The RDO or to give its full title the Resort Development Organisation, is the European “trade body” for the timeshare industry, or rather what is left of it, with only 16 developers and 48 companies on the periphery of timeshare listed as members. Not a lot when you consider the size of the industry they boast to represent. What is evident are the number of “independent” resorts and smaller timeshare developers who have never been members, one which does spring to mind is Hapimag*.
It all began as another organisation known as the Organisation for Timeshare in Europe, OTE, and changed to the RDO around 1997, it was the coming together of the early developers for their own benefit. From the very beginning, their mission has been to protect the industry and “lobby” for legal reforms that do not “harm” their members. Consumers are an “afterthought”, only mentioned to “enhance” the “reputation” of the industry as “consumer-friendly”. No, don’t laugh, it wasn’t a joke.
At one point in time, the RDO was a much larger organisation, changing name during the “height” of the timeshare “boom” in Europe. Its coffers were full of “membership subscriptions” which also enabled them to become very active in the lobbying arena.
It was also around this period that the EU was bringing in “directives” to protect the consumer and regulate the way timeshare was marketed and sold. These directives would also try to determine what timeshare is and ensure fair practice for all concerned. The UK government was also developing its own laws on timeshare which would also reflect the directives coming out of Brussels, remember, these are directives and should be placed into each member state’s domestic laws.
It should be pointed out here that because of the nature of sales being “cross border”, it was intended that consumers be afforded the same protection when purchasing in another member state as they would be protected under their own laws.
At the centre of all this was the RDO, and in the time-honoured fashion they began to lobby for their cause. In order to be at the “centre” of things, an office was set up in Brussels to “stamp” their presence.
In the UK the RDO was very active with the formation of local timeshare laws, being represented at many enquiries conducted by various committees of the House of Commons and House of Lords. The result was what can only be described as “anti-consumer”, unlike the laws which would eventually be enforced in Spain.
This is our first similarity with ARDA, or any other organisation representing their own interests, professional lobbying is a fact of life, unfortunately, it is only for those who can afford it.
Looking at their website, which we did go into detail previously, it follows the same pattern as ARDA, full of meaningless platitudes towards the consumer, For example, when you first hit their home page, you are greeted with a moving banner, one “statement” is this.
A bit of a joke considering who the RDO represents, as with the ARDA website all that you will find are “glorified” statements on how they are at the “forefront” of timeshare development and consumer interests. That is for public consumption, in reality, they serve their own interests, it is not until you delve into the text of all these statements that the truth is revealed.
The Code of Ethics is a prime example, it begins with the following:
- The objective of this Code of Conduct (“the Code”) is to support the RDO Members in both promoting, and in operating in, the Resort Development Industry. The Code is founded on the understanding that business and consumers are commercially interdependent in the Resort Development Industry.
- Secondly, this Code aims to ensure that consumers that have purchased products and services of companies operating in the Resort Development Industry can fully enjoy their contracted products and services.
- Accordingly, Members will seek in all their business dealings to hold a fair balance between the legitimate interests of both parties, and to ensure a high degree of satisfaction for consumers.
It is followed on page 3 by:
3 – MEMBERS’ COMMITMENT
All Members undertake:
3.1 To comply with the all (direct from their pdf) conditions of membership, the Code and the Administrative Procedures and to uphold RDO standards, taking account of all guidance published in any Guidance Notes;
3.2 To fully comply with all administrative procedures of RDO and RDO’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme (ADR), including its binding decisions upon Members’ activity;
3.3 To conduct their Industry Activities with integrity and propriety and in accordance with industry best practice, and generally in a manner that will uphold the credibility, positive reputation and goodwill of RDO and the Resort Development industry in general;
3.4 To take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the Code by its employees, officers and by all who undertake Industry Activities on its behalf (including all individuals or companies acting as independent contractors), irrespective of the location of such activities, and promptly take remedial action should such noncompliance be discovered, and to terminate their relationship with any individuals or companies in sustained breach of the Code; and
3.5 To comply with all laws, which apply to Member’s, business in the jurisdiction in which the Member operates.
The RDO Code of Conduct can be downloaded in PDF format here
All very fine words especially in the opening paragraph, “The Code is founded on the understanding that business and consumers are commercially interdependent in the Resort Development Industry.”
It very clearly states the industry and consumers are “INTERDEPENDENT” for the success of the industry, so why are there so many problems around timeshare?
It also goes on to say in paragraph 3.5 “To comply with all laws, which apply to Member’s, business in the jurisdiction in which the Member operates.”
You cannot get any clearer than that, follow the laws in the country you operate in.
Both are just platitudes to convince the casual “browser” of their website to believe they are there for the good of consumers. Why do we say this, very simply, whose members have violated Spanish law for over twenty years and believed they were immune from those laws?
It was the RDO members themselves, the court cases in Spain prove it, with three of the main culprits now in liquidation, Silverpoint, Club la Costa and Anfi, yet the RDO did nothing to sanction these members. Not surprising considering it is they who pay the RDO wages and expenses, with Silverpoint being the largest contributor and also having their CEO as a director on the RDO board. That is “self-regulation” for you.
The current Code of Conduct issued in January 2010, ends with
ADMINISTRATION OF THE CODE AND MAIN SANCTIONS
Gone is the short statement that the RDO would not intervene in disputes between a member and consumer, sending them back to the people who are the cause of the problem, replaced by “hot air” and their “Alternate Dispute Resolution” (ADR), system.
The question here is, if this “Code of Conduct” has been in effect since January 2010, can someone explain the lack of “enforcement” action against Silverpoint, CLC, Anfi and a host of others?
Why has the RDO not publicly come out for the consumer, but instead backed up the perpetrators by claiming the “courts have got it wrong”?
We leave you to decide the answer to those questions.
Since the start of the demise in the European Timeshare Industry, the RDO has increased its links with ARDA, this is not surprising given their reduced income and with the likes of Wyndham emerging on the European scene. This poses a question regarding sales, Are we going to see a resurgence of these in the future, and if so, are they going to comply with regulations where they operate?
We shall have to wait and see to answer that question.
So, to go back to our original question, is the RDO an ARDA “Mini-Me”, we would have to say yes, they are. Just on their rhetoric and past inaction, they have always been the “Mini-Me”, their inaction to the “frauds” perpetrated on consumers by their very own members, proves that consumers are not high on their agenda. It is all Smoke & Mirrors to fool the lawmakers, and regulatory bodies such as the UK Trading Standards into believing they have the interests of the consumer at heart.
There you have it, ARDAs Mini Me, a hybrid British, European and American organisation, another word comes to mind, but not on these pages.
That’s it for today, and don’t forget to join us on Friday for A Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report, Dismissed by ARDA Lobbyists – Mobius Vendor Partners Offer a Solution, by our very own Irene.
*Hapimag, This company is renowned for quality, It operates a “timeshare club”, over the years we have not found any adverse comments or complaints about their product or service. That has got to be a first.