Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we report on two cases Diamond Resorts have lost in Tenerife, but first we look at the disturbing scenes at Tauro Beach over the weekend.
Over the past year Inside Timeshare has been reporting on the debacle that is the Anfi Tauro Beach Project, this has been an ongoing saga, with charges being brought against the former head of the coastal authority along with others and a full blown investigation by Seprona, the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service.
It has been well reported that Anfi had plans to transform the old shingle beach into a man made one with sand, build a marina and also several hotels with a shopping complex on the land behind. It turns out that part of the investigation into the beach found the sand had been illegally imported from the Western Sahara. (see link to The Guardian Article).
Now a company called Desokupa went in over the weekend and began demolishing the homes of those who live there. The reason is the land “belongs” to Anfi, who claim that these dwellings are illegal. Whether they are or not is not the point, considering that there are no planning permissions in place and the fact that the Anfi concession to run the beach is on hold while the Gran Canarian government apply to the courts to revoke the licenses. Should these demolitions have waited until the outcome?
Was there a court order which allowed Anfi to bring in the bulldozers?
All valid questions which will eventually be answered, but what we have lost is a little bit of old Gran Canaria and a very popular paradise spot, for locals and tourists alike. The bar Pio Pio is one of the most popular venues in the area at the weekend, with a wonderful atmosphere and great music. Is that now in danger!
Since publishing this following has appeared on facebook for Nueva Canarias
It will take you to the link below, this is very disturbing news.
Now for the court cases against Diamond Resorts and a look at timeshare law compared to other places.
Both these cases were heard at the High Court No 3, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, both were appeals on behalf of the British clients. These cases were originally held at the Courts of First Instance and unfortunately the clients lost those cases. These were heard before the Supreme Court in Madrid issued the numerous rulings (now 126) on how the timeshare laws should be interpreted and applied.
Before these rulings, different courts and judges interpreted the laws differently, no one actually knew how the laws should be applied. This is nothing unusual in legal work, laws are put into place, but it is not until they are tested and challenged are they effective, this is what the Supreme Court has done, issued a definitive interpretation.
In the first case, the client has been awarded over 19,000€ plus legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void.
In the second case held at the same court, over 30,000€ has been awarded plus legal interest, again the contract being declared null and void.
The court found several infringements of Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, (along with other relevant Consumer Laws), with contracts being over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of payments within the cooling off period. The court also found as per the rulings from Spain’s Highest Court that the contracts lacked any substance or tangible product as they were points based. These have been declared illegal in Spain. (See PDF’s below for the court sentences).
So how does Spain’s timeshare laws compare with elsewhere?
During the early days in Europe, timeshare was virtually unregulated, know one actually knew what it was, was it real estate, as that is how it was “sold” to the public, a share in your own holiday home, or was it purely a holiday product which was not an investment?
The free for all lasted some years, then the European Union issued the first of many Timeshare Directives, these were to try and regulate the industry, with the directives supposedly being put into the domestic laws of each member state. Basically all singing off the same hymn sheet!
In some countries, the directives were very much watered down, the industry trade body The RDO and the “representing” owners body TATOC, (now defunct), successfully lobbied the UK parliament and those laws are probably the weakest in Europe, they tend to be in favour of the industry not the consumer.
Spain on the other hand had a very different approach, which in some respects is not that surprising. Spain was one of the major places for timeshare development, they had just recently found freedom and democracy, with the country in dire need of development. The building of resorts and the tourist industry was one of the most important factors in this development.
The unfortunate thing is the free run timeshare developers had, timeshare was being sold even before the resorts were actually started, known as off plan. Many consumers got stung in these enterprises, with the resort they paid for never even getting built.
People on holiday were being picked up off the street left right and center, taken to sales presentations and coerced into parting with huge sums of money. Spain’s reputation as a great holiday destination was being sullied by these practices.
That all changed in December 1998, when the government introduced Law 42/98, based on the EU Timeshare Directives, but stronger. Spain was going to have the strongest laws in Europe and this was going to hurt the industry if they didn’t comply.
The law became effective on 5 January 1999, although they did allow a period where the timeshare companies could get their house in order and comply. One aspect of the law was regarding the duration of the contract, before, these were sold in perpetuity, there was no end date. The law now demanded that contracts be for a duration of a minimum 3 years and maximum of 50 years. Timeshare companies were allowed to place a deed of adaptation to all contracts sold before the law came into place, this allowed the pre 99 perpetuity contracts to remain, but all new sales must conform.
Many ignored this, on advice from their lawyers many continued to sell perpetuity, citing the deed of adaptation as the basis for carrying on. This obviously was one point that needed to be tested in the Supreme Court, but that would be many years ahead.
As a point of interest, there were two countries where timeshare laws only allowed for a maximum of 30 years on contracts, they are Madeira and Malta. Those had been put into place right at the start of timeshare development.
Another aspect of the law which Spain has put into place is the illegality of the Floating Weeks and Points systems. According the the Supreme Court they have ruled the timeshare law clearly states that any contract must have substance and tangibility, in other words the guarantee of the apartment and the week being sold. Floating weeks and points do not do this, you only have a right to use subject to availability.
So how does this compare with our friends experience across the Great Lake in the US?
Well from the many articles we have published on Inside Timeshare, they are sadly lacking any control or real consumer protection, it is pot luck which State you have purchased as to what protection you have. There appear to be no Federal Laws governing the sale of timeshare.
In Europe we have the 14 day cooling off period, where no payments should be taken and the consumer has the right to cancel, in some States we have been informed this can be as little as 3 days!
From what we have published, there are so many different agencies and authorities for the consumer to turn to, from Attorneys General (that depends on which State you are in) to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI. (See link below on filing a complaint).
We are seeing many complaints coming into Inside Timeshare on the practises of sales agents, which the timeshare companies seem to condone. There needs to be regulations to govern what is acceptable and what is not, these should be right across the board so that no matter which State you purchase in, the rules are the same for all.
Canada is preparing new legislation on the regulation of timeshare, we hope to bring you news of this from our Canadian readers in the near future.
South Africa is also pushing for changes, there have been several high profile cases against the timeshare industry, resulting in jail time and massive fines. It will not be long before they also have some of the strongest laws regulating timeshare in the world.
In Australia, there is also a move to regulate the timeshare industry, we have published in the past a couple of articles on timeshare down under. Again we wait for our Antipedian friends to submit their articles.
There is nothing wrong with the concept of timeshare, it may not suit everybody, after all we are all different, but it is how it is sold and administered that is the problem. For too long the industry has and in many cases, the US in particular, still carries on as though they are untouchable.
Diamond believed this in Spain, these cases highlighted today and those in the past along with the many more waiting to be heard, are letting them know that they are not above the law and will be curbed and brought to justice. Consumer protection is paramount in any industry, after all it is the consumer’s money that keeps any company afloat!
If you have any comments on this or any other article, then use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes them.
Are you being contacted by different companies offering claims or relinquishments? If so and you are not sure if they are genuine and will do what they say, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you look for the information and point you in the right direction.
Tomorrow we publish an article by a new contributor, Diane Creager and titled Elder Advocates, so join us tomorrow and welcome Diane.