Government watchdog probes large store chains’ coronavirus protest shutdown

The Israel Competition Authority says it is probing possible unlawful action by hundreds of large businesses who coordinated with each other to remain closed, despite government approval to reopen, in protest against the government as they demand compensation for the recent closures and ongoing restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The authority, which oversees fair trading and antitrust laws, says in a statement that it had sought information regarding the protest by the Association of Fashion and Commerce Chains, “to ensure that retailers’ activities are not in conflict with the law.”

“To the extent that the results of the checks show that the actions taken may have infringed competition in a manner that violates the provisions of the law – the Authority will not hesitate to take enforcement action,” the statement says.

Some 200 chains, including leading stores in clothing, optics, home decor, camping and sports gear, as well as cafes and restaurants, chose not to open their doors even as many pandemic restrictions were lifted at midnight Saturday.

According to a government decision Friday, all stores that are not in shopping malls or outdoor markets are allowed to operate from Sunday if they adhere to guidelines regarding cleanliness, protective gear and social distancing.

But large business owners are demanding government compensation for operation losses, in line with those announced for small businesses.

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