The timeshare industry has received a bad press for many years because of the tactics used by many resorts to sell their timeshare units. Many of us will have been accosted whilst on holiday by “timeshare touts” trying to persuade us to attend sales presentations which are often held miles from anywhere and last many hours. These presentations often involve high pressure sales techniques, so much so, that people are coerced into signing agreements to purchase timeshare which they do not want, merely to get away from the presentations.
The low satisfaction level of these consumers is in marked contrast to the many thousands of timeshare owners who have purchased their timeshare in more conventional ways and are exceedingly happy with the high quality of their purchase.
Timeshare is a complex product and is not something to be entered into lightly. Purchasing, whilst subject to the high pressure sales techniques of presentations will lead to confusion about the product and its affordability which leads to dissatisfaction.
To allow consumers to make an informed choice the European Union has introduced legislation that requires marketers to provide extensive documentation detailing the structure of the timeshare resort and the organisation. The legislation also provides for a minimum 10 day cooling-off period, during this period a purchaser may cancel any agreement without cost to him.
The Isle of Man introduced equivalent legislation in 1997 which applies to any timeshare if:
the purchaser is an individual, and
the agreement is in any way governed by the laws of the Isle of Man, or
on the date on which the agreement is signed by the purchaser, one or both of the parties are in, or ordinarily resident in the Island.
Failure to provide a cooling-off period, a notice of cancellation rights or documentation may result in prosecution but after 5 years in operation the Office of Fair Trading is pleased to say that not one single prosecution has taken place which indicates the very highest level of compliance by local timeshare companies.
The legislation deals with very specific areas of the timeshare purchase and is intended to provide consumers with all salient facts and information about their purchase together with an opportunity to review those documents. Not all complaints about timeshare will be covered by the legislation and consumers must appreciate that they have to take some responsibility for their own actions. It also has to be remembered that salesmen selling timeshare may on occasions exaggerate the benefits of purchasing a timeshare but such misrepresentations would likely fall outside the above legislation. In such a case the consumer may have to pursue a claim against the marketing company in the country where the misrepresentation was made - this could be both difficult and costly.
Whilst the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading may be able to assist aggrieved consumers where there is an Isle of Man company involved either directly or indirectly, we are unable to pursue complaints involving companies based in other countries other than referring them to the relevant authorities.
There are few countries in the world that have Government agencies such as the Office of Fair Trading that are able to pursue complaints about timeshare or other consumer protection matters and so it is imperative for consumers to do everything in their power to avoid problems in the first place!