One of the most common inquiries received concerns timeshare claims & exit, this is also the case on many forums, the consumer has either contacted a company or been contacted by cold call and the consumer is asking the question are they legit?
The first port of call is finding out if the company is genuine, they should be registered with Company House or the equivalent in whichever country they are based. This in itself is not proof they are genuine and not set up to scam, it is easy and cheap to register a company as we have seen in the past. The directors listed may not own the company and many are just the front men, there to take the fall when things go pear-shaped.
So our next stop is what are they offering or claiming they can do?
This can range from full-blown court cases against the seller of the timeshare under the laws of the country it was sold in, to claims against credit cards and finance. The most publicised are the hundreds of court cases in the Spanish Courts against virtually all the major timeshare players in Europe.
Just recently we have seen Marriott pay the courts over 500,000€ in respect of judgments against them, other major cases have been against Anfi and Silverpoint. All of these stems from the laws brought in back in 1999 and subsequently endorsed by Supreme Court Rulings. It is a tried and trusted method to not only recoup what you paid but more importantly declare your contract null and void.
This is a relatively simple area to check if the firm is genuine as it is a fairly specialised field, there are also the checks that can be made to see if the cases they show are genuine. The lawyers they will be using for your case should be registered and authorised to practice, they all have registration numbers. Then there are the most important questions of all, does the lawyer actually work with this company and for how long, is the lawyer experienced in this field including the number of cases?
These are all questions that are very easily answered if the company is genuine and this is where the “fakes & scammers” fall down. It is also worth mentioning that there are very few independent lawyers and law firms who specialise in this field, others have taken the odd case due to the judgements of the Supreme Court making the cases a little easier.
Although this method tends to be presented as the “easy” option in getting your money back and out of the contract, it is not a quick solution. We all know court cases can take forever and timeshare cases are no exception.
There are cases that have been filed, presented and ruled on within 12 months, but these are rare. We only have to look at how Anfi, Silverpoint, Club la Costa, Diamond and others have abused the system of appeals and counterclaims in order to delay proceedings for as long as is legally possible. So don’t fall for the “we can get it done in 6 months” story.
There is also a cost involved, legal fees for the lawyers to prepare, file and present the case at court, the court fees and taxes, all have to be paid to bring the case. It is a civil action not criminal.
There is a lot more to this option which we will explore in another article, so what about the other types of “claims & exit”, these tend to be the bulk of the inquiries, they also seem to be the most prolific companies in “timeshare”. Offering a range of “solutions” which include the “exit” with quite often a “no win, no fee claim”.
So our first question is how is the “compensation” claim going to be made without going to court?
Enter the Credit Consumer Act 1974, the most common is probably Section 75, many will have used it to recover money from their credit cards when things went wrong. This is a fairly simple process as long as your claim falls within the criteria laid down in the Act.
In the case of your credit card, you book a flight and the company goes bust, we have all seen this, you paid by credit card, you have a claim. It is clear from the rules that you are not going to receive the goods or services paid for, a simple claim which you can do yourself.
But it is a little more complicated when it comes to timeshare, is the Section 75 claim against your credit card or the finance brokered by the timeshare sales staff?
First, we look at the credit card, do you have a claim that actually fits the criteria, have you received the goods or services, are the goods or services fit for purpose, (debatable in timeshare), is the company no longer operating, so will not receive the goods or services paid for, (again debatable in timeshare).
When making a Section 75 claim, this must come from you, even if you employ a firm to do it on your behalf, so you either write the letters yourself using a template from websites such as Martin Lewis (link below), or they write them for you. It all depends on how confident you are.
We can safely say that once your card company receives the Section 75 letter, they will always contact the supplier for their confirmation and explanation for the complaint. So using the goods or services not received, what do you think the card company is going to be told?
One, you purchased an ex-number of years ago and have used it each year or banked for the following year. You have received the goods or service.
Second, not fit for purpose, you have used it, you have never made a major complaint about the facilities, in fact, you signed the guest books with glowing reviews. Would that constitute not fit for purpose?
Third, the company goes bust, we have seen this and it is still happening, but with timeshare, there always tends to be another company to step in and operate the “club”. Azure liquidation in Malta is a good point. So are you going to receive the goods and service?
Simple examples I know, the same is true for Section 75 claims against the finance company, BPF and the FCA routinely reject these claims, we have visited this area previously.
In the cases against the finance companies, the vast majority are linked to their court case as the loan was brokered by the sales staff, certain aspects are, to say the least, dubious. BPF and the FCA have always asked for “Court Judgements” of the case, as they are not named in the case which is a separate issue, they deny responsibility. So begins the long road to appeals with the FOS.
So using Section 75 is not the easy solution that it is made out to be, it is fraught with rejections, appeals and counter appeals, taking up a lot of time and effort and can take several years, but I hear you say it’s on a “no win, no fee” basis. Is it?
In order for you to get the “no win, no fee claim”, the package will include your “exit”, which you will pay for in advance, even if you say that you got rid of yours years ago. The answer is always the same, no you didn’t, you were not legally relinquished.
Another part of the Credit Consumer Act 1974 is little known, Sections 140A & 140B, which covers “unfair relationship”. At first glance it looks like it could be a very good route, after all, you can’t get a relationship any more unfair than a timeshare salesman also selling the finance?
This particular section of the CCA appears to have to become more popular by many cold callers, again as above on a no win no fee basis, with mention of a lawyer working on your case for the exit and the claim. Now, this is where you will need to be careful with what you are told.
Sections 140A & 140B from our research are primarily used in court, which requires a trial to determine if the case does fall under “unfair relationship”, unlike Section 75.
During a quick search on this subject the following links were found, both very clearly show that this area is not simple and is unlikely to resolve your case quickly. The second of the two links explain the situation very well and includes references to other cases.
Link to legislation
Just from this information alone, you can see this is a specialised field with probably few law firms with the capacity to succeed, just like timeshare litigation. It is not going to be quick and it is certainly not going to be cheap.
So ask yourself:
- How can they do this on a “no win, no fee basis”?
- Is the lawyer registered to bring cases such as this in the UK?
- Are the firm and lawyer experienced and competent in this field?
- Can they show any case evidence (publicly available not just client testimonials)?
Just some of the questions you should be asking when looking into this area of timeshare, don’t go by the flash websites with all the accreditations by regulatory bodies, many of these are purchased with membership to that particular organisation. The fakes will add them to their websites anyway.
These are all options that are open to you, it is just a matter of who you choose to do it all for you, not an easy task, but we hope we have got you thinking.
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