Consumers have won a battle against the Israel Broadcasting Authority: The IBA will stop collecting the television license fee from people who own a television screen but do not use it to receive television broadcasts. If the screen is not connected to a converter from the HOT cable company, Yes satellite broadcaster or the Idan Plus digital converter, the owner will be exempt from paying the fee.
The IBA has based its claims up until now on the “potential for reception” and has demanded payment of the television tax in such cases over the past two years. Now the IBA will not only stop charging, but will also refund the fees it collected for 2011 through 2013 based on this claim.
The change in policy and refunds are expected to cost the IBA tens of millions of shekels in revenues this year.
The change in policy is the result of a class action suit filed against the IBA on the matter. The Jerusalem District Court held a hearing in the case last July, and the court, headed by Judge David Mintz, suggested the sides reach an agreement out of court. The IBA’s decision is the result, and it will be given the status of a court ruling.
The main parts of the agreement are that the IBA will publish an announcement that it will stop charging the television license fee from anyone who does not have a digital broadcasting converter or is not a subscriber to a multi-channel television service.
In addition, those people who have television screens but use them only as computer monitors will be able to download a form from the IBA’s website in a few weeks and declare they have no connection to any television broadcasting service. Filing the form with the IBA will exempt them from paying the tax. However, those television screens that have a built-in converter for the Idan Plus broadcasts will still require the payment of the fee, even if the owner does not use the screen to watch television.
People will be required to fill out the form annually for three years, after which they will receive a permanent exemption – unless they change their status by buying a set with a digital converter or hook up to cable or satellite broadcasts.
Those who paid the television fee in such cases from July 2011 through July 2013 – and paid under protest, saying they did not have a digital converter to watch television - can receive their money back by filling out a separate form and a declaration witnessed by a lawyer to the fact they did not have a receiver.
The IBA will also halt ongoing collection proceedings in such cases and notify its lawyers of the agreement.
The IBA will also pay the plaintiffs NIS 350,000 in legal fees. The lawyers estimate that between 10,000 to 30,000 households will ask for a refund as a result of the agreement. Based on a cost of NIS 750 for the two-year period for the fees, and including linkage to inflation, the sum will add up to tens of millions, said the plaintiffs.
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