Club Leisure off the hook for now
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.