Why can’t all timeshare companies be as ethical as Marriott…?

Decades of illegal Spanish timeshare contracts are being scrutinised in court, with the victims being awarded significant compensation. Finally in the Marriot’s Vacations Worldwide 2022 annual report the problem is being faced

A bad business

Timeshare in Europe has seldom enjoyed a savoury reputation. In the 1980s and 1990s, swarms of touts descended on beleaguered families trying to make their way to the beach on Spanish Costas. The business became synonymous with celebrity British gangsters laundering money through high pressure sales operations in the Canary Islands, Spain and Portugal. Hundreds of thousands of tourists were browbeaten into signing expensive contracts, and tabloid media rarely went to print without reporting on the latest timeshare scandal.

Eventually the problem became to big to ignore and the Spanish authorities, worried about the effect on national tourism revenue enacted wide ranging laws to protect consumers from making hasty, life affecting financial decisions.

New laws

From January 5th 1999 membership durations were limited to 50 years or less. It was no longer legal to sell ‘floating weeks’ or points based memberships. And crucially, it became illegal for timeshare operations to take any payment within the Cooling Off period.

These laws should have made it far harder for prospects to be pressured into making damaging commitments, and those products that they did end up buying should have been less harmful.

Unfortunately almost every timeshare company ignored the laws. Concern over the projected lack of earnings expected to result from ‘playing fair’ was almost certainly the main reason.

Industry observers also report that illegally operating timeshare companies felt themselves protected by the notorious failings of Spanish bureaucracy. Nothing happens quickly or efficiently in Spain. The decision makers at Spanish timeshare operations expected, personally, to be long gone by the time any ramifications occurred for their illegal activity.

Compensation awards

In 2016 the first case was won against a timeshare company over an illegal contract, when a Norwegian Anfi member successfully sued the Canary Islands juggernaut for over €40,000. After that victory, leading firm of timeshare lawyers, M1 Legal began raking up win after win against the main culprits in Europe. Hundreds of millions of Euros were awarded to victims of timeshare malpractice.

Eventually the many of the powerhouse money making machines began ceasing sales operations, filing for bankruptcy and declaring insolvency. Mainstays like Azure, Silverpoint, Diamond Resorts Europe, Anfi and Club La Costa began toppling one by one.

M1 Legal reports the average compensation award to be North of £20,000. Their success rate in court against timeshare companies is currently running at 98.6%.

Fighting the tide

Since 2016, timeshare company lawyers have been battling like Trojans to deflect their resorts’ legal obligations. They have refused to admit liability of any kind, and put up pointless defence after defence. “These were tactics that everyone knew would fail, including the timeshare companies themselves,” observes Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC). “M1 legal, ECC’s associated firm of lawyers, have been diligently working to overcome these delays one at a time. Each tactic defeated smooths the way for future claims, as that excuse is no longer valid. We are reaching the point now where even the most inventive timeshare company lawyers are struggling to find ways to hinder justice.”

Marriott takes a stand

In a ground-breaking move, market leaders Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MVW) have admitted liability over “certain contracts entered into over after January 1999”.

In the MVW 2021 annual report the timeshare giant admitted that “A series of Spanish court rulings that since 2015 have voided certain contracts has increased our exposure to litigation.”

“This is a big step forward,” comments Cooper. “The MVW report admits that contracts in Spain did not meet Spanish timeshare laws. Publicly admitting this commits them to a position of needing to do something about it. As far as we are aware, no other timeshare company has made such a bold and honest public statement.”

The MVW report notes that there is “increased ability for owners of Spanish timeshares to void their contracts.” It also admits that further similar lawsuits against them may: “cause us to incur material litigation and other costs, including judgment or settlement payments.”

This section of the 150 page report finishes by predicting that the situation “may lead to a significant decrease in the number of resorts located in Spain in the Interval International (exchange) network, and the loss of members at who own… at those resorts.”

Rapid Marriott award payments

Another sign that Marriott Vacation Club International may have made policy decisions at corporate level to cease defending pointless compensation cases is the fact that MCVI have recently made almost immediate payments to clients who have had rulings in their favour against them.

A German couple who owned with MCVI in Marbella, and another owner from Palma de Mallorca were both awarded compensation (€81,208 and €43,319 respectively). In both occasions Marriott reportedly deposited the money within weeks.

“This is a huge break from traditional timeshare company behaviour,” says Andrew Cooper. “In the past, timeshare companies have fought for years, knowing they were wrong, but hoping that they could outlast their opposition. That was a realistic goal for them when they were dealing with individuals, but firms like M1 Legal will never give up. It seems like MCVI have finally accepted that.”

Cooper warns that while the end may be in sight, he still anticipates pockets of resistance from the worst behaving timeshare companies. “Don’t get me wrong,” he says. “Even Marriott are still challenging us in many cases. But as market leaders, their recent examples of facing the truth and obeying court rulings are giving us grounds to believe that the whole industry may be about to turn a corner.

“For people who have been on the fence about claiming compensation for illegal timeshare contracts. There has never been a better time.”

If you would like to discuss your options regarding a timeshare compensation claim, or even just straightforward relinquishment, contact us at ECC.

ECC provides timeshare claims services, expert advice and help

E: (for media enquiries): mark.jobling@ecc-eu.com

E: (for client enquiries) EUROPE: info@ecc-eu.com USA:info@americanconsumerclaims.com

T: EUROPE: +44800 6101 512 / +44 203 6704 616. USA: 1–877 796 2010

Monday to Friday: UK timings: 9am-8pm. Saturday/Sunday closed. USA 9am -8pm EST. Sunday closed

Follow European Consumer Claims on Facebook here

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Follow Andrew Cooper (CEO of European Consumer Claims) on Twitter here

Andrew Cooper background article can be read here

Relevant websites for this article

www.m1legal.com

www.timeshareadvicecentre.co.uk

www.timeshare.lawyer

www.ecc-eu.com

First published on MyNewsDesk April 2022

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