What EU rights for timeshare buyers?
Under new EU rules, timeshare is where you buy the right to spend a set amount of time in a villa, apartment or similar in a given period (2 weeks a year, for instance) and where the contract lasts more than one year.
In the EU, timeshare buyers have a strong set of rights under the new EU Timeshare Directive. These include:
- the right to full information before you sign the contract,
- the right to contract cancellation within 14 days for any reason without penalty (a cooling-off period),
- if the trader has not provided the required information, the contract cancellation (cooling-off) period is extended to one year plus 14 days.
- specific rules on payment protecting consumers: e.g. you must not be asked for any deposit, advance payment etc. during the cooling-off period.
Is my holiday-club membership covered by EU rules?
Holiday clubs are similar to timeshares but many have been designed to circumvent the older EU consumer rules on timeshare, which only used to cover contracts of at least 3 years. Therefore, holiday-club agreements are often for less than 3 years.
The new EU timeshare rules cover such 'timeshare-like' services, if the contract is for more than one year.
[!] EU countries should have made sure their national laws are in line with the new EU law by February 2011, but some countries are late with this. If in doubt about what legal protection you have, get advice from your European Consumer Centre.
Top tips on timeshare from European Consumer Centres
These tips have been compiled based on the experience of Centres advising and helping timeshare buyers.
1. Beware of aggressive sales
Timeshares and holiday clubs are often sold using aggressive techniques (many of which are illegal in the EU). For example, holidaymakers may be offered a scratch card which invariably wins a prize. To get the prize, they are lured into commercial presentation and pressured into signing a timeshare contract on the spot. Be extremely suspicious!
2. Be cautious of timeshare resale offers
Some timeshare resale companies offer to resell your timeshare for an upfront fee. Once the fee is paid, sales rarely take place and, where they do, it is often at a selling price that barely covers the fees.
Timeshare sellers may also try to persuade you to buy another property, saying that they will sell your current property. Often, these sales never happen and you may be left with two timeshares!
3. Contract cancellation: holiday clubs
If you have already signed up to a holiday club and want to cancel, check the terms of your contract carefully and request cancellation immediately.
If you are not sure whether you are covered by the new 14-day contract cancellation (cooling-off) period for timeshare, get advice from your European Consumer Centre.