Yes Has to Return Money to Affected Users - Watchdog

The Yes satellite television broadcast company should return money to consumers whose viewing pleasure was disrupted, a consumer group says.

The Yes satellite television broadcast company should return money to consumers whose viewing pleasure was disrupted, a consumer group says.

Nor should it be entitled to fine subscribers who chose to disconnect before their contract had expired during the roughly monthlong period in which the satellite signal to some users was disrupted, said the Consumer Council in a legal opinion delivered to the Knesset's Economics Committee yesterday.

The Consumer Council also called on the Israel Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting to change the terms of Yes' license, or the terms of its standard agreement with consumers, so that any serious disruptions to service in the future would entitle the clients to compensation beyond reimbursement of their subscription dues.

The Economics Committee meeting had been called by Gilad Erdan of Likud to discuss the disruptions that plagued Yes' signal throughout Israel, but mainly in the north, from September 6 until last week. Erdan demanded that Yes return at least one month's subscription fee to affected consumers, because the signal disruptions - which could last hours at a time - had persisted for more than 30 days. The committee also asked for details on the origin of the problem and what the Communications Ministry had done about it.

Communications Ministry Director General Mordechai Mordechai said that when the state allocates frequencies, it can't promise that nobody else will operate on those frequencies and cause disruptions. Yes' license even stipulates that it isn't the only one using that frequency, he said, adding that the ministry hasn't related yet to the consumer aspect, only to the technical one.

The Communications Ministry stated that it would consider the Consumer Council's demand regarding a change to Yes' license terms, or its agreement with consumers. It also said that it's trying to arrange a government resolution to offer technological assistance to Yes to prevent the disruptions from returning.

"The company will be compensating customers as it said in the past, because even though it isn't to blame for the disruptions, it is responsible to its clients," Yes stated. CEO Ron Eilon noted that as a gesture of appreciation toward its clientele, the company had opened channels normally accessible only through extra pay to all viewers, and that isn't the final compensation it will be offering. No disruptions have been reported since Yes, with the help of Israel's army and navy, identified the problem as two ships, apparently Dutch-owned, sailing the Mediterranean and using military radar that disrupted Yes' signal. However, Eilon indicated that the company is well aware that annoyance wasn't confined to people who couldn't watch their favorite shows. Even though Yes hired extra staff to handle the explosion in customer complaints, throughout the troubles it had been all but impossible to get the company on the phone, or even an answer by email.

Naama Henig, chairwoman of the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting, commented that beyond the issue of immediate compensation for consumers, there ing-term public interest in preserving Yes as competition for the cable company HOT in the provision of multi-channel television.