CHOICE has launched a super-complaint to ASIC about the timeshare industry, which alleges at least eight industry-wide potential breaches of the law and is calling on the regulator to enforce the law.
"The timeshare industry is causing deep harm to people through high-pressure sales tactics, poor financial advice and terrible value products that trap people for multiple decades," says CHOICE's Banking Policy Expert Patrick Veyret.
CHOICE collected data from 350 timeshare members on their experiences with the industry as part of the complaint. From this survey CHOICE found that:
- 30% of the case studies wanted to exit their timeshare scheme but couldn't.
- 70% of the case studies said they expect that the timeshare schemes, ongoing cost and debt will pass on to their children. Many timeshare operators tell people that the costs will be passed on their children but CHOICE and legal experts consider this to be misleading and deceptive conduct.
- Timeshare providers are forcing people to pay exorbitant fees to exit some timeshare schemes. One case study reported that they were asked to pay $29,000 in fees to switch to a shorter contract timeshare scheme.
"Many people are stuck in unfair and expensive contracts running for decades and being told by the timeshare provider that they need to pass this burden on to their children."
Read the super-complaint here: http://choice.com.au/timesharecomplaint
"CHOICE has launched a super-complaint to ASIC on the troubled timeshare industry in an effort to get the regulator to take these matters seriously. We're disappointed and frustrated by ASIC's limited enforcement action while people are struggling with timeshare products." says CHOICE's Banking Policy Expert Patrick Veyret.
"ASIC has the power to act against unfair and predatory practices in the industry, they need to use it."
Read more about CHOICE's recent investigation into timeshare schemes: https://www.choice.com.au/travel/accommodation/timeshare/articles/timeshare-survey
Since 2016 CHOICE has written four complaints to ASIC about potentially illegal conduct within the timeshare industry. CHOICE's super-complaint alleges there are so many breaches of the law that it questions whether the timeshare industry should be allowed to operate with existing business practices.
Infographic of CHOICE's history investigating the timeshare industry: https://infogram.com/1p0y37r0weg25vsem5m77xn9vncnr3qywme?live
"CHOICE is also calling on a Federal Government inquiry into the timeshare industry focusing on people stuck in legacy products. The Federal Government needs to find ways to help people trapped in old-style timeshare schemes with few practical ways out."
Contact details for case studies available on request.
Media contact: Jim Hook, 0430 172 669, firstname.lastname@example.org
Images, videos and pre recorded content available here: https://sites.google.com/choice.com.au/timesharecomplaint/
Case studies were collected in a survey conducted between 17th December 2020 and 12 January 2021 (n=356 timeshare members).
What are timeshare schemes?
Timeshare schemes are complex financial products that grants people access to holiday accommodation for a set period of time. There are two main types of timeshare products:
- 'Title-based schemes'. A title-based or legacy timeshare scheme is where a member enters into a contract that grants them access to use a specific property for a set period of time. Contracts can last up to 99 years. These schemes are no longer sold in Australia. However, CHOICE has heard from consumers trapped in legacy schemes who are told by providers they are unable to exit.
- 'Points-based schemes'. A point-based timeshare scheme is where members buy points and redeems them for holidays at specific resorts or holiday accommodations. For example, a consumer buys a 6000 points a year membership for a one-off cost of $30,000. Every year, they would receive the 6000 points – but also have to pay annual fees and costs every year. This allows you to spend points at specific holiday destinations. These point-based schemes are often for a fixed period of time, with some contracts lasting over 60 years and costing over $450,000 over the life of the contract.
Key problems with the timeshare industry:
- High-pressure sales tactics. Salespeople regularly use coercive tactics, including same-day 'exclusives', placing time pressure on people to make a decision, and obscuring certain terms and conditions to pressure people into purchasing a timeshare product.
- Poor financial advice. Salespeople sell people into complex timeshare contracts that can last over 60 years and can cost over $450,000. CHOICE is concerned that the advice provided to people attending timeshare presentations is of poor quality and very seldom is in their best interests.
- Terrible value. People are sold in schemes that are often incredibly poor value. In 2018 CHOICE found that some timeshare contracts are over 938% more expensive than booking directly online.
- Timeshare operators trap people into contracts and make exiting extremely difficult. Many timeshare providers say people are locked into the scheme and can not practically exit. Other providers make people pay exorbitant exit fees to switch to a different scheme.
CHOICE's history investigating the timeshare industry
- October 2016 – We investigated pressure sales tactics and deceptive practices in the timeshare industry.
- February 2018 – Our staff attend a timeshare seminar and witness pressure sales tactics first hand.
- February 2018 – Our fact checkers crunch the numbers and conclude that booking your own holidays is substantially cheaper that using timeshare schemes.
- October 2018 – We give Marriott Vacation Club a Shonky Award.
- 2018 – ASIC updates its timeshare regulations to give consumers some limited additional protections.
- February 2018 – We issue a formal complaint to ASIC, alleging that Ultiqa violated the best interests duty.
- June 2019 – We issue formal complaints to ASIC, alleging that Classic Holidays engaged in deceptive conduct.
- September 2019 – We investigate the case of a 69-year-old couple trapped in a 99-year Classic Holidays scheme until 2076.
- November 2019 – ASIC launches investigation into the timeshare industry.
- September 2020 – We investigate case of a 66-year-old woman trapped in a 99-year Classic Holidays scheme until 2084.
- December 2020 – New ASIC regulatory update fails to protect consumers.