2022 fails to deliver calm after 2021’s COVID challenges
After the madness of 2021 we were all hoping for some stability, and ideally a chance to regroup and recover.
COVID is still with us, but restrictions are largely gone. On the whole we seem to be living with it in much the same way as we do with the flu. The devastating effects of lockdowns on the economy, as well as our more general societal fabric may perhaps never truly be quantified.
2022 didn’t take long to land its first hammer blows, when in February President Putin decided to invade the Ukraine. If this 21st century echo of Blitzkrieg had been over swiftly, it might have had minimal impact on the wider world besides well deserved condemnation of expansionism. However to their undying credit, the determined country of Ukraine are still giving as good as they get, even at the time of writing this article.
Russia is experiencing the quagmire of Afghanistan all over again, and these events have yielded grim consequences for all of humankind.
The ramifications of this conflict are immeasurable. Even if the war stopped tomorrow it could take decades to recover from the damage already done. Fuel and food prices have shot up to ruinous levels thanks to the region being integral to the supply of both. The effects ripple outward and affect every person’s life on Planet Earth.
This analysis doesn’t even begin to include the immediate human costs in terms of deaths, injuries, refugees and loss of property and livelihoods.
We have cringed as the rest of the world lampooned the tragicomic domino topple of British Prime Ministers.
Queen Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor finally finished her awe inspiring, 70 year tour of duty, and we British turned out in force to show our heartfelt gratitude.
Shinzo Abe, Robbie Coltrane, Coolio, Meatloaf, Olivia Newton-John, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others also passed, leaving gigantic holes in the cultural framework of our world.
Inflation is running at eye-watering levels; Johnny Depp and Amber Heard became seemingly impossible to avoid on our social media screens; and Elon Musk has set the world ablaze by buying Twitter.
It’s all happening.
Timeshare in crisis
Nothing exists in isolation, and the world of timeshare has been as turbulent as everywhere else.
The timeshare business has been on a steady, steep decline from its heyday in the 1990s, largely because its prized USPs of exclusivity and luxury are no longer extant.
Exclusivity was abandoned when new-member sales petered out, and the watershed decision was made to rent unused units through regular booking sites like booking.com. This solved a short term revenue issue for the resorts, but to an owner who had paid tens of thousands of pounds to belong to a private club it was a kick in the teeth. They paid for a preferential experience but now their holiday neighbours can be anyone, including stag and hen parties and young groups who booked online, and even sometimes paid less than the timeshare maintenance fee.
Luxury was never really about the members. High resort standards were maintained to impress potential new customers during onsite sales presentations. When the timeshare business collapsed and sales operations were closed down, high standards became an unsustainable drain on resources. Facilities were slashed, maintenance pared back and onsite services reduced. Nowadays timeshare resorts are pretty ordinary, But owners are still contractually obliged to pay whatever they are invoiced, every single year.
2022 in timeshare
January brought positive news for the many Club La Costa victims suing the timeshare giant for their rightful compensation. CLC used varied and complex corporate structures to do business, and as such, it is taking skilled legal organisations time to unravel the financial tangle. World renowned accountancy form FRP are handling the UK based administration (now liquidation), and their update this month showed the process to be on track.
During the same month, timeshare resorts were accused of ‘pandemic profiteering’ and called out over ‘shameful profits’ being harvested at their suffering members’ expense during lockdown.
In February former Diamond Resorts International (DRI) owners began expressing concerns about availability in their resorts, due to Hilton Vacation Club’s surprise acquisition of DRI. All HVC clients now have access to former Diamond resorts. Did this mean even more pressure on the already creaking Diamond inventory? Members were not waiting to find out and began contacting claims firms to discuss how to escape.
In March, the Russian invasion of Ukraine brought specific concerns for timeshare owners. Namely the fact that their fees were going to increase disproportionately and unlike regular holidaymakers, they did not have the option of adjusting their vacation plans to suit their altered budgets.
Timeshare exchange systems were also under the spotlight as flaws were exposed by the aforementioned conflict. These exchange mechanisms just don’t stack up to the flexibility on offer with regular holiday bookings. Timeshare owners reported being understandably fed up with being worse off than people who didn’t pay to join expensive holiday clubs.
April heralded yet another record breaking month for the timeshare lawyers at M1 Legal. M1 are the preferred firm for European Consumer Claims (ECC) with compensation cases. The industry leading Spanish legal team achieved over £573,000 worth of victories. They would go on to break this record several more times in the remainder of 2022.
Marriott shocked the timeshare world by paying out almost immediately on several compensation judgements awarded against them, giving hope that the timeshare industry might finally be accepting responsibility for their transgressions.
Also in April, timeshare owners revolted at their once ‘exclusive’ resorts being widely available on sites like booking.com for non owners.
A bombshell media article in May highlighted the extra cost and inflexibility of holidaying through timeshare, compared to regular use-them-when-you-want-them holidays. The story drove many timeshare owners to contact claims firms for advice on escaping their outdated memberships.
June: With summer holidays on the horizon and a mass loss of qualified airline staff following COVID, chaos ensued at European airports with flights being cancelled last minute and families having to turn around and go home. This was inconvenient for regular holidaymakers, but at least they could claim refunds from their accommodation. Timeshare owners still had to pay their annual fees even when the flights were cancelled, highlighting yet again the flaws of membership.
July brought more success for ECC and M1 Legal as one case made the headlines regarding a huge £73,000 award for a lucky Wakefield couple.
During this summer holiday month CLC clients took their anger to social media about declining standards on the resorts. Online bookings and the decision to open the resorts to non members via discount holiday sites were firmly blamed by members of official CLC Facebook groups.
By August, Spain was experiencing huge rises in running costs for hotels. The country was also imposing financial requirements and other restrictions on travellers from outside of the EU, including the UK. Whilst regular holidaymakers could opt to spend holiday pounds in more welcoming destinations, timeshare owners were once more reminded that they were stuck with holidaying at their home resorts, a sizable percentage of which are in Spain.
September delivered an end to the hottest summer on record, leading many to question the fundamental appeal of holidays in Southern Europe. With the UK enjoying reliable sunny weather, and countries like Spain undergoing unbearable heat waves, the allure of our own, British Isles was reexamined by many. Unless they owned a timeshare in Spain that is.
At the same time the cost of living crisis was punishing Brits. Many people were forced to cut back on luxuries like holidays, again (yes, you guessed it) reminding timeshare owners of their unwanted holiday commitments.
An article published in October featured a case study of two HVC owners who detailed their outrageous maintenance fees increases from £175 a year in 2001 to over £1700 in 2021. This 976% increase was 18 times as much as regular inflation during the same period. Luckily, with ECC’s help, the couple have been freed from this contract and are able to revert to regular holidays where the free market forces competition.
The passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second brought great reflection to people all over our sceptered isle and indeed the wider world. This magnificent lady was the one unchanging factor throughout the lives of the majority of people living today. Great Britain honoured her with breathtaking, perfectly executed ceremony. The UK is forecast to have a significant boost in popularity with tourists as a result of this showcasing of what is best about Britain.
In November M1 provided uplifting news again with a mammoth £133,000 compensation award victory for a jubilant couple from Northwood in London. What a terrific win for this family during tough economic times.
This wasn’t the only impressive news from M1 Legal. November brought their biggest ever week (over £2,800,000 worth of award wins), in their biggest ever month (almost £3,500,000) to set up their biggest ever quarter (projected to be around £5,000.000). To me, this is a clear indication that firms like ECC and M1 Legal are winning the fight. The grinding-down, delay tactics of timeshare companies are being dismantled. Legal precedents are being set, and the timeshare companies are running out of ways to avoid their legal obligations.
The pound to sank historic lows against the dollar and euro. Timeshare owners are generally invoiced for annual fees in the currency of the country in which their home resort is based. This meant a huge real-terms increase in maintenance charges on top of the already inflated charges.
The Club La Costa (UK) PLC administration transitioned into liquidation, and we remain as positive as ever that substantial funds will be recovered to help pay the creditors.
Right now, in the third week of December ECC’s victory total for 2022 stands at around £8,700,000. Hopefully this should reach around £9 million by the end of the year. A 50% increase on last year’s record (just under £6,000,000). This kind of increase year on year shows us that we are only scratching the surface of the compensation potential.
Spanish courts seem to be coming round to the idea that these greedy timeshare companies do not deserve to get away with having taken all of that money illegally for the last two decades. Those resorts broke the law at the expense of ordinary people who went on holiday in Spain and elsewhere. Maybe you the reader, or maybe your relatives.
What can we expect from 2023?
The Ukraine war shows no signs of abating. This tale of greed, aggression, and yet also awe inspiring bravery and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, will deliver increasingly dour effects as it rumbles on. Fuel cost rises add expense onto almost everything. Scarcity of food similarly drives prices up. Wages are nosediving in real terms because of the resulting inflation.
People experiencing tough times seek to divest themselves of unnecessary expenditure as they fight to keep pace with these cost of living rises. Timeshare owners who have ignored the expense and growing impracticality of their memberships are likely to say “enough is enough” and run for the exit. For those people who qualify for compensation, the extra money will certainly come in handy.
The major timeshare resorts in Europe are already on the ropes. One can’t imagine that timeshare bosses are not preparing for worst case scenarios, both from company and personal perspectives.
Based on recent annual increases in business, 2023 should be the year we power through the £10 million mark in successful compensation awards.
Peace and love from all of us at ECC
With the areas of your life that ECC can help with, as ever we are here for you.
Any problems, concerns or issues that you may be having with a timeshare membership, please get in touch. Our team are friendly and experienced. We will always do our best to find a way to help.
Even if we can’t do business with you, ECC are more than happy to provide expert counsel on any timeshare related problem. Our staff are knowledgeable and will take the time to advise you.
At ECC we are fortunate in that our professional goals are to free people from misery. We are motivated by this as much as we are to run an efficient business. If this were otherwise, we would find other ways to make a living.
As celebrated soldier and scout master Robert Baden-Powell told us:
“The most worthwhile thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.”
May 2023 be your year.