Timeshare exit services rarely worth the moneyJuly 5, 2020
Hundreds of thousands of timeshare owners are dissatisfied, stuck in contracts that are often lifetime in length and that are usually difficult or impossible to cancel. Many timeshare owners are elderly and have lost interest in traveling or the ability to do so. Many can no longer afford to continue paying unpredictably escalating maintenance fees. Some are dissatisfied by the deterioration of their facilities over time or are recent buyers who, having been subject to high-pressure sales tactics, ended up with lifetime commitments to resorts they will rarely, if ever, use.
In the past six years or so, timeshare exit services have emerged, making promises to help owners eager to jettison their timeshares. But an investigation by the nonprofit Bay Area Consumers’ Checkbook and Checkbook.org found that scores of these services have developed reputations for taking advantage of their customers, adding insult to injury instead of solving problems.
Checkbook reviewed hundreds of timeshare-related customer complaints, lawsuits, ads and marketing schemes, and interviewed timeshare owners and consumer advocates. It found a disturbing picture of an industry that uses deceptive selling practices to lure people into buying timeshares without understanding all the costs and complexities of ownership, and then victimizes them again when they want to get rid of their properties.
Checkbook found that although timeshare exit services can succeed in terminating their customers’ contracts, many resorts make it difficult for them to follow through on their promises. Some resorts refuse even to deal with exit companies. As a result, there are countless online complaints from angry exit company clients, who often make the same allegation: After they paid thousands of dollars upfront, exit companies strung them along for months or years, often with few or no updates about their cases. Exit companies often tell customers that eliminating a timeshare can take 12 to 18 months, but some of their contracts specify no firm deadline by which the companies must complete work.
Many complaints that Checkbook reviewed detail attempts by frustrated customers to ask for refunds under the companies’ money-back guarantees, but who are simply told to remain patient. Others are denied refunds based on fine print in contracts. For example, the companies may say that the owners failed to provide requested documents or other information within a reasonable time. Some exit firms have gone out of business, stranding owners who, despite having paid thousands of dollars, remain on the hook…