TATOC chairman and CEO Harry Taylor explains the crucial work undertaken by the Timeshare Association on behalf of consumers and the importance of working with the reputable industry to ensure a successful future for owners.

The Timeshare Association, TATOC, is Europe’s leading consumer association representing timeshare owners and the hardworking HOA and committees who work on their behalf.

Formed in 1989, the association has always been run by timeshare owners for timeshare owners – and today is no different. Our elected board of directors all own timeshare, take timeshare holidays and have experienced every aspect of the industry from sales and marketing to exchange.

At the heart of all that the association does is its mission, which is simply: “to safeguard and enhance the timeshare holiday experience for existing and prospective users and to be the voice of owners.” Today, we have over 90-plus resort members throughout Europe representing thousands of timeshare owning families. We also run an individual membership programme for timeshare owners or other interested individuals who wish to show their support for the association.

By serving individual timeshare owners, owner committees and resorts, TATOC has developed into a significant force within the European timeshare industry.

The association is now recognised as the authoritative voice of timeshare owners and the go-to place for those looking for the consumer’s viewpoint on timeshare. After all, we are all timeshare owners; we value our ownership and use our weeks and points on a regular basis. Many of us have been involved with our own resort’s committee/HOA and have first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing mature resorts today.

Over the years TATOC has been involved with the development of both European and U.K. timeshare legislation. Most recently, the association was involved in the review of the European Timeshare Directive and the CMA’s report to BIS and the European Commission on the disposal of timeshares and other longterm holiday products.

Government bodies regularly seek our knowledge and views on the issues facing timeshare owners and our assistance is requested by consumer-focused organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Trading Standards and the European Centre EEC.

Our remit extends to working with the police, solicitors, credit card companies and banks across Europe – and even with the FBI in the United States – when consumers experience problems.

At the recent TATOC conference, which is the industry’s only event where timeshare owners and professionals come together to network and share ideas, TATOC shared the results from its flagship service, the TATOC Consumer Helpline, now a registered charity. In the previous 12 months to March 2015, the Helpline received over 7,600 consumer contacts, had over 239,000 visitors to the two websites (TATOC. co.uk and tatocconsumerhelpline.eu) and helped consumers recover over £777,573 lost to scammers.

If we include those who have read TATOC’s Consumer Guides and taken our advice (available on the websites), this increases to a total of over £2,139,000 recovered in just one year.

But our work does not stop there.

TATOC is actively involved in the development of exit policies for owners who are no longer in a position, for whatever reason, to continue with their ownership.

We have chaired the industry’s exit working group on this topic and have jointly held two seminars to discuss exit policies with the industry body in Europe, the Resort Development Organisation (RDO).

We understand that exit policies are of great consumer, media and government interest. However, we also realise that for the sake of all owners, the resort staff and even the area surrounding a resort, that exit must not mean exodus. Any policy needs to be carefully considered, managed and controlled.

TATOC also runs a programme of resort accreditation for quality timeshare resorts or clubs who choose to be examined to ensure they meet stringent consumer-based standards set down by TATOC and national and European laws.

Accredited resorts have to prove they provide an excellent timeshare holiday experience to their owners and visitors. Successful accredited resorts can proudly fly the flag of accreditation and display a plaque in reception to boast their consumer credentials – a real sales and marketing tool.

To date, there are now over 40 accredited resorts across Europe with 12 new accreditations planned for 2015.

Communication to timeshare owners is often cited as crucial to the industry’s on-going survival and to prevent many owners becoming victims of scammers.

To this end, TATOC produces a quarterly magazine, Sharetime, which is full of news, advice, support and information for timeshare owners.

Published online (sharetimemagazine.com) and with printed copies also available, Sharetime provides an independent, non-commercial and unbiased view of timeshare for those who actively use the product.

While we work closely with a range of organisations to close down and prosecute the scammers and businesses that blight our industry, the association also recognises quality, customer-focused businesses that can be of benefit to consumers and HOA committees.

TATOC affiliation was developed for approved suppliers of services and products to the timeshare industry and includes exchange providers, re-sale companies and management organisations.

Only businesses approved by TATOC after rigorous checks can become affiliates and each company is regularly assessed to ensure they comply with TATOC’s rules and regulations and provide the highest levels of customer service.

There are now over 30 affiliated companies in the TATOC directory of affiliated businesses and we continue to work with them to make sure those standards never slip.

Supporting the association’s activities, and especially TATOC resort accreditation and business affiliation, is TATOC’s recognised Code of Conduct and associated Codes of Practice.

These codes are a commitment by TATOC, its members, affiliated companies and accredited resorts to focus on the best interests and protection of consumers and protect the good name of the reputable timeshare industry. The Code of Conduct contains the 11 principle objectives TATOC believes are essential to deliver on its mission. The Code of Conduct and Codes of Practice are in the process of being registered with U.K. government departments as the authoritative consumer codes for timeshare owners and businesses.

Yet despite all our successes in consumer protection, our work with the U.K. and European government to protect the future of timeshare for owners and the development of our Codes of Conduct to ensure that the businesses we work with operate at the highest levels, the association is often criticised for being too close to the industry.

We are accused of ‘sleeping with the enemy’ when we work closely with the RDO. We are accused of being in the pay of the industry when we accept fees from our affiliated businesses or sponsorship of our conference.

As we state in our latest Five Year Plan, TATOC will never operate as antagonistic outsiders to an industry in which our members have such an important stake.

With the many challenges facing timeshare such as an ageing owner base, difficult financial and marketing environment and the evolving requirements and expectations of today’s holidaymaker, it is more important than ever to have a unified approach.

All parties – both consumer and industry – have a fundamental part to play in the successful future of timeshare both to service the on-going needs of existing owners and to satisfy the emerging needs of younger markets.

It is simply not possible for TATOC to be actively involved or exercise a positive influence on the timeshare industry from a position of negative aggression, just for the sake of it.

There is no conflict of interest in a good relationship between timeshare consumers and the reputable timeshare companies that service their requirements. TATOC believes that this is the only way we can protect, promote and enhance the future for timeshare owners.

But don’t misunderstand – this is not a position of weakness, submission or compliance. TATOC will continue to fiercely defend its independence and impartiality to represent the best interests of owners and fight against rogue companies and bad practice.

Our position is clear. Timeshare owners need a secure and successful timeshare industry to provide the facilities and services they purchased.

Ever mindful of its core assets, principles and values, TATOC will continue to work with all bodies and reputable business to ensure that this happens.

If TATOC is an association that you would like to be part of then join us and support our work. We’d love to have you – either as an individual member, through your resort owners’ committee/HOA or as an affiliated company. Check out the TATOC website for further information.

Website: tatoc.co.uk Tatocconsumerhelpline.eu Sharetimemagazine.com Telephone: +44 (0) 161 237 3518 Email: harry.taylor@tatoc.co.uk