Israel to Abolish Deceptive Pricing Ending in .99 Shekels

The government phased out one- and five-agorot coins years ago, but a law against dodgy pricing will go into effect January 1.

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From the beginning of next year, Israeli retailers will be barred from charging prices ending in 99 agorot in an attempt to make a product appear less expensive.

Gone will be items for NIS 9.99, for example, after the Economy Ministry and the Consumer Protection and Fair Trade Authority issued guidelines on Thursday requiring retailers to designate prices in multiples of 10 agorot.

In cash it’s impossible to pay NIS 9.99 for an item because one- and five-agora coins were phased out years ago. The smallest denomination now is 10 agorot.

The Economy Ministry called the practice of charging prices that cannot be paid in cash deceptive. It “constitutes a criminal offense in violation of the consumer protection law [because] … the entire aim is to create the appearance of a lower price,” the ministry said in a statement.

Nonetheless, about a decade ago, Judge Nissim Yeshaya rejected a class-action suit contending that the .99 practice was illegal or misleading.

As of January 1, pricing in multiples of less than 10 agorot will only be allowed when prices are set by meters, as for gasoline, telephone services, water and electricity.

Also exempt will be prices set by government authorities. The new policy may also motivate the Economy Ministry to adjust what consumers pay for price-controlled food items not currently denominated by multiples of 10 agorot. The maximum price for a standard package of butter, for example, is NIS 4.08.

Shekels. It's those coins that can be tricky. Credit: Bloomberg

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