£8 billion worldwide
In the year 2020 an estimated £8 billion is being charged in maintenance fees by timeshare companies around the world; over £2 billion of that in Europe alone.
Timeshare owners, as well as industry observers have accused the business of profiteering from the current pandemic. Unlike regular holidaymakers, timeshare members have to pay every year whether they take their holidays or not.
Whilst the resorts are contractually within their rights to charge members full fees for holidays they have no chance of taking, commentators are labelling this an unacceptable act of greed.
“It’s a step too far,” says Jack Dawson, a contract and claims expert with European Consumer Claims (ECC). “Airline companies are refunding people for flights they are unable to use because of COVID. Hotels are showing similar compassion and also refunding when people can’t use a booking that has been paid for. The timeshare companies by contrast seem to taking the opportunity to reap extra profits instead.
“The annual fees include maintenance of the resort, but without guests to accommodate, and staff being paid furlough by the government, clearly the resorts could offer at least a partial refund to their members. Instead it looks like they taking advantage of the situation to make more profit than in normal years.”
Radio 4’s award winning consumer program highlighted the issue in conjunction with the European Consumer Centre and the Timeshare Consumer Association in October this year. Laura Johnson from the European CC advised Joan Yorke, the program’s host that “if you are not able to go and stay…it’s not unreasonable to expect to have a refund for that,” and that there was, “no foreseeable situation in consumer law where a business can keep your money and not provide you with a service.”
ECC have teamed up with a specialist firm of lawyers to advocate for timeshare owners being compensated for what they view as unfair charges.
Andrew Cooper, the CEO of ECC, believes the industry is being short sighted in charging it’s members full fees for 2020. “They might inflate their balance sheets in the short term, but at a time when the the industry’s future is hanging by a thread, this disregard for their members could cost them dearly. People are looking to make savings while money is tight thanks to this awful pandemic. Charging customers for holidays they can’t use is only going to alienate them and cause them to question the value of their memberships.”
ECC have created a campaign website where members can get help with getting their 2020’s annual fees refunded. “A decent proportion of people who paid maintenance fees this year will be entitled to a refund,” says Mr Cooper. “The first thing people need to do is register with on the website that they want our help. The legal team are doing this on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, so there is no up front cost involved. We are looking at getting as much of the multi billion pound (2020 Maintenance fee) pot back in people’s pockets as possible.
“The more people who get on board, the louder our voice will be. These timeshare giants can’t ignore all of us.”