Gift Voucher Bill to Head to Knesset Vote

Bill would amend Israel's Consumer Protection Law to reduce restrictions on the use of gift vouchers at stores.

A bill to ensure that gift vouchers retain their listed value for at least five years was approved by the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on Wednesday to go to its first Knesset reading.

Proposed by MK Yoni Chetboun (Habayit Hayehudi), the bill would amend Israel's Consumer Protection Law to ensure that gift voucher amounts will apply equally at all stores that accept the card, contrary to common practice of discounting gift voucher values when they are used at discount supermarkets.

As part of the proposed law, the committee also gave authority to the economy minister to issue new secondary legislation adjusting the implementation of the law with the approval of the Economic Affairs Committee. This would preserve gift voucher issuers' ability to limit the use of vouchers, but only through regulations issued by the minister.

Gift vouchers today are like a writ of indictment with an endless number of restrictions, said Histadrut Consumer Authority CEO Yaron Levinson during the Knesset committee debate. It may be transparent, but consumer certainty is no less important.

Levinson said that the authority had conducted a survey on Tuesday that found that despite the restrictions printed on the gift vouchers 54% of respondents were told they could not pay with a voucher when they tried to buy a specific item. In 45% of these cases the product could not be purchased with a voucher because it was on sale.

However, representatives of some of the major retail chains took issue with the proposed law. Ido Raz, a supermarket chain business development manager, said that the added value given to customers using vouchers over regular cash is created through the use of restrictions and if the restrictions would be eliminated so would gift vouchers. Fox retail chain CEO Ran Arnon pointed out the possibility that the elimination of restrictions on gift vouchers would reduce their profitability for stores and lead some store chains to no longer accept them.

Chetboun responded by saying that the debate over the potential consequences of the bill would continue as possible amendments were considered in preparing the bill for its second and third readings in the Knesset.

Moti Milrod