Misled Consumers Get More Time to Cancel Purchases

Consumers who were deceived or exploited into making purchases will get more than the two weeks now set in law to return the purchase, under an amendment approved by the Economic Affairs Committee yesterday.

The amendment remains contingent on the approval of the broad Knesset plenum.

The amendment includes the right to cancel service transactions such as Internet or cable services within 14 days, and also lets the industry, trade and labor minister designate the actual size of the "fine print" in contracts.

The amendment would go into effect on March 15, 2010, assuming it passes its second and third readings and becomes law.

Currently, service contracts signed on the basis of misleading information or exploitation of distress must be canceled within two weeks.

In addition, the consumer's money would be returned using the same payment method under which it was received, and the consumer would return the product to the point of purchase.

This clause aims to protect consumers in cases when the transaction was conducted at the consumer's home. Nevertheless, the seller may sue the buyer for damages if the goods are returned with substantial damage.

Orit Noked, deputy industry, trade and labor minister, who drafted the bill, says the amendment is needed because consumers generally are deceived or exploited late in the negotiation process, regardless of the date of the actual transaction. Therefore, consumers need a reasonable length of time - to be set by a judge - to cancel transactions.

Noked emphasized that extension of the cancellation period is critical because deceptions are often discovered only well after atransaction is finalized.

Ophir Akunis, chairman of the Knesset's Economics Committee, said that the amendment will improve consumer protection.

"The issue of consumer rights is first and foremost a social issue, particularly for more vulnerable groups such as the elderly, new immigrants and minors," he said. Akunis added that the amendments that the committee has approved will improve the status of weak consumers, and will deter businesses from taking advantage of consumers.