The European Timeshare Directive was conceived in order to protect the consumer from unwanted timeshare contracts and lays out the codes of conduct that are mandatory for any company that wishes to sell long term holiday products to the general public within the European Community. The directive also covers newer holiday products that have arrived on the market such as contracts that last less than three years as well as timeshares on movable objects including cruise ships, canal boats and caravans.
This set of rules and regulations has evolved over the years to ensure that the rights and interests of customers are protected under law and to regulate an industry that at times has had a reputation for unfair or shady business practices.
Deposit And Cooling Off
One of the key areas in which the directive protects the consumer is within the areas of deposits and cooling off periods. In the earlier days of timeshare, companies would subject people to long, hard-sell sales pitches – anywhere between three and eight hours – and then close them into a deal by taking a large deposit and signing a contract that made no provision for the customers to change their minds – in short it was a deal-on-the-day with no cooling off period.
The directive stepped in to address the balance of this questionable sales practice and deemed it illegal to take any money on the day of the deal, or indeed during the 14 day cooling off period which it implemented in order to give customers time to reflect on their purchase and cancel the deal if they felt in anyway uncomfortable about the business they had done with the timeshare company.
Another area in which the directive helped people to avoid purchasing an unsuitable holiday product was concerned with what is known as pre disclosure. Before a customer signs a contract, timeshare companies are obliged to provide in writing, and in good time, a complete breakdown of the deal they are proposing. There needs to be a clear indication of all costs involved, details of the exact period and length of stay that the customer is entitled to as well as an in depth description of the product itself.
So with genuine legislation in place to protect the interests of the consumer, why were we still hearing about people who were unhappy with their purchase? Unfortunately, even with the laws in place, it seems that a certain breed of sales person were still crossing the line when it came to telling the truth and were mis selling the product in vast quantities to the unsuspecting public.
Certain companies too were trying to get round the no deposits ruling by dressing up the taking of money on the day of the deal saying it was a booking fee for the next holiday, a rental payment or some other questionable charge. In short more mis selling.
A Strong Legal Point Of Reference
Fortunately the robustness of the directive’s rules meant that mis sold or cheated customers now had a strong legal point of reference and were beginning to wonder if there was anything they could do to release themselves from the burden of unwanted timeshare contracts or indeed claim compensation for the situation they had been illegally placed in.
As the legal profession began to deal with these cases it became clear that the law was on the side of the consumer and that the timeshare companies were going to have to start taking notice and addressing the problems they had caused. The trickle of consumers winning in court soon became a flood and a precedent was set which means that mis sold customers today will frequently have a chance of getting out of unwanted contracts and in some cases, where shady activity is apparent, be able to make a successful claim for compensation.
The European Timeshare Directive, and information explaining its scope and purpose, can be found on the European Commission’s website here. However, if you are looking to exit the timeshare system it is strongly advised that you engage the assistance of a legal professional with specific experience of international timeshare contract law. Whilst the directive is in place to protect the consumer, this area of the law is extremely complex and is difficult to navigate for the uninitiated.
The Timeshare Help Centre offers a free, impartial consultation to establish whether you have a case for getting out of your timeshare contract. We will analyse your situation and lay out your options for a successful relinquishment. To find out more get in touch with us today.