In 2019 George and Lorraine were on holiday at a resort owned by a timeshare operator. They enjoyed the stay and decided to join the timeshare operator’s vacation club. By joining the club George and Lorraine received vacation credits that they could use to book accommodation. To pay for their membership George and Lorraine borrowed $28,000 from the timeshare operator.
After joining the vacation club George and Lorraine tried to book accommodation but found there was nothing available at the times they wanted to go. Having a young family, they needed to vacation during the school holidays. To help secure a booking they took out an upgraded package that was supposed to allow them to book at peak times.
Even with the upgraded membership, and trying to book a year in advance, George and Lorraine were unable to secure accommodation. They also joined waiting lists for bookings without success. As some of their credits were due to expire, they contacted the timeshare operator to ask for the credits to be carried over. They said that if this couldn’t be done they wanted their contract terminated and their payments over the last year refunded.
George and Lorraine said the timeshare operator shouldn’t have sold them the membership and upgraded package if accommodation wasn’t available.
The timeshare operator explained some complicated steps George and Lorraine could take to extend their credits. They also noted there had been a seven day cooling-off period during which George and Lorraine could have cancelled their membership. As George and Lorraine hadn’t done this, the timeshare operator refused to refund their payments.
We asked the timeshare operator to provide us with evidence showing the attempts George and Lorraine had made to book accommodation. We wanted to understand whether George and Lorraine could realistically have made a booking.
In response to our request the timeshare operator offered to cancel George and Lorraine’s membership, and refund $7,000 they had paid in the past year. George and Lorraine accepted this offer, and the complaint was settled.
Insights for consumers
It’s important for consumers to think carefully before joining a vacation club. It can be difficult to make bookings, particularly at peak times. For consumers thinking about joining a club, it’s worth asking about availability of accommodation, and carefully considering whether this type of membership is appropriate for their needs.