Increased crack-downs on bogus holiday clubs and tighter measures to combat rogue operators are just some of the ways RDO is actively working to protect consumers
Timeshare may have taken off faster in the States, but across the pond European consumers are becoming much more aware of the options, value and flexibility that shared ownership can offer. Quality resorts in sought-after destinations around the world, run by solid companies, are what modern timeshare is about. But as in any industry, it’s the bad boys that spoil a good party.
High on RDO’s priority list is the issue of safeguarding consumers’ interests. Working with the OFT, acting as an overall watchdog and exposing fraudulent clubs or resale operators are anti-fraud measures that go hand-in-hand with RDO’s ongoing campaign to improve representation for reputable companies (and promote fair trading, quality and growth within the industry itself). Today, RDO has over 130 members across Europe – ranging from resort developers to exchange, and from management or marketing companies to finance bodies.
Richard McIntosh, RDO ChairmanAlberto Garcia, head of RDO’s Enforcement Programme, has seen many changes since he joined the organisation three years ago. A former police officer, he fought organised crime in the Canary Islands for five years before taking up his new post in 2007. As a result, 25 bogus companies were closed down in 2008 and 26 fradulent operators had to cease operating in 2009. Before he started the campaign against fraudsters, however, it was paramount to demonstrate first and foremost that bogus operators were in no way part of the official timeshare industry – not an easy task initially.
"First, we built up a close relationship with European consumer associations, the UK Office of Fair Trading, the Spanish police and politicians at local town hall levels," Garcia explains. “And we became a reference point for some Spanish, British and Scandinavian media."
When it was founded in 1998, RDO brought together all national timeshare trade associations into one pan-European direct membership organisation. Twelve years on, its relationship with UK and European media continues to evolve; both the public and the media recognise its standing within the industry, and its ongoing efforts to raise European timeshare standards. Protecting consumers’ interests is an integral part of its mission.
I foresee a timeshare industry in a couple of years’ time unhindered by fraudulent activities – or at least having no more problems than other industries.
As RDO Chairman Richard McIntosh advises, "We strongly recommend that timeshare owners do not accept offers made by companies they do not recognise. They should contact RDO’s Consumer Services Department on firstname.lastname@example.org to check if the company is a member of the organisation and complies with its Code of Ethics."
Fighting timeshare fraud is a challenge Alberto Garcia welcomes, and the Enforcement Programme has made significant inroads so far. Looking ahead, Garcia is optimistic and unequivocal about the future: "We still have lots of things to deal with," he concedes. But, like a true Spaniard, Garcia keeps his eye on the goal, "I foresee a timeshare industry in a couple of years’ time unhindered by fraudulent activities – or at least having no more problems than other industries."
The Resort Development Organisation
Additional reporting by Fiona Klonarides for GoTimeshare.