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“Maintenance Heist” leaves owners desperate to escape contracts

January 18, 2021

Timeshare industry under fire for charging full annual fees in 2020 even though they haven’t had to accommodate their members.  Owners desperate to escape restrictive contracts

Pandemic profiteering

While the travel business in general behaved responsibly towards consumers who booked but were unable to use flights and hotel stays, the timeshare industry has attracted widespread criticism for charging full fees despite resorts being closed to guests.  

“It’s profiteering, pure and simple,” says John House an owner for 20 years with Marriott’s Vacation Club.  “Everyone is supposed to be pulling together in these difficult times.  It’s tough for everyone.  Nobody can afford to pay for things they don’t get.”

John and wife Linda, like millions of other timeshare owners around the world are unable to use their holiday apartment, but the resort refuses to give them even a partial discount on their fees.

Sharp practice

“They are getting furlough money for staff wages from the Spanish government, plus they don’t have the expenses of a normal year because there are no guests, yet they are charging us in full,”  says John, whose case was reported on timeshare consumer sites last year. “There’s no other way to see it, Marriott’s are taking advantage of this pandemic to line their pockets.  It’s sharp practice.”

John and wife Linda joined Marriott’s Vacation Club in 2000 for £20,000 and pay around £1000 in annual fees.  They are acutely aware that non members of their club could (in less prohibitive times) book the same holiday (for the same cost as the House family’s annual maintenance fees) via regular booking sites.

“We paid £20,000 to join this timeshare club because it was exclusive,” says Linda.  “It isn’t exclusive any more.  Anyone who wants to book into our club can do so without having shelled out to become members, so that £20,000 we paid gives us no benefit now.  In fact it puts us at a disadvantage if anything.  Regular bookers through Expedia and the like don’t have to pay for a holiday they don’t take.  We do.”

"Maintenance Heist" leaves owners desperate to escape contracts
John house with daughter Melissa, circa 2000

Unrealistic promises

Marriott’s, like most of the 4000+ timeshare resorts worldwide have offered double their weeks this year in lieu of the week that members were unable to use in 2020.  John and Linda are sceptical that this would be possible.  “Obviously they can’t deliver on that,” says John.  “How can every member have double holidays next year?  Even if the companies had enough inventory to accommodate this, which they don’t, most people own the amount of weeks they can use.  They can’t just double their holidays from work or other commitments.  And that’s assuming the resorts are even open this year.”

"Maintenance Heist" leaves owners desperate to escape contracts
Linda with grandson Ryder

Kick in the teeth

“Over the years we have noticed the standards deteriorate,” says Linda.  “Plus booking gets harder.  We are told to book 12 months in advance to get what we want, but I called for the week we want no more than a  minute after the lines were open to be told there was no availability.  Yet if I go on I can get that week through them.  It’s a kick in the teeth for their loyal members.

We were cruising along, taking our vacations without complaining, but them demanding full fees this year for no holidays is the straw that broke the camel’s back.  We feel like they are making a quick cash grab at a time when everyone else is struggling and trying to help each other out.”

Timeshare exodus

“Unfortunately John and Linda’s story is typical of the reports we have been getting since the pandemic conditions started last February,” says Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC).  “The timeshare industry used to be a ground-breaking, superior way to holiday but since its heyday in the 80s and 90s it has not evolved to anything like the same degree as the rest of the travel sector.  What used to be an exclusive guarantee of superior luxury is being increasingly viewed as a restrictive, expensive commitment.  

“There is no resale value to a timeshare membership.  John and Linda would tell you that you can’t even give them away.  To escape the commitment of the annual fees requires specialist help.  Without serious innovation in this sector it’s difficult to see any future for timeshare holidays.”

ECC boss Cooper points out one potential ray of light for many members who own in Spanish resorts.  “Because of protective measures enacted in Spain, many people who bought after 1999 can not only escape, but even claim compensation from the company who sold them their membership.  It’s easy to check if you qualify.  Call or email a reputable claims firm and they will be able to tell you.  Be careful to avoid the many criminal enterprises masquerading as claims firms (you can avoid these by using the Timeshare Trust site).”

“Alternatively you can contact one of the volunteer timeshare consumer associations to find out where you stand.”