Victims of illegal timeshare deals continue to win large amounts of compensation, and in Marriott's Vacations Worldwide 2021 report, it seems like at least one large timeshare company is facing up to the problem.
Europe's timeshare industry has not enjoyed the best of reputations over the past few decades. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, it was common to see various touts intercept tourists going to the beach to encourage them to sign up to timeshare deals. Then there was the industry's association with celebrity gangsters using dubious sales tactics to launder their money. It's likely that hundreds of thousands of people ended up signing contracts, and their stories were constantly in the news.
Something finally had to be done, and the authorities in Spain took action at long last by introducing laws that were designed to provide protection to timeshare consumers. This was surely at least partly due to concerns about the impact it might have on the tourist revenue for the country.
The laws brought in stated that timeshare contracts from January 5^th^ 1999 onwards, had a limit of 50 years or under. Floating weeks were also banned, as were point-based memberships, and timeshare resorts were not allowed to take payments in the Cooling Off period.
This should have provided protection to tourists from being pressured into timeshare deals. But the rules were ignored by many companies, who were probably concerned about the impact on their profits.
To a certain degree, they probably felt a level of protection from the bureaucracy in Spain, where things don't tend to happen fast. Many decision makers were probably aware that by the time they were forced to deal with their illegal practices they would be out of the picture.
It took many years, but in 2016, a Norwegian member of Gran Canaria based Anfi sued the company and was awarded €40,000 in compensation. This was soon followed by more successful claims. Ever since, law firm M1 Legal, which specialises in timeshare cases, has been winning cases consistently for its clients.
Hundreds of millions of euros have now been awarded in compensation, and things are looking better for victims.
Since then, many large timeshare companies like Club La Costa, Silverpoint, Azure and Diamond Resorts Europe stopped their sales operations and either, ended up filing for bankruptcy or declaring insolvency.
According to M1 Legal, £20,000 is the average compensation pay out, and the firm enjoys a success rate of 98.6% in timeshare cases.
Progress has definitely been made, but many timeshare company lawyers are still trying to delay justice. No liability has been admitted, and delay tactics are still being used.
The CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC), Andrew Cooper, says: "These were tactics that everyone knew would fail, including the timeshare companies themselves. 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 Vacations Worldwide (MVW) recently admitting liability is, therefore, significant. In the MVW 2021 annual report, it admitted liability regarding "certain contracts entered into over after January 1999".
It also said 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," Cooper says. "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."
Also acknowledged in the report is that there is "increased ability for owners of Spanish timeshares to void their contracts." And it admits that other lawsuits may well be brought against the company and might "cause us to incur material litigation and other costs, including judgement or settlement payments."
The section of the report ends by stating 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 who own... at those resorts."
One sign that policy decisions might recently have been taken by Marriott Vacation Club International at corporate level to avoid delaying the process further is that some clients have received compensation payouts very quickly.
One client from Palma de Mallorca received €43,319 in compensation, while a couple from Germany with a Marbella timeshare received €81,208. What was notable about these cases was that they both received their money in weeks.
"This is a huge break from traditional timeshare company behaviour," Andrew Cooper says. "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."
But Cooper still expects there to be resistance. "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." It's just a shame not all timeshare operators are as honourable as Marriott.
"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 find out about making a claim regarding a timeshare or you want to find out about relinquishment, contact Timeshare Claims today.