PRETORIA - Consumers who have been swindled through timeshare holidays have been urged to come forward.
The National Consumer Commission will kickstart a public inquiry into the vacation ownership industry.
The inquiry is tasked with getting to the bottom of how consumers are being forced into contracts without the option of cancelling.
The commission has accused the industry’s regulatory body of doing nothing.
Paying upfront to use the holiday home of your dreams seems a good deal for as many as about 700,000 South Africans who are timeshare owners, but this R2-billion industry has come under the spotlight – for all the wrongs reasons.
National Consumer Commission commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed said: “Consumers allege among other things that they have been misled into signing up for a lifetime contract that can never be cancelled.
"They further allege that companies over-book and over-sell accommodation.
"The National Consumer Commission has always held the view that complaints from timeshare consumers are valid and warranted.”
Such grievances date back two decades.
One attorney says he is dealing with at least 5,000 complaints from consumers who suffered at the hands of holiday clubs.
A lawyer, Anton Alberts, said: “There's a very aggressive marketing scheme being used and people feel they are being bullied into these contracts. The day after, when they want to cancel the contract, they are told they can't, even though by law they have a five-day cooling period.”
Three attorneys have been handpicked to get to the root of the complaints and map a way forward within six months.
The vacation ownership industry answers to a self-regulated member-based trade association, called the Vacation Ownership of Southern Africa. The organisation has denied that it’s turning a blind eye.
A report with recommendations and possible legislative reforms is expected to be handed over in December. A 10 percent annual turnover penalty could be levied against implicated companies in order to repay consumers.