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Nowadays, consumers enjoy greater legal protection thanks to the Act of 28 August 2011 on the protection of consumers with regard to agreements relating to the use of timeshare goods, long-term holiday products, resale and exchange.
It repeals the Act of 11 April 1999 on agreements relating to the acquisition of the right to use real estate on a timeshare basis. However, it will continue to apply to agreements concluded before 26 September 2011.
What are the main features of the Act of 28 August 2011?
Scope of application
In addition to the sale of timeshares in real estate and points formulas, referred to in the Act of 11 April 1993, the Act of 2011 also provides for the sale of timeshares in real estate and points formulas:
- the sale of timeshares in movable property (houseboat, caravan, boat, etc.);
- the exchange of timeshares (registration for an exchange);
- the resale of a timeshare through an intermediary;
- entry to holiday clubs, preferential rate holiday cards (subscription to discount holiday accommodation, flights, house rentals, etc.) - the law refers here to "long-term holiday products".
Classical rental is not covered by these regulations.
All advertisements must state that standard information forms are available.
During a promotional or sales event, the consumer must be informed clearly and beforehand about the commercial purpose and nature of that event. In addition, the mandatory information forms should be permanently available to consumers during the event.
The law prohibits selling the goods for part-time use and the long-term holiday products, or offering them as an investment product. After all, part-time holiday products are consumer products. In contrast to the traditional real estate sector, these are not contracts with which capital gains can be realised.
Right to information before concluding the contract – Standard information form
Before concluding a contract, the consumer must receive a legally-required standard form with clear information about the subject matter of the contract, the rights he can exercise and all costs to be paid. He will receive information on the existence of a right of withdrawal, its duration and the conditions for exercising it. The information will form an integral part of the agreement and will not be altered.
The information will be provided free of charge on a durable medium and on a compulsory standard form, adapted for each type of contract. Furthermore, it must be clear, legible and correct. The consumer can choose in which language the information is drawn up: in the language of his country of residence or nationality.
The agreement must contain all mandatory information. It is offered in writing, on paper or on another durable medium. The consumer will choose the language in which the contract is drawn up: either the language of his country or nationality. At the time of concluding the agreement, the consumer will receive at least one copy of the agreement.
Right of withdrawal
The law provides for a right of withdrawal for the consumer. He may, therefore, terminate the contract without charge and without giving any reason for doing so, for a period of fourteen calendar days. The period will be calculated from the signing or receipt of the agreement.
A consumer who used timesharing or a similar product during the right of withdrawal period does not have to pay anything, if he terminate the contract within fourteen calendar days.
The possibility of withdrawal offered to the consumer will be indicated in the standard pre-contractual information form and in the contract. A standard withdrawal form must be attached to the contract. If this obligation is not met, the withdrawal period may be extended to one year and fourteen days as long as the trader did not provide the standard form.
In addition, if the trader did not provide the information required by law, the right of withdrawal can be exercised for three months and fourteen days.
Advances and payment
The payment of advances, guarantees, cash reserves or debt recognition, as well as any kind of compensation paid by the consumer to the trader or to a third party, is prohibited before the end of the withdrawal period.
In the case of resale contracts, payments of advances before the sale actually took place or the contract is terminated by other means are prohibited.
Payments under long-term holiday contracts must be staggered: they are divided into equal annual instalments. From the second annual instalment onwards, the consumer may also terminate the contract free of charge, if he does so in the 14 calendar days following receipt of the payment request.
An ancillary agreement is a service agreement that depends on the timeshare agreement or the long-term holiday product. For example, the credit agreement linked to the purchase or the exchange agreement.
If the consumer exercises his right of withdrawal, any ancillary contract linked to the main contract will be terminated automatically. The consumer does not have to pay cancellation fees.
If the trader does not respect the law, then, there is provision for civil sanctions (seeking an injunction) or criminal sanctions.
The officials of the FPS Economy's Economic Inspectorate are empowered to monitor the application of the law and to identify and track down criminal offences.