MEPs demand blitz on timeshare touts

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.37, 11.10.01, p8
Publication Date 11/10/2001
Content Type

Date: 11/10/01

By Martin Banks

PARLIAMENTARIANS are calling for a crackdown on timeshare touts who prey on unsuspecting holiday-makers.

They say EU regulations designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous timeshare operators and so-called holiday clubs have left a "patchwork of laws" which offer only minimum safeguards.

British MEP Phillip Whitehead, consumer affairs spokesman for the European Parliamentary Labour Party, is among those campaigning for a tightening of the laws. He said the timeshare directive of 1994 was intended to stamp out dubious practices in the industry but since then complaints have increased, not lessened. "Despite the directive and the best efforts of the responsible sector of the industry, complaints about timeshare and its ingenious variations have increased," said Whitehead, a former BBC producer.

His concerns are echoed by European Parliament Vice-President and Portuguese deputy Luis Marinho. The timeshare directive says customers should be allowed a 'cooling-off' period when they can cancel deals.

During this period, no deposits should be taken from vendors. By 1999, all member states had incorporated the directive into national law, but Whitehead said each country has enforced the regulations differently, leaving a "patchwork of laws". "For example, cooling-off periods vary from 15 days in the UK and Belgium to 14 in Austria with other member states opting for the directive's ten-day minimum," he says. "Equally, deposits during the cooling-off period are permitted in some countries, such as Luxembourg and Portugal, but not in others, like Denmark." Complaints have increased with the recent emergence of timeshare look-alike schemes, such as holiday clubs, particularly in the UK, where customers do not receive guarantees and have no chance to change their mind once they have signed their cheque.

Whitehead says he has received a substantial number of complaints from his constituents who have been "ripped off" by holiday clubs. Most complainants parted with large amounts of money only to find the membership benefits they believed they were promised, such as discounted accommodation or cheap flights, did not materialise. "There has been a deluge of complaints from consumers targeted by these new scams. Often, they are pensioners who, frequently, are simply throwing good money after bad. There are laws to try to help people but the directive should be reviewed and extended to include holiday clubs and package holidays. We also need longer cooling-off periods and more effective redress for victims of such scams."

The issue will be discussed at the Parliament's November session.

Parliamentarians are calling for a crackdown on timeshare touts who prey on unsuspecting holiday-makers.

Subject Categories