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European Commission - Press release

Consumers: Determined Commission action ensures timeshare protection in all EU countries

Brussels, 31 May 2012 – Today, the European Commission closed an infringement case against Spain on the Timeshare Directive (Directive 2008/122/EC) after the country notified the Commission of a new law (Decreto-ley) transposing the rules. The Commission also closed a case against the UK following its recent transposition of the Directive for Gibraltar. As the Commission also closed cases against Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia on 22 March, this means that all Member States have now transposed the Directive into their national law.

The new Timeshare Directive, which replaces an older Directive from 1994 (Directive 1994/47/EC), was due to be transposed across the EU by February 2011. The new rules provide significant protection for consumers against unwanted timeshare contracts and contracts on similar holiday products, which often bear considerable financial risks for consumers. In particular, it has extended consumer protection to additional holiday products, for instance timeshare contracts for a period under three years, timeshare-resale contracts, timeshare exchange schemes and long-term holiday products such as participation in holiday discount clubs. There is now a uniform EU-wide 14-day cooling-off period, during which consumers may change their mind and withdraw from the contract while traders may not ask for any payments.

"The EU agreed on these common rules to protect its citizens against unwanted timeshare or timeshare-like contracts," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. "Several Member States were late in providing the required protection to our citizens. But today we finally have good news for consumers: all Member States have put in place national measures to implement the EU rules on timeshares. The Commission's persistence has paid off, to the benefit of European consumers."

After ensuring that all Member States have adopted the necessary measures, the Commission will, as a next step, carry out a thorough assessment of the overall quality and completeness of the transposition.

Background

The economic significance of this sector is demonstrated by the fact that roughly 1.5 million European households are timeshare owners, with more than one third coming from the UK and Ireland, the highest number of resorts being located in Spain.

Under the Directive, adopted on 14 January 2009, 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 payment or deposit 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. For instance, the new Directive applies to timeshare contracts as well – agreements under which the consumer buys a right to use accommodation, such as an apartment at a holiday resort, during certain periods - lasting between one and three years and to products where the consumer is allowed to use, for accommodation purposes, different kinds of movable property (such as caravans and cruise 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 States must also encourage the development of adequate and effective out-of-court complaints and redress procedures for the settlement of consumer disputes.

All Member States were due to transpose the new Timeshare Directive into national law by 23 February 2011. In March 2011 the Commission sent letters of formal notice to 14 Member States which were late in transposing the Directive. Since, by September 2011, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Lithuania had not taken any such measures, the Commission sent them reasoned opinions (See IP/11/1095).

Given that Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia adopted transposition measures in response to the reasoned opinion, these three cases were closed in March 2012.

On 17 March 2012, Spain published Real Decreto-Ley 8/2012 transposing the Timeshare Directive. It entered into force the following day and was validated by the Spanish Parliament on 29 March 2012.Through its recent transposition, Spain avoided the risk of financial sanctions which the Commission could have requested under the Lisbon Treaty (Article 260 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) when taking a Member State to court for failing to transpose an EU directive.

The UK received a letter of formal notice in November 2011, and notified the Commission of the missing transposition for Gibraltar on 11 May 2012.

For more information:

MEMO/12/387

European Commission – Consumer law: Travel and timeshare

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/consumer-marketing/travel/index_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)


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