The Court Supreme opens the way to thousands of claims of British timeshare fraud apartments
INFORMATION AND HELP TIMESHARE IN SPAIN TELEPHONE (34) 952215859. Timeshare or shared regime contracts, a regime between renting a tourist apartment and staying overnight in a hotel that was introduced in Spain at the end of the seventies, is going through a very bad moment. This modality, by which one becomes owner of a sort of apartahotel during a concrete period and over several years, has suffered a varapalo after another from January of 2015 until today before the Supreme Court. And the companies in the sector, many of them based in tax havens and implanted in the tourist coast, are going to pay the consequences.
Last July, the number of high court judgments was resolved resolving the nullity of these contracts, opening the door to thousands of potential demands of – mainly British tourists. Specifically and since the Supreme ruled a first trial in early January 2015, there have been 66 Supreme Court rulings always giving reason to the defrauded by timeshare cases; This implies that contracts signed in the past are canceled. And specialized law firms speak of hundreds of thousands of foreigners with such contracts in Spain, headed by the people of the United Kingdom and followed by Norwegians, Belgians, Germans …
Supreme court rulings in favor of clients skyrocketed in July
The proliferation of sentences has accelerated and a dozen of them have occurred last July, as has been shown by this medium. Almost all timeshare resorts are in the Canaries, but there have also been scandals on the Costa del Sol: in fact, in parallel with the opinions of the Supreme, about thirty people dedicated to the business have recently been arrested in Málaga accused of fraud Of 17 million. Companies deny the scam: “There is no scam. It does not act in the criminal sphere, but civil. There are mutual contracts signed by both parties and some are being annulled, “says an Anfi lawyer, one of the defendants and the only one who has responded to this medium.
The idea of time-sharing was born in the United States in the 1960s; Spain was one of the later countries in the EU to have this tourist regime, but the business expansion was blazing and today is the country with more users of timeshare: more than one million families have opted for this holiday modality In Spain, an influx that leaves 60,000 jobs. The Canary Islands is in first place, followed by the Costa del Sol, Levante and Catalonia.
The companies forced their customers to contract the timeshare in perpetuity
The legal vacuum of time-share has been blurring over the years: in January 1999 a European directive of 1994 (Law 42/98) was transposed. And then the second EU directive was transposed in 2012. But the firms – not all of them – especially those settled in paradises like the Isle of Man, have consistently broken the law until the Supreme Court gave a first punch on the Table in January 2015.
The companies, among other things, forced the client to contract perpetually the timeshare, the majority to 50 years; In addition, many clients did not obtain the apartments they wanted in the week they requested, despite having been told otherwise. “Timeshare in Spain is something that is associated with the scam in England when you mention the matter to anyone,” says Graham Hunt, a British real estate agent in Spain
“This is a somewhat complicated legal situation,” concedes the company Anfi, the only one that has agreed to respond on this issue with complete transparency, unlike the other firms. Anfi advocates by email the perpetuity of the contract: “The 1998 Act stipulated that these rights could last up to 50 years. However, it clearly states that time-sharing schemes created before 1998 could continue to be marketed in the same way as originally established, provided they had been declared before a notary and registered in the Land Registry ” .
Anfi, one of the companies in the sector in Spain, defends the contracts for life
The situation changed radically in January 2015, when the Supreme Court upheld the nullity of the contract signed between a Norwegian citizen and the Gran Canaria company Anfi (whose base is not in any tax haven but its capital is 100% Canarian), prohibiting contracts Lasting more than half a century. The complainant’s husband had died and she tried to reverse the time share contract claiming she could not afford the maintenance costs.
According to the dozen of judgments, these expenses of maintenance of aparthotels and and resorts quietly exceed 1,000 euros per year. “More 1,370 euros for maintenance expenses for the year 2010 of the Beverly Hills Club,” says a ruling this year from the High Court. “It’s not always the case,” they claim in Anfi. “The same thing is not spent for an apartment of 300 square meters that for one of ninety.” Anfi charges against this interpretation and makes a closed defense of contracts for life. “The interpretation that the Supreme Court does not take into account that the contracts declared invalid belong to a Regime created prior to Law 42/1998 whose transitional provision did allow the unlimited duration of contracts. The judgment of the Supreme Court caught the whole time-share industry in Europe by surprise. ” Telling timeshare in Spain is associated with scam in England, “says Graham Hunt. The amounts to be refunded vary according to the type of contract entered into. And they act retroactively. A British family with a timeshare contract contracted with the Silver Point company since 2003 was awarded by the Supreme with the return of almost 30,000 euros, also this year. “Examined the contracts can be seen that in no respect the dictates of Law 42/1998. Prepayments are required which the contract calls “deposit”. That is to say, rather than partial breach of the law, we are faced with a systematic failure to comply with it, “states the ruling before declaring the contract nullity. According to the information gathered, some 35 Supreme Court rulings affect Anfi, 19 to Silverpoint and five to Palm Oasis. There is more, to far surpass the sixty. “Firms in the industry are likely to have accounting problems going forward, since returns imposed by judges refer to many years ago.”
Thousands of Britons trapped in onerous timeshare or “holiday club” arrangements – where they are forced to pay annual fees for few or no benefits – could be given an escape route as their contracts are effectively “null and void”. Some might even be able to claim refunds.
These rip-off agreements could completely unravel as a result of a court ruling against “perpetual” timeshares. Soon-to-be-implemented Europe-wide rules are expected to back the decision.
Data shared with Telegraph Money suggests that 100,000 timeshare contracts are affected. Figures from the timeshare industry show that around 12pc of the 850,000 timeshares in Europe could now be considered illegal and their owners due a refund of all money spent, plus interest and legal costs.
While “timeshare” often describes legitimate arrangements where, typically, consumers buy fixed weeks each year at a set resort, the term is also used to describe a vague package of benefits, supposedly attached to a range of resorts, where customers risk being locked into unfair terms.
The latter, sometimes called “holiday clubs” or “floating timeshares”, are notorious. Owners found they had unwittingly agreed to pay hefty annual fees that were supposed to continue after their death, with the obligations passing on to their children or heirs.
Reports have surfaced of people in care homes being forced to pay for timeshares they could not use, as well as relatives of deceased owners being hounded for money.
What has changed?
A Norwegian woman was awarded more than £28,000 by the Spanish Supreme Court in March, giving fresh hope to Britons locked in similar arrangements.
In the case against the Gran Canaria-based Anfi Group, the judge ruled that “in perpetuity” clauses broke a Spanish law which states that no timeshare agreement signed after January 15 1999 can last more than 50 years. This rendered the whole contract invalid, and the court ordered Anfi to refund all payments as well as interest and legal fees.
Politicians in Brussels are now reviewing relevant timeshare legislation, seeking to apply tighter rules retrospectively, with enforcement expected “later this year”.
Under current rules, the Timeshare Directive implemented by member states in January 2011, provides protection for consumers who signed up to timeshares after this date.
The move could give British consumers reassurance that excessive or unfair charges are unenforceable. The decision from March 6 applied to traditional fixed-week timeshares, but would extend to other agreements “held in perpetuity”.
Currently, around 20,000 timeshare owners across Europe are pursuing group actions against their firms, and around 30,000 people are pursuing cases individually.
It said it had seen a 25pc increase in inquiries from British owners since the Spanish court’s ruling.
What are the disputed charges?
Timeshares can cost thousands of pounds upfront but the controversy surrounds annual “maintenance fees”.
Owners will have to pay the fees indefinitely, with firms known to pursue “debtors” ruthlessly. This leaves some pensioners forced to pay fees until they die, even if they are too old or ill to use their holiday properties.
Affected timeshare owners should write to any debt collection companies that contact them and inform them the debt is disputed. “They will often close their files and leave you alone. If clients have a legitimate dispute they shouldn’t be afraid of debt collectors.”
Mr Boyd, who deals with around 40 timeshare complaints at any given time, said one client with Alzheimer’s was being forced to pay for his timeshare even though he could not travel abroad.
“You think you’re buying something to ensure reasonably priced holidays for life. Instead you end up paying escalating fees for life,” he said.
‘We won a “free” holiday but it actually cost us £2,000’
The offer of a free holiday from a stranger abroad should normally ring alarm bells.
But when an official claiming to be from the “tourist board” approached Bob and Shelley Cartman while they were holidaying in Tenerife in 2012, their trusting instincts got the better of them.
Mr Cartman, who is 69 and retired, was offered a free bottle of wine, but his wife, 60, “won” a grand prize – a week’s free holiday “anywhere in the world”.
They were persuaded to visit a resort called Grand Holidays Club, a well-known company in Tenerife that targets British tourists in an attempt to sign them up to costly timeshare agreements.
After being locked in a room for more than four hours, they paid €2,800 (£1,995) for a “trial” timeshare to provide them with a holiday anywhere in the world – even during the school holidays – for just £99 a week. But these bargain-priced holidays failed to materialise and by 2013 the couple had given up their investment as a lost cause.
Shelley and Bob Cartman said they refused to sign up for a perpetual timeshare despite a firm’s insistence
“We were not going to be persuaded into entering any other lifetime arrangements,” said Mr Cartman.
Telegraph Money spoke to John Burrows from Grand Holidays, who confirmed that the company offered the couple a lifetime membership. He admitted the industry had a “reputation problem”, adding: “We’re proud of how cleanly we try and sell this. We’re as clean as a whistle.”
He insisted that the days of “Wild West” timeshare hard-selling tactics were over. However, Mr Burrows confirmed that the Grand Holidays employee had approached the Cartmans in 2012 on the pretence of being a tourist office employee.
He said: “Timeshares have a murky past and we do our best to honour our agreements.”
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