Capetonians asked to share their timeshare gripes with Consumer Commission

10 July 2017 - 13:00 By Wendy Knowler
Clients say they were pressurised into signing the agreements and misled during presentations. File photo
Clients say they were pressurised into signing the agreements and misled during presentations. File photo
Image: Gallo Images/iStock

If you live in Cape Town and you've got a timeshare gripe‚ this is the week you get to tell your story and play a part changing the way the timeshare industry operates.

The National Consumer Commission’s (NCC) public enquiry into the “vacation ownership” or timeshare industry will be based in central Cape Town from Tuesday.

National Consumer Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed has appealed to consumers to participate in the public inquiry‚ in person‚ if they wish to see change.

The enquiry process began in Pretoria last week‚ where the panel heard consumers tell of the refusal of timeshare clubs to cancel timeshare contacts‚ the over-selling of limited accommodation‚ and the charging of exorbitant levies for the maintenance of facilities owned by holiday clubs - in spite of a 2014 SARS directive which states that levies cannot be charged to people who do not have a title deed and who do not own a property.

The timeshare industry was currently not effectively regulated because different aspects of it were regulated by several different laws‚ some outdated‚ Mohamed said.

They include the Consumer Protection Act‚ the National Credit Act‚ the Property Timesharing Control Act‚ the Share Block Schemes Control Act and the Sectional titles Act.

“As a scholar of the law it is my belief that the law is not static; it is ever changing‚ should respond to change in society to remain relevant and effective‚ the Commissioner said.

The main thing the NCC hoped to see coming out of the public inquiry was a single piece of legislation to regulate the industry effectively and “create a means for consumers to participate and have a voice in the affairs of holiday club schemes”.

The public hearings will be held at the Cape Town Lodge‚ 101 Buitengracht Street‚ from tomorrow until Thursday‚ between 10am and 5pm each day.

Meanwhile‚ acting Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman (CGSO)‚ Magauta Mphahlele‚ has welcomed the public hearings as a means of addressing “systemic noncompliance with consumer protection legislation”.

The CGSO has submitted a report to the NCC outlining the types of timeshare complaints that her office regularly receives from consumers.

Between January 2016 and February 2017 the CGSO dealt with 127 “vacation ownership” related cases. And another 45 since March.

Of the 127 cases‚ 71% related to contracts and cancellations‚ unfair terms‚ failure to disclose contract terms and breach of contract.

The remaining 29% related to quality of service‚ bait marketing‚ misleading advertising‚ overselling and unreasonable service delays.

Typically‚ consumers complained that:

-They tried to cancel the agreement within the five-day cooling-off period but couldn’t get hold of the company until later‚ when they refused to cancel the agreement within the cooling-off period;

-They entered into the agreement many years ago‚ and can now no longer afford the yearly fee for the upkeep of the scheme or due to medical reasons can no longer enjoy the benefits and therefore want to cancel but are told they cannot;

-They were pressurised into signing the agreements and misled during presentations.

The CGSO had resolved most of the complaints‚ Mphahlele said.

“At the time of reporting 110 of the cases have been concluded and in 55% of the cases the outcome was positive for the consumer either because the complaint was fully upheld‚ assistance provided to the consumer or the complaint upheld partially.”

But in 16.3% of the cases‚ the case could not be resolved as the company was not willing to cooperate with the CGSO.

“While the Vacation Ownership Association of South Africa (VOASA) is cooperating with the CGSO in encouraging its members to become active participants of the CGSO and cooperate with the Ombud‚ there are those members who are uncooperative‚” she said.

- Wendy Knowler is in your corner as TimesLIVE's consumer champion.

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