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Caithness News Bulletins March 2003

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The Highland Council is supporting a national campaign, sprearheaded by television personality, Esther Rantzen, to warn consumers about the dangers of bogus holiday clubs.

The campaign, promoted by the Office of Fair Trading, aims to draw attention to unscrupulous holiday clubs that deliberately deceive consumers and pressurise them into membership.

Nigel MacKenzie, the Council’s Trading Standards Manager, said:  “Holiday Clubs are sold as a flexible alternative to timeshare, promising a lifetime of discounted luxury holidays anywhere in the world.  Some are reputable businesses that trade in good faith.  But others are promising far more than they deliver.

“Consumers can get ‘hooked into’ these unscrupulous clubs as the result of receiving a  telephone call from the holiday club sales team to inform them that they have won a free holiday.  However, to claim this holiday they must attend a presentation.

“Although the sales person may state that no one is obliged to join the holiday club once the consumer is at the presentation. the bogus holiday club companies employ high-pressure sales techniques and long presentations to wear down any resistance.

With promises of “once in a lifetime opportunity” or “dream holidays for life” or “even cashback schemes” being offered, it can sound very tempting to the consumer attending.”

Trading Standards have in the past received complaints also about the ‘free holidays’ that have been offered as an inducement for consumers to sign up.  It usually transpires that the holiday itself may well be free but non-refundable administration charges, supplements and taxes are added.

Mr MacKenzie added: “These bogus holiday clubs prey on people’s aspirations - cheap holidays for life is a very attractive prospect.  But they often don’t deliver what they promise and consumers are left thousands of pounds out of pocket.  The consumer should also be aware there are no automatic cancellation rights for those who change their mind.”


The Office of Fair Trading has devised a leaflet to help prevent people being caught out by the bogus holiday club hard sell.  The advice outlined in this leaflet is:

  • Don’t feel pressured into going to a presentation if you do not want to.

  • If you do go to the presentation do not sign anything there and then.

  • If you cannot take the contract away to think about it then walk away!

  • Check if the company is offering cancellation rights and that they are written down. If none is offered then do not sign.

  • Check all verbal claims made in the presentation are included in the contract – if not do not sign.

Copies of the leaflet produced by the Office of Fair Trading are available on their web site at www.oft.gov.uk

Anyone who is concerned about a holiday club contract that they have signed or would like to know more about their rights in this area should contact The Highland Council Trading Standards at:

The Highland Council,
(TEC Services),
Trading Standards Unit,
38 Harbour Road,

Or telephone our duty officer on Consumer Advice Line on 0845 600 4222

Trading Standards can also be contacted by email at  consumer.advice@highland.gov.uk  or visit our web site at www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/highland