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Shut down: the company that took upfront fees from people desperate escape timeshare traps; International Timeshare Refund Action liquidated after ignoring court judgment.

Byline: Andrew Penman

A timeshare re-sale firm that I've exposed has been shut down in the High Court.

International Timeshare Refund Action (ITRA) claimed to be able to help people who were desperate to sell their points.

There's no shortage of them, the market being awash with owners fed up with escalating annual maintenance fees at resorts they don't want to visit any more.

ITRA seemed to offer a lifeline, but I warned how it enticed points owners to meetings that turned into hard sells for membership of holiday scheme Club Class Concierge, costing up to [pounds sterling]15,000.

Far from being released from their timeshare deals, the owners continued to be hit with demands to pay their annual fees.

Club Class and six sister companies were put into compulsory liquidation in 2012, and complaints about ITRA continued to build up.

Last year, I reported onfour cases of ownerswho were persuaded to use ITRA to try to get rid of timeshares in the Canary Islands, Portugal, Florida and Scotland.

Despite paying around [pounds sterling]5,000 in 2014 and 2015, the owners still hadn't escaped their timeshare traps. Now ITRA, which operates out of a PO Box address in Gibraltar, has been put into compulsory liquidation.

The action was taken by a couple from Lakenheath, Suffolk, who successfully sued for the return of the [pounds sterling]6,450 that they'd paid the firm.

When ITRA ignored the judgment they took the case to the High Court to have it shut down, assisted by Kwikchex, an online business verification scheme that runs the timeshare industry-fundedTimeshare Task Force.

"ITRA has a long record of making empty promises and charging huge fees, when in reality there were free or much lower cost options to exit timeshares," said founder Chris Emmins.

"That's why we have provided free help, assisting consumers to take successful legal action. We are continuing to assist consumers that have been affected by ITRA and other similar businesses."

Spanish cops accuse British businessman of masterminding [pounds sterling]15million timeshare scam on Costa del Sol

Another angry client is Steven Wright of Whitehaven, Cumbria, who met an ITRA rep in Fuengirola, Spain, and was talked into signing a deal to get rid of his Diamond Resorts timeshare.

"ITRA lured me with the promise of substantial compensation," he said.

"We were promised the process of disposing of our timeshare would take six weeks.

"In hindsight we should have walked away."

Mr Wright sued, citing misrepresentation and no useful service, and was awarded [pounds sterling]9,765 including interest, court fees and his costs, none of which has been paid.

ITRA was run by Peter Utal, who died last year, and 49-year-old consultant Andrew Cooper.

Mr Cooper said that ITRA had 2,964 clients and succeeded in cancelling 1,790 timeshare contracts.

"It was ITRA that forced the industry to offer an exit strategy for clients who wished to cancel," he said.

"But we soon discovered that in order to cancel, apart from paying a termination fee, clients had to sign an undertaking that they would not take legal action against the resorts for mis-selling."

Cooper is now a director of timeshare disposal company European Consumer Claims Ltd, previously called European Claims Centre, whose website carries the tempting question: "Do you want freedom from your timeshare?". An online advert says: "Don't miss out on [pounds sterling][pounds sterling][pounds sterling]".

He said it was "managed on a professional basis with very little consumer complaints", adding: "I hope you will be fair in any article you publish, the real enemy being the timeshare industry."

Have you been mistreated by a firm? Get in touch with us (Jotform)


Credit: Harry Page/Daily Mirror

Andy Cooper and Peter Utal
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Title Annotation:News,UK News
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 14, 2019
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