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During 2006, the Histadrut's Consumer Protection Authority received 35,000 consumer complaints regarding the quality of service and substandard quality of products - 17 percent more than during 2005. According to the report, 16 percent of all consumers' complaints relate to electrical appliances. This, in fact, constitutes a drop in comparison with the 22 percent share the field received during 2005. Nevertheless, the field of electrical appliances retains its dubious first place among the number of complaints.

According to Attorney Yaron Levinson, CEO of the Authority, the drop in the number of consumer complaints regarding electrical appliances most probably stems from new regulations, which recently came into effect, set by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry regarding service and responsibility in the field. "Nevertheless," adds Levinson, "new complaints were already made about the regulations not being followed. Therefore, the next year will prove how effective the new regulations are in enforcing customer relations in the field."

Complaints in the field of electrical appliances mostly relate to home electrical appliances, such as washing machines, televisions, ovens and dishwashers. The major problems upsetting consumers were a failure to deliver the product on time to the customer's home, product flaws, disputes over responsibility in case of malfunction, unexpected malfunctions, wrong specifications, dishonesty regarding product features, bad service and poor material quality.

In this report, as in the 2005 one, the furniture field comes in second place with 15 percent of all complaints. The complaints relate to mismatches between the size or type of promised products and the actual ones delivered, failure to deliver on time, fabric stains or flaws in the wood, disputes over responsibility for flaws, disputes over delivery rates in cases of flawed products and worse: customers who paid for a product and found the store had closed and the owner had vanished when delivery was due.

The current report features a number of changes in the rank order. The clothing and footwear field climbed to third place with 9 percent of complaints, after holding fourth place in 2005. Place 4, receiving 8 percent of the complaints, was taken by the previous number 3 - the peddling field, covering the sale of items such as books, jewelry and watches. Complaints in this field focus on aggressive door-to-door marketing, whose transactions the consumer finds hard to cancel despite the law specifying a 14 day period in which the buyer may cancel a transaction. The Authority's report points to a worsening in remote internet transactions. In 2005 this field reached number 11 with only 3 percent of complaints, but in 2006 it rose to fifth place with 7 percent. According to Levinson, most complaints about internet sales regard the selling company's refusal to return the buyer's money in case of cancellation, failure to disclose the seller's identity, and sale Web sites avoiding communication with buyers by claiming they are only middlemen and not an actor involved in the deals.

The rest of the sales fields featured only slight changes during 2006. The holiday and tourism field stands in sixth place with 5 percent of complaints compared with 7 percent in 2005; the cellular companies reached seventh place with 5 percent of complaints, compared to 3 percent in 2005; the cable and satellite companies reached number 8 with 4 percent, the same value as in 2005.

Attorney Levinson said yesterday that the rise in the number of complaints shows a need to increase the government's control and enforcement on the central issues. He says there are still a number of loopholes allowing consumers to be exploited.