If you paid by means of a Visa credit card, you should be aware that Visa introduced a rule in November 1996 (which is not linked to any legislation) and Mastercard more recently (which is linked to the EU directive), which set out that a customer buying timeshare with a credit card is entitled to a 10-day cooling off period, irrespective of whether there is local cooling off legislation in place or not.
The 10-day Visa/MasterCard cancellation and cooling-off rule is particularly relevant in areas of Europe that are not subject to the European Timeshare Directive as they are outside the EEA area (eg Malta) and for ‘Holiday Pack’ purchases. ‘Holiday Packs’ are of duration of less than 3 years and frequently offer the option of extending the contract for up to 50 years or more. The EU Timeshare Regulations do not provide for a cooling-off period for this type of product. However, Europay, which is responsible for EuroCard/MasterCard, and Visa do grant a 10 day cooling off period for Holiday Packs. This gives further protection to customers who have paid a deposit for the purchase of a holiday pack, even if the company refuses to refund.
General Guidance Notes on how to cancel a timeshare purchase and retrieve payment made by either Visa or Euro Card /MasterCard are as follows:
- All those who signed the timeshare purchase agreement should send a jointly signed cancellation letter by Recorded Delivery post to the timeshare operator, quoting the purchase agreement number and asking for cancellation of that agreement and return of the deposit. The date of signing the timeshare purchase agreement counts as day one of the Visa and MasterCard 10-day ‘cooling-off’ period (and includes Bank Holidays and weekends) and the letter of cancellation must be posted – with post office evidence of postage – within those 10 days.
- The credit card holder(s) should write by Recorded Delivery to the card issuing bank and inform them that you have now decided to cancel the timeshare purchase agreement and, as you are aware of the Visa and MasterCard rules, you are asking the card company to assist in the full retrieval of all monies. The customer(s) should provide the bank with copies of the letter of cancellation, the Recorded Delivery postage slip, the transaction slip which will set out the ‘merchant name’ of that timeshare vendor and a copy of the Purchase Agreement and its terms and conditions. Request it firstly to put the deposit figure in the ‘disputes section’ so that it does not attract interest on the ‘debt’ and secondly ask it to retrieve that sum from the company which has taken your deposit – its name will be set out on your transaction slip. It is simply the timeshare deposit payment which should go into the ‘disputes area’
- The credit card payment may well have reached the ‘merchant name’ on the transaction slip you have signed, i.e. the timeshare vendor company, but this does not matter. Visa/MasterCard will commence the reclaim procedure once you have notified your card issuing bank that issued you with your Visa or MasterCard account facilities.
Should there be reminders from the timeshare vendor that it requires the balance to be paid, it would be wise to respond again by Recorded Delivery pointing out that you are using the Visa/MasterCard rules to cancel the purchase agreement and therefore, you will not be paying the balance and they should desist attempting to collect this sum from you.
Other credit cards
These have not adopted the Visa/Mastercard rule and offer no help should you have simply changed your mind since signing the purchase agreement. Whilst the intention of the European Timeshare Directive was to regulate the industry on a pan-European basis and to give consumers protection by ensuring, amongst other safeguards, a minimum 10-day cooling-off period, at the present time it is difficult to persuade credit card issuing banks that they have any obligation in assisting you to enforce those rights.