World’s biggest selling timeshare resort, Anfi Del Mar in Gran Canaria, accused of revoking family’s £16,000 timeshare membership without compensation after they failed to pay maintenance, despite allegedly having told them that the apartment would be rented out to cover annual fees when not being used.
Hertford builder Desmond Kavanagh, like 33,000 other families to date, signed up to join Anfi Del Mar as new members following a sales presentation around 20 years ago..
“We were on holiday and staying in a low quality 3 star complex in Puerto Rico,” says Desmond. “The contrast in the standards between that and luxurious Gran Anfi was overwhelming. The salesman was slick, the weather was bright, the sea was enchanting, and we were made to feel we deserved this luxury. We paid £10,000 and were moved in that same day for the rest of our holidays. We thought that meant we were finished with low standard vacations and that the Kavanagh family had ‘arrived.’
Wrong sized apartment
The very first year they used it, the family were told that they had bought the wrong sized apartment and would need to upgrade. “I was shocked,” says Desmond, 54. “When we bought we were on holiday with our 4 kids who all attended the sales presentation, and Anfi had moved us into a 2 bed when we stayed onsite for the remainder of that holiday. They knew we were a family of 6 when they sold us an apartment for 4. Now we had no choice but to spend another £6000 to upgrade to a 2 bedroom membership.
Despite this bad start, the Kavanaghs had around 8 years of great holidays with Anfi. “We would save up our week and have 2 together alternate years,” says Desmond. “In the middle years we would use ‘bonus weeks’ which are holidays in high quality timeshare resorts which happen to be empty. Provided you are flexible these are great, well priced breaks.
Then Desmond had two unpleasant years. A divorce meant that he was moving around a lot and was not in a position to take a holiday. He didn’t keep up his annual maintenance payments, and timeshare memberships require you to pay these fees (about equal to the cost of a regular hotel booking in the same complex) whether you holiday or not.
“It took me a while to get back on my feet after the divorce,” says Desmond. “One thing I thought I didn’t have to worry about was my timeshare ownership. The salesman had made a big deal of assuring us that any year we didn’t use it, they would rent it out for more than the annual fee and we would actually make a profit those years.
Desmond was stunned to find out that during the 2 years he hadn’t holidayed, Anfi (members of the RDO) had cancelled his membership. “They just took it back. Our £16,000 investment was gone. They told me that it was in the contract and they had tried to contact me. This is not true. I have never changed my email or mobile number. I would have seen any attempts to contact me.
“It also turned out they don’t rent rooms, they just give permission for the members to do this themselves. I was lied to, and it cost me £16,000. This behaviour is disgusting. It’s stealing really. No wonder timeshare companies have a reputation as crooks.
“It seems so casual that they can just take our money and then revoke our membership like it was nothing. Like everyone else I am suffering in the pandemic. The building trade is particularly had hit, and I can’t afford to lose so many thousands of pounds because of a dishonest sales person.”
“Mr Kavanagh has every right to feel aggrieved,” agrees Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims, “Especially if he was mis-sold into believing the resort would rent his unit out to cover his annual fees. £16,000 is a lot of money to lose because of incorrect information.
Cooper explains that it could even have been worse for Desmond if he had been in the same situation in 2020. ” At ECC we get large volumes of calls every day from members whose resorts simply refuse to let them leave. Many of these members are elderly or ill and can no longer holiday. They need to be free of the commitment.
“The number of people buying timeshare has fallen dramatically and the resorts need to make up that lost income. Timeshare clubs see their members as a revenue stream because of the annual fees they are committed to paying. The resorts are fighting hard to prevent members from relinquishing their contracts. ‘Walking away’ can be very difficult in the current environment.
“Many resorts refuse point blank to let members leave, and will even send serious debt collection firms like Daniels Silverman or Shepperd & Wedderburn after people who fall behind on maintenance fee payments. This in turn can lead to CCJs followed by enforced bankruptcy.
“The other factor to consider is that many current timeshare owners were illegally mis-sold. There have been a number of legal protections brought in since 1999 to protect timeshare buyers from high pressure sales, and many resorts ignored the new rules. This means that a large number of current owners can not only escape their unwanted membership but may even be in a position to make a financial claim against their resort.
“However to qualify for any financial award the maintenance fees need to be up to date. It can be that paying a few hundred pounds can mean you are in a position to claim tens of thousands.
“Anyone who wants to investigate where they stand with their ownership should contact a trustworthy, well reviewed claims firm, or independent consumer organisation for advice.”