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.

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FINANCE -

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.

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