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Timeshare exit firm gets shown the door; High Court winds up operation which took fees but didn't deliver.

Byline: PENMAN INVESTIGATES

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 PS15,000.

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 on four cases of owners who were persuaded to use ITRA to try to get rid of timeshares in the Canary Islands, Portugal, Florida and Scotland.

Despite paying around PS5,000 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 PS6,450 that they'd paid the firm.

When ITRA ignored the judgment the couple 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-funded Timeshare 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."

Another angry client is Steven Wright, 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."

Steven sued, citing misrepresentation and no useful service, and was awarded PS9,765, none of which has been paid.

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

He said it was "managed on a professional basis with very little consumer complaints".

ITRA has a record of huge fees and making empty promises

CAPTION(S):

LIQUIDATED Andrew Cooper and Peter Utal (inset) ran ITRA

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2019
Words:539
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