Anfi owners. Think twice before signing those "amended" new contracts.
ANFI - who have already been the subject of hundreds of Spanish court cases over illegal timeshare contracts - is currently pushing hard for members to sign an "updated" ownership agreement, replacing the original paperwork they signed when they first joined the club. Members who accept this new contract could be relinquishing their rights to claim compensation from ANFI in the future.
The timeshare powerhouse is offering a free, one week accommodation voucher (a pricey incentive in their top tier Canary Island resorts) to members who agree to switch to an amended, newer version of their membership contacts.
There are even reports (as yet unverified) of ANFI allegedly refusing to allow members to bank their 2020 week for 2021 (as many members need to do during the pandemic) unless they sign the updated contract.
Experts believe this may be a strategy by ANFI to avoid exposure to tens of millions of pounds worth of compensation claims by replacing possibly illegally written contracts, with new (but now legally compliant) versions. Members who sign the new, amended contract may unwittingly be giving up their rights to a compensation windfall.
ANFI members are advised not to sign any updated contracts without getting informed advice, and to contact impartial experts like the Timeshare Consumer Association (TCA) before putting pen to paper.
The ANFI Group in Gran Canaria is one of timeshare's biggest ever success stories. ANFI Beach Club, the first resort, opened its doors in 1993, with another four stunning complexes in the years that followed.
ANFI set a string of worldwide sales records in the early 2000s and at their high point employed over 200 sales personnel conducting up to 400 timeshare presentations every single day. This high octane activity generated their current member base of a staggering 33,000 families.
According to observers however, many of these contracts may have been illegal and have potentially left the ANFI Group exposed to tens of millions of pounds in compensation claims.
"Since 1999 there have been several major changes in the law," says Philip James, a timeshare contract specialist from ECC. "It is now illegal for timeshare companies to take deposits on the day. Not only that, but there is a 14 day 'cooling off period' where the buyer is allowed to change their mind with no penalties whatsoever. Companies may not legally take a deposit during this extra two weeks. These are just a couple of examples of the protective rules brought in, but there are many others.
"These new rules were to shield people from pressure sales. The timeshare industry was probably too successful for its own good. It created a perfect sales environment where people were swept up in the beauty of their surroundings and signed on the dotted line. Often they realised later that they had overspent and Spain developed a reputation for facilitating high pressure sales.
"The legal changes put timeshare companies in a panic and many of them saw the new environment as unworkable. They didn´t believe they could still do business without taking a deposit on the day from new members. Rather than close down their successful operations, many companies decided to ignore the new laws, carry on as before and wait to see if there were any repercussions.
"Nothing immediately happened, and the companies carried on as normal, for years," says Philip James. "This is Spain, things don´t always move quickly, but the law catches up in the end. Recent developments mean that a considerable percentage of people who bought timeshare from 1999 onwards are now able to claim against the resort they joined This means that in many cases they are entitled to get their money back, plus compensation amounting to tens of thousands of pounds."
As you would expect from an industry leader like ANFI, they seem to be making proactive moves to minimise the damage.
"If it is worth ANFI offering a free week of accommodation in their 5 star resorts in exchange for members signing a new contract, you have to reason that it makes financial sense for them to do so," explains Philip. "And if it makes financial sense for the resort, that is potentially at the expense of the members.
"By signing a new contract, members could very well be relinquishing their right to compensation claims worth many times more than the incentive of a free week at Anfi. As with any contract, it is always sensible to seek impartial advice before signing. We urge ANFI members to do this with the TCA or another trustworthy consumer organisation."
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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.
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