Consumers hit out at points, broken promises at timeshare hearings | Fin24
 
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Consumers hit out at points, broken promises at timeshare hearings

Jul 03 2017 14:25
Kyle Venktess and Alex Mitchley

Pretoria - Irate consumers voiced their grievances at the first hearing against the vacation ownership “timeshare” industry in Pretoria on Monday.

The National Consumer Commission (NCC) began the public hearings at the Sierra Burgers Park Hotel as part of its public inquiry into the industry, which will be held around the country.

The NCC on Monday launched the inquiry with a public information and evidence gathering session. The inquiry follows thousands of complaints that the NCC and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has received about the industry and its operations.

NCC Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed said the dti and the NCC received several thousands of complaints from consumers in the last decades, particularly about the points system and contracts in perpetuity which are not governed by the Consumer Protection Act.

Among concerns raised during the hearing were the issue of accumulative points from vacation club companies, which consumers say were worth nothing, as well as fruitless presentations ranging between 30 and 45 minutes that did not deliver on promises of holiday accommodations.

The Gauteng Province currently has the highest number of consumer complaints against the vacation ownership industry.  

Mohamed is encouraging aggrieved consumers, particularly those who have pending complaints with the NCC or any other statutory regulatory body, to participate in the public hearings.

Mohamed also appealed to whistleblowers and any other member of the public who had information that could assist the panel in its work to step forward.

The panel saw chairperson Diane Terblanche, former chair of the National Consumer Tribunal,  attorney Zandile Mpungose and property lawyer Aubrey Ngcobo facilitate the queries. (Photo: Kyle Venktess)

“Public hearings are probably the most important part of this inquiry journey. It’s an opportunity for consumers to participate and reveal their challenges to the inquiry panel so that government can help the industry serve the South African people and its economy much better,” Mohamed said.

“This inquiry is a fact finding mission aimed at unearthing challenges so that the missteps of the vacation ownership industry can be corrected,” he added.

Other complaints received included unreasonable property levies and unavailability of accommodation.

“We have tried by reasonable means and measures to assist consumers with these complaints but as its stands, the issues never seem to stop,” said Mohamed.

“It is this kind of behaviour by the vacation ownership industry that has prompted us to resort to a public inquiry to comprehensively deal with all consumer issues to find a permanent solution for them.”

Mohamed said public hearings are a crucial part of the inquiry, which gives consumers the opportunity to participate and reveal their challenges to the inquiry panel so that government can help the industry serve the South African people and its economy much better.

“This inquiry is a fact finding mission aimed at unearthing challenges so that the missteps of the vacation ownership industry can be corrected.”

The NCC has planned several sessions over the next few months to gather, collate study, analyse and research all the information necessary for the panel to produce a report that will include recommendations to correct challenges for the benefit of consumers.

The NCC will be going to every province to engage with affected consumers. Further public hearings are expected to take place in:

KwaZulu-Natal: 24 to 27 July

Mafikeng: 14 to 15 August

Polokwane: 21 to 22 August

Eastern Cape: 28 to 30 August

Gauteng: 4 to 7 September;

Mpumalanga, Free State, Northern Cape: 11 to 27 September

Western Cape 10 to 15 July

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