Israeli Cable Company Apologizes After Demanding Residents of Collapsed Building Return Gear

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The building collapse site in Holon, earlier this month.
The building collapse site in Holon, earlier this month.Credit: Moti Milrod

Residents who were evacuated from an unstable building in central Israel earlier this month received a troubling request last week: the Hot telecommunications company demanded that their customers who lived in the building, which collapsed, would have to return the company’s equipment or continue to pay for it. Hot later walked back its request and apologized.

The 30 families that lived in a building on Holon’s Sirlin street, as well as residents of adjacent buildings, were evacuated from their homes two weeks ago due to large cracks that had formed in the walls, which rendered the building unstable. It later collapsed, leaving its residents, many of whom are renters who do not have insurance, to find shelter with families. After the evacuation, some customers called Hot asking to disconnect their cable service, or at the very least to freeze their subscriptions.

Hot customer service representatives demanded that residents return the company’s communications equipment that had been installed in their homes, or they would have to continue paying for it. Customers pay a rental fee for these television or telephone installations for the duration of their subscriptions.

Some of these residents lived in the building that had collapsed completely; others who live in adjacent apartments were not allowed by emergency services to return for clothing and other items.

The company came under sharp criticism after reports of the response its customer service representatives were giving the clients who had to vacate their homes. Only after journalists began inquiring about this policy did the company agree to retroactively credit the customers and stopped demanding that they give back the gear. 

According to the company, customers who were evacuated from the building will be able to view content for free through its app as well as receive free cellular package from Hot Mobile, “so they can consume unlimited content” via their cell phones.

Hot said it was taking responsibility for its behavior toward the residents, and following this incident initiated contact with all Hot customers who were forced to evacuate by the authorities, and provide them with benefits. “It’s clear to all that there is no, nor was there any, intent by Hot to charge any client that isn’t able to live in his home for service or for equipment. If it was understood otherwise, we apologize and take responsibility,” the company said.

According to the company, after TheMarker reported on the way these customers were handled, the company listened to all the calls received from the residents of the evacuated buildings.

“From the conversations, it emerges that there was an ongoing misunderstanding in communication, and for that we take responsibility and apologize. In some of the conversations, the service representatives did not realize that residents of buildings that did not collapse also had to vacate their apartments,” the company said.