Timeshare service misses victims waiting nine months for banks to make payments
Tens of thousands of retirees who were wrongly sold timeshares risk “never seeing justice in their lives” as compensation claims drag on for months, a law firm representing them has warned.
In May last year, a High Court ruling paved the way for victims whose timeshares were wrongly sold before 2010 to seek damages from major banks, including Shawbrook and Barclays Partner Finance (formerly Clydesdale Financial Services).
Today, Praetorian Legal, a law firm that represents timeshare owners, is calling on the Chancellor to force the banks to pay.
In a letter to Jeremy Hunt, seen by Money Mail, barrister Gary Smith warned: “This is a gross injustice to thousands of victims who are in desperate need of the compensation they are owed.”
It is estimated that around 25,000 victims should receive compensation totaling £500m – and up to £150,000 each in the worst cases.
Pressure: Thomas and Agnes Woods (pictured) are desperate to put an end to the timeshare nightmare that has cost them £48,000 over the past 24 years
However, nine months later, the victims are still waiting and face severe financial hardship in their final years.
Mr Smith says many victims died without seeing justice.
Timeshares proved very popular in the 1980s and 1990s – and a decade ago more than half a million people in the UK still owned them.
But they lost popularity when the sector became notorious for aggressive sales tactics.
These schemes gave investors the right to holiday at a property, often abroad, for a specified number of days a year.
In return, they paid a lump sum upfront and an annual maintenance fee. Investors also had the option of partial ownership of the property in what were known as fractional timeshare plans.
These investments typically involve expensive loans from banks that work with timeshare companies.
But in some cases, investors’ ability to repay debt was not properly assessed, leaving many trapped in contracts with properties they could not sell.
Former Secretary of State for Business and Trade Vince Cable this week described the delay as “yet another scandal” from the banking sector and another case of “cynical disregard” for the rights of defrauded victims.
“There is also an uncomfortable similarity to the current Post Office scandal,” he says.
“Unacceptable delay means depriving those whose rights have been determined by the courts of the compensation they are entitled to.” The banks claim that the delay is due to the complexity involved in resolving the issues.
A Barclays spokesperson said: “We regret the delay in resolving these complaints, which are taking longer to process than expected due to their complexity.”
“Any customer concerned about a pending case should contact us directly.”
Payouts: Lawyers estimate 25,000 timeshare victims should receive total compensation of £500m – and up to £150,000 each in the worst case
A Shawbrook spokesperson says: “We welcomed the court’s clarification of applicable law and its conclusion that each complaint must be carefully considered on its individual facts, and that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not appropriate.”
Thomas and Agnes Woods from Rattray, Aberdeenshire, are desperate to put an end to a timeshare nightmare that has cost them £48,000 over the past 24 years.
In 2000, the couple took out a loan to purchase a part-time share to take family holidays with their three children to destinations including Spain, the Lake District and America.
Initially, the couple paid £4,000 in four monthly installments for a pool of points that could be redeemed for a one-week holiday. The scheme will also require them to pay an annual administration fee of £2,000.
They had chosen to spend that week in Spain, but upon arrival, they say, timeshare salespeople insisted on attending a five-hour meeting where they were pressured to spend thousands of extra pounds to buy another set of points for a holiday later. . They then agreed to pay the second installment of £4,000.
The couple says they were told they couldn’t buy points directly, and salespeople encouraged them to take out loans.
“It seemed like a good deal, very easy to get into,” says Agnes, a former ambulance service worker.
At first, the family took two vacations a year, but after a few years they found that the high costs were crippling their finances.
Fad: Timeshares proved extremely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, but lost popularity as the sector became notorious for aggressive sales techniques.
“In 2017, we were desperate to get out of the scheme,” says Agnes. “There was no way to avoid paying the £2,000 annual management fee, so we joined the lawsuit brought by Gary Smith.
The couple say they appealed to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which contacted it in November to say they deserved compensation. “The ombudsman said the amount would be paid by December 8, but we are still waiting,” says Agnes.
A spokesman for the Financial Ombudsman Service says it has resolved more than 800 cases and issued a further 1,700 interim assessments.
“The final decisions of our free, independent service are legally binding when accepted by the consumer – and businesses must follow our guidance, including in other similar cases,” he says.
“If they do not we will refer them to the regulator. Our priority now is to resolve any further issues quickly and fairly.”
- Are you entitled to compensation for a timeshare that was missold? Email [email protected]
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