Brussels, 7 June 2007
Consumers: EU steps up protection for
holiday makers for Timeshare holidays and holiday discount
Consumers across the EU will benefit from tougher
holiday protection - when they buy and resell timeshare holidays, timeshare-like
holidays on cruise boats, canal boats or caravans and popular "discount holiday
clubs" - under new rules proposed by the European Commission today. The aim is
to further boost consumer confidence in the Timeshare industry (worth over
€10.5 billion and responsible for more than 40,000 jobs across the EU) and
to eliminate the rogue traders which can bring legitimate operators into
disrepute and cause consumers problems. The 1994 EU Timeshare Directive gives
consumers basic rights to clear information, a ban on deposits and right to
withdraw and change their mind. The new proposals published today aim to tackle
loopholes in the current rules. Most importantly they will extend the scope of
the 1994 EU Timeshare Directive to cover new products which have emerged on the
market – like discount holiday clubs, and "timeshare-like" holidays on
cruise boats, canal boats and caravans - and extend protection to important
areas like timeshare resale and exchange clubs. The new rules should ensure that
consumers are equally well protected across the EU and will create a level
playing field in the market for timeshare and certain other holiday-related
"The existing Directive has worked well within its own limits," said Consumer
Commissioner Mrs Meglena Kuneva. "However, these holiday products remain a
high-pressure sales environment and many new products have come onto the market
that are not covered by existing laws. Consumers are being denied their rights,
and the practices of rogue traders bring legitimate business operators into
disrepute. With these new rules we want to create a level playing field for
business, providing clear and simple rules for the reputable part of the
industry and give consumers real peace of mind when they sign up for their dream
What is timeshare?
Timeshare is the right to spend a period of time (i.e. one or more weeks) in
a holiday property for a specified period of the year for three years or longer.
Timeshare holidays are very popular in many EU countries. For example, the UK,
Sweden, Germany, Italy and Spain, have some of the highest number of consumers
buying timeshare holidays. Spain, Portugal, Germany Italy and France have
substantial domestic timeshare industries. Countries like the Czech Republic,
Hungary and Poland show a growing market for consumers buying timeshare
The 1994 current Directive protects consumers' interests by:
- Giving buyers the right to information in a prospectus before signing a
- Seeking to prevent 'pressure selling' by allowing for a cooling-off period
(right of withdrawal) of at least 10 days.
- The operators are prohibited from taking deposits from buyers during the
Why has the Commission revised the current
Since the adoption of the Directive in 1994, there have been major
developments in the marketplace. New products and contracts have been developed
that fall outside the scope of the legislation. Therefore, consumers who buy
them do not get the same rights or levels of protection. For instance, the new
products may allow the consumer to use different kinds of property (e.g. cruise
boats, caravans or canal boats), or the contracts may last for less than three
years. A further problem is that the resale and exchange of timeshare schemes
are not covered by the existing rules.
What will the new proposal cover?
The new proposal will replace the old Directive with a modern, simplified and
coherent framework covering timeshare and long-term holiday products, as well as
exchange and resale. The proposal will extend the scope of current rules to
- Shorter term contracts – contracts of less than three years will now
- Moveable property – the rules will cover contracts for timeshare on
property such as canal boats, caravans or cruise ships.
- Long-term holiday products – these include holiday discount clubs,
where consumers pay for instance 3,000 euro to get a password to a website,
where they are promised "huge discounts" which are often misleading, on holiday
accommodation, flights and rental cars.
- Resale of timeshare products – many timeshare owners are approached by
commercial agents who ask for a fee in return for selling their timeshare.
- Exchange of timeshare products – some timeshare owners pay an
additional fee to join an exchange club, where they can swap their week in e.g.
the Canaries for a week in the Alps. Additional information requirements should
ensure they get a realistic picture of the offer and they do not end up being
The lack of regulation of long-term holiday products,
resale and exchange schemes means that they are not covered by rules on
cooling-off periods, deposits and consumer information. Consequently, consumers
who sign up under pressure have little scope to change their mind. The new
proposal will enhance consumer rights in the market for timeshare and long-term
holiday products, and create a level playing field for the sellers of these
For information: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cons_int/safe_shop/timeshare/index_en.htm