Parks Authority cuts entrance fees after class action suit

Masada, photo: Shuttershock/ASAP Creative

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority admits to overcharging after a lawsuit that also claims eligible populations were denied discounts.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority had been charging entrance fees visitors to dozens of its sites that were higher than allowed by law. This was the claim made in a request to certify a class action law suit for a total sum of NIS 30.3 million, filed last August with the Lod District Court.

In response to this lawsuit, the Authority has notified the court that it has ceased charging these fees, actually admitting that in some cases it had been charging prices that were higher than allowed. It has added that since September 1, 2016, "entry fees were adjusted to the apparatus defined in the regulations."

In addition, the Authority said that it is currently acting to change the mechanism by which fees are set, "in order to update prices using a mechanism which reflects existing constraints in a way that is more accurate and relevant than it is today."

According to Authority, the overcharged fees totaled NIS 4.5 million in two years; however, it claims that in some case the calculation actually worked to its detriment, causing it to charge less.

In either case, during this week's Sukkot holiday, tens of thousands of visitors to the authority's sites pay less thanks to this lawsuit.

The request to certify the class action has been filed by Adv. Ehud Shtamer. The claimant group is defined as all people who have paid the Authority site entry fees since March, 1 2013, and who had been charged a price that was higher than allowed by law. Estimates are this group includes 7.5 million people.

The request claims that the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority charged more than it is eligible to and had occasionally raised prices. Moreover, it was claimed that it discriminated against populations eligible for a discount, including seniors citizens, children and adolescents, by preventing them from receiving the discount they are entitled to and rounding prices up after the discount in a way that worked to its favor.

The Authority is responsible for 340 nature reserves and national parks, charging entry fees in 70 of them. The suit has been filed by a citizen who visited the Masada National Park with a group of 30 visitors in March. He claimed to have checked the prices beforehand, which were supposed to be NIS 23 per adult and NIS 14 per child for entry to Masada's snake path. However, he was actually required to pay NIS 90 per adult and NIS 15 per child. His protests at the site were of no help and, after addressing the authority later on, he said that it admitted that his claim was justified, saying this was a "human mistake" and "isolated case", and that he will receive a refund for the extra fees charged from the group.

The claimant had checked entry fees to other Authority sites leading him to discover, as he claims, that the authority overcharges in several sites, include the Qumran Caves and Habonim Beach. This had led him to file the class suit certification request.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on October 19, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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Masada, photo: Shuttershock/ASAP Creative
Masada, photo: Shuttershock/ASAP Creative
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