Economy and Industry Minister Nir Barkat (Likud) on Sunday told the right-wing 94FM regarding the move by the Strauss conglomerate to boycott the right-wing TV Channel 14: “Their decision to reeducate was unreasonable.”
Strauss Group Ltd., possibly the largest food manufacturer and distributor in Israel, announced it was suspending all its commercials on Channel 14. Another local conglomerate, Coca-Cola, has already announced it was boycotting the right-wing channel several months ago. Those two were joined by Delek Motors who sell shiny BMWs and Fords to rich Israelis (Israeli Billionaires Declare War on Channel 14, Viewers Boycott their Products).
Barkat said: “It is unreasonable that huge companies decided to re-educate the public. The antidote to this is competition and dismantling of the monopolies. Once they are no longer monopolies, these attempts to educate the public will no longer exist either.”
Barkat was asked by the host, “Do you believe that in a year from now, there will be parallel importers to all these cartels?” He answered: “It will happen faster. We are currently passing three pieces of legislation that will move things forward.”
Under Minister Barkat, the Consumer Protection Authority in the Economy Ministry has been more active than ever before. Recently, after the Netanyahu government reversed a law of the Lapid Bennett government that hiked the prices of sugary drinks; but when the three soft drink makers that own 86% of the market – Coca-Cola, Tempo, and Jafaura-Tabori – did not bring down their prices accordingly, and even raised prices by 7%, Consumer Protection announced a fine to the tune of three times the normal financial sanction, or else the management of the three soft-drink giants would face criminal prosecution.
Barely three hours after the soft-drink penalty, Consumer Protection announced it intended to impose an unprecedented financial sanction of NIS 111 million ($30 million) on Strauss, subject to a hearing, for an alleged violation of the competition laws in its merger with the Weiler Farm health food producer. Consumer Protection accused the two companies of effectively acting as one entity even before their official merger.
Consumer Protection is also conducting a huge investigation, begun almost two years ago, of an alleged collaboration between the producers/distributors and the supermarket chains to fix prices.
In an interview Barkat gave Globes in June, he said: “There is no free market in Israel in the field sector. For decades there has been a monopolistic practice. The monopolies enjoy a protective wall, and they raise prices because they can. This is going to change from the root.”