Lancashire County Council Trading Standards is warning about a timeshare ‘scam’ targeting people who signed up to schemes in the past and are desperate to get out of them.
Officers are receiving complaints from people who have lost thousands of pounds in ‘legal fees’ to cold callers claiming to be able to release them from their timeshare, but who deliver nothing in return.
County Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “Many people enjoy their timeshare arrangements which give them a stake in a holiday property, but we’re finding others who want to exit from long term arrangements are being left out of pocket by scam companies offering to help.
“Timeshare schemes were once a lot more popular than they are now, and many people signed up to them in the 1980s and 1990s, sometimes after being subjected to high pressure sales techniques and without reading the small print.
“These people are now older and their financial situation has changed, some may even be in poor health and unable to make use of their timeshare property.
“This has left them vulnerable to companies which phone out of the blue claiming their so-called legal experts can negotiate a way out of the timeshare on their behalf.
“These companies charge a large fee and are generally unsuccessful. Cases have been reported where the money lost to these so-called legal experts is actually more than would have been needed simply to exit the agreement with the timeshare company using the clause in the contract.
“If you are an existing timeshare owner looking to end your agreement, always speak to your own timeshare company and carefully check the grounds on which they will allow you to do so before considering your next step. Many timeshare companies do have criteria under which they will allow members to exit their agreement.”
Trading Standards are also warning people to be on their guard if offered the opportunity to buy into a timeshare scheme over the holiday season.
People are often approached by salespeople offering an incentive to attend a presentation or seminar, which is nothing more than a lengthy sales pitch.
A more recent development is holidaymakers in the UK being sold a share in a ‘lodge’.
County Councillor Atkinson added: “People are rightly wary of timeshares, but they continue in different forms and the important thing is to take advice before entering into any agreement or contract and not be pressured into signing up on the spot.
“This applies not only to the purchase, but also the resale of timeshare contracts, as well as offers of percentage shares in companies offering holiday accommodation.
“Under EU law you should be provided with a right of cancellation, giving you time to think about the terms and conditions and whether the product suits you so, if you’re worried you have signed up to something you don’t want, don’t hesitate to take advice.”
Over 800 problems have been reported nationally in the past year, and it is believed there are many more people who haven’t sought advice.
For help and advice, or to report a scam, contact Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06, or Action Fraud Contact Centre on 0300 123 2050.