On 12.12.16, the Office of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman approached Professor David Han, the official receiver and liquidator of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (in liquidation) (hereafter – the Authority), following the many complaints that had been received by the Office of the Ombudsman concerning defects in collection procedures and illegal attachments that had been imposed by the Authority in order to collect television fee arrears.
Over 100 complaints that had been investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman since November 2015 had been found justified and following the intervention of the Office, the Authority had cancelled the debts and removed attachments from the complainants' accounts.
The investigation revealed serious and worrying defects in collection procedures implemented by the Authority, amounting to the violation of fundamental rights of complainants. It transpired that in many cases, prior to the imposition of the attachment on the bank accounts, the Authority had not checked whether the debt was grounded, neither had it examined claims made to it in the past by the debtors, according to which there were no grounds for collection. The investigation further revealed that people who had made an enquiry with the Authority concerning the attachments had not received a relevant reply within a reasonable time and that the Authority had sufficed by setting up a call centre which was authorized solely to provide information on the amount of the debt and to collect it.
In a letter to the liquidator of the Authority, it was pointed out that the State Comptroller and Ombudsman, Judge (ret.) Joseph Haim Shapira, was aware of the budgetary and organizational difficulties of the Authority. Notwithstanding, the position of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman was made clear – the fact that the Authority was in liquidation did not exempt it or the liquidator in charge of it from their duty to uphold strictly the rules of administrative law and to act reasonably and proportionally in applying their authority to collect debts, while taking the necessary measures to prevent harming fundamental rights and personal property.
The State Comptroller and Ombudsman thus pointed out to the liquidator the need to cease collection proceedings where the debts were ungrounded and where an application concerning them had been made to the Authority and the examination of the application had not been completed. The Ombudsman also pointed out the need to take action to improve the response given to people who had made enquiries with the Authority.