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141/07 12 October 2007
The Office of Fair Trading is warning holidaymakers flying to Spain of the danger of bogus holiday club scams which cost UK consumers more than £1billion every year.
The OFT Scambusters team, together with local authority Trading Standards Officers, will provide information to holidaymakers at airports across the UK in October. Research has shown that this is the peak time for consumers being targeted by bogus holiday clubs. Every year 400,000 UK consumers fall victim to these scams at resorts such as Tenerife, Costa del Sol and Gran Canaria.
The average amount lost per victim is over £3,000. Consumers are targeted whilst on holiday by 'scratchcard touts'. The card will always be a winner, but to collect their prize consumers need to attend a lengthy presentation and are 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 no more than they could get at any high street travel agent. To fight back against the scammers, the OFT will hand out thousands of fake holiday club scratchcards at Glasgow, Manchester, Luton and Bristol airports in October. The card, which asks 'have you won a luxury holiday?', is scratched off to reveal three 'winning' matching symbols whilst a second strip, revealing the prize, explains the consumer has in fact 'won a trip to a lengthy sales presentation and a chance to pay thousands of pounds for membership to a bogus holiday club'.
The awareness campaign, which is being carried out in association with Spanish authorities, will also involve advertising at Tenerife South airport as UK holidaymakers arrive in Spain.
If you are approached by a scratchcard tout or go along to a presentation ask three simple questions: Can you take away the contract to consider at your leisure? Is everything you were 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 simply walk away.
Mike Haley, Head of Consumer Protection at the OFT, said:
'Every year holidaymakers are deceived by the false promises and sophisticated high-pressure selling of bogus holiday clubs and their marketers. For thousands of consumers these breaks become holidays from hell when they realise they have paid thousands of pounds for worthless contracts.'
María Luz Peñacoba, Director of the European Consumer Centre in Madrid, said:
'In Spain we will be handing out information and advice to holidaymakers arriving at resorts warning them of the dangers of these distressing and expensive scams. The authorities are continuing to enforce the law and looking to tighten restrictions on bogus holiday clubs.'
1. The bogus holiday club campaign, in association with the Madrid-based European Consumer Centre, also involves consumer education material and advertising including lightbox adverts in Tenerife South, Malaga, Tenerife North and Gran Canaria airports.
2. Recent research commissioned by the OFT involving 11,200 interviews estimated that bogus holiday clubs cost the UK public £1.17billion a year with an estimated 400,000 adults falling victim to such scams every year.
3. OFT research shows that 78 per cent of bogus holiday club victims are aged between 35 and 64. The average loss per victim is £3,030.
4. Scams are an OFT priority. Two years ago the OFT launched the Scambusters team and set up the Scams Enforcement Group with partner organisations focusing on law enforcement; consumer education; and cooperation with private sector businesses to disrupt scammers' routes to market.
5. Download images from the campaign at Glasgow airport: image 1 (jpg 636 kb), image 2 (jpg 449 kb).
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