Time to wave 'bon voyage' to holiday scams? EU ruling targets timeshare and holiday clubs

24 February 2011

Holiday scams timeshares

On 23 February new laws for timeshare and long-term holiday products came into force offering added protection to consumers. 

Sellers of long-term holiday contracts must now provide written information with the right to cancel. Consumers also have the right to a 14 day cooling off period to cancel their contract.

The changes have come about after a 2008 vote from European Parliament MEPs ruled to overhaul timeshare law and give holiday makers more rights by closing loopholes. Which? has lobbied for these changes for years and we are pleased that many of our recommendations have been adopted.

Holiday scams

It is estimated that 400,000 Britons lose around £1.2 billion annually to bogus holiday clubs. The new directive will mean that these long-term holiday products – as well as re-sale and exchange schemes, and timeshares on boats, caravans and cruise ships – are now also covered alongside traditional timeshare purchases.

Rochelle Turner, Head of Which? Travel Research said:

'Which? welcomes the change in law. For too long dubious companies have been able to pressurise thousands of consumers into signing away vast sums of money for a long-term holiday product they're not really interested in or able to easily get out of.'

Consumer protection

Until this week's change, the consumer protection only applied to timeshares running for at least three years – this led to companies selling timeshare trials of less than 36 months. Now it 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.

Other changes applying to all long-term holiday products include:

  • a 14 day cooling off period during which the buyer can withdraw from the contract without any penalty
  • the seller cannot ask for, or accept, any money from the consumer during the cooling off period
  • compulsory written information in the consumer's preferred language setting out information about the timeshare or holiday club
  • compulsory written notice of the right to cancel the contract and a cancellation form.

Dodgy sales tactics

Edward Davey, Minister for Consumer Affairs said:

'It's important that unscrupulous holiday club providers don't take advantage of people with empty promises and dodgy sales tactics. The new rules will protect consumers and mean that people will be clearer about their rights and improve their confidence in legitimate businesses.'

Which? Travel will be keeping a watchful eye to see if the authorities clamp down on holiday sales companies not meeting these legal requirements.

Have you been caught out by dodgy sales tactics for holiday clubs or timeshare trials? Share your views with Which? travel researcher Jonathan Mitcham on Which? Conversation.

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