23 February 2018
CHOICE is calling on the regulator to investigate financial advisers selling timeshare products, raising doubts about whether they're complying with laws to act in the best interests of their clients by recommending poor-value products.
"Our investigation found these schemes lock you into contracts which can run for over 60 years and cost you as much as $450,000. The five companies we examined offered such poor value options, CHOICE can't recommend a single product," says CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications, Erin Turner.
Timeshare schemes are typically sold through financial advisers at in-person presentations.
"All financial advisers need to act in the best interests of their clients, but it is really unclear how an overly expensive holiday product tied to a 60-year contract can be in anyone's best interest."
"This is one area of the law where financial advisers have preserved the cowboy tactics of the past – high-pressure sales techniques, high commissions and shocking consumer outcomes. We need ASIC to step in and make sure people getting advice on timeshare products are properly protected," says Ms Turner.
"CHOICE found that if you spent a week in a Marriott timeshare in Surfers Paradise during peak season every year for five years, it would end up costing a staggering $154,823. That’s 938% more than the cost of booking a similar two-bedroom unit online for one week a year during the school holidays, which was only $14,907 over the same five-year period.
Timeshare members often can't work out what they're actually paying as operators mask the real costs of these schemes with complex point systems, hefty annual levies and poorly disclosed ad hoc fees.
"When you add in the extra costs that come along with these schemes such as cleaning and refurbishment fees or general admin expenses, our number crunch found it would take up to 62 years before the cost of a Wyndham timeshare in Surfers Paradise would be cheaper than booking it online.
"Considering this contract expires in 62 years, it would never be cheaper for a member.
"Sellers often hawk in shopping centres or theme parks and try to lure people into sales seminars with the promise of a reward, like a free holiday," says Ms Turner.
"Once there, timeshare operators use ‘now or never’ tactics, and minimal cooling-off periods – generally seven days – to pressure people into signing contracts which can last for decades.
"With no cancellation clauses and a legal contract that's lengthier than a mortgage, people are often left signing up to a lifetime financial trap."
For more on CHOICE’s timeshare investigation go to: choice.com.au/timeshare
CHOICE has referred a complaint to ASIC, asking for the regulator to examine if financial advisers are collecting enough information to provide adequate advice. Complaints received by CHOICE indicate that some people being sold a timeshare scheme may not be asked about current debts or expenditure. CHOICE has called on ASIC to investigate:
- The scope of financial advice provided: Can advisers selling timeshare products meet their best-interests duty if they limit the scope of their advice to a single timeshare product offered by a single timeshare provider?
- The length of contracts: Do advisers selling timeshare products need to consider the length that the timeshare product runs when providing financial advice? Complaints received by CHOICE indicate that only short-term holiday needs are considered.
To read more on CHOICE tests, reviews and campaigns, go to choice.com.au
Tom Godfrey, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669
Set up by consumers for consumers, CHOICE is the consumer advocate that provides Australians with information and advice, free from commercial bias. As vital today as when we were founded in 1959, CHOICE continues to fight for consumers and uncover the truth. By mobilising Australia's largest and loudest consumer movement, CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable and achieve real change on the issues that matter most.
 Cost of two-bedroom unit for a week in school holidays over five years indexed to inflation. CHOICE investigation looked at Accor Vacation Club, Classic Holiday, Marriott Vacation Club, Ultiqa Lifestyle and Wyndham World Mark South Pacific Club.