Licensing institute. In the past, the institutes were forbidden to repair cars for fear of a conflict of interest (Photo: Keinan Cohen)
Transportation Minister Miri Regev wants to restore to the automotive industry the conflicts of interest that her ministry has been fighting for more than 30 years.
Regev announced this week that it has instructed to promote the possibility of conducting an annual test in authorized garages as well. According to her, the outline being promoted by the Ministry of Transport will make it possible to increase the number of licensing institutes from about 70 to about 1,500 and will open the market to competition. Regev also promises that the professionals in the Ministry of Transport are currently working on advancing the outline that will enable this, while setting professional standards and criteria for maintaining safety, environmental and consumer aspects.
Walla's examination shows that the initiative, which was revealed by Channel 13 News after a wave of public criticism of Regev due to her long trip to Morocco, and the ongoing increase in traffic congestion on Israel's roads, was not coordinated with professionals in the field. Had she been coordinated, the officials might have reminded her that this was a procedure that existed in the past, and was canceled because of a conflict of interest between the garage's work to care for the cars, and the proper licensing of those cars.
Car garage. Only a few garages have the space and financial capacity to install test equipment (Photo: ShutterStock)
In 1989, a petition was filed with the High Court of Justice demanding that the Ministry prohibit licensing institutes from operating garages due to conflicts of interest, which was possible at the time. In response, the state responded that in October 1988 it had been decided to carry out a legal and physical separation between licensing institutes and garages, and that the process had already begun. The state's announcement was signed, by the way, by the young attorney Menachem (Meni) Mazuz, the future legal advisor to the government and a Supreme Court justice.
Conflict of interest is a long-standing problem in the field, which over the years has also led to restrictions on the sale of accessories by licensing institutes. This is for fear that when the institute sells license plates or tires, it may have an interest in failing cars because of them, and causing their owners to purchase plates and other accessories from it at high prices. Today, the institutes are limited to the sale of light bulbs only.
On the part of the garages, too, there is a danger of a conflict of interest: lenient treatment of the cars in their care in the licensing test, and on the other hand an interest in impeding cars so that they will be repaired in the garage so that they will receive a renewed traffic permit.
It's just that the Transportation Ministry recognized the problem, but didn't really fight it. The State Comptroller stated in 2011 that "as early as 1989, the Ministry informed the High Court of Justice that it had already decided that physical and administrative separation should be made between the licensing institutes and the garages. However, it was found that there are still phenomena of cross-ownership of licensing institutes and garages, which operate out of physical non-separation (i.e., in close proximity) or out of legal non-separation (sometimes the licensing institute and garage are owned by the same company, and sometimes owned by different companies but the same shareholders hold their shares). These phenomena constitute a conflict of interest. Although the ministry knew that these were cross-ownerships, it did not demand physical and legal separation between the garages and the licensing institutes as it informed the High Court."
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Arrest of licensing institute employees on suspicion of transporting improper cars to a test for a fee. Who will supervise the garages? (Photo: Police Spokesperson's Brigade)
Regev now wants to reverse the situation. However, beyond the conflict of interest, there is a structural problem in conducting licensing tests in garages. Garages don't have all the equipment that testing institutes have, like the braking force testing facility, which also requires space and digging in the ground for installation. That is why garages themselves are obliged to send after certain repairs cars for inspection at the institute. Only a few garages have enough space to install the additional testing equipment, which will also require a large financial investment in its purchase.
It is unclear how quickly the garages will be able to recoup the investment: the prices of the licensing tests are set by the Ministry of Transport and currently stand at NIS 94 for a private vehicle, of which NIS 63 is for the mechanical test, NIS 31 for the air pollution test, and NIS 2 for mileage registration.
The institutes claim that the price is not economic and that the pre-purchase vehicle inspection activity subsidizes the licensing activity. Therefore, it is also unclear what Regev's promise is based on, because "this is a historic move that will significantly shorten the long lines and reduce the burden on licensing institutes, alongside lowering costs as part of the war on the cost of living in Israel."
A source in the garage industry estimated that the garages will be able to carry out the air pollution tests for vehicles without long preparations and expensive investments, which drivers will be able to attach to the annual treatment. "That way it will save valuable time for test makers, allow them to conduct more licensing checks and shorten waiting times," the source said. But in such a case the driver will still have to go to both the garage and the testing institute, as today.
- Miri Regev
- Licensing Test