EZE GROUP SCANDAL – DIRECTORS PLEAD GUILTY TO MISLEADING AND AGGRESSIVE SALES PRACTICES
This week has seen reports of the prosecution brought against the EZE Group by Trading Standards and the Eze Group Directors pleading guilty to the charges against them of unfair trading standards. Could this Eze Group scam finally mark a breakthrough in a change to timeshare ‘bully’ tactics?
BACKGROUND ON HOLIDAY CREDITS
It’s no surprise to hear of yet another timeshare scandal in the press, and this time the spotlight is landing on Eze Group and their aggressive and misleading sales practices. Eze Group is a form of timeshare that deals in EZE Credits. These credits, much like points, are a form of currency that can be used by the owners to purchase holidays and other products or services.
For a long time, there has been concern about the fair use, and sale, of these Leisure Credits in timeshare. Stretching right back to May 2013, the Telegraph reported a significant rise in complaints connected with the sale of Leisure Credits. The article summarised that credits were often “pushed as a way of trading in a timeshare […] if people then changed their mind they may be unable to cancel the contract”. It also highlighted the issue that the ‘EU Timeshare Directive’ that could help consumers and protect them would not be able to when they bought such credits in an attempt to escape their timeshare. At Athena Law, we took particular interest in this report and the implications the sales tactics could have on buyers – you can read our full 2016 commentary on the Telegraph report here.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION WITH EZE GROUP NOW?
There have been many claims brought forward against EZE Group by unhappy people who have felt trapped and tricked into handing over their money for credits in exchange for the promise they were legally exiting their unwanted timeshare contract and instead gaining more flexibility through credits. Although not all the charges have been proved, it is extremely significant that the Eze Group Directors have pleaded guilty to offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. In particular, they have admitted committing offences under section 3(4) and 15 of the Regulations (summarised below).
- Section 3(4) of the Regulations prohibits misleading and aggressive trading practices.
- Section 15 of the Regulations makes a breach of the Regulations an offence.
The full extent of the complaints, giving rise to the prosecution and the guilty pleas is unclear; however, it is reasonable to assume that a substantial number of complaints have been received by Trading Standards to justify the prosecution against the Eze Group Scam. There are a number of trading practices which can potentially be aggressive and misleading trading practices including (but not limited to) the following:
- False endorsements
- Misleading availability
- Bait and switch
- Exploitation by the trader of any specific misfortune or circumstance that impairs the consumer’s judgement to influence his decision concerning the product.
- Aggressive Sales
- Misleading actions and omissions
- General duty not to trade unfairly
When it comes to the exploitation of consumers who may be more vulnerable or unable to make a clear judgement, many timeshare salespeople will try to take advantage of this situation. We, unfortunately, see this sales tactic being used rather frequently and companies may try to sell products that purport to facilitate a trade in of timeshares. Projections of future maintenance fee liabilities might be provided to consumers to entice them into a purchase of credits (we have even seen this in cases where the timeshare resort may have an exit policy which the trader may be aware of but has not informed the owner of).
These types of aggressive sales tactics and misleading actions will not be tolerated under fair trade, and we can make an educated assumption that these are the types of claims brought against the Eze Group. The CPRs prohibit ‘misleading actions’ and ‘misleading omissions’ that cause, or are likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision than they might have otherwise. This means misleading any decision made by the consumer concerning the purchasing of the product or whether to exercise a contractual right in relation to the product, including decisions not to act.
We often see these sorts of practices in the context of allegations of mis-selling of timeshares and similar products. Often the information given is factually correct but presented misleadingly or deceptively to persuade a consumer to enter into a contract. Further, there is an obligation to provide the consumer with information in a way that is not unclear, unintelligible, or ambiguous.
When dealing with a trader offering timeshare termination or trade in services in the form of Leisure credits we often see deceptive or misleading descriptions of common terms such as “termination”, “trade in” or “lawyer”. This manipulation of fact can sway a consumer to make a decision they might not have if they were given transparent, truthful information.
HOW WE CAN HELP
If you recognise that you may have been subjected to deceptive or misleading sales tactics or need any advice or further information regarding this article, please contact us.
We offer a free initial consultation, and if clients have a viable claim, we offer a variety of retainer options including no win no fee arrangements. Every case or a potential case will be assessed on its own merits, and we will talk you through your situation in a transparent, clear way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mr Boyd has been practising in commercial and consumer litigation for 15 years and has developed a niche practice in dealing with timeshare disputes. In fact, Mr Boyd was one of the first UK Solicitors to work in this area and has appeared in all forms of media including television, print and radio. See below for some of his appearances:
CONTACT STEPHEN BOYD – SPECIALIST TIMESHARE SOLICITOR
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