Beware Of Bogus Holiday Clubs

Posted on: 28 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Holidaymakers flying off to Spain should avoid holiday club scams, warns the Office of Fair Trading.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is warning holidaymakers flying out to Spain about the dangers of bogus holiday club scams which cost UK consumers millions of pounds a year.

The OFT Scambusters Team and officers from Manchester, Solihull, Gateshead and Luton local authority trading standards and the Central England Trading Standards Authority (CenTSA) are handing out thousands of fake holiday club scratchcards at Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Newcastle airports on 28th May 2008.

The scratchcards which resemble the type handed out by bogus holiday club touts, asks 'have you won a luxury holiday?' Like most bogus club scratchcards, all the cards are 'winners', and contain three 'winning' matching symbols, but the prize turns out to be 'a trip to a lengthy sales presentation and a chance to pay thousands of pounds for membership to a bogus holiday club'.

Staff from the European Consumer Centre in Spain will also be at the Arrivals area of Malaga airport to reinforce the message about holiday clubs, and hard hitting advertisements have been placed in the baggage hall and in the Thomas Cook inflight magazine which will be seen by thousands of holidaymakers.

Research has shown that this is a peak time for consumers being targeted by bogus holiday clubs, with the average victim losing over £3000. Every year thousands of UK consumers fall for this type of scam at resorts such as Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Marbella on the Costa del Sol, and in the Canary Islands.

Consumers are typically targeted by 'scratchcard touts' who hand out bogus winning cards to holidaymakers.

To collect their prize they are forced to attend a lengthy presentation and persuaded into signing a contract for an 'exclusive' club on the basis of false claims as to the price, range and quality of holidays available. After spending thousands of pounds, consumers often find they have bought little more than access to an internet booking service offering the same service they could get at a high street travel agent.

Holidaymakers who are approached by a scratchcard tout or go along to a presentation should ask three simple questions:

  • Can you take away the contract to consider at your leisure?
  • Is everything you are promised in the presentation in the contract?
  • Do you know exactly what you are getting for your money?

If the answer to any of these questions is 'no', then the OFT advises to simply walk away.

"Every year thousands of holidays to Spain are ruined when holidaymakers fall for the high-pressure selling techniques of bogus holiday clubs," says Mike Haley, OFT Head of Consumer Protection. "When they return home they realise they have paid thousands of pounds for near worthless contracts."

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