Over the past few years, the timeshare industry has grown tremendously. Although there are many current owners who are trying to get out of their timeshare contracts, many people still opt to choose this form of vacationing. On the other hand, the market for timeshares has also become an ideal target of many scams. As there are several people who have fallen victims to these frauds, the authorities are warning the timeshare consumers to be aware of some of the many bogus holiday clubs.
According to consumer bodies, a growing number of holiday-makers are being targeted by bogus holiday club schemes. The Office of Fair Trading added that thousands are being lured each year with promises of luxury breaks at bargain prices but almost all are a rip-off. There are upfront fees that are virtually impossible to get back once promised benefits fail to materialise.
With upfront joining fee ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds, victims are told they will be able to book holidays at five-star resorts and only pay two- or three-star prices. People then realise that they have fallen for a sophisticated sales trap by discovering their membership counts for nothing when it comes to booking a holiday.
Susan Marks of Citizens Advice consumer affairs policy says that the fraudulent schemes use sophisticated sales techniques to suck people in. In most cases, there are reps working in big holiday resorts. In some, there are scratch cards which are often used to lure holidaymakers. Typically, they are promised a guaranteed prize through something like a scratch card, and this lures them into the club’s office in order to claim their prize. Once in the office, the real sell can begin.
On the other hand, Citizens Advice suggests to holidaymakers not to sign up for anything that requires money upfront.
Similarly, they are warned never to hand over the money unless given a written purchase agreement. And they should not walk away if they are not offered an unconditional 14 days cooling off period. Moreover, the Citizens Advice recommends reporting problems to the OFT and Trading Standards.
Meanwhile, a new legislation to standardise timeshare-like products will become law across Europe in 2011. Under the Timeshare Directive, long-term holiday products under 36 months known as Holiday Clubs or Discount Travel Membership Clubs will now be protected by the said legislation. This law will be a real improvement for consumers who are yet to decide whether to go ahead with a deal before paying anything, rather than having to try to get back money once it has already been paid.