Had your fill of elevator music?  No more waiting on the line for half an hour or longer!  As of 12 December 2012, certain customer service calls to businesses must be answered within 3 minutes or they call you back.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor (משרד התמ”ת), an update to the Consumer Protection Regulations (תקנות הגנת הצרכן) which regulates the wait times for certain customer service calls to businesses has taken effect.

To what kind of company does the law apply?
Not every company is obliged by the new law, but it does cover many of the ones most central to consumers.  Included are the phone (landline and cellular), internet, cable & satellite, electricity, water, gas, and urgent medical care companies.

What kind of customer service calls are covered?
Technically, the 3-minute rule only applies to customer inquiries regarding problems, deficiencies, or defects with a product or service.  In other words, other inquiries – such as billing questions or updating personal information – are theoretically not covered.

Making the call to customer service
You make the call to customer service.  In the case that wait time is expected to exceed 3 minutes, you must be informed within 2 minutes from the start of the call.  At that point, you will be given two options:

  1. To be able to leave a message
  2. To continue to hold for a representative – In this case, the business must tell you your place in line as well as the estimated wait time.  In addition, you must be given the option to request to be transferred to leave a message at any time.

You might be saying to yourself, “If I leave a message, when will I ever hear back from them?!”  Well, the law has an answer for that, too.

Leaving a message, waiting for a call back
When you leave a message, you must include at least your name and phone number.  An actual human representative from the company must get back to you within a specified window of time:

  • If there are 2 or more hours left in the business day, the call must be returned within 3 hours.
  • If there are less than 2 hours left in the business day, the call must be returned within 3 hours of the start of the next business day.

Oh no!  I missed the call.
If the business gets back to you but you don’t answer, the business must leave a voicemail or send an SMS to you.  In that message, you will be informed of a window when the business will try to call back a second time.  The window must be within 3 hours of when the business left the voicemail or sent an SMS.

Double oh no!  I missed the call AGAIN!
If you don’t answer on the second attempt, the business must leave a message stating that, since you didn’t answer twice, you must call customer service again.

Exceptions to the regulations
When there are serious regional or national problems for the business, the wait time regulations will not apply.  (Think the water company has a bunch of burst pipes or the internet is down for a whole city, and they just can’t handle all the complaints about the same problem.)  In this case, the business should have a pre-recorded message which states the region where the problem is occurring and the expected wait time for resolution.

What is my recourse if companies don’t live up to their obligations?
For now, there is no enforcement mechanism.  However, documented violations could be cause for action in civil court.

Hopefully, this will help make your customer service experiences more efficient and pleasant!

7 thoughts on “3-minute limit on hold for some customer service calls

  1. I just spent an hour and a quarter (between two phone calls) on hold waiting for Tornado customer service for someone to even answer the phone in the first place.
    I was calling about a problem with my air conditioner (which is still under their warranty), which as far as I understand is most definitely included in the “problems with a product” category. First time I gave up and hung up after 29 minutes and 41 seconds. The second time I stuck with it, getting more annoyed and frustrated by the second, for 36 minutes and 34 seconds before finally getting a human on the phone.
    Is there anyone to contact to complain about this now that the law’s passed?
    Obviously it’s not going to help me in the least at this point, but at least other people might be able to avoid the grief and distress I went through today.

    1. Tammy, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Law or no law, you should be able to expect prompt customer service.

      Unfortunately, this new law doesn’t address your problem. Only phone (landline and cellular), internet, cable & satellite, electricity, water, gas, and urgent medical care companies are affected; air conditioner companies do not fall into one of those categories.

      I hope your air conditioner gets repaired quickly!

  2. I have conflicting feelings about this. Obviously my first reaction is to be pleased. But then I think about all the recent improvements to shrink government and break monopolies, and can’t help wondering if this is government getting involved in things that doesn’t concern it. For example, surely bad service should just result in me switching companies? (assuming there’s no monopoly). And what about small companies that may not have the resources? Might this unfairly bias larger companies with call centres?

    1. Paul, I can understand your position. Note that for most of the industries affected there is already a need to be a “big” company because of government regulation and requirements. And, of course, most everything posted on No Fryers is a reporting of the facts as best as I understand them and not a value judgment on whether such a regulation or rule should exist or not.

  3. As of December 17th, I waited for 9:07 min on the line when calling Orange Speakers Installation Service Center. By that time the call just hung-up.

    the 2nd attempt was answered after 04:36 min.

    We still have a long way ahead of us.

    1. That is frustrating, SkyWalker. If it was the installation center you were trying to reach, was it regarding a problem, deficiency, or defect? If not, the company does not have any particular legal obligation to answer your call within a certain time frame.

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