/ 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.

Comments
Andrea Porter says:
3 March 2011

We bought into Club La Costa and then disposed of this through Club Class Concierge, however, we were never reimbursed for being sold something that was not legitimate through Club La Costa. Is there any way we can get compensation? We also paid Etoo £900 to sell our points and they did not do this, we had to pay Club Class Concierege to take these off our hands. We have never been able to get the money back from our credit card company.

If anyone is able to advise or point me to a relevant website that would be great. Not ITRA as they are part of Club Class and wanted more money from us…

Kind regards

Andrea

Michael Davies says:
8 March 2011

We are just back from a 1 week Club Class holiday in Tenerife.
We were persuaded into signing an agreement – there was no cancellation clause – an immediate CC payment of £2,400.
Later we were advised by another company of the ‘illegality’ of the contract.
We are trying to cancel – one phone call yesterday we would be refunded – the caller was very evasive when I mentioned that Club Class operation is now illegal!
Awaiting further action!

Dave says:
21 July 2011

Hi Michael

Did you have any luck? I am in the same boat and would like some advice, please?

Jill says:
3 November 2011

We are in the same boat as Michael Davies – had a week in Tenerife in October, were persuaded by all sorts of dubious methods to sign up for a holiday club and pay £8,000. Paid £2,400 then, and are now trying to cancel and get that back. Have they pursued you for balance, Michael?

Michael Davies says:
3 November 2011

I should have kept you updated.
We were refunded the £2,400 – though lost a little on the exchange rate.
We never paid or were chased for the £8,000 ‘loan’.

Jill says:
3 November 2011

Thank you Michael – will stand firm!

E.Davison says:
8 March 2011

I have a timeshare at Clowance in Cornwall, it is very nice but I had it forced upon me as a divorce settlement and cannot afford the maintenance. I would like to sell it but every time I try I come up against the money up front scam. Has anyone managed to sell a timeshare and how did you do it?

M Hegg says:
10 March 2011

My husband and I have been members of Diamond Resort International since 1999 (Grand Vacation Club as it was then). We have been trying to cancel our membership since 2009 with no success. (Neither redundancy nor reaching retirement age have been reason enough for the company to allow us to cancel.) I have just read the new European Timeshare Directive and could you please clarify para (9), that states that each year, when we receive our invoice for the management fees, we have a 14 day window in which we can cancel our membership. I would very much appreciate some guidance as the management fees have escalated beyond reason.

The advice pages of the Department for Business Innovation & Skills have some questions and answers. I was searching to see if the above posting from Jonathan gave a ray of hope. Sadly, I discovered that even though Statutory Instrument 2960 (the new timeshare etc regs) has repealed and revoked previous legislation, the old law still applies to contracts made before 23rd February 2011. If you have not yet negociated an exit you may want to look at the DRIP website.

Hi, please could you advise me? My mum has 2 timeshares in Tenerife which she is trying to sell. She was cold called last month by someone called ‘Jamie’ from Timeshare Disposal. He has managed to persuade her that he can sell her timeshares to the Russians – as “that’s where all the money is now”?! He wants her to pay a £660 fee upfront, and then they will also get 15% of the sale money too. I have been trying to persuade her not to go with this company because of the new legislation. What would you advise her to do please?

Joy says:
22 March 2011

My husband and I were pressurised by hard sell tactics on 15 March 2011 by Club Heritage Internation in Marbesa,Costa del Sol,after ‘winning’ a free holiday on a scratchcard..On returning to the UK,we found out that the ‘contract’ we signed did not carry the vendor’s detailsthat ,there was no payment plan,and there should have been a cooling off period-we were told there wasn’t,as it was a Trial Period.The ‘Free Holiday’ we’d won turned out to be bogus,so we emailed them to tell them that,because of this,we didn’t trust them and wanted a refund.One of the reps phoned me with some baloney about being given the’ wrong free holiday papers’. I told him we wanted nothing more to do with his company.His tone became aggressive and said he’d get his legal dept to sue us,then hung up.The customer service rep has phoned us twice today,insisting that we have no right to cancel,as it’s for a trial period(no wording to this effect on any of the paperwork.) It seems they’re making it all up as they go along,telling us that black is white,and sound desperate to hang onto our money.At present in dialogue with our credit card company,so watch this space,and avoid Club Heritage International.(Oh well,once bitten….)

Hi,

I have placed a few posts about Heritage on this site.

Recently we wrote to the ECC – they contacted Heritage, but have now given up as Heritage have not replied to them. There is a surprise.

It seems from Jonathan’s reply that this company seems to be flouting the legislation, but there seems no where to go to get it enforced. The ECC have no legal clout.

Is it possible to point us in a direction whwere we can go for legal intervention?

Look forward to any replies

It would also be good if all people could get together to support each others claims

Joy says:
23 March 2011

Thanks for your reply-I have made a note of the website you suggest. May I add some more information, which may be of help to others in the same situation?
The name of the company that Club Holidays International have been using for at least 8 months, to supply their so-called ‘Free Holidays ‘ is Your Dream Holidays S L.
On entering this into a Google search, I immediately found that this company had been closed down last year due to fraud.
http://www.gotimeshare.org/consumer-alerts/00768-holiday-companies-wound-part-investigation-fraud
The page carries a comment submitted last year: “We were also given a A4 piece of paper which was stamped by them with details of Your Dream Holidays S.L. We were told that we would receive a free luxury accommodation holiday for up to 6 People and all we had to do was to contact them Your Dream Holidays directly to book it. We were also told that we could take the holiday anytime as long as it was in the next year. I have tried calling this company but can’t get through to the telephone number. I can’t contact them on the email address given.” The writer continues by saying that she then received very poor responses and treatment from CHI.
The UK Government Office of Fair Trading website,
http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/watch_out/Commonscams/bogus-holiday-clubs/
has some excellent information re. holiday club scams and the consumer’s rights, which I quote here:

Your rights include:
• Receiving pre-contract information in writing, in good time before you are asked to sign a contract. The seller must point out certain information before you sign a contract, such as your right to cancel.
• Receiving a contract in the European language of your choice that reflects all of the key pre-contractual information and tells you minimum information such as:
• – an accurate description of the product, including when it can be accessed
¬- the price, any other charges, and a detailed payment schedule
¬- the identity, place of residence and signature of each party
¬- a summary of key services available
¬- the date when the contract begins
• A ‘cooling off’ period that allows you to cancel the contract without any penalty or charge within 14 days of signing the contract. During this time the seller cannot ask you for any payments, including a deposit.
• Related credit agreements are cancelled when you cancel the contract. These are credit agreements where the credit is provided by the seller or by a third party who has an arrangement with the seller.
• Payment must be divided into equal amounts for each year the contract runs. After the 14 day ‘cooling off’ period you may only be asked to pay for one year’s worth of the total cost of the contract at a time.
• The seller must give you 14 days written notice of when each yearly payment is due and you may cancel the contract within 14 days of receiving a request for the yearly installment.
Additionally, if you are invited to a presentation, the holiday club seller must make the purpose of the presentation clear.
All this may be of help to anyone who enters either Club Heritage International or Your Dream Holidays SL into a search engine, where they should then find this website,and the others I mention above..

Dave says:
24 March 2011

Thank you thank you…..not out of the woods yet but management fees went from 450 to 950…we deemed it too much for a two bed in Tenerife for 1 week…anyway got a final demand but hadn’t received anything else from them….so used the no. 2960 card told them termination effective immediately..rec’d an email back saying fill out this form and pay this years management fees to surrender.

I replied that I had fulfilled any contractual requirements by notification, no further monies would be paid and they could complete their own internal communication notification. No further response so far…watch this space….

Debbie says:
30 March 2011

Looking to sell my timeshare. recently contacted by Tenerife The Expert, who have told us with an up front fee of £395 they will be able to sell to the Russians,( 2 bed, sleep 6 in Tenerife) for approx £11,000. Does this sound a legitimate amount? Is this a reputable company? your views wold be much appreciated

Michelle Little says:
1 April 2011

My parents are at this moment three days in on their weeks holiday in Tenerife and same as Michael above they were duped yesterday into signing up with Club Class. £2,400 paid upfront by their credit card with further monthly payments to be made totalling up to £8,000. They decided this morning that they wanted to back out as they had changed their mind but when they approached the agent who signed them up he said there was no cooling off period and that because it is a “trust fund” they cannot back out. I have spent the day in solicitors office going through the papers they faxed to me and the upshot of it is that a letter has been sent to their Gibraltar office cancelling agreement and I have told them to get in touch with their credit card company to try and cancel the payment. Is it possible that the credit card company will be able to cancel this payment? Is there any other advice you have that we could try.

ROGER FREEMAN says:
2 April 2011

i have a time share with anfi tenerife, we joined RCI a few years ago this year i cancelled RCI contract so we could go back to the resort anually, but anfi want me to pay 89 euros to bank my week for this year, i am refusing to do this are they in breach of contract? im confused they even pressure you by e-mails

Lea says:
7 April 2011

I have just come back from a weekend away with Club La Costa where they put the hardsell. We actually got tempted and signed up for the Trial Membership. However when we got home I contacted them by email to cancel the membership. I had a reply asking me to contact someone to discuss the next steps. I was surprised as I thought that they would just cancel it. When I spoke with someone over the telephone she first sounded nice and friendly but then got a bit cheeky to me saying that I’m not really entitled to cancel my holiday and that I have made quite a bit out of them. I insisted that I am in my rights to cancel and that I am in my cooling off period. I was then told that I had to return the Welcome Pack before they would cancel my membership. I pointed out that there was nothing in the terms and conditions stating that I had to do this but said that I was willing to return this if they sent me an appropriately stamped address envelope. I eventually managed to get an email saying that they are cancelling my membership but it appears as though they are still asking for the Welcome Pack. I also phoned up the people with whom I agreed to take the loan in order to pay for the timeshare on the same day who advised me that a letter will be sent to me in the post confirming that my account has been cancelled however that was a few days ago. I know this can take a few days to reach me but until I receive the letter I am worried that they might take some money out of my account.

Joy says:
7 April 2011

Just do what we did-cancel your credit card-most banks wil re-issue your card with a different number.Remember to inform your bank of this .

Lea says:
7 April 2011

Thanks Joy. Unfortunately I set up the DD with my debit card which I have a few direct debits set up. I’m not so sure it would be so easy getting another card. I keep checking my account but the direct debit isn’t set up just yet so I don’t know if they’ve cancelled this like I’ve asked or if they’re waiting for the 14 day cooling off period to lapse before setting it up.

mrs s says:
11 April 2011

My husband and I have a time share in Florida and want to get rid of it due to increasing maintenence fees. We have been to an interview with ITRA who advised us they are putting together no win no fee claims against missold time shares. Whilst there we discussed them taking our timeshare off our hands. To do this we would have to pay them a serverence fee of £7000 which our time share company has apparently agreed with them for this they say we would be completely free of our timeshare and have beengiven membership of club class to book any further holidays for 1 year after that we can choose if want to contine to be members for an annual fee of £95. We have signed some papers but have not yet handed over any money. Do you know how this company work and will we be free of our timeshare. Is ther any way that after we have paid the money we could still get correspondance from our time share company saying we are legally still the owners. please help us.

Anne Marie Clarke says:
16 June 2011

I made the mistake whilst on holiday in Portugal in 2004 by being signed up with Club Class. I didn’t try to use them although they kept telling me that there were holidays up to be used at very reasonable prices. I was paying them monthly for 5 years of £114 per month (51 months) until last year when it came to an end. I thought at last I’d get approx £4500 back on their cash back scheme. I took the certificate out to claim it back when I realised that there was a 2 week window to claim it back!!! Alas the time had lapsed.
I had had a few phone calls regarding holidays to Tenerife for myself & my partner.To have a 2 week holiday half board for next to nothing. I declined. I then started receiving more phone calls again this time I thought why not use it, so I agreed to the holiday for £89 per person as I thought I deserved a trip from them.
I received all the paperwork, flights, hotel voucher, Great!
The week before leaving I checked all the paperwork just to make sure I had covered everything and in one of the many printed sheets was a sentence that told me I had to attend a meeting, if I didn’t I would have to pay for the whole trip. ???
I was contacted by the person who was going to pick us up from the airport, was told the meeting was a formality just to discuss how best to use their facilities as I hadn’t been using them for my hols.
We arrived all was good, we made arrangements to meet with him on the sat morning, which we did & horror of horror he wanted me to sign up for another 5yrs at £125 a month, promising flight for cost, any holiday from any travel agent at cost but it had to be done then & there as it needed to be done abroad.
we were there for 5 hours, every time I said I wasn’t happy about it he told me I was an idiot not to take it up.
I eventually told him NO.
I feel very foolish that I had signed in the 1st place but very pleased not to have done it again.
They have sent me 2 emails regarding their yearly fees of £75 & told me that I have to pay any outstanding fees that I haven’t paid as I will accumulate interest on said fees. What rights have they got as to cancel my membership I have to pay them my fees!
Is there anything I can do to stop them from doing this to anyone else?

Kevin says:
26 June 2011

We are current owners of 1501 Vacation points with Club La Costa which we would like to sell ( think this is impossible!) We are aware that CLC have brought forward the date (01.08) that you have to advise them if you do not wish to continue with next years maintance fees. We have tried to cancel before but were advised that only upon the return of the original deed certificates would this be possible. To-date our costs for membership ( exc maintance fees ) is £17,000, do we stand a chance of ever selling to a legitimate company in an attempt to recover some of these costs?

Dave says:
21 July 2011

Hi Jonathan

Can you advise if we can rely on the Directive for protection for purchases in Spain and the Canaries (eg Tenerife)? I ask this as Spain has not yet put legislation in place to comply with the Directive despite the introduction date being earlier this year. If not, would I be covered by the UK Regs as a UK citizen?

Spudsbit says:
26 July 2011

Hi.
We were at a Club La Costa hotel/resort at the weekend in Scotland and unfortunately we signed up for the Trial Membership on the 24/07/11. Following our return yesterday and having the time to fully discuss the product we have decided to cancel. I have done the following:
• Signed the 14 day withdrawal form and sent it to Club La Costa’s UK office by Guaranteed delivery for 1pm tomorrow – this will require a signature on delivery.
• Signed the financial agreement cancelation form and sent this to Barclays in Cardiff by Guaranteed delivery for 1pm tomorrow – this will require a signature on delivery– however this is a PO box address.
• Kept copies of the covering letterers stating that we wish to cancel any agreement with them and photocopies of the signed and dated forms.
• Contacted Consumer Direct and have discussed the situation with them [who advised to send the cancelation/withdrawal forms via trackable post].
Can you please advise if I have to do anything else.

Thanks

Colin Marchant says:
26 July 2011

We are being continually being pestered to pay our fees to Club Class Concierge. We thought we had sold this on to another company to buy into another system but Club Class tell us that we could not have done as they could not be sold. Is this true?

Colin Marchant says:
28 July 2011

Many thanks. We were indeed phoned by one of these firms who offered us flights abroad to settle matters which we ignored. I think these recent calls are from Club Class re membership fees but we thought we had sold our membership. I don’t remember anything saying we couldn’t. We certainly sold our membership with a previous timeshare company