Patrons of timeshares and holiday clubs will gain new protections under a law passed on Wednesday by the European Union to curb vacation industry abuses.
Under the new law, timeshare operators must supply more information to consumers about their offerings. The law also extends to two weeks the time within which consumers can back out of timeshare contracts.
Timeshares rose to popularity in the 1970s – particularly among British and German tourists seeking sunny holidays in Spain, France and Italy. Operators generally sell consumers the right to spend a week or two a year at any of a variety of their properties.
However, the €10.5bn ($13.4bn) industry has been riddled by claims of fraud, with aggrieved consumers complaining that properties did not match their advertisements or that contracts were misleading or contained hidden fees.
The EU first tackled the problem with legislation in 1994 that forced operators to increase their disclosure and prevented them from accepting deposits from buyers, among other measures.
The new bill was prompted by concerns that some operators have gotten round those protections by expanding into “discount holiday clubs” and creating “timeshare-like” products for cruise ships and canal boats.
“The new rules will ensure that the best possible protection is in place for consumers in the modern holiday market, and that rogue operators will no longer be able to exploit loopholes in the law,” said Meglena Kuneva, the EU’s consumer commissioner.
EU officials argued that timeshares required European regulation because timeshare consumers and operators often come from different countries throughout the common market.
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