Time to tell all, timeshare owners

Time to tell all, timeshare owners

The National Consumer Commission is conducting public hearings around the country, and hard-done-by timeshare consumers are invited to tell their stories, in person, with a view to coming up with a single piece of legislation that will be used to properly regulate this controversial, law-unto-themselves industry. 

Holiday home
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Listen to Wendy on the topic below, or read the details under the podcast.

They began in Pretoria last week, then moved to Cape Town this week, wrapping up today, and it will be Durban’s turn on Monday the 24th and Tuesday the 25th of this month at a venue yet to be announced.

The number one gripe is the refusal by holiday clubs to cancel timeshare contracts, so people are essentially not only locked in for life; forced to pay whatever levies are demanded of them, but when they die, their children inherit the burden.

Over-selling of limited accommodation, is another common complaint, which leads to consumers being told they can’t get bookings; and there’s the exorbitant levies being charged for the upkeep and maintenance of facilities owned by holiday clubs. 

This despite a 2014 SARS directive which states that levies cannot be charged to persons who do not have a title deed and who do not own a property.

The marketing of these holiday contracts has come under fire for decades - people have been lured to presentations under false “you’ve won a prize” pretences, and then hit with a very slick hard sell where lots is said about all the wonderful holidays and the fantastic investment but very little if anything about the levies and the fact that you’re not going to be able to give your points away, let alone sell them.

The industry has always been badly regulated, consumer commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed concedes, partly because different aspects of it are regulated by several different laws and organisations of the state.

Hence the Commission’s aim to get it covered by a single piece of legislation - and which will create a means for consumers to participate and have a voice in the affairs of holiday club schemes.

Because that’s the problem, so many people who’ve signed up for these timeshare deals, or inherited them - feel completely powerless in the face of these holiday companies.

Patricia de Bruyn and a resort on the southcoast  

Patricia de Bruyn of Hillcrest’s story is particularly shocking. 

Her father inherited his mother’s timeshare at a KZN south coast resort in 1993 when she could no longer afford the levies. 

He then tried to sell it, but couldn’t and when he passed away early last year, Patricia called the company to tell them and ask them to cancel the contract or take back the week.

“We’ll discuss this with the trustees,” she was told, but that never happened and now that levy burden has become Patricia’s.

“You would think it would be in their interests to take it back and rent it out or sell it,” she told me this week. “But they are just not interested, which shows you what a truly shoddy investment it is."

Some companies insist on being sent proof of a person’s financial affairs before they’ll ever consider setting them free from these eternal contracts. It’s truly ridiculous.

Most of the complaints are coming from people who own holiday points as opposed to timeshare - and many of them were persuaded to convert their timeshare into points. 

To those people the legal advice is simple - just cancel. Lifetime contracts have never been legal in this country, and are so-called “prohibited conduct” under the Consumer Protection Act.

You can cancel with 20 business days’ notice.

Meanwhile, the public hearings continue and for many the chance to tell their stories and share their frustrations is intoxicating.

Industry whistleblowers are welcome too - the Commissioner has encouraged to tell all - and they can do so confidentially. 

All they have to do is email the enquiry panel on [email protected].

Now wouldn't that be illuminating.

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