Don’t let pushy timeshare floggers ruin your holiday
If you have been invited to a timeshare presentation, be on your guard. The Credit Ombud has received many complaints from people who were rushed into signing contracts they did not fully understand, writes Neesa Moodley-Isaacs.
You’ll probably be on the lookout for shark warnings when you relax on the beach this December, but you also need to be wary of another type of shark: circling timeshare salespeople who try to sell you contracts with fine-print clauses that may come back to bite you.
Paying in advance for the promise of a regular holiday at a luxury resort may sound tempting, but aggressive sales tactics by the timeshare industry could leave you locked into a contract that you can ill afford and are unable to get out of, Manie van Schalkwyk, the Credit Ombud, says.
“All too often I receive complaints from consumers who have been rushed into making decisions on the spot, and often I am told they have been made to sign blank contracts.
“However, when the timeshare company forwards the contracts to me, all the details have been filled in, so there is no way to prove that the signed contracts were blank,” he says.
Van Schalkwyk says another common scenario is consumers complaining that they cancelled their contract but that it was processed regardless. “This happens most often because consumers assume that informing the salesperson verbally that they want to cancel their contract is sufficient.
“Unfortunately, most of the consumers who come to us for help with timeshare or vacation club issues are, in fact, victims of their own inability to read the contracts that they happily signed when offered ‘free’ holidays or other benefits.
“People go along to presentations and see wonderful resorts in exotic places, and it all looks very affordable. They fail to read the fine print, because they get so caught up in an emotional purchase,” he says.
People are often not aware they are signing a binding contract, Van Schalkwyk says.
“When they finally get listed at a credit bureau for non-payment, it is too late. The contract is legal; they signed it, and my office cannot help them,” he says.
Van Schalkwyk says he has entered into discussions regarding aggressive sales tactics in the timeshare industry with the Vacation Ownership Association of Southern Africa (VOASA), formerly the Timeshare Institute of Southern Africa.
VOASA is a self-regulatory body that acts as the watchdog of the shared vacation ownership industry, which includes timeshare, fractional ownership, points clubs, private residency and destination clubs.
Van Schalkwyk says VOASA’s management has assured him that efforts to educate the association’s members against aggressive sales tactics will be intensified.