European Commission - Press release
Consumers: the European Commission takes action to enforce timeshare protection
Brussels, 29 September 2011 - The European Commission has decided to step up legal action against Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Lithuania to ensure that consumers benefit from the protection granted under EU rules on timeshare sales (Directive 2008/122/EC). Meanwhile, cases against ten other Member States have now been closed, after the countries concerned recently transposed the Directive into their national law. The EU rules (the Timeshare Directive) provide significant protection for consumers against unwanted timeshare contracts – agreements of more than one year under which the consumer buys a right to use accommodation, such as an apartment at a holiday resort, during certain periods.
"The EU agreed these common rules to protect its citizens against unwanted timeshare or timeshare-like contracts," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. "Member States have had more than two years to do their homework. I am therefore very disappointed that some of them, including Spain, which is a major tourist destination and which hosts a significant timeshare market, still fail to provide the required protection to our citizens."
All Member States were due to transpose the new Timeshare Directive into their national legal system by 23 February 2011. As 14 Member States (Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden) had failed to transpose the Directive on time, the European Commission opened infringement proceedings against them on 17 March 2011.
10 of these Member States have since informed the Commission that they have taken the necessary transposition measures. However, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Lithuania have not yet notified the Commission of any such measures. The Commission has therefore decided to send them reasoned opinions urging them to comply with the Directive within two months time.
As soon as all Member States have notified their transposition laws, the Commission will carry out a thorough assessment of the overall quality and completeness of the transposition.
Under the Directive, traders must provide detailed information to consumers in good time before the consumer is bound by any contract, including the price to be paid, a description of the product and the exact period and length of stay that the consumer is entitled to under the contract. This information should be provided in the consumer's own language if they so choose.
The Directive also ensures that consumers may withdraw from a contract within a "cooling-off" period of 14 calendar days and that traders can never ask them for any form of advance payments or deposits during that period. Before the conclusion of the contract, the trader is required to explicitly draw the consumer’s attention to the existence of the right of withdrawal, the length of the withdrawal period and the ban on advance payments during the withdrawal period.
Protection by the Directive now also covers new products and contracts which had been developed so as to avoid the application of the previous Timeshare Directive, dating back to 1994. For instance, the new Directive applies also to timeshare contracts lasting less than three years and to products where the consumer is allowed to use, for accommodation purposes, different kinds of movable property (such as cruise boats, caravans or canal boats).
Re-sale contracts and long-term holiday products, are now also regulated by the Directive. Member States are obliged to inform consumers of the national law transposing the Directive and provide for appropriate penalties against traders who fail to comply with these rules. Member State must also encourage the development of adequate and effective out-of-court complaints and redress procedures for the settlement of consumer disputes.
For more information:
European Commission – Consumer law: Travel and timeshare
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner: