Club Leisure off the hook for now

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PERSONALFINANCE - LOR­RAINE KEAR­NEY

The Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion (NCC) is with­draw­ing the case it lodged with the Na­tional Con­sumer Tri­bunal against Club Leisure Group.

It with­drew its case against Univi­sion, another com­pany in the hol­i­day time­share mar­ket, on Novem­ber 9 on tech­ni­cal grounds, leav­ing a trail of dis­grun­tled con­sumers.

The Club Leisure case was filed on the same ba­sis as the Univi­sion case, namely the le­gal­ity of the points sys­tem op­er­ated by time­share-sell­ing com­pa­nies.

”The NCC is in the process of with­draw­ing this [Club Leisure] mat­ter as well, and will ap­ply the same ap­proach as with the Univi­sion mat­ter,” NCC spokesman Trevor Hat­tingh says.

The lat­est an­nounce­ment is ex­pected to be greeted with dis­ap­point­ment, but there is hope.

“It is not true that this mat­ter has no fur­ther bear­ing, or that the tri­bunal will not deal with it any fur­ther,” NCC head Ebrahim Mo­hamed says. “The NCC can bring a new ap­pli­ca­tion to the tri­bunal or any other com­pe­tent ju­di­cial plat­form to rule on its case.”

Hat­tingh says the NCC is still pur­su­ing the Club Leisure mat­ter, and that con­sumers should con­tinue to lodge their com­plaints with the com­mis­sion.

Re­gard­ing the Univi­sion mat­ter, Hat­tingh says the NCC is con­sid­er­ing sev­eral op­tions on how to pro­ceed, and “is in con­sul­ta­tion with le­gal coun­sel to es­tab­lish the best way to achieve the de­sired re­lief and vic­tory for con­sumers”.

The NCC was ad­vised by le­gal coun­sel of sev­eral tech­ni­cal is­sues that could po­ten­tially in­hibit its case against Univi­sion. These were:

◆ That the NCC sought an in­dus­try-wide or­der to de­clare the con­duct of op­er­at­ing a points sys­tem as pro­hib­ited con­duct, but did not cite all in­dus­try par­tic­i­pants on its fil­ing af­fi­davits.

◆ That some of the time­share con­tracts were con­cluded be­fore the pro­mul­ga­tion of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act in 2009.

◆ That the tri­bunal’s fil­ing re­quire­ments had been amended dur­ing the plead­ing process, and con­se­quently, the NCC’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion scope did not meet the fil­ing re­quire­ments.

Asked what af­fected con­sumers could do now, and what re­course and pro­tec­tion they had, Hat­tingh says the NCC is aware that the mat­ter af­fects many con­sumers.

“Un­til the mat­ter is brought be­fore an ap­pro­pri­ate fo­rum and sub­stan­tive is­sues are ruled on, the NCC ad­vises con­sumers to ex­er­cise cau­tion when deal­ing with time­share and re­lated trans­ac­tions. The with­drawal of the mat­ter on tech­ni­cal grounds does not en­dorse the con­duct of the im­pli­cated time­share com­pa­nies as cor­rect. The NCC main­tains that it has a strong case against the im­pli­cated com­pa­nies,” he says.

Mo­hamed says that the with­drawals were made “to ef­fect nec­es­sary ad­just­ments to con­tinue our pur­suit for re­lief and vic­tory for con­sumers.”

The com­mis­sion launched an in­dus­try-wide in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the hol­i­day time­share in­dus­try in 2013 af­ter a report by its re­search and knowl­edge man­age­ment di­vi­sion re­vealed an in­ces­sant rise in time­share-re­lated com­plaints. Dur­ing the 2014/15 fi­nan­cial year alone, the NCC regis­tered 367 time­share com­plaints.

The con­sumer tri­bunal has since dis­missed Univi­sion’s ap­pli­ca­tion for costs.

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