Club La Costa accused of inferior quality and customer service issues “like Laurel & Hardy, or the Faulty Towers TV series of the ’70s”
Flights not paid
Mark and Josie Walling (name changed on request) were attracted by an offer from timeshare giants Club La Costa (CLC) in 2012. The holiday club offered to pay their flights and accommodation, in return for presenting the benefits of a timeshare membership on the Costa Del Sol.
“We were impressed that they were confident enough to give us a totally free holiday,” says Mark, 68. “In our minds they could only do that if what they had to offer was too good to refuse.”
Things started to go wrong almost immediately, as they arrived at the airport to find their flights not booked. “We were able to book ourselves on the flight, and CLC promised to reimburse us later. They never did. Josie had to sit in the cockpit as there was only one official seat left on the plane and she is smaller than me.“
Despite the poor start to the holiday, the CLC sales person charmed them and the Wallings joined the club for £7,000. “It seemed like great value,” says Josie, 65. “We could exchange to anywhere in the world and always be guaranteed great accommodation when we got there. That’s what they told us anyway.
The couple were disappointed again on their return flight to find that CLC had once more failed to book them on the flight. “We had really made a point of getting them to confirm we wouldn’t be left stranded on the way home,” says Mark. “The rep who sold us the membership laughed and assured us that it was an oversight that couldn’t possibly happen twice, yet there we were again at Gatwick, paying our own flights.”
“Pretty soon we realised that CLC timeshare membership was just a more expensive way to holiday,” continues Josie. “Our annual maintenance fee rose every year. It started as £214 a week, and ended up as more than triple that amount. You could stay in a nice hotel for the same money without having to pay out any initial investment to join a club.”
“The high annual fees were unjustified,” adds Mark. “The first time we stayed we had a nice room, but after we joined the apartments were increasingly poorly maintained. Booking was next to impossible and if you wanted to exchange anywhere else there were hundreds of pounds in fees with RCI, or to bank your week, withdraw it and so on.”
“There were a series of customer service incidents which seem funny now, but at the time were very frustrating. We were dealt with like one of Basil Fawlty’s guests,” says Josie. “Mark got out of the shower one evening and was electrocuted. The light went out and Mark was knocked off his feet.
“We called reception and they sent someone who told us it was Mark’s fault for getting out of the shower with wet feet while the washing machine was on. We are both unaware of a way to get out of a shower with dry feet. And there is no instruction about unplugging the washing machine while showering. This definitely wouldn’t be a safe arrangement for a family with kids.”
Another incident involved a collapsing ‘pull out’ bed: “Our grown up daughter stayed with us one year and had to sleep on the pull out bed in the living room. She is only small, but the bed collapsed while she was sleeping, causing her a few bruises and gave her a nasty shock (although a different kind than Mark had previously).
“Far from apologising or offering us any kind of compensation for the dangerous furniture, the resort told us we would have to pay for a new bed, plus some ornaments that were damaged during the collapse. They acted as though we had treated the apartment poorly, rather than the bed being in a dangerous condition.”
Enough is enough
“Every year, as soon as we finished the holiday, the maintenance demand for next year was waiting in our mail,” says Mark. “Our complaints were falling on deaf ears. Eventually we just tried to walk away. We were prepared to swallow the loss of the initial investment and fees up to that point. But CLC has other ideas they are harassing us for the fees we have missed since we tried to walk away, and are telling us we are committed to remaining in their club. It looks like we will need legal help. We both wish we had never taken that ‘free holiday.’ Its just an expensive way of staying in average standard hotels.”
“The timeshare business is on its knees,“ says Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims. “It’s an antiquated and expensive way of going on holiday and young consumers want no part of it. Without revenue coming in from new memberships, the resorts are forced to increase their maintenance fees, while cutting back on the services provided. Club La Costa PLC has gone in to administration recently. The timeshare industry lobby group, RDO, and their paid publicity sites like KwikChex would have you believe that the majority of timeshare owners are satisfied, but unfortunately our experience tells a different story. All the enquiries we get are from people wanting to either claim compensation for being mis-sold, or even just how to escape their contract altogether.”