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Israeli Lawyer Fights the “99 Agorot” Prices

A store item priced at "3.99" actually costs four shekels. A lawyer is fighting the posting prices for which change cannot be given.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/22/2010, 5:41 AM / Last Update: 12/22/2010, 7:45 AM

Israel news photo

Anyone who does any shopping in Israel is familiar with the stores' "bargain prices" of 19.99 shekels or 99.95 shekels.

The problem is that one cannot receive change if paying 20 shekels for a product which costs 19.99 shekels, since the one agora coin has not been produced in Israel for many years. The same goes for the five agorot coin which has not been in use since 2008. For the same reasons, one obviously cannot pay exact change, which leads to rounding of prices.

But Israeli attorney Ofer Shahal has had enough of prices being rounded due to non-existent coins, and he has decided to fight this phenomenon. Shahal recently sent a letter to Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, in which he demanded that the Ministry forbid the use of coins which have been cancelled, be it through legislation or through announcing a ban on such usage. Shahal also wrote that should nothing be done in the matter, he will turn to Israel’s High Court.

“We are all consumers and we are very familiar with all the shops that on a daily basis offer the price of NIS '19 .99'; '49 .99'; or at best, '19 .95 '; '99 .95'; and the like,” wrote Shahal in the letter which was quoted by Globes. “We don’t get change! We cannot get change, because the agora and five agorot coins have been put out of use through the Bank of Israel's orders.”

Shahal complains in his letter that by doing nothing to eliminate these prices, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor gives legitimacy to retailers to make cynical use of coins which do not exist.

While he acknowledges that the “99 agorot” phenomenon is something which was adopted in Israel from overseas countries, Shahal points out that, unlike in Israel, in other countries the consumer always receives change even to the smallest penny.

Shahal claims that continued use of non-existent coins is nothing short of deception which is prohibited by the Consumer Protection Act. “The situation today in Israel is that consumers are misled with a permit from the government,” says Shahal and concludes, “This is an improper policy and it is very easy to rectify the situation” and if this is not done, he warns "he will go to the High Court.”

In response to Shahal’s claims, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor told Globes: "The Ministry filed on August 12, 2010, an application to amend the Consumer Protection Act, which states that it is prohibited to present prices using non-legal tender. The bill is being debated by the Justice Ministry.”