“I can’t get rid of this timeshare and I can’t afford the levies anymore‚ so I’ve left it to Julius Malema in my will.”
It wasn’t the first time panel chairperson Diane Terblanche had heard such a thing.
“A woman‚ a Ms Lategang‚ told us at the Cape Town hearings that she’d bequeathed her points to a member of the company which had sold them to her — she was adamant her children were not going to inherit the burden.”
The panel began hearing about the industry’s horror stories from consumers in Pretoria earlier this month and then moved to Cape Town before setting up in Durban for a two-day inquiry this week.
The aim is to come up with a single piece of legislation that will be used to properly regulate this controversial law-unto-themselves industry.
Terblanche began by asking participants to refrain from “profanity or insulting language”‚ giving an inkling of what some timeshare consumers in the other cities had to say about their “investment”.
Many‚ like Combrinck‚ now in his 70s‚ have told of changed financial circumstances leading them to attempt to sell their timeshare — either their weeks or their points — and then discovering that the company refuses to buy them back‚ they can’t give them away‚ and they remain liable for massive annual levies or risk being blacklisted.
“I had great benefit from my two weeks’ timeshare for many years‚ but when I could no longer afford it due to my wife’s medical costs‚ the company was very unsympathetic‚” Combrinck said.
When the annual levies climbed to R5‚000 four years ago‚ meaning he owed R10‚000 in total for his two weeks‚ Combrinck stopped paying. “And now we are getting all kinds of threats from debt collectors‚” he said.
This despite a 2014 SARS directive which states that levies cannot be charged to persons who do not have a title deed and who do not own a property.
“We need a legal way to get out of these contracts‚” Combrinck said. “We shouldn’t be locked in forever.”
Duncan Austin signed a 20-year timeshare contract in 2006 as a newlywed‚ paying it off — at a massive 22% interest — some years ago‚ and he has paid the annual levy every year‚ even last year when it increased by 50% to R2‚990.
But last year when he was asked to pay a special levy of R2‚000 in order to keep the company afloat‚ he refused‚ pointing out that the contract did not make provision for a special levy.
“I was told by their lawyer that it didn’t matter what the contract said‚ they needed the money and I must just pay — it was mind boggling!”
The timeshare company has now terminated his contract‚ despite the fact that he has paid in advance for another 10 years of holidays.
“And I’m not the only one they’ve done this to‚” Austin said.
“I would really like to see someone in handcuffs for this.”
By Wendy Knowler