Blog post -
The timeshare exit minefield. Can you safely escape an unwanted membership?
Timeshare ownerships have been around in one form or another since the 1960s, and hit their heyday 20 years later.
The 1980s bought an explosion of eye catching headlines: high pressure sales, touts harassing tourists on the Spanish Costas, drugs, violence and celebrity gangsters laundering money....
This was the high watermark of financial success for timeshare resorts with Brits and other Europeans joining up in their droves. The industry was making a fortune and a lot of people got rich.
"Timeshare clubs offered solutions to problems an otherwise unchallenged package tour industry was ignoring," says Robert Salmon, a timeshare contracts expert with European Consumer Claims. "Customers of Thomas Cook and their ilk were tired of substandard accommodation and wanted to guarantee themselves a better quality holiday. The timeshare companies - high pressure sales tactics notwithstanding - answered those needs.
"The package tour industry woke up and upped their game in the early 2000s. Their standards caught up and they even rented spare inventory from the underselling timeshare resorts.
"Timeshare´s exclusivity and quality differentiators were gone; legislation was coming in thick and fast to regulate their high pressure sales activities. The industry went into a steady decline, and today only a handful of sales operations are left. They just can't compete in terms of value.
"The average timeshare owner is a lot older now, and many of them want out. The maintenance is a burden, their holiday habits have changed, and their kids want no part of it. The expensive memberships have no resale value unfortunately, and the cash strapped timeshare resorts are reluctant to let owners walk away from the commitment of their annual fees.
A new market has sprung up with legal firms offering to help owners get free of their memberships, but like any developments in this beleaguered industry, the landscape is fraught with scam operators.
These criminal enterprises get rich by charging desperate timeshare owners to cancel the membership for them. They take the money but never perform the relinquishment, leaving the bedevilled customer worse off than before.
"Luckily non-profit organisations like the Timeshare Consumer Association (TCA) are keeping track of who can be trusted," says Robert Salmon. "There are genuine firms out there who can get your membership cancelled but it isn´t easy for the average owner to distinguish them from the scammers. If you call or email TCA, they will let you know which timeshare lawyer firms they currently recommend, or give you feedback on a firm you are considering retaining."
There is one more ray of light for owners who joined a timeshare club on or after 1999.
"21 years ago new directives began rolling out to protect consumers from high pressure sales," explains Robert. "There were many elements of the legislation that the timeshare industry believed impossible to implement whilst staying in business; for example they were no longer allowed to take a deposit either on the day or during the newly mandated Cooling Off Period.
"Most companies simply ignored the new rules, and as a result the majority of contracts written from 1999 onwards are actually illegal. Owners who have an illegal contract can not only get out of their membership, but are often entitled to financial compensation. Again, anyone wants to know if they might qualify for a claim can get in contact with the TCA for impartial advice."
Timeshare Consumer Association.
Contact us on: T: +44 2036704588 or +44 2035193808 (ask for Daniel), E: firstname.lastname@example.org (Address to Daniel).
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TCA provides a central resource of consumer information on timeshare matters for the media and other organisations – We work towards encouraging responsible, honest, timeshare operators. We also publicly expose negative consumer practices and organisations which operate in a manner detrimental to timeshare buyers and owners.
An important part of our mission is to lobby UK and European Governments and regulatory bodies for improved consumer protection in the timeshare environment and collect information on frauds and mis-selling, for action by enforcement authorities.
We are staffed by former and current timeshare owners, as well as former timeshare industry staff. We know our way around the timeshare business
We are a proud member of the UK Small Charities Coalition