Holiday or headache?

Avoid the holiday blues by steering clear of bogus holiday clubs where the reality does not live up to the promise, is the warning from Merton Council.

Holiday clubs are marketed as a flexible alternative to the timeshare scheme, promising a lifetime of discounted luxury holidays anywhere in the world. The scheme gives customers access to a booking service through a website or phone number in return for a payment, which can be thousands of pounds. Some clubs are reliable businesses trading in good faith, but others promise far more than they deliver.

Unscrupulous clubs often only provide last minute, limited availability accommodation that is usually low star rather than luxury. With the addition of expensive flights, supplements and taxes, it could end up costing more than a holiday booked through a travel agent and by the time someone decides to book a holiday the holiday club company could be out of business.

Timeshare law does not cover Holiday clubs, which means that there are no automatic cancellation rights for customers who change their minds. Bogus holiday club companies exploit this by employing high-pressure sales techniques such as long presentations, some lasting six hours or more, to get customers to sign a binding contract. With promises of a once in a lifetime opportunity, dream holidays for life, special one-day only offers and cash back promises it can be tempting to sign up.

It is not just holidaymakers who are at risk, anyone can be approached at home by telephone by someone telling them they have won a free holiday, all they have to do is attend a VIP presentation to claim their prize and that is when the high pressure sales pitch starts.

Ian Murrell, Merton’s Commercial and Trading Standards Manager said,” Unscrupulous holiday club companies prey on peoples aspirations – cheap luxury holidays for life is a very attractive offer, but they often don’t deliver what they promise and consumers are left thousands of pounds out of pocket.

“If you decide to attend a presentation don’t sign anything there and then, take the contract away with you and consider it very carefully.”

Trading Standards advice to consumers is –

· DO NOT go to presentations

· If you do go DON’T sign anything, take the contract away to consider

· Check to see if the company are offering cancellation rights and make sure they are written down, if there are no cancellation rights or you are not happy with them then walk away

· Check that all verbal claims and promises made in t