DTI cracks down on unscrupulous holiday timeshare sales techniques

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Indy Politics

Tough new proposals to tighten up the law on holiday timeshares were unveiled by the Government yesterday in an attempt to tackle unscrupulous sales representatives.

Kim Howells, the Consumer Affairs Minister, announced that a change in the law was required to give consumers more protection and a clearer understanding of their rights.

Under the proposals, contained in a consultation document issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), it will be illegal for a company to impose deadlines on sales or engage in "pressure selling".

Dr Howells said timeshares could be a sensible way to secure a regular family holiday, but the public should be able to buy them in a way that was not pressured and didn't restrict their rights.

"Some schemes may be designed to fall outside the scope of the current legislation and deny people some basic rights - like a reasonable cooling off period. This is unacceptable, especially when pressure-selling techniques are used," he said.

Timeshares in Portugal, Spain, Greece, and France remain popular as a cost-effective means of planning foreign accommodation, but the DTI is determined to protect Britons from sharp practice.

Dr Howells, who issued a seven-point advice plan for travellers, advised consumers not to attend presentations unless they are really interested in buying what's on offer, even if they are tempted by the inducement of a prize, free gift or holiday for going along.

"Don't fall into the trap of thinking you can just turn up, take a free gift and walk away. The sales people involved in these types of activities are more experienced in persuading people to buy than most consumers are in resisting them," he said.

The advice plan says consumers who planned to attend a timeshare presentation should not take credit or debit cards, a cheque book or much money along with them or use a credit card as identification.

It adds that prospective customer should not assume they have an automatic right to cancel and should ensure that anything promised to them verbally was confirmed in writing before signing.

The consultation paper also includes suggestions from the European Commission about other aspects of timeshare legislation, misleading statements about inducements used to attract people to attend presentations, post contractual, issues and proposals to amend the existing law. The deadline for responses to the DTI document is 31 July 2000.