The contract the consumers were persuaded to sign was declared illegal and null and void by the judge and they were ordered to repay the full amount they had taken - over £7000.
Whilst the judge's decision was based on contravention of specific laws relating to timeshare, including non-disclosure of key information relating to the rights of consumers - and the illegal taking of monies during the cooling off period, there was much more presented by the claimants in court.
Undue pressure and misrepresentation
As mentioned in the article, the consumers were pressured into paying immediately, with claims by the ITRA salesperson that time was critical - that they must pay on the day of their meeting with ITRA as a compensation case was about to be filed and they might miss out. In fact, no such case existed. This pressure and the misrepresentations were clearly in breach of Consumer Protection Regulations.
The consumers were also told that their timeshare would be compulsorily passed on to their children. This too was a lie and was exposed as such in court. Not only was there no such liability - in fact, the Walkers were entitled to relinquish their timeshare free of charge - something that was achieved soon after they contacted KwikChex.
The ITRA defence was completely dismissed by the court.
The consumers - Harold and Brenda Walker had contacted KwikChex via the Timeshare Task Force after having their complaints rejected by ITRA. When they filed a claim in the Small Claims Court ITRA sought to defend by appointing law firm Pinder Reaux and using a barrister in court. We considered that ITRA should have acted ethically and refunded the monies, instead of using expensive lawyers. Because of this escalation, we sought support on the Walker's behalf from the Resort Development Organisation (RDO), which funds the Timeshare Task Force managed by KwikChex. RDO agreed and paid for legal representation. KwikChex gave witness in the trial itself, presenting evidence of many consumer complaints regarding ITRA, including to Action Fraud.
ITRA's previous involvement with consumer detriment
ITRA have previously been exposed as a business operating a 'bait & switch' operation. Named in a report by the Insolvency Service in 2012 as a business luring consumers into extremely detrimental purchases of 'Club Class Concierge' membership with false promises of timeshare relinquishment. Such was the seriousness of these activities that seven connected companies were compulsorily wound up by the UK authorities in the interest of consumer protection.
Consumer monies not protected
The Walker case also exposed the misleading impression that ITRA gave of protecting client's monies by saying that they would be held in a client account with accountants Sochalls LLP. In fact, Sochalls was simply another part of the ITRA operation - and they sent monies paid by the Walkers almost immediately out to another one of the ITRA businesses based in Spain - Eurafric. Eurafric is currently sending out demands for fees to victims of the Club Class Concierge scams - attempting to persuade them that they are legally obliged to pay for services for a products considered sold illegally and with gross misrepresentation by the UK authorities.
News of the court ruling comes just after another ITRA network business - Timeshare Advice Centre (European Claims Centre LLC) was ruled by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to be misleading consumers - ASA Ruling
At the recent Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards Conference, KwikChex gave a presentation and discussed the type of problems experienced by the Walkers. Law enforcement and consumer organisations are now looking very closely at such issues. The reality today is that there are few complaints received about new timeshare sales. This is because strict compliance with consumer laws is observed - and there was a significant weeding out of salespeople that broke the rules. Consumers need to know that there is help available and as in the Walker's case, it is not only laws that will protect them - there is also significant relinquishment assistance underwritten by for example the RDO member's Code of Conduct. Whilst many consumers have enjoyed their timeshares for years, some have genuine concerns and need help they can trust. They should resist any type of undue pressure and misrepresentations and seek advice from the likes of Citizens Advice Bureau and Trading Standards or talk with a solicitor. KwikChex, as part of the Timeshare Task Force provides free assistance.
Excerpt quote from Harold and Brenda Walker
"Had it not been for the actions; dedication and encouragement of Chris Emmins and his team at KwikChex it is highly questionable whether we would have been able to pursue this action through to a final successful outcome against ITRA. We would encourage anyone who is or have been victim to similar treatment as experienced by us with ITRA to make contact and place themselves in the safe and trustworthy hands of KwikChex."