Timeshare owners are more desperate than ever to break free from restrictive memberships. Resorts are resisting the exodus because they can’t afford to lose the revenue stream from annual fees. So how do you escape from a timeshare you no longer want? Advice from an industry expert:
Jayne Niven, a timeshare contracts expert with European Consumer Claims (ECC) explains: “Timeshare memberships were once a superior system for taking luxury holidays. People signed up because they were fed up with disappointing experiences of accommodation booked through travel agents not measuring up to the glossy brochures. They were happy to pay for guaranteed superior quality.
“The rest of the travel industry evolved and now it’s easy to book timeshare quality through user reviewed booking sites like Expedia. In fact you can usually book the same actual resorts via these sites.”
“This means that timeshare memberships are largely considered redundant now,” says Niven. “They are no longer needed for a quality guarantee and its actually often cheaper to book a week in a resort through Booking.com than the member pays in annual fees for the same week. The non member can book cheaper, more flexibly, and they haven’t had to pay thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of pounds to join.
“The pandemic has really illustrated to members how much worse off they are than regular holidaymakers,” says Jayne. “Timeshare owners are committed to paying their annual fees even if they can’t holiday. They didn’t even get a discount. It has made people want to get rid of their membership and use booking sites instead”
“Timeshare companies are no longer signing up new members in any significant numbers,” says Jayne. “The modern consumer is just not interested and this has left the resorts desperately short of money.
“Their other main revenue stream is the annual fees that members have to pay, and companies are fighting hard to prevent people walking away from those fees. In most cases, rather than just take the membership back from owners who are behind on annual fee payments, the resorts will actually chase those fees via county court judgements and even engage the services of UK debt collectors.
“Relinquishing the contract is possible,” Jayne advises, “but for most people this will involve engaging professional help. Unless you understand Spanish, understand the law in Spain and have time to spend in Spain going through the court system, it is a daunting process.
Finding the right firm to take care of a timeshare relinquishment is not straightforward according to Jayne. “It’s not a matter of just googling and finding a qualified company. Sadly the vast majority of companies offering to get you out of your contract are either fraudsters wanting to steal your money, or they are just not qualified. Either way you would pay for a service that never happened.”
So what’s the answer?
“Luckily there are several free, independent advice resources,” advises Andrew Cooper, the CEO of ECC. “There is a website called Timeshare Trust, which details how you can do your own research on a company you are thinking of retaining.
“Alternatively there are several volunteer timeshare consumer associations who you can call or email to either ask for a recommendation or get feedback on a company you are considering.”