UNreality check for Club La Costa. Their attempts at propaganda debunked
Like a jilted spouse, angrily trying to force their partner to stay though love has long since departed, Club La Costa (CLC) is employing increasingly doomed strategies to keep their members in the club. A letter created for fleeing customers gives disturbing insight into the CLC survival mindset.
Sun setting on a once flagship business
CLC has had a difficult ride over the last few years. Even before the pandemic struck, their members were desperate to escape outmoded timeshare contracts which tie them into using a number of resorts, for annual fees which can increase at the discretion of the club. Their once excusive resorts are now available on regular booking sites and often for around the same price as the member pays in fees. It’s an expensive, restrictive way to go on holiday. Not many people would be surprised at the very low %age of timeshare resort staff who have bought the product themselves.
People are just not buying timeshare any more. Why should they commit themselves to a limited choice and claustrophobic contract to pay fees every single year, whether they can go on holiday or not?
Claims firms are helping record numbers of timeshare victims escape these contracts. CLC, like many companies in Spain, ignored consumer laws for decades, and now they are paying the price. Judges are awarding vast amounts of compensation to their victims. CLC however are fighting to avoid their legal obligations by delaying court proceedings with pointless appeals and carefully managed bankruptcies.
Jealously defending their remaining income
With little or no revenue from signing up new members, the antiquated CLC machine draws money from its final remaining source: annual client fees.
Timeshare membership is no longer a win-win arrangement, resorts want their money whether the client is happy or not. This was clearly evidenced during the pandemic. Companies almost universally demanded full fee payments while the resorts stood vacant, despite the massively reduced overheads of empty apartments.
For those who signed up to timeshare holidays, there is generally no way to rescind the deal without paying a huge amount in extra membership fees.
Annual fees are lifelines to struggling resorts. They just can’t afford to let unhappy clients go.
“Clearly it is unfair to keep people paying for something they no longer want, need or use,” says Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC). “And that’s when firms like ECC can help.”
Since 2016 ECC and other claims firms have been rescuing people from suffocating timeshare contracts, and even claiming compensation on behalf of people sold timeshare illegally. Laws to prevent high pressure timeshare sales ruining people’s lives had been enacted from 1999 onwards. Companies like CLC ignored those laws and ECC led the fight to challenge their illegal behaviour.
CLC is currently going through administration in the UK after being sanctioned by Spanish courts for tens of millions of pounds in compensation awards for their victims.
Despite their dire financial situation, CLC is still scrapping to stay alive, taking every opportunity to strike out at claims firms, and the service they provide.
Dishonest letters to clients
“When ECC accepts a case for a compensation claim we need certain documents in order to assist the process,” explains Andrew Cooper. “The original purchase agreement, maintenance fee invoices and various other documentation. Some clients bought a long time ago and have misplaced one or more of these documents, perhaps in a house move or cupboard clear out.
“At this point the client will sometimes ask their resort for copies of the absent paperwork.
“CLC, sensing a client trying to leave, or worse, suing them for the illegal manner in which they sold the membership, digs their heels in to protect the club’s interest.”
Clients have then been peppered with misleading CLC emails designed to put them off either leaving the club, or claiming their rightful compensation:
- CLC describes sinister ‘third parties’ with hidden agendas, giving misleading and ‘simply incorrect’ information. They warn their customers to ‘exercise extreme caution.’ “The time most of these customers would have benefitted from extra caution is when they were initially targeted by CLC’s marketing, and then sales departments,” clarifies Cooper. “Currently, all CLC is trying to do is stop clients from proceeding with legal action against the club. If CLC really had done nothing wrong, they would not be fearful of the courts. The fact is that claims firms like ourselves have a 98.6% success rate claiming against timeshare companies. CLC tries to present their advice as protecting their members. The reality is, it’s pure self preservation because they know that a judge is overwhelmingly likely to rule against CLC.
- CLC insinuate that Claims Management Companies operate outside the law and do not act in the best interest of their clients, proclaiming that ‘UK authorities are taking successful action against companies that breach the law.’ “It is demonstrably the other way around,” explains Andrew Cooper. “It is the timeshare companies who have been ignoring the law for decades. Yes, unfortunately there are a number of bogus timeshare claims companies that consumers need to be wary of, and if a claims company breaks the law they need to be punished. Any law abiding firm like ECC would support that 100%. However it is CLC that is facing administration over tens of millions of pounds worth of compensation awards because of decades of cavalier and lawless behaviour. Not reputable claims firms.”
- CLC are as uncooperative as possible when their members ask for copies of their contracts or other documentation. They explain to their members that CLC has no legal obligation to give this documentation and provide the absolute minimum required by law in response to Data Subject Access Requests. “This really isn’t the behaviour of a company: a) with nothing to hide, and b) who is confident in their legal position,” notes Cooper. “They usually give the member a heavily redacted copy of their documents. It’s just another delaying tactic. Perhaps it gives CLC some temporary, juvenile satisfaction, but luckily for CLC’s victims it merely causes a minor delay in the compensation award process.”
- CLC advises their members to check out websites like RDO and Timeshare Business Check for ‘background and information.’ “What CLC neglects to mention is that those sites are funded by the timeshare industry,” Andrew Cooper points out. “RDO, or Resort Development Organisation is a trade body sponsored by fees from timeshare companies and related industries. They are literally paid to protect the interests of companies like CLC. So CLC not disclosing that bias is misleading to say the least. As for Timeshare Business Check, they are funded by the RDO, and therefore also a paid mouthpiece for the timeshare industry. This relationship is well documented and the fact that these sites fail to reference news about problems facing the industry such as awards and administrations demonstrates their bias. There are independent organisations, NOT funded by the timeshare industry such as: Inside Timeshare and the Timeshare Consumer Association who provide a more transparent report on the industry as a whole.”
- CLC also promotes the option of contacting MS Legal for advice. “MS Legal are Club La Costa’s legal team,” says Cooper. “Asking members to believe that MS Legal are going to give entirely unbiased direction is a bit much to swallow.”
CLC accompany these misinformation emails and letters with a document entitled (without a hint of irony): Reality Check
The Reality Check document is more of the same, but concentrated into bite sized chunks of protective propaganda:
- The document describes claims as ‘money making schemes’ whose only purpose is to ‘make as much money as they can.’ “The hypocrisy of this is mind blowing,” says Andrew Cooper. “Yes, claims firms intentions are to generate profit like every other business. We achieve said profits through obtaining financial justice for our clients. By the sneering disdain displayed at the idea of ‘money making’ in this document you could be forgiven for thinking that CLC was a charity instead of a ruthless money making machine who have made vast fortunes by ignoring the law for decades.”
- The Reality Check document attempts to link, in the reader’s mind, CLC’s claim’s firm opponents with scam outfits who in the past who tried to defraud tour operators with fake food poisoning claims. “What the document seems to imply is that if the fraud gangs’ activities were evil, then so must the timeshare claims firms also be evil. Despite the glaring difference that the former were breaking the law to steal money, and the latter is protecting the rights of consumers against the illegal activities of timeshare companies. CLC is trying to position itself as the defenceless target of criminals, instead of being entirely responsible for their own predicament. CLC consciously decided to ignore the law. Now they act astounded at the fact the judges are punishing them.”
- Reality Check states that ‘CLC World have WON the majority of claims it has faced.’ “It is difficult to discern what logical gymnastics were emboldening CLC to feel confident in making this statement,” muses Cooper. “The reality is that ECC have won 98.6% of cases accepted. We at ECC only take on compensation cases that we are completely confident in winning because our profit depends on successful claims. What is true is that CLC make many pointless appeals and delays during the claim process, however the final result is always the same. It is incredibly rare that ECC loses a timeshare compensation claim once we have accepted the case.”
- The document tries to play down the CLC company insolvencies. It states: ‘We are still here and still trading. We have a lot of different companies. Like many large companies there is regular restructuring.’ “We imagine that he subject of CLC’s restructuring is of great interest to FRP, the official administrators, as well as the many CLC creditors,” agrees Cooper. “We estimate that CLC is facing claims in excess of €100 million. CLC might be still trading, but not many companies can absorb a financial blow like that without significant downsizing. A couple of years ago I expect CLC would have scoffed at the idea of them being in their current position. You can already see rebranding at the CLC flagship resort in Spain, where some sort of deal has been done with Wyndham. The truth is there is no longer demand for an outdated, expensive and restrictive way of holidaying like timeshare and the days of the industry are numbered.”
- Finally the Reality Check document suggests that members contact CLC Member Services for a fact check if they see worrying stories on the internet about CLC or have contact with a claims company. “Again, it’s a bit rich to ask people to expect advice from CLC to be unbiased when an average claim costs them around £20,000. It seems to fit with the tone of the document as a whole, in attempting to present themselves as the besieged ‘good guys’ with evil claims companies trying to damage them for no reason. The inescapable truth here is that timeshare companies ignored the law of the land. They did so purely for reasons of profit. And that profit was at the expense of people they sold timeshare to. If you are owed compensation, it is your moral obligation to claim it. CLC do not deserve to keep money they obtained both illegally, and unethically.”
For advice on escaping a timeshare contract, or to understand whether you are entitled to compensation for an illegal contract, contact ECC for a confidential, no obligation chat
- Club la Costa Members’ anxiety as Spanish CLC companies file for bankruptcy
- Inside Timeshare website
- Timeshare Consumer Association
- Why are genuine timeshare claims firms so rare?
- Escaping unwanted timeshare memberships
- Can timeshare owners in Spain really claim compensation?
- Leading timeshare claims firm targets £billions in refunds over “unfair” 2020s maintenance fees
- Yes, you can still claim compensation from Club La Costa. Here’s why…
- Timeshare manipulation tactics. How people are influenced to buy on the day
- Timeshare companies pointlessly delaying compensation payouts
- ECC contact page
- RDO under investigation
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First published on MyNewsDesk February 2022