British consumer site’s integrity questioned over financial reliance on timeshare companies
At first glance KwikChex is a free source of helpful advice for the vulnerable consumer in need of direction. They publish with authority on consumer matters and a reader could be forgiven for believing the company is a resource that can be trusted to provide help or advice when dealing with errant timeshare resorts.
Funded by the timeshare industry
“They certainly used to be impartial and helpful,” explains Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC). “However for years now they have been using two websites (owned by them) called Timeshare Business Check, and Timeshare Taskforce to malign anyone who represents a challenge to the business.
“It’s important to note that KwikChex are not self funded, but rely on direct financial support from the Timeshare Industry. Understanding this can help a person to decide if KwikChex are indeed offering advice to help the consumer, or whether they are protecting the business that bankrolls them.”
Attacking claims firms
From 1999 onwards, a series of legal measures have been implemented to protect timeshare consumers from the industry’s infamous high pressure sales. The majority of timeshare companies believed that these protections would make their business unviable, and chose to ignore them completely. This rendered hundreds of thousands of membership contracts illegal and exposed timeshare companies to expensive legal action.
For the victims however, the process of obtaining their legal compensation was/is fraught with red tape and pushback from the timeshare giants. It became almost impossible for the average wronged consumer to claim the compensation they were entitled to, and so various ‘claims firms’ sprung up to manage the process for them.
“Unfortunately, like every business relating to the timeshare sector, many of the new claims firms were simply criminals,” says Cooper. “In fact, nearly all of them. If you Google search for a firm to help you claim against your resort, nearly all the results are fraudsterswho would take your money but disappear without providing the service.
“You can count the honest firms on one hand, but they are there and they are successfully claiming large sums for victims of the timeshare industry.
“What KwikChex are doing is using the fact that criminals are stealing money, to promote the idea (both on their website and through contacts in mainstream media) that EVERY claims firm is dishonest, and therefore that the victim can never safely claim their entitlement.”
This narrative would certainly suit the timeshare resorts. The compensation amounts being levied against these companies is huge and experts do not believe the industry can sustain the losses.
Andrew Cooper is unsympathetic. “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,” he says with a sense of implied justice. “These firms knowingly ignored rules put in place to protect innocent people from being talked into making life changing bad decisions. The timeshare industry got rich at the expense of ordinary people like you or me. It is entirely fitting that they compensate their victims.”
Attacking genuine consumer websites
As well as attacking claims firms, KwikChex have published negative articles about genuine timeshare consumer help sites.
Run by volunteers, these sites are traditionally excellent, well informed and independent sources of information and advice for timeshare owners who need assisstance.
“This is a red flag,” says Andrew Cooper. “It is arguably duplicitous to discredit independent sources of information and help, whilst promoting the narrative of timeshare paymasters.
“KwikChex purport to represent both the consumer and the business but in my experience, nobody can serve two masters. Organisations who solely represent the consumer have to be a safer information source.”
Working for the RDO
The Resort Developers Organisation (RDO) is a timeshare pressure group who work for “promotion of the industry and Europe wide lobbying”.
They are wholly funded by member donations from the wealthiest and most powerful timeshare businesses in Europe. The RDO exist to protect the interests of the timeshare industry. These are the sources funding KwikChex, who in turn run the Timeshare Task Force site, along with Timeshare Business Check. Both of which have drawn criticism for attacking legitimate organisations who challenge timeshare companies interests.
Follow the money
“It’s an unfortunate fact of life that most people or organisations are, consciously or otherwise, motivated by their own best interests,” says ECC‘s Andrew Cooper. “Cigarette companies in the 1970s commissioned multiple studies that showed smoking to be safe. The scientists involved may have even believed they were following their principles, but when you step back and see the bigger picture, it’s clear that people are inclined to lean towards self interest.
“There are many sources of free advice regarding timeshare. When deciding who to trust or ask advice from, established claims firms or truly independent timeshare consumer associations are clearly the intelligent choice. Also there is a site called Timeshare Trust that offers a straightforward assessment of timeshare businesses as well as the resources necessary for consumers to do their own research.”