By Paul Bougaard

As a new year begins it’s time to take stock and review the year that has passed. I think on this side of the Atlantic we can all agree it has been a fairly eventful one, even if we would have preferred some of those “events” not to have occurred!

Probably the defining series of events has been the three judgements of the Spanish Supreme Court that have left the industry’s lawyers on occasions both baffled and annoyed in equal measures. Speaking as a lawyer and being hesitant to criticize a fellow member state’s judicial system, I find myself critical of judgements that are somewhat obscure, difficult to follow and as a common lawyer, sorely lacking in any simple statement of facts. I think the most irritating fact is that the court appears to hand down these nullity judgements that effectively allow the owner to be put back in the position he/she was when the contract was made, with no regard whatsoever for the fact that the owner has enjoyed 10 or 15 years of timeshare holidays! It is hard to see a court in a common law system coming to such a conclusion and fortunately the majority of RDO members’ contracts are written under English or equivalent governing laws. We do however have as significant minority of members whose contracts have been written under Spanish Law and needless to say RDO is very much focused on working with them to get a workable solution to these judgements.

Closely coupled with this issue have of course been the “ambulance chasers”

and worse, who use the internet and cold calling – often using illicitly obtained databases to pull in and fleece the unwary timeshare owner ,with promises of a cash dividend for surrendering their timeshare and/or the promise of the presence of a fictitious buyer, willing to pay an unrealistic amount for the owner’s timeshare. These parasites have kept us very busy this year and we begin to find ourselves in the position of the old “thief takers” of 18th century England, the forerunners of the famous “Bow Street Runners “ who were formed by the Magistrate in London’s Bow Street Court – Henry Fielding – also a famous author and playwright. These thief takers were hired by aggrieved parties to hunt down burglars and robbers etc. and bring them to justice – often on the promise of a percentage of the goods recovered. As you could be sentenced to transportation for life for something as small as stealing a handkerchief, you may imagine that the criminal was not going to come that quietly – it was a somewhat hazardous profession! So RDO now finds itself in the position of those thief takers – hiring professionals to hunt down and bring to justice these offenders who our police force and other enforcement agencies seem unable at present to apprehend.

There is always a danger in getting so deeply engaged in defeating these people that you tend to forget there are a whole host of contented timeshare owner out there – happily enjoying their holidays with families and friends. It should be no surprise to hear that a huge number of owners who contact RDO directly or who go onto the timeshare business check to ask about exit – which RDO requires its members to allow under a variety of conditions – state they have had years of great holidays, but now they need to surrender their timeshare and exit, which of course they are allowed to do.

We need therefore to engage with and allow owners who love their product, a real voice on the Internet and social media, and we need to engage with our members to allow this to happen. So we will be meeting early in January 2016 to agree a strategy for this and implement it next year – watch this space!

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