Spanish timeshare giant Ona Group accused of ‘bullying’ a member who refused second voluntary cash handout to fix up ageing complex.
HR professional Oscar F from Sheffield bought a week of timeshare at the Aucanada Club near Alcudia Port in Mallorca back in 1992. He paid his invoice, and enjoyed family holidays there for years.
Oscar, 51, paid his annual maintenance fees on time and the father of two has always been a quiet, respectful, model member.
“My family loved Mallorca and when Ona Group took over the management of the resort in 2010 we didn’t see any signs of trouble. The maintenance rose annually but no more than normal inflation.”
“Then we were contacted by Ona Group in 2014, saying that at the AGM they had voted to ask us members if we would voluntarily pay a “special levy” to upgrade the resort.
“My wife and I discussed it, and agreed to this request. We loved the Aucanada resort, but it needed some TLC. It is not a small amount of money, but we thought that agreeing to the investment would improve the quality of our holidays, so we paid it.
The family were surprised to be asked for another extra payment a couple of years later
“In 2016 we were contacted again by Ona Group,” continues the father of two. “They wanted another £800 from us for the resort upgrades. We were taken aback. Had Ona mis-calculated the costs by so much? When we asked them why they wanted so much extra so quickly, they told us it was because some members had not paid the original £1600 Special Levy requested of them.
“We saw this as unfair. We had paid up when asked, and now were being asked to subsidise the people who hadn’t done so. We told Ona Group how we felt and asked them to respect that fact that we had paid the first levy. Anyone can see that it is unreasonable for us to be asked for more because other people refused to pay.
Ona Group’s response? “They promptly banned us from being able to holiday at the club,” fumes Oscar. “We were up to date with our maintenance, and had agreed to/paid the first ‘Special Levy.’ Not only were we unable to use the club we are members of, but Ona still demanded our annual maintenance fees.
“As a family we can’t justify the expense of paying annual fees and also paying for our actual holidays that we now have to take somewhere else. Again we asked Ona Group to see reason on this while we tried to find a way of solving the disagreement with them.
Ona Group did not want to negotiate. “They refused to discuss any other outcome than us paying the unpaid maintenance (for when we weren’t allowed to use the resort), plus the extra £800. The next thing we were contacted by Spanish debt collection firm BFA who threatened court action if we didn’t pay our maintenance up to date, and the £800 extra levy. We didn’t engage with them but we were worried. We had nightmares of them taking legal action in our home country. They had already told us that if they did take us to court, the legal costs would be added to the figure they were claiming.
“Things went quiet then for a while,” continues Oscar. “The stress never went away, but nobody contacted us until 2018, when out of the blue, Ona Group called and offered us a free week if we paid the maintenance up to date plus the £800. We nearly agreed to this, as we wouldn’t have been too much out of pocket when the extra week was factored in. But Ona Group insisted that the week be in October. it would only have worked for us if we got the extra week to add onto our own summer week.
“We couldn’t afford the airfare to fly twice to Mallorca, and anyway October is bad weather. That is not a holiday that my kids would enjoy.”
“Regretfully we had to say no. Again we heard nothing, until September this year. The debt collectors have started harassing us again and threatening court action.
“The total amount is only £1600, which might not be much to some people but it is money we can’t afford to throw away.
“We don’t know what to do. It is so unreasonable and unfair, anyone can see that. And the amount will increase every year that we don’t pay the maintenance.”
“Unfortunately we are seeing more and more of this kind of harassment,” says Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims.
“Timeshare companies are strapped for cash as people just aren’t buying memberships any more and they are trying to fill the hole in their balance sheets by extra levies or unfair maintenance increases that sometimes mean it is cheaper to book the same resort as a non member via Bookings.com or Expedia.
“This level of harassment over a total claimed debt of £1600 is unjustifiable. COVID is putting pressure on timeshare companies, and many of them are falling into administration which probably explains this behaviour.
“With the future looking so bleak for the industry, Ona Group would do well to look after the members who have been loyal, and certainly not punish someone for refusing an extra levy that was demanded to make up the revenue of other owners who didn’t pay the first amount. This kind of behaviour comes across as desperation on the part of the timeshare companies.”