Travel warning: New study finds concerns about parts of the timeshare industry

As you start to think about your next vacation, the Better Business Bureau has a warning about parts of the timeshare industry. Its new study finds concerns in certain situations, including scams and predatory business practices.

Some timeshare companies market the opportunity to buy a vacation deal with beautiful beaches, amazing accommodations, and frequent fun. But that’s not what comes to mind when Tracy Pullen thinks of his experience.

“Anxiety, anxiety to the tenth power,” the Chicago resident recalled.

Timeshares allow you to become part owner in a vacation home or property.

“I got all this money into this thing, so how do I use it,” Pullen asked. “Is it worth it? Does it work?”

For many people, according to the Better Business Bureau, it doesn’t.

This new study reveals in the last three years, the BBB received 20,118 complaints about timeshares. They include difficulty getting out of the agreement and aggressive sales tactics.

“The pressure they put on you is ‘you got to do it right now; you got to do it right now,’” Pulled described. “‘If you don’t do it right now, the door’s going to close.’”

“There are reputable companies that do this, but unfortunately, the bad actors take center stage,” BBB Spokesperson Melanie McGovern explained people need to read these contracts.

“If the contract is really wordy, it’s really long, this is like buying a house,” McGovern said. “In some cases, it might behoove you to get a lawyer to look at it.”

The trade association for the industry commended the BBB for the “guidance to consumers.” The group told us it launched a program to help owners get out of their timeshares, educate owners about available resources, and work on regulations that provide “transparency and consumer protections.”

For people like Tracy Pullen, the stakes are high.

“So many people and so many families cannot afford to be locked into this kind of contract because they have mouths to feed and families to take care of,” he said.

Consumers have disputed thousands of dollars each in their complaints.

The BBB advises to protect yourself, check out its website, which has reviews and complaints, and always read the fine print of the contracts.

Full statement from the American Resort Development Association:

ARDA commends the BBB for providing overall guidance to consumers about the information they need and questions they should ask before purchasing a timeshare.  We are also happy that the BBB brought to light the predatory practices that the industry, as well as timeshare owners, have observed from the timeshare exit industry.

Despite the fact that the 2022 Timeshare Owners report, which was independently produced by Ernest & Young, found that 90% of timeshare owners are happy with their overall ownership experience and 84% of owners would purchase a timeshare product again, ARDA was proactive in providing resources to owners who no longer feel timeshare ownership is a fit with their lifestyle.  In 2018, ARDA, through the Resort Owner’s Coalition (ARDA-ROC), was proud to launch its Responsible Exit program, providing safe and trusted resale and exit resources to owners and to help protect them from engaging with ill-intended third-party exit companies. Here are some additional examples of the work ARDA does to directly educate or to help others to spread the word about resources that are available to owners:

As for advocacy, ARDA and ARDA-ROC, also represent the collective voices of hundreds of thousand timeshare owners, working with federal, state, and local officials to protect and defend the use of their timeshares.  Both organizations have been involved with helping regulatory agencies in the US, and beyond, to pass legislation that not only helps the industry to grow and provide vacation options to meet the needs of modern-day travelers, but to also provide a high-level of transparency and consumer protections for the end users of the product.

ARDA is proud to represent world-renowned and respected hospitality brands that strive to uphold professional standards in sales, marketing and resort management practices.