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Wednesday Jul 12, 2017

Desperate timesharers speak up

Vacation club horror stories were heard on the first day of the National Consumer Commission's inquiry into the industry, prompting panel chairperson Diane Terblanche to say she felt "saddened".

Terblanche was touched by a consumer's story of his desperation to get out of a vacation ownership contract which he only used three times in 11 years.

Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed, Terblanche and fellow panellists Zandile Mpungoshe and Aubrey Ngcobo yesterday heard submissions from consumers who had complaints against vacation ownership companies.

Of the seven submissions heard in three hours of the public hearings held at the Cape Town Lodge Hotel - ending tomorrow - six consumers said that they wanted to cancel the contracts which bound them to a lifetime membership.

Faghrie Meer said he received a call that he had won a free holiday and when he went to claim his prize, he had been subjected to a QVC (Quality Vacation Club) sales pitch.

He had to pay a R56 000 one-off amount for 20 points of holiday-club membership, with an annual fee of R7 000.

Meer said that at no time did the salesperson inform him that he would be "stuck in the contract for life".

He and his wife had been on three holidays before 2009, he added, after which they had over-subscription and could not get bookings at the places where they wanted to vacation.

Meer said he had been trying to cancel his contract for years. He considered cancelling the bank debit order, but had been threatened with blacklisting which would have affected his chances of paying for a good education for his children.

Alvin Bowler said he enjoyed every holiday he took with his Easy Holiday club membership, until he began to ask questions at the hotel resorts and found that non-club members were paying up to a R1 000 less than he was.

Bridgitt Fuller had been told she had won a prize but had to pay R100 000 for RCI vacation membership, which she bought into so she could be close to her children when she visited them in London and Sydney.

She found out that RCI had no inner-city accommodation in any major capital of the world.

Desperate to cancel the contract, Fuller said she blocked the bank debit order for R1 000 a month and has been threatened with blacklisting.

Andre Brits sketched his battle to cancel his ageing parents' membership with QVC, which they bought into at R13 000 in 2001 - they were now paying up to R500 a month.

A change in life circumstances prompted Karen April and Jaap Fourie to want to cancel their contracts, but they were also threatened with blacklisting.

Cape Argus

    
 

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