New laws stipulate maximum fines €2,300 for abusive timeshare touts
Charlot Zahra New, tough legislation regulating the timeshare industry in Malta was tabled in the House of Representatives on Monday evening by Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism and MEPA Mario Demarco.
The “Timeshare and Timeshare-like Products Promotion – Licensing of OPC Representatives – Regulations of 2010” will see timeshare touts fined up to a maximum of €2,300 for each infringement.
As revealed by sister paper Illum last Sunday, each timeshare company will be required to deposit a guarantee to ensure that timeshare staff behave correctly with tourists, although the bond per timeshare representative has now gone down to €2,500 in the actual regulations from the €3,000 reported last Sunday.
Instead of waiting to take each incident through the courts the Malta Tourism Authority, (MTA), which regulates the tourism sector in Malta, will be fining directly the companies found breaking the rules and taking the money out of the deposited bond money.
According to an international timeshare website, the legislation the tourist authorities needed to be able to protect the tourists had been “recently been passed”.
Moreover, according the MTA was planning “to outsource security patrols to police the timeshare touts”.
The decision to establish a pre-paid deposit by the MTA was described by the website as “a clever move designed to enforce the legislation effectively”.
The timeshare companies would then need to top up the deposit money immediately to the required amount.
The new regulations stipulate that if a timeshare representative is found guilty of acting in an abusive manner with tourists or MTA officials, he or she will be fined € 2,300, taking up almost all of his or her deposit money.
Timeshare reps found guilty of arguing, shouting or engaging in an argument whatsoever with other timeshare reps will set him or her off €1,200.
Likewise, timeshare reps found guilty of using cars in a manner which breaches these regulations will also be fined €1,200.
‘Minor’ offences under the new regulations include not wearing the identity document issued by the MTA or not wearing it prominently displayed, which will set you off €450.
Misrepresenting the operational resort or product or providing misleading information on the resort will set an offending timeshare representative another €450.
Carrying timeshare activities within a distance not authorised by the MTA will also bring a penalty of €450.
Finally, not being dressed in accordance with the dress code approved by the Authority and being present in an area forming part of a larger number of timeshare reps present in that area not so authorised by the Authority will be fined €250 for each episode respectively.
The new timeshare regulations stipulate that the MTA will only accept applications for OPCs if they are accompanied by a recent police conduct certificate as well as an attestation of good educational background.
According to the international website –http://www.selltimesharesblog.com/ -- which gave the article about Malta the title “Tourists In Malta Reclaim The Streets”, “frequent and repeat incidents of visitors being confronted in the street while on holiday in Malta has led to the Maltese authorities taking action against the timeshare companies who employ sales staff to seek out possible visiting buyers”.
Complaints had risen in recent years from holiday makers who have had their time on the island “spoiled by being approached on a daily basis to attend presentations – that can last up to four hours – in the hope that some will buy into holiday property ownership and timeshares,” the website added.
The Malta tourist authorities have seen the damage it is doing to the island’s economy, and have decided to act.
‘Some holiday makers are being approached on a daily basis – sometimes twice a day – by timeshare touts who get paid a commission for every potential buyer they persuade to take to a presentation,” the Maltese travel guide lamented.
“As well as the feeling of not being able to go out without being accosted by these people some were giving verbal abuse to those who declined, or simply followed them down the street after being told no – and hounding tourists,” the travel guide added.
With the holiday market vital to the Maltese economy, the MTA had recognised that “some visitors would be so put off the island by high pressure sales people that they wouldn’t return – potentially losing Malta millions in lost revenue from repeat visitors,” the international timeshare website warned.
“In today’s world, Malta has to compete with new destinations in Europe as well as Spain and her islands.
Cheap Malta flights weren’t in themselves “enough to sustain tourism at reasonable levels anymore, although this will be welcome,” the guide was quoted as saying.
The trick of sustained tourism was to have repeat business, “and timeshare touts bothering visitors to the island are enough in some cases to make sure that repeat visits don’t happen,” the tourist guide warned’
The guide said it “welcomed” the stance the MTA was taking to protect the visitors to the island, and cited recent examples of why “action has become necessary.
“In two recent cases, British tourists have been targeted, by young male and female timeshare reps,” the website explained.
“While some were based outside hotels in Malta, others were driving around in cars and stopping tourists as though they were going to ask for directions pointing to a map of Malta before delivering their sales pitch, with some more persistent than others,” the report added.
The timeshare reps were “predominantly” from the United Kingdom and targeting UK tourists, who visit the island for the good weather in Malta as the UK was a main market for Malta.
On occasions the British tourists “have had to resort to threaten violence to be left in peace, with the timeshare reps retorting that they were only trying to make a living,” the website warned.
‘In truth’, the Maltese tourist guide was quoted as saying, ‘While the timeshare reps are trying to make commission, for every penny they earn they could be losing the Malta economy far more with every approach they make as the tourists soon get fed up with the persistent efforts to sell them something they don’t want.”