."

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Welcome Home!!!

You may know that we are involved in assisting singles to marry through the Shidduch service we offer. We spend a great deal of time involved in (all) our activities and many hours speaking to singles - all in the hope of helping them to find their "partner for life!"

Yesterday I received a call from a middle aged fairly recently-divorced man with a big family. Being divorced now meant his pursuing a Shidduch again. Those - not so new to Shidduchim, know well just how much is involved in assisting anyone to marry, let alone someone with a large family and a divorce "under one's belt." What made this harder included an expectation to marry a much younger lady still able to have children because - to him - nobody else would be acceptable. There are many areas in Shidduchim that need to be addressed in the correct framework and structure. This is one of them. While everything is done for every person to find the perfect match for them, someone in a situation such as this may well need to compromise if having a relationship with someone for the rest of his life - is more important than adding another child to an already very large family. (This post is not the forum for addressing these issues. We do indeed do our best to assist everyone as much as we can even when we realise that some Shidduchim can be much harder to make happen than others!)

Not knowing who I was when I had called him earlier, and not answering the call, he called back some time later asking if I'd called for him. Not knowing who he was (he gave no name) at this stage and hearing him speak Hebrew, I asked if he could speak English. Indeed, he came from one of those English speaking countries in the world, but seemed to lapse into Hebrew again. I tried getting on track with the English (which he certainly spoke fluently) - which I succeeded in doing with much difficulty. He was not happy with the "Shmues" and wanted to hurry the call along since he had all of two minutes to talk. When I finally heard his name and realised he had responded to an advert of ours, I informed him that I was simply returning his call and asked how I could help him! He seemed to suddenly have a lot more time than the initial two minutes he could promise me. It was now I that hurried him along and asked him to call later when he did indeed have more time!

In the early evening, I received a call from someone speaking Hebrew again. It was the same gentleman who felt that Hebrew was the only way to go. His Israeli accent would surely reveal him to be a Sabra in the fullest sense of the word, but I didn't get that feeling that he actually was! I know people who have made Aliyah and living in Israel for over 50 years - and who still speak with their original overseas accents! He was obviously seriously attached to everything Israel.

After getting back on track with English - he asked me how long I had "been home." I laughed and asked if he meant "Israel". He struck me as someone committed to some sort of home here where Jews live together and really connect in unity.

I gave him about ten minutes of my time as I listened to his requirements for a Shidduch, but explained how much is involved and that we offer a very comprehensive interview at a charge. We work professionally and this is indeed a part of our Parnassah here. He was highly offended, clearly expecting us to work for nothing or with a definitive guarantee of success - something impossible to give over. I have heard even G-d has difficulties with Shidduchim comparing them to the same difficulty as the Splitting of the Reed Sea! (Note: Unfortunately many singles feel that those assisting in a professional capacity do not deserve payment. It is a wonder to consider the amounts they will pay for dates, phone calls, transport and other necessities towards the Shidduch - but fail to take into account the real efforts, cost and time of a human being putting in tremendous effort to help them in the best possible way - for nothing less than a "best friend for life!")

Personally, I've advertised in Israel media tens of times and more - each time costing large sums of money - never once being told if these adverts would meet with success. Many have received no replies at all - but I value the graphic artists time, the printing costs, distribution costs and just about everyone else involved in helping to get my advert out there - and so I pay fully - up-front without so much as a hesitation! I do this, because I realise they're "putting out" - so that I can get ahead too!

So why the title of the post "Welcome Home!!!"? Going back to my callers' question, "So how long have you been home?" It's just this. It's a kind of strange thing that happens here. Everyone is "friendly." Everyone is "connected." Everyone feels brotherhood and a hundred and one other synonyms that show Jewish unity. That is - all until it comes to someone earning a living and being able to actually live here! There's something missing in the Aliyah story. There are so many with smiles on their faces when they want something from you... but when it's you making your own living - there are thousands of excuses why payment will not be forthcoming.

So Welcome Home!!! But remember friends - if you're serious about unity, serious about connecting and loving a fellow Jew as much as your love for the Land of Israel - then when it comes to living issues -  paying for an honest service given is not just a painful grudging, "I guess I have to!" but rather it's a "I am in love with supporting another Jew trying to live here - just like everyone else, including me." "I pay him because he is giving over something to me through his own honest efforts." "I am honored to support him - right here in the Land of Israel, because I truly want him - my brother (my sister) and my friend - to live here with me, in his very own home - just like I do!

I can't wait for the day when I can offer my service and be paid for it - not with a sour face, not with a need to bargain me down to nothing, not with a "I'll pay you when you guarantee me (this or that)". I can't wait for the day, when a fellow Jew can turn around and say - "My friend, I honour and respect what you do - because I know you're helping me and others too." I can't wait to one day feel - I'm really home!


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