The Timeshare Holiday Rights of some 1.5 million European families will soon be better protected.
A draft EU directive, unanimously approved by the EU internal market committee updates rules that are 14 years old so as to address consumer concerns and revitalise a business that is still performing well below its potential.
Timeshare deals, which allow buyers to occupy holiday accommodation for specific periods in alternation with others, have won millions of takers worldwide since the 1970s. They are often sold as a cost-effective alternative to privately rented apartments, hotels or a second home.
According to data from the Organisation for Timeshare in Europe (OTE), in 2001 there were 1.452 million holiday centres in 25 European countries, 1.4 million families using this kind of accommodation and 200,000 Europeans employed within this still fast growing holiday sector, with annual sales totalling €2.3 billion.
Since 1994, an EU directive has helped to harmonise Timeshare rules across the EU, but litigation between operators and holidaymakers is still a frequent occurrence, notably about conditions and quality of service.
Furthermore, new holiday products and services, similar to Timeshare but not covered by the directive, have emerged. These include new types of holiday clubs giving holidaymakers reductions in the cost of their stays if they take out a subscription. Some of these new contracts clearly circumvent consumer protection rules.
The revised draft directive, which supplements the general rules introduced by the recent directive on unfair commercial practices, will cover both Timeshare packages and all the new holiday products that have so far have escaped any previous legislation.
Consumers will be better protected by rules that clearly state their rights, and will find it easier to go to court and the honest operators will no longer have to face unfair competition from fraudsters.
The proposal aims to enhance consumer confidence and legal clarity, which are essential to the growth of this promising sector, via simplified EU-wide rules.
Most Timeshare holidaymakers are from Germany or the UK, where most of the agencies are located, whereas most of the holiday centres are located in Spain, Italy, France and Portugal.