National Consumer Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed did not hide his disgust at the conduct of major holiday clubs operating in South Africa when announcing a new public inquiry into the timeshare industry.
“It’s disgusting‚ in my view‚ that captains of this industry can turn a blind eye to the relentless pain and suffering of consumers for such a long time‚” he told a briefing in Pretoria.
The industry now prefers the term “vacation ownership” to “timeshare”. Consumers have alleged that: ý They were duped into signing up for lifetime contracts that can never be cancelled;
- Companies overbook and over-sell accommodation;
- Annual levy increases are excessive;
- They cannot secure bookings; and
- They cannot give their points away‚ let alone sell them‚ because of the massive levy obligations.
According to the Vacation Ownership Association of South Africa (VOASA)‚ it is a R3.5-billion a year industry locally‚ with more than 200 resorts and 500 000 “shared owners”.
In 2015, the National Consumer Commission (NCC) lodged an application with the National Consumer Tribunal following an investigation into major holiday clubs.
The cases were withdrawn by the NCC‚ according to Mohamed‚ because of technical defects.
Yesterday’s announcement of a public inquiry is the NCC’s “take two” industry challenge.
A three-member panel of attorneys will‚ with the NCC’s technical task team‚ spend six months engaging with complainants‚ industry players‚ regulators‚ academics and courts before making recommendations on better protection of consumers.