‘The holiday that left us £52,000 in debt and ruined our retirement’

There are an estimated half a million timeshare owners in the UK, according to a parliamentary research paper. Around half of them have timeshares in Spain.

Michael Hardstaffe, 83, from Evesham, Worcestershire, has spent years fighting for £52,000 in compensation after Barclays Partner Finance and Shawbrook Bank provided him with loans for timeshares in the early 2010s.

He says it has ruined his retirement.

Mr Hardstaffe and his wife bought a fractional contract in April 2012 for £12,750 under a loan agreement of £18,394 from Barclays Partner Finance, then Clydesdale Financial Services. 

He then purchased additional points at a total cost of £16,763 between 2013 and 2014. This was via loan agreements with Shawbrook Bank totalling £33,573.

With the points, the couple were told they could book future holidays – but there is no timeframe in which they must do this.

“We took out the loans thinking we’d secured holidays for 15 years,” he said. “But in the very first year there was no availability at the properties we wanted.”

Many timeshare companies operate a points-based system where the person buys points in exchange for a certain number of weeks in the property over a period of years. 

“I bought this ten years ago when I was fit and healthy. It’s a long time to wait for things to be put right,” Mr Hardstaffe said.

“The problem is, after eight years, what we were planning to do with our retirement has changed.”

Keith Dewhurst, of the TCA, says the most common complaint the group receives about timeshares is that it is almost impossible for the person who bought them to actually holiday in the property.

Sellers can find themselves paying an annual fee only to be told there is “no availability” at the property that year.

Mr Dewhurst says this is because the companies will allow thousands of people to buy the points and book up the homes.

“If it was sold as an investment and there is evidence of that, then the banks should refund them,” he said.

Yet despite this, many victims are still without compensation. 

The High Court judgment last year concluded that banks should refund customers on a case-by-case basis – meaning some may never get a penny back.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) said the judgment had enabled it to resolve more than 800 cases, of which 39pc had been upheld. It has also issued 1,700 “provisional assessments” since the judgment – the first stage of an investigation after a complaint.

Barclays blamed the delays on “complex cases”. A spokesman said: “We are sorry for the delay in resolving these complaints, which are taking longer to process than anticipated due to their complexity,” a statement said.

“Some cases, including this one, involve multiple timeshare contracts, each of which require information from the timeshare retailer to calculate the redress due. Any customers who are concerned about an outstanding case should contact us directly.”

A Shawbrook spokesman said it is working closely with the Financial Ombudsman to resolve Mr and Mrs Hardstaffe’s case. It could not provide a resolution deadline.

“We are sorry that Mr and Mrs Hardstaffe are still waiting for their complaint to be resolved,” a spokesman said.

“The High Court, in its 2023 Judicial Review, determined that each complaint of this nature should be assessed individually. Not all customers who complain will be due compensation.

“Mr and Mrs Hardstaffe’s case is currently being assessed by the FOS. We’re working closely with FOS to resolve any outstanding complaints as quickly as possible and to make redress offers where due.”

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