If you want to cancel a timeshare, be sure to back up your e-mails

2016-03-29 11:04

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When Nqe Dlamini bought timeshare points in Flexi Holiday Club 10 years ago he had no idea that cancelling his membership might not be as easy as simply sending a once-off cancellation request via e-mail.

Dlamini initially purchased R48 678 worth of points which he later increased to R65 778 and dutifully paid annual subscription fees of as much as R13 000 a year to keep his membership up to date.

But after having several holidays with the club he decided to cancel his membership in January 2015 and trusted that his e-mailed request would be acted upon and that he would hopefully be reimbursed some of the initial purchase price.

“I was told to settle the account (the annual subscription fee) first before cancellation.

“I did exactly that. I sent correspondence by e-mail cancelling the contract,” he said.

However, Dlamini said the company did not cancel his membership and when he complained about this in January 2016 he was told he had to pay 2016 subscription fees via debit order and then resubmit his request to cancel.

Dlamini turned to me for help after he repeatedly called and e-mailed the company, which offered the possibility of a “discretionary cancellation” that the board of trustees would need to consider and approve and which would result in the loss of savings and points in his club account.

I asked Peter Synman, director of Club Leisure Group which manages Flexi Holiday Club, about the cancellation policy and why Dlamini’s request had not been actioned in 2015. He said Dlamini had been advised to meet the criteria to cancel and to send a second written cancellation request in March once the subscription fee had been paid in full, which he said had not been done.

He said if Dlamini could prove the written cancellation had been e-mailed between March 2015 and May 31, 2015, the company would cancel the deal.

However, Dlamini said he had a problem — his computer had crashed and he had lost all his data which included e-mails he had sent — but he had managed to recover several e-mail replies with the subject “cancellation” that he had received from the company in January and March 2015 and which he sent to me. Dlamini said yesterday he was still hoping IT experts would be able to retrieve the balance of the e-mails.

A lesson here for all consumers is to always print out copies or back up important documents and e-mails on a flash drive as you never know when you might need evidence.

I asked Snyman whether the company could cancel the membership as a gesture of goodwill since Dlamini had at least paid up the 2015 fees and had produced the company’s reply e-mails to his request to cancel, if not the original e-mail.

However, he declined saying Dlamini had been advised he could opt for the possibility of a discretionary cancellation.

“As far as we are concerned, there is no resignation letter, therefore there is no cancellation, which we would be happy to make retrospective to 2015 if the evidence was available,” Snyman said.

“I assure you that if this client had resigned, we would have actioned the matter.”

Snyman added that it was not possible to be “reimbursed” for points purchased and Dlamini would need to approach a recognised resale company to assist him as the club would not facilitate a sale.

I advised Dlamini to lodge a complaint with the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman, Neville Melville.

Melville has been handling consumer complaints about timeshare since signing an agreement with the Vacation Ownership Association of South Africa in October. He received 46 complaints about timeshare companies last year.

Melville said the most important thing for consumers to remember regarding timeshare was that the CPA allowed for a five business day “cooling off” period if you regret signing on the spur of the moment.

“Notice of cancellation must be in writing. To avoid later problems, consumers should, in addition to e-mail, send a registered letter to the timeshare supplier’s address,” Melville said.

Melville advised consumers to read contracts carefully to understand the consequences. “Are you buying points or rights in a property for a specific week? Can you afford it? Make sure any oral promises are contained in the agreement.”

“Do your homework on the Internet on the re-saleability of the unit. Don’t bank too heavily in being able to rent out your week, especially if it is out of season,” Melville said.

“Make sure the resort is reputable, well run and not overdue an overhaul,” he said.

Melville advised consumers to also compare the cost of financing the deal and the annual levy.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  consumer

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