If you are the holder of a timeshare points system contract, then you may be one of thousands of frustrated people who are having serious trouble booking reservations. Many people do not even realise that they are in a timeshare points system, as it is often sold as an ‘exclusive club’ membership of some kind. However, it all boils down to the same thing: you exchange ‘points’ in your account for holidays at a resort of your choice within the system. That’s the theory anyway.
Timeshare points systems have come under a lot of legal scrutiny in recent years, primarily for the fact that so many people are finding themselves unable to book a reservation at their chosen resort, or sometimes any resort in the system at all. Clearly, this is not what they thought they’d signed up for. The contract signed may say ‘subject to availability’ – but if nothing is available, even when booking a year in advance, what can you do?
An example of a timeshare company that has found itself in the spotlight recently as a result of its timeshare points system is Diamond Resorts. In a class action lawsuit in the States, the company was forced to settle out of Court, compensating its members $800,000 for misleading them about their reservations. None of these members were getting the holidays they had paid large sums for, and it was quickly established that the company was, itself, to blame for this.
Whilst Diamond Resorts were found to be in the wrong, it’s not always quite so easy to prove wrongdoing by the timeshare company. Simply being unable to book when you want to is not grounds for a legal case alone, particularly as it’s covered by that ‘subject to availability’ clause. Nonetheless, there are some cracks in the armour to look out for.
Many of the resorts within these points systems promise priority booking to members. But on visiting the resort, members often find that it is, in fact, non-members that are being prioritised for bookings. Outrageous though it may seem, the reason is that the timeshare company stands to earn more from recruiting new members than from existing members, so they focus their attention on getting new contracts signed.
Worse still, there have been legal cases against timeshare resorts who have prioritised booking to not just non-members, but also to their own staff, making it even harder for paying members to get a look-in. Some have even found, on arriving for their holiday, that they are blocked from accessing certain amenities, as they’ve been set aside for non-members and staff.
Another recent case concerns a couple who were duped out of their once-in-a-lifetime timeshare holiday to Las Vegas with RCI. The pair used nearly 40,000 timeshare points, plus cash money, to book a suite on the Las Vegas strip, booking several months in advance. Despite calling a few times to confirm that everything was okay with the booking, when they arrived at their hotel, they were told that it was overbooked and that they would have to accept a room at a different hotel far away from the strip. The hotel in which they were placed had none of the amenities of the hotel they’d booked. On return from their trip, they contacted RCI and Wyndham (the group with which they had the reservation) to ask for a refund as their trip had differed considerably from what they had paid for. They were confronted with rudeness and dismissed by RCI outright. They only received a refund after contacting the media.
If any of the above sounds familiar, then you may have a case, particularly if you were told when you signed the contract that your membership entitled you to priority. If this is somewhere in writing, even better. Any way that you can prove that the product was misrepresented to you when you purchased it is a chance to hold the resort to account.
The fact is, however, that you are bound by the terms of your contract. Under these terms, you may find you’ve agreed to competing with every Tom, Dick and Harry for a place at your chosen resort. You will also, most likely, have agreed to the resort having the right to amend or modify the reservation system ‘from time to time’ which may make it even harder to book your holiday – and there’ll be very little you can do about it. Proving wrongdoing is not easy, as even though you may not be able to book where you want to, there are likely to be spots available in the system, even if they are at a resort you have no interest in.
Whilst all this doesn’t sound particularly positive, be assured that this is not the end of the road. Timeshare contracts can be tricky, and there are lots of complex little clauses that come up time and again that render contracts illegal in one way or another.
If you are convinced of foul play on behalf of your resort when it comes to booking timeshare reservations, the best thing you can do is to seek advice from an experienced timeshare legal experts, such as ABC Lawyers, who has a good grasp of timeshare contract clauses and the rules surrounding timeshare points reservations systems. It’s not an easy problem to overcome alone, no matter how hard you try. Often, and especially when it comes to timeshare, it’s best to get the experts involved.