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Holiday club scams facing European crackdown

Proposals announced to target rogues


Bucket and spade

The European Commission has announced plans to crackdown on bogus ‘holiday club’ scams which have duped thousands of British holidaymakers.

Many of these scams work by getting victims to part with thousands of pounds to buy membership of a club promising cheap holidays for years ahead.

But these deals often turns out to be worthless.

Rogue holiday clubs have been able get around existing timeshare laws because holiday club membership is not linked to any rights in any particular property, so consumers are not protected.

The UK government has been has been pressing the Commission to help stamp out the problem by updating the 13 year old EU Timeshare Directive.

Timeshare laws

The Commission’s new proposals include:

  • a ban on holiday clubs taking money up front
  • a 14 day cooling-off period
  • up front information setting out precisely what club membership entitles a consumer to, and exactly who their contract is with. This must all be included in their contract.

Consumer Minister Ian McCartney welcomed the proposals and said: ‘Since the mid-1990’s we have had effective laws to outlaw scams with Timeshares. Scammers have found a way to get around the rules by selling a different product – holiday clubs.

‘People are being conned into shelling out thousands of pounds on what turn out to be empty promises. Unscrupulous holiday club operators promise a lifetime of cheap holidays in exotic locations – but deliver nothing. Victims not only lose their holiday but also their hard-earned savings.

‘Because these scams are on holidaymakers while they in a foreign country, this is a problem that requires Europe-wide action. We will keep working hard with the Commission and the other member states to ensure that this proposal is adopted.’

Scratch cards

Which? travel spokesman Bob Tolliday said: ‘We’re pleased to see that the European Commission is closing these loopholes in the law, but people should still be very wary of holiday clubs.

‘Our experience is that most of these organisations are scams and it would be advisable to think very carefully about parting with your money for one of these schemes.’

Holiday club membership costs up to £15,000 but buyers then find they have no guarantee on dates or quality of accommodation, and they are committed to paying an annual subscription fee even if they do not take a holiday.

Often enticements such as ‘free’ holidays or promises of a win on a scratch-card are used by the marketers of these products to get consumers to sales presentations. These initial approaches can be either direct while the consumer is on holiday or via telemarketing.

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