/ Travel & Leisure

The end of shameful timeshare pressure-selling?

'Timeshare' written in sand

A welcome change in the law this week gives us more protection against rogue companies who use dubious means to coax us into buying a holiday club or trial membership to a timeshare. But will it make them stop?

This Wednesday, some much-needed protection against holiday scams quietly slipped into EU and British legislation. In principle, this is great news for holidaymakers.

The new law closes loopholes in previous timeshare legislation that have allowed unscrupulous firms to take money from people on the spot after using heavy sales tactics. These could be for trials for timeshare that they don’t really want, or for holiday clubs offering a lifetime of discounted holidays that may not even materialise.

It could happen to you

It’s surprisingly easy to be charmed into signing on the dotted line for a long-term holiday product. On my first day on the Costa del Sol in 2008, a scratchcard tout duped me into attending a timeshare presentation – I went to pick up a prize.

Over a wearying five-hour period, the persuasive sales rep became my ‘friend’, sharing ‘inside knowledge’ with me. He gave me a glowing account of his 34-month timeshare trial, but emphasised that this special deal was only available if I signed a contract there and then.

Luckily, I went along as part of an undercover investigation for Which?, so I didn’t actually hand over any money.

Why a trial for 34 months? Well, until this week, the law stating that companies couldn’t take any upfront payment for timeshare products only applied to timeshares running for at least three years.

The new legal protections

Now the consumer protection applies to timeshare products lasting more than one year, as well as other long-term holiday contracts where the consumer gains access to accommodation benefits or discounts.

We’ve lobbied for these new rights, so we’re really pleased that many of our recommendations have been adopted, including a cooling-off period during which the buyer can withdraw from the contract without any penalty.

It would have been even better if the cooling-off period had been extended from 14 days to a month. If you get targeted on the first day of a 14-day holiday, you’d have to cancel before you got home.

But my main concern is how, and whether, these laws are actually going to be enforced. Won’t rogue companies just continue their slippery, heavy-selling ways if they know they’ll be able to get away with it? Or will they simply find new creative ways to get around the rules with some new product or trial?

We’d like to monitor whether companies will flout these new laws. So let us know if you end up at a presentation where they still insist on taking payment upfront with no cancellation rights or a 14-day cooling-off period.

Roger says:
26 August 2013

if it was a bank scamming customers like these people the government would say its illegal what you are doing you much compensate all your customers its all-right changing the law to protect people now from time share organisations but the powerfull people in the EU that dictate to the rest off us that we are changing your laws because we have decided it suites us so they will not do anything about existing companies in the time share industry because it would cripple the tourist industry in there country and put people out of work or even make them issue new contracts excluding the time share being handed down to your children when you die the contract should die

Charles Moranis says:
2 August 2014

That is why it is nessecary to “exploit, exploit, exploit” the methods these folks employ as much as possible, and as often as possible in order to get peoples attention. This is a people problem, and inaction is not going to solve diddly. Take it to the streets, and protest what is happening, and promote the change that is needed to protect consumers. It might be good to have some economic backlash so these people will understand this is not sustainable behavior!

Kelsey Franz says:
29 August 2013

You probably have heard of these sorts of timeshare promotions before. Why would a timeshare resort give you a free weekend in a wonderful destination for free, or for a very low price? The answer is simple: because there will be some strings attached. That means that you will have to sit through one of their timeshare presentations, and their main goal is to get you to buy a timeshare ownership.


We have stupidly had the same thing happen despite knowing what the pressure salesmen are like. A couple of ladies virtually hauled us out of our car to do a “survey” on the first day of our holiday last Sunday when we had barely set foot in Spain after a tiring 24 hours awake. They excitedly gave us a scratchcard where we had”won” £1,000 We were whisked straight off to the presentation had the ring of salesmen circulating, offering drinks, food, going through a confusing set of facts and figures. We found ourselves signing up and they took nearly £5,000. There were 2 contracts, one which said it was a 3 year introductory members contract, and another which said it was 11 months only Premium club. The same money was recorded on both.The next day after discussion we decided it wasn’t for us and sent a letter cancelling by recorded delivery. The sales team called us to go back to sort it out and charmingly said we couldn’t cancel both as cancelling the one, left the other in place. They proceeded to offer a reduced amount, and said we could have some money back. We didn’t want this agreement at all and wanted to cancel fully, but were left with no uncertain feeling that we couldn’t do this. We filled in a complaints form on advice of a friend, and also rang Barclay to say that we had cancelled within the 14 day period and they told us to go to dispute. I have not had any satisfaction at this point (we are still in Spain on holiday) and the worry has totally ruined our stay. Have you any advice, I know we were gullible, but there must be a way out of this. I don’t want to end up with no holidays, and still owing money!

Paul says:
4 August 2014

Hi 117carolin,

Something very similar has just happened to my parents in Benalmadena, Spain. I have advised them to request the refund in writing by recorded delivery. I have also been in touch with the UK branch of the European Consumer Centre. Can you tell me if you have had any luck in getting your deposit back. They also cancelled their credit card that evening but it was too late, the deposit had already been taken. Did you fill in the complaints form with the company or was that with your own bank.

I have been doing internet research for them from home as they are not very computer savvy and they are still in a foreign country.

I was informed by the European Consumer Centre that the 14 day cooling off period did not apply as it was for 11 months, it only applies to contracts over a year.


Was this Heritage Resorts by any chance. I am having a dispute with them citing mis-selling by false and misleading information.
I know people have been winning cases via the Financial Ombudsman – but not if you paid by credit card. The credit card payment was made to an unrelated company. The taking of money in a cooling off period is illegal under European Law.
I have also been to the EEC – they wrote to Heritage but got no reply from them. They gave up as they have no powers of enforcement.
It looks like the only way is to go via a Spanish lawyer. I am in the process of consulting one at the moment. I was hoping to find one that had others in the same situation so a group action could be taken therefore reducing the costs per person.

I did get a suggestion of also contacting consumer programmes on TV. So far I have contacted “Don’t get done, get Dom” – they are not in production so no reply yet. Also planning Watchdog – Anne Robinson.
Maybe if enough people contacted them…….

Look forward to any replies

Annie says:
25 November 2014

I fully understand how you feel. Same thing happened to us when holidaying in Lanzarote. Won something from a scratchcard… went to the presentation, was shown the website (which we now know was dummy), said that it was a contract for three years and we would stay in Oasis Lanz Holiday Club for one week free, cheap flights, and after the one week in Oasis Lanz we could then opt for any other holiday resort of our choice at less than our travel agent could get us. After deliberating we went back two days to cancel and the salesmen told us that we would have to wait until we went home as a member of staff from headquarters in Tenerife would call us and offer us the free holiday and then we could cancel. I took unwell and collapsed due to the pressure and again the salesmen told us not to worry that they did not want bad publicity. I still was not convinced and emailed straight away to cancel it. After many emails back and forth they wanted me to sign a cancellation form which stopped us from contacting a lawyer. I was not happy with that and wrote out a cancellation letter which I emailed to Grand Holidays Club in Tenerif to which Kim Smallwood from Grand Holidays Club replied that we are not allowed to cancel even although I told her that we were informed at the time that we could. We paid 1,000 euros! Does anybody know how to get your money back? We tried our bank and they informed us that there are a number of people looking for refunds and they are acting on it, however it would have been better if we had used our credit card and not a debit card! Anybody know a lawyer who could act on our behalf?

Ian Gough says:
13 December 2014

I had a similar experience in Malta this year when I signed a contract for a holiday club which was for a period of 363 days.
I am still trying to get out of this mess and would appreciate it if you would let me know whether you have had any success and if so what action you took