Time­share le­gal shake-up pro­posed

Con­sumer com­mis­sion re­leases re­port on find­ings of in­quiry

The Mercury - - METRO - LYSE COMINS | [email protected]

THE Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion has pro­posed a wide-rang­ing shake-up of leg­is­la­tion to en­hance con­sumer pro­tec­tion and clean up the lo­cal hol­i­day own­er­ship and time­share in­dus­try.

This will in­clude the ap­point­ment of an om­buds­man to rule on fu­ture com­plaints and pos­si­ble ban­ning of mar­ket­ing prac­tices long used to lure con­sumers.

The NCC re­leased a 135-page re­port yes­ter­day on the find­ings of its in­quiry into the time­share in­dus­try, which started in May 2017.

Com­mis­sioner Ebrahim Mo­hamed said the re­port was the out­come of ef­forts to un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of the in­dus­try, as­sess the ex­tent of con­sumer chal­lenges, con­duct re­search and make rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove con­sumer pro­tec­tion within the time­share in­dus­try.

“The hol­i­day own­er­ship in­dus­try in its cur­rent state has been a source of frus­tra­tion and anger for many con­sumers. The NCC wit­nessed this when con­sumers made oral sub­mis­sions at pub­lic hear­ings. It was dis­turb­ing and sad to see el­derly, vul­ner­a­ble, pen­sion­ers sob and plead for help and re­lief.”

The re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions cov­ered a range of is­sues, from club man­age­ment to mar­ket­ing and credit-re­lated and qual­ity-of-ser­vice com­plaints. He said con­sumers had mostly ex­pe­ri­enced prob­lems with the points sys­tem within the in­dus­try and not with con­ven­tional time­share, and most rec­om­men­da­tions con­cerned le­gal re­forms.

The NCC ac­cepted pro­pos­als to pass “a mod­ern, in­dus­try-fo­cused, com­pre­hen­sive piece of leg­is­la­tion that cen­tralises reg­u­la­tion of the time­share in­dus­try” to “bring con­sumer pro­tec­tion in the in­dus­try on a par with the rest of the world”.

This would in­clude the ap­point­ment of a new reg­u­la­tor or om­buds­man tasked with en­forc­ing com­pli­ance with ex­ist­ing and fu­ture leg­is­la­tion.

He said the re­port rec­om­mended the min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try pre­scribe, in terms of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act (CPA), in­for­ma­tion con­sumers must re­ceive be­fore trans­ac­tions with clubs can be con­cluded.

An­other rec­om­men­da­tion was all time­share con­tracts, points pur­chases and mem­ber­ship ap­pli­ca­tion agree­ments be de­fined as “fixed-term con­tracts sub­ject to re­newal by agree­ment be­tween the club/de­vel­oper and the mem­ber” and that con­sumers en­joy rights un­der the CPA, in­clud­ing the right to can­cel a con­tract.

The re­port rec­om­mended amend­ments to the Prop­erty Time Shar­ing Con­trol Act to pre­scribe in­for­ma­tion that must be dis­closed to con­sumers be­fore buy­ing time­share and that a reg­u­la­tory au­thor­ity en­force the leg­is­la­tion, and stiff penal­ties be im­posed on firms for “cross­ing the eth­i­cal line”.

The re­port also rec­om­mended that to help con­sumers who want to can­cel pur­chases within the cool­ing-off pe­riod, the min­is­ter pre­scribe a pro­vi­sion for the club to dis­close an email ad­dress where no­tice of can­cel­la­tion is deemed to be re­ceived once proof of re­mit­tance is pro­vided.

It rec­om­mended the com­mis­sion re­solve com­plaints about can­cel­la­tions and com­plaints of al­leged reck­less credit be re­ferred to the Na­tional Credit Reg­u­la­tor.

Va­ca­tion Own­er­ship As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Africa (Voasa) chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Alex Bosch, wel­comed the re­port. “Voasa has at all times fully par­tic­i­pated in and co-oper­ated with the NCC in­quiry and has made ex­ten­sive sub­mis­sions and rep­re­sen­ta­tions. Voasa re­mains com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing 100% of time­share own­ers and hol­i­day club mem­bers are happy with prod­ucts and lev­els of ser­vice re­ceived.”

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