Timeshares and timeshare exit companies cause headaches for consumers trying to get out of contracts

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
BBB issues warning on timeshares, timeshare exit companies
Want to sell your timeshare? If you are no longer interested in your vacation rental, the BBB warns a timeshare exit company may be a problem to.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- We all love vacations and tropical destinations, but before you commit to a timeshare or hire a timeshare exit company, the BBB has a warning.

"I'm still on the hook for the money, but I have no more of the benefits of the timeshare," Juaquin Becerril said.

Becerril and his wife decided to buy a timeshare in Oaxaca, Mexico and made a $4,000 down payment. But the couple changed their minds about the investment, saying they weren't able to use it due to limited time slots, so they stopped making their timeshare payments.

"We hired this company to get us out of that contract. Because we weren't happy with the supposed benefits of having the timeshare," he said.

He paid nearly $5,000 to a timeshare exit company which they said did absolutely no work and then abruptly closed shop.

A Better Business Bureau study into vacation club, timeshare and timeshare exit companies shows that the Becerrils' complaint is one of 30,000 about the industry in the last 3 years, costing consumers more than $32 million.

"This is the most common type of scam regarding vacations overall," Chicago area BBB president Steve Bernas said. "There are good and bad time share companies and I don't think consumers realize what they are getting themselves into, a lifelong contract."

The BBB study found the consumer finds themselves at a high-pressure vacation sales event while on while at a resort, which leads to an unexpected purchase.

"If someone is high pressuring you, that is the tipoff to the rip-off. You should never feel you are high pressured into buying anything," Bernas said.

Consumers are also often given a contract and don't take enough time to read it.

"Consumers need to do the research, not only on the company but the timeshares itself," he advised.

These prevailing tactics to get you into a timeshare means many consumers have timeshare remorse. And that's how another cottage industry was born.

"Guess what, another company comes along to try to help you, they give these great promises and consumers say they just took their money," said Bernas.

The American Resort Development Association, which represents the timeshare industry, said an independent 2022 report shows 90% of timeshare owners are happy with overall ownership experience. The group added that it helped to launch a responsible exit program to provide resources for consumers to get out of timeshares in a safe legitimate way.

Becerril said he wished his exit company would have followed through.

"Shame on you. Taking advantage of people looking to maybe who have buyer's remorse, but shame on me. And they knew what they were doing," he said.

The I-Team emailed and called his timeshare exit company, but the line was disconnected, their website was gone and our emails bounced back.

We reached out to a group representing the timeshare industry but have not heard back.

BBB tips for anyone considering a timeshare or exit company:

  • Extensively research timeshare properties, vacation clubs or exit companies and thoroughly read contracts for language about lifetime commitment, heirs' obligations, maintenance fee increases or guarantees.
  • Beware of misleading or high-pressure sales tactics. If you feel like someone is trying to push you into a deal, walk away.
  • To sell a timeshare, contact the resort directly and see if they have a resale or a buyback program.
  • Be realistic about what you can get for your timeshare. Most of these contracts are not investments and may return considerably less than you paid.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is. There are deals to be found on travel, but scammers know consumers want to save money and take advantage of them.
  • Be wary of paying timeshare exit companies all fees upfront until services are ready.
  • Visit BBB.org to check out a business or register a complaint. Look for the BBB seal, the Sign of a Better Business. To report a scam even if you didn't lose money, please go to the BBB Scam Tracker. Scam Tracker reports can raise awareness and protect your community.

    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:

  • This press release warns consumers of unsavory exit companies that use dangerous and threatening tactics
  • This article by AARP on timeshare exit company scams and how to avoid them
  • 4 Things to Understand About Exiting Your Timeshare Contract
  • This is an article re-published by ARDA-ROC and originally published by US News & World Today: Looking to Get Out of a Timeshare? Here's How to Do It Legally
  • 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.