Better protection for UK holiday-makers on its way
Better protection for UK holiday-makers on its way as the new Timeshare Directive is implemented
Consumers across the UK are set to benefit from greater protection when they buy and resell timeshare holidays, or timeshare-like holidays on cruise boats, canal boats, caravans and "discount holiday clubs" when new regulations are introduced across the EU.
The new Timeshare Directive (2008/122/EC) is expected to be implemented shortly into national law across the EU to enhance consumer protection surrounding timeshares and holiday products.
In the UK, the new Timeshare, Holiday Products, Resale and Exchange Contracts Regulations are being introduced from 23 February 2011. The Regulations will replace entirely the current regime in the UK by repealing the Timeshare Act and revoking the Timeshare Regulations 1997.
Laws implementing the Directive have already been introduced in France. Other countries, including Sweden, Slovakia, Finland, Austria and Germany, are expected to comply during February. A number of others have yet to announce the date the Directive will become law in their countries.
Changes to consumer protection covering timeshares were approved by the European Parliament as a result of major developments in the timeshare marketplace since the adoption of the original Directive in 1994. New products and contacts had developed that fell outside the scope of the original legislation.
Jed Mayatt, UK ECC Manager, said: “The overriding aim of the new Regulations is to enhance consumer protection by extending the scope of the current rules to include the new products which have emerged onto the market. The Directive created a simplified and coherent framework for the regulation of timeshare and long-term holiday products, as well as exchange and resale.
“A number of countries have yet to announce that they have yet started the process to turn the Directive into Regulations, but all EU consumers - including those in the UK - will effectively still have the same rights under the Directive and they will still be able to benefit.
“The new rules should ensure that consumers are equally well protected across Europe and will create a level playing field in the market for timeshare and certain other holiday-related products. The rules mean that the best possible protection will be in place for consumers in the modern holiday market, and that rogue traders will no longer be able to exploit loopholes in the law.
“If any UK consumer has a complaint - whichever EU country it concerns – they should contact the UK ECC and we will advise them of their rights."
Complaints about timeshare and related/similar products (which includes discount holiday clubs, timeshares and the resale of both) remained high on the list of complaints from UK consumers within Europe in 2010, but in common with our work as a whole, there has been a shift in the balance of the types of cases our advisors have handled.
The UK European Consumer Centre’s (ECC) complaint figures for 2010 show that there has been an increase of just over 27% in the actual number of Normal Complaints about timeshare and related/similar products in 2010 – from 280 in 2009 to 355 in 2010. This top level of enquiry is where the consumer has tried to resolve their own problem but attempts have failed – the trader does not respond or does not agree. There are the more in-depth types of cases the UK ECC deals with.
But this increase alone does not tell the full story. Jed said: “An analysis of our figures shows, however, that the picture is not at all straightforward. Overall, the actual number of complaints and enquiries about timeshares and related/similar products showed a significant reduction from 2121 in 2009 to 1659 in 2010, that’s a drop of almost 22%. But this masks the actual rise in our most in-depth types of cases about timeshares and related/similar products - the Normal Complaints.
“And if we look at the overall number of complaints and enquiries about this subject, the picture is equally complex; we can see that as a percentage they drop from 35% of our total number of complaints and enquiries in 2009 (when the total was 6036) to 23% in 2010 (when the total was 7086). Again, this needs to be taken in the context of the rise in the total number of complaints and enquiries from the level of 6036 in 2009 to 7086 in 2010 – an increase of just over 17%. Such a rise would lower the percentages.
“So, the picture is not as clear-cut as it first appears; in fact what seems to be happening is that UK consumers are becoming more in need of our help and the cases are becoming more in-depth.”
Consumers who buy the new timeshare and discount holiday club related products developed since the adoption of the original Directive do not currently get the same rights or levels of protection as those who buy more conventional timeshare products. Examples are: consumers using different kinds of property (e.g. cruise boats, caravans or canal boats), or contracts which last for less than three years. Until now, the re-sale and exchange of timeshare schemes have not been covered.
- The new Regulations will extend the scope of current rules to cover:
long-term holiday products (i.e. holiday clubs)
- shorter term contracts - all purchases for a period of one year or more including tacit renewal of shorter periods
- all forms of holiday accommodation (including boats and other moveable property such as caravans or cruise ships)
- resale of timeshare or holiday club memberships by consumers
- exchange services (ie. some timeshare owners pay an extra fee to join an exchange club, where they can swap their week in, say, the Canaries for a week in another location).
The change in rules means that UK consumers who buy any of these products will now get the same rights or levels of protection as those buying the more conventional timeshare products. Essentially, these consumers will now also have a 14-day cooling-off period.
Jed added: “Tourism plays an increasingly important role in the economies of many countries in the EU. This legislation will be important new protection for UK citizens when they are on holiday abroad.
“The implementation of this new Directive should improve consumer protection in a way that is workable and practical for business, help to protect legitimate business by squeezing out rogue traders and create the conditions to foster the growth of new business across the EU.”
The UK ECC provides advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK and will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint. Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 08456 04 05 03 weekdays between 10am and 3pm.
Notes to Editors
For further information please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 08456 08 96 06.
UK European Consumer Centre - 08456 04 05 03
- The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 29 centres covering Europe, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.
- Information Requests are very basic enquiries from consumers – normally there is no specific complaint or trader involved, just a request for information. To complete an Information Request, the consumer is provided with information relevant to their case, which could be advice on a European Directive or perhaps contact details of another specialised organisation that could help them further (if the case is outside our remit).
- The next level of enquiry is a Simple Complaint; this is where a consumer is in dispute with a trader, but is not sure of his or her rights or what course of action to take. The UK ECC provides first-tier advice to the consumer so that they are able to proceed.
- The top level of enquiry is a Normal Complaint; these are enquiries where the consumer has tried to resolve their problem but attempts have failed – the trader does not respond or does not agree. In these situations the UK ECC will offer further assistance for the consumer and will share the case with the ECC where the trader is based.
- UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.
- UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the European Commission.
- The UK ECC service is delivered by the Trading Standards Institute (www.tsi.org.uk)
European Consumer Centre for Services
- For further information please contact European Consumer Centre for service’s press office on 08456 08 95 95 or sent to firstname.lastname@example.org Other enquiries - 08456 08 94 94
- The European Consumer for Services is a requirement under article 21 of the Services Directive, which came into force on 28th December 2009. The ECCS offers consumers advice on their rights and means of redress when accessing services across the European Union.
- The ECCS is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The Trading Standards Institute hosts the ECCS at its head office in Basildon, Essex.
Resort Development Organisation (RDO)
- RDO is an industry trade body. It offers a free conciliation service to customers with complaints about its members. www.rdo.org for more information.