Issued By
West Yorkshire Trading
Standards Service

EMBARGO UNTIL 00.01 FRIDAY 28.3.03

BOGUS HOLIDAY CLUBS WARNING
(Don’t be pressurised into signing)

West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service is supporting an Office of Fair Trading campaign to warn consumers about the dangers of bogus holiday clubs.

The campaign, which is being spearheaded by Esther Rantzen, aims to draw attention to unscrupulous holiday clubs, who deliberately deceive consumers and pressurise them into membership.

Holiday clubs are marketed as a flexible alternative to timeshare, promising a lifetime of discounted luxury holidays anywhere in the world. Some are reputable businesses that trade in good faith. But others are promising far more than they deliver. At a cost of thousands of pounds, what customers may be buying is access to a booking service such as a website or phone number and the reality does not live up to the promise.

Unscrupulous clubs often only provide last minute, limited availability accommodation that is usually low star rather than luxury. With the addition of expensive flights, supplements and taxes, it could end up costing more than holidays booked through normal routes. By the time someone who signs up decides to book a holiday, the holiday club company could be out of business.

Holiday clubs are not covered by timeshare law. This means there are no automatic cancellation rights for those who change their minds. Bogus holiday club companies exploit this by employing high-pressure sales techniques such as long presentations – lasting as long as six hours – to get customers to sign a binding contract. With promises of a once in a lifetime opportunity, dream holidays for life, special one-day only offers or cashback on the scheme, it can be tempting to sign up. But with no cooling-off period, people should always take the contract away to consider at your leisure before signing.

It is not just holidaymakers who are at risk. Anyone can be approached at home by phone by someone telling them they have won a free holiday – all they have to do is attend an exclusive VIP presentation. But they are then subjected to a long, high- pressure sales pitch and the free holiday rarely turns out to be free by the time non-refundable administration charges, supplements and taxes are added.

Councillor Graham Clarke, Chairman of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee said:

“Unscrupulous holiday club companies prey on people’s aspirations – cheap luxury holidays for life is a very attractive prospect. But they often don’t deliver what they promise and consumers are left thousands of pounds of out pocket. It is important that people are not pressurised into signing these contracts before they’ve had a chance to consider them properly”.

Martin Wood, West Yorkshire Chief Trading Standards Officer said, “There are respectable holiday club companies but unfortunately there are also many unscrupulous ones. A leaflet to help prevent people being caught out by the bogus holiday club hard sell has been produced by the Office of Fair Trading and copies can be obtained by contacting our Consumer Helpline on 0113 3 848 848”.

The OFT advice to consumers is:

For further information please contact

John Field, Helpline Manager 0113 289 8238
Paul Cooper, Divisional Manager Tel: 0113 289 8240
Graham Hebblethwaite Divisional Manager/General Media Contact 0113 289 8218