The summer vacations are upon us now and I find myself writing this looking out at the pre-Alps of the Upper Var in Provence – so this becomes a sort of “Letter from Provence” – with apologies to the late Alistair Cooke, whose “Letter from America,” for those of us old enough to remember, used to feature every Sunday morning, on what is now BBC Radio 4. The distance from London and the chance to draw breath in time for our annual September Conference, lends a certain objectivity to events of the past few months.

On the political front, the Eurozone continues to stagger along as the debt crisis in Greece continues to play out. As of now it appears settlement has been reached between Greece and its creditors, although at what price is hard to tell – at the very least it may have cost the current Greek Prime Minister his job and new elections in Greece in September may bring new and more worrying political parties to the fore. One has to wonder just how much austerity the Greek people can take, and there are worrying signs that anti-austerity parties are gaining in popularity in some of the Eurozone’s major economies, such as Spain.

Geo-politics aside, the industry in Europe is becoming increasingly concerned over the rulings being made by the Spanish Supreme Court over the maximum duration of Spanish timeshare contracts. Without going into too much detail, the Court has taken upon itself to rule on the validity of contracts pre the implementation of the EU’s First Timeshare Directive in 1994 (implemented in Spain in 1998). Under this law¸ provision was made for pre-existing schemes to continue- as long as they were registered in the local Land Registries, whilst all new schemes could not be for more than 50 years. This was everyone’s understanding until recently, when in 2 recent cases the Court ruled that contracts for over 50 years were null and void even if registered as required by the 1998 Law. These rulings have had all industry lawyers baffled and are now the subject of appeals. Either way they are deemed to be of limited application, as they apply only to contracts subject to Spanish Law and cannot apply to contracts made after the 6th July 4/2012 Law, ie the transposition of the second Directive into the Spanish Law. This law made it crystal clear that pre-existing schemes were valid.

Whilst that position is clear to the industry and its lawyers, it has not stopped the “ambulance chasers” and so-called claims and release companies from piling into the market in an attempt to make a quick killing before the situation becomes clearer. Sadly most consumers in Europe certainly still don’t apply the old adage “there is no such thing as a free lunch” to their own affairs and already, many have been duped out of substantial fees for a so-called “release services” they could have obtained free of charge from any RDO member, if they qualified.

I do recognize that the theme of fraudsters is one I have harked on about a number of times and I apologize for doing so again, but this side of the Atlantic, the frustration felt at the inability/incapacity and/or unwillingness of the authorities to take action against some of the major fraudsters is disappointing to put it mildly – but to be honest, it is downright shameful . We may be seeing signs that there are moves here in the UK against some of these operators, but we need to see real action in Spain as well.

RDO now has a section on its website –

– warning owners of the dangers of taking up the so-called services of these operators and hopefully this will start to gain some traction with the public, the help and advice section of the site also directs owners to RDO members, where and when they need assistance in surrendering their timeshare.

Undoubtedly the industry has come along way in the last 7/8 year I have been involved with RDO. I venture to think that if in 2007 the Secretariat had proposed a series of situations where it was mandatory for members to allow owners to exit, those proposals would not have reached – let alone passed the Board. These actual provisions have been in force now for almost a year and the requirement for each member to have an exit strategy has been running for nearly 2 years now – without any significant loss of membership.