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Low Seasons Holidays?

Jun 24, 2024 | Blog, European Consumer Claims, mynewsdesk

Accusations of unfair, or illegal behaviour among timeshare companies is nothing new. So why is Seasons Holidays attracting so much attention?

British timeshare magnates

Bristol based timeshare company Seasons Holidays PLC’s website tells us they launched in 1983 ‘by offering a wide range of holiday options at Laugharne Park, in Wales.’

Companies House on the other hand shows them to have incorporated 13 years later in 1996. Seasons boast resort locations all across the UK plus Spain and the Canary Islands and claim to have facilitated ‘holiday experiences’ for over two million members.

The company, which is owned by Barry and Sharon Hurley (AKA Sharon Kinsella) self-reports a 90% customer satisfaction rating and operation expansion of over 30% in the last five years.

Reading the Seasons Holidays website it would be easy to conclude that this is a successful timeshare company, popular with its members.

Reports from Seasons owners to European Consumer Claims (ECC), publications on consumer sites, and members groups on Facebook tell a very different story….

Slaley Hall ‘subterfuge’

This luxury Seasons property in Northumbria was once genuinely able to boast that rarest of commodities: a satisfied and happy timeshare owner base.

Members considered their 99 year lodge contracts to be a fantastic deal with maintenance fees well under the cost of equivalent accommodation. The cherished, original memberships were with Q Hotels, but then in 2019 Seasons Holidays took over Slaley Hall.

In 2020, the height of COVID, when UK holidays were in huge demand, long time Slaley Hall members represented initially by Tim and Fiona Norman went public about what they saw as the beginning of a campaign of harassment by Seasons.

Left: Tim and Fiona Norman. Right: Slaley Hall Lodges

The embattled company were widely reported to have pressured Mr and Mrs Norman and all of the other members to rescind their memberships and even pay Seasons £15,000 for the privilage. Tim, a hotelier himself, believed that Seasons wanted rid of the owners because the company would then be able to rent out the lodges for much more money than the existing maintenance fees.

“UK holiday accommodation is at a premium now,” explained Tim at the time. “Seasons probably want us gone so they can rent out our lodges for high prices. They are bombarding all the owners with what can only be described as bullying phone calls trying to take our memberships back.”

The timeshare owners fought as hard as they could for as long as they could against Seasons, and their cause was sympathetically reported in the media. But in the end, after an alleged campaign of dirty tricks, Seasons sold the properties out from under the furious owners. A glance at the Slaley Hall Lodge Owners group on Facebook reveals extent of the drawn out battle between the members and Barry/Sharon Hurley.

Sales and financing accusations

In 2021 Seasons made the media again after a couple from Stirlingshire complained about being ‘railroaded’ into taking £21,000 worth of finance to buy a timeshare that they were only able to use once. The Ashbys ended up losing their house after Joe (an engineer at Switzerland’s CERN Large Hadron Collider facility) got laid off and the couple could no longer keep up payments for a loan they say they should never have been given.

The couple initially ‘won’ a ‘free holiday’ from Seasons, conditional upon attending a timeshare sales presentation during their stay. After what they described as “real high pressure salesthey signed up to a membership and then were upgraded on their first timeshare holiday, at Club Tahiti in Lanzarote.

Joe and Linda Ashby. Lost house after suspect Seasons finance arrangements

The couple knew they shouldn’t qualify for finance because Joe had been made redundant from his work. However they claim that the sales rep boasted that despite this, he would be able to “find a way” to get the loan approved.

Linda was struggling with mental health issues at the time, but that didn’t deter the Seasons sales rep, who advised the Ashby’s to apply for the loan in Linda’s name instead of Joe’s. “We felt like we were talked into a corner. We had said we loved it and would buy if we could get finance (thinking we never could because of my redundancy and Linda’s health problems). Then suddenly we were in the position of having to go ahead. Foolishly we did,” said Joe at the time. The couple defaulted on the payments and lost the membership. They still had the full debt to pay.

The Ashbys case was picked up by the media and Seasons ended up coming to an undisclosed agreement with the Ashbys.

But was the couple’s treatment indicative of a wider culture of contempt for customers by Seasons Holidays?

Media and consumer org investigations

In 2020 Seasons attempted to renege on promises made to veteran members Wendy and Andrew Wilkinson regarding use of the leisure facilities at Clowance Estate & Country Club.

The couple paid a staggering £25,000 for a one week per year ownership in a studio, back in 1990. This was many times the going rate for equivalent timeshare memberships. “The appeal to us was that all of our family were allowed to use the leisure facilities all year round, as we lived a couple of hundred meters from Clowance. We never use our accommodation week, which is of little interest to us,” explained shop owner Andrew.

The Wilkinsons contacted various consumer organisations for help after they claim Seasons tried to cancel their family access to the facilities.

After a deluge of negative publicity, Seasons were forced to back down and reopen their promised family access to the facilities at Clowance.

Andrew and Wendy Wilkinson with letter from Seasons confirming reinstatement of their membership rights

In 2021 the beleaguered company was accused of financial mis-steps regarding filing of corporate accounts at Companies House, and suspicion over why they were demanding annual maintenance fees be paid into a Seasons bank account rather than the Owners Club account.

Questions were asked as to whether accounts were not filed due to cashflow problems or complacency. If it was just the latter, Slaley Hall Lodge member ‘Christopher’ pointed out on Facebook, it would incur a fine of between £750 and £1500. An irresponsible use of members’ annual maintenance fee money.

The latest potential trouble looming for Seasons Holidays is significant high level consumer organisation, media and legal interest in accusations that the club’s sales staff have been presenting Fractional Timeshare memberships as a financial investment.

“We await the outcome of these investigations with concern,” says Greg Wilson, CEO of ECC.

“If true, it would be an unacceptable breach of consumer law and could yield serious consequences for Seasons Holidays. There are very good legal reasons why any kind of timeshare is proscribed from being sold as a financial investment.

Greg Wilson.  Timeshare expert
Greg Wilson. Timeshare expert

“The natural consumer assumption is to regard timeshare as form of property, and property always seems to go up in value,” continues Wilson.

“In reality, normal timeshares lose substantively all of their financial value the moment they are bought. A buyer may pay tens of thousands of pounds for a membership, and immediately be unable to even give it away for free even if they haven’t yet used it.

“Fractional ownerships purport to endow part ownership of a property to the buyer, furthering the illusion of investment. Sometimes this is real and sometimes it isn’t. In any case even fractional owners have very little chance of regaining any money on their purchase. This is why the law is so clear that no form of timeshare may be sold as a financial investment.

Help at hand

If you feel you have been treated unfairly by Seasons Holidays in any way at all, please do get in touch with our team at Timeshare Advice Centre.

We can help.

For new enquiries contact our advice team on 0203 7699 164 or email pr@ecc-eu.com

For current clients please contact Customer Services on 0149 174 3059 or email cs@ecc-eu.com

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