In South Africa, there is in excess of 200 resorts and over 600,000 people who own timeshares. The industry has come under the spotlight and it has become apparent that consumers are not so happy.

There have been many allegations and complaints against the timeshare industry and the National Consumer Commission are now looking to kickstart a public inquiry. The inquiry will hopefully get to the bottom of the allegations that consumers have made, such as being conned into signing contracts that last a lifetime and not being able to cancel the contracts once they have signed them.

Consumers are also claiming, that when they go to book their holiday with their resort, there is no availability, because timeshare companies are overselling and overbooking. They also claim that the timeshare resorts are rapidly increasing their maintenance fees and clients are being threatened with lawsuits if they don’t pay the fees.

A lawyer, Anton Alberts, said: “There’s a very aggressive marketing scheme being used and people feel they are being bullied into these contracts. The day after, when they want to cancel the contract, they are told they can’t, even though, by law, they have a five-day cooling period.”

Ebrahim Mohamed, National Consumer Commissioner, has said in the past two decades they have received thousands of complaints regarding the timeshare industry. There were various complaints made, but particularly relating to unreasonable property levies, unavailability of accommodation, perpetual contracts and the points system.

Mohamed also said ‘‘It’s disgusting, in my view, that captains of this industry can turn a blind eye to the relentless pain and suffering of consumers for such a long time’’. He went on to say that: ‘’The most disturbing aspect is that the vacation ownership industry has done little or nothing to correct itself, when issues are raised with conduct, products or services.’’

Specific attorneys have been picked to from a three-member panel to get to the root of the complaints. The three will spend 6 months with consumers that have been affected. Their aim, is to ‘identify the root causes of the issues experienced by the consumers, make findings on the facts and evidence presented and make recommendations on how to address the consumer issues highlighted in the complaints.’

In December, a report with recommendations and possible legislative reforms is expected to be handed over. Hopefully, this enquiry can bring justice to those consumers allegedly affected and help future consumers of the timeshare industry.

If you feel like you have been affected by any high-pressure sales tactics, or have purchased any holiday products based on unfulfilled promises, please contact our specialist timeshare exit team at info@mercantileclaims.co.uk or on 0800 470 3900 to discuss what we could do to help.

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