Last May, 31st 2012, the European Commission closed an infringement case against Spain on the timeshare Directive (Directive 2008/122/EC) after the country notified the Commission of a new law (Decreto-ley) transposing the rules – European Commission
The new rules provide significant protection for consumers against unwanted timeshare contracts and contracts on similar holiday products, which often bear considerable financial risks for consumers. In particular, it has extended consumer protection to additional holiday products, for instance timeshare contracts for a period under three years, timeshare-resale contracts, timeshare exchange schemes and long-term holiday products such as participation in holiday discount clubs. There is now a uniform EU-wide 14-day cooling-off period, during which consumers may change their mind and withdraw from the contract while traders may not ask for any payments.
Under the Directive, adopted on 14 January 2009, traders must provide detailed information to consumers in good time, before the consumer is bound by any contract, including the price to be paid, a description of the product and the exact period and length of stay that the consumer is entitled to under the contract. This information should be provided in the consumer’s own language if they so choose.
The Directive also ensures that consumers may withdraw from a contract within a “cooling-off” period of 14 calendar days and that traders can never ask them for any form of advance payment or deposit during that period. Before the conclusion of the contract, the trader is required to explicitly draw the consumer’s attention to the existence of the right of withdrawal, the length of the withdrawal period and the ban on advance payments during the withdrawal period.
Protection by the Directive now also covers new products and contracts which had been developed so as to avoid the application of the previous Timeshare Directive. For instance, the new Directive applies to timeshare contracts as well – agreements under which the consumer buys a right to use accommodation, such as an apartment at a holiday resort, during certain periods – lasting between one and three years and to products where the consumer is allowed to use, for accommodation purposes, different kinds of movable property (such as caravans and cruise or canal boats).
Re-sale contracts and long-term holiday products, are now also regulated by the Directive. Member States are obliged to inform consumers of the national law transposing the Directive and provide for appropriate penalties against traders who fail to comply with these rules. Member States must also encourage the development of adequate and effective out-of-court complaints and redress procedures for the settlement of consumer disputes.
In theory, this means consumers should be more protected.
It is time to enforce this new Directive. Do not you think so?