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Consumer Affairs
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Avoiding pressure

“We receive quite a few complaints about holiday clubs and timeshare,” says Credit Information Ombud Manie van Schalkwyk.

Some companies try to pressurise you into buying at a hard-sell presentation about all the beautiful destinations and points that can be earned. “It sounds wonderful and they want you to sign up there and then. And do not, under any circumstances, part with your credit card at any of these sales meetings.
“But do not sign without reading it properly. Sometimes the payments to purchase are over 60 months – that’s five years. Also, very often the contract can only be cancelled within a five-day cooling off period. If you decide to cancel after four months, or even two years, it is too late!
“You will be listed at the credit bureau if you stop your debit order. Timeshare can be seen as a luxury purchase, and maybe even a ‘status’ symbol. However, I urge potential buyers to ensure they can afford it and that they understand what is being offered, before they sign up.”
The Timeshare Institute of Southern Africa (TISA) is the body that acts as a watch-dog over the timeshare, holiday club, vacation sharing industry, and all its members have voluntarily agreed to operate under their Code of Conduct.
TISA Executive Director JW Meyer comments, “A timeshare purchase should not be rushed. In addition to the actual cost of the week or period, there are, at purchase, transfer and registration costs, as well as annual levies. It’s almost identical to buying a town house unit in a sectional title complex. Be sure of all the costs involved and ask for it all to be thoroughly explained. Read the fine print and make sure you understand what your liabilities and responsibilities are.
“Once you have bought your unit, you are liable for the annual levies, any additional maintenance that may be required, and any swapping fees should you want to change for a week elsewhere.”
Adds Mr Meyer, “Don’t let the salespeople rush you, or make you feel stupid or ignorant if you ask questions. It is your right as a consumer to question everything, and make sure that you can afford the purchase, and that there are no hidden costs. Don’t assume anything – ask and make sure.
“While we have no legislative powers over this type of thing, we can accept complaints from consumers about poor sales practice, or poor service at any of our member resorts.”
The Ombud emphasises that you will be listed at the credit bureaus if you fail to pay any part of the timeshare costs. And don’t be naïve and rely on the goodwill of the salespeople – they are out to earn their commission. “If they tell you something, and it is not in the actual contract, the contract is what is going to be believed down the line when you are listed at the credit bureau.”
If you do have a complaint against a timeshare or holiday club sales company you can call TISA on (021) 914 5210. Should you find yourself listed at the credit bureau, call them to get a copy of your credit report (this will cost R25.00) and start the process to investigate why. The Credit information Ombud can be contacted at (086) 166 2837.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:18.1 1st February, 2005
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