Timeshare holiday schemes a scam‚ consumer commission inquiry told

 Swindled holidaymakers have taken turns telling the National Consumer Commission’s Timeshare Inquiry how they were bullied and pressured to sign perpetual contracts‚ paying holiday clubs thousands of rand for timeshare holidays that never materialised.

Lenasia businessman‚ Ebrahim Mayet‚ 57‚ told the first day of the public hearings in Pretoria on Monday that he paid over R50‚000 in holiday timeshares to two holiday clubs but all he got was a “fancy pen” and six colourful holiday vouchers which proved impossible to redeem.

Timeshare is explained as a joint ownership of a holiday home‚ where a subscriber gets exclusive use of the property for a specific week depending on the points they have accumulated.

One has to pay an annual membership fee and buy points which they can then swap for time at resorts but Mayet said this was nothing but a scam.

He first received a call from the travel clubs and was told he had won holidays but had to attend their presentations to redeem his prize.

Mayet said at the presentations he was told they could go to any of the holiday destinations listed on the brochure. He was then pressured to sign a contract he was never given a chance to read after he was made to believe it was a once-off opportunity.

In 2013‚ just over a year after paying deposits of R16‚000 and R7‚000 respectively as well as monthly payments of about R2‚000 to each of the two holiday clubs‚ he decided to redeem the points he had accumulated for a holiday.

“I was told the holiday home was not available. I was then given several holiday vouchers to Thailand but to redeem [them] I need to sit for three more presentations…I realised that the points get you nothing. It is a scam‚ that is the bottom line” Mayet said.

He tried to cancel the contract but was told it was perpetual and his children would inherit it when he dies.

“They wanted a R23‚000 cancellation fee but I told them to go to hell‚” he said.

Mayet said he ultimately stopped paying and was threatened with being blacklisted but said he did not care.

National Consumer Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed‚ said they have in the past two decades received thousands of complaints‚ particularly about the points system‚ perpetual contract which was not governed by the Consumer Protection Act‚ unreasonable property levies and unavailability of accommodation.

He said they have tried to assist the consumers but said the issues never seemed to stop. “It is this kind of behaviour by the vacation ownership industry that has prompted us to resort to a public inquiry to comprehensively deal with all consumer issues to find a permanent solution for them‚” he said.

By Sipho Mabena