Trapped timeshare owners who paid thousands to get out of their contracts are be

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Offline Sandra Jennings

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The couple were desperate to sell their timeshare when the annual fees reached £1,500 so paid International Timeshare Refund Action Limited, or ITRA, to help them.

Gleaming hotels, clear blue swimming pools, palm trees and sunshine - these holiday resorts look like a piece of heaven on earth.

But for some owners of timeshares at them, they're a seemingly inescapable hellish circle of never-ending annual fees for resorts they no longer use.


I've heard from a string of owners who are desperate to sell their weeks, paying International Timeshare Refund Action Limited (ITRA) to help them find a way out.

One customer is Christine Carmichael, who wants to be shUt of an MGM Muthu Club Infiniti timeshare in Albufeira, Portugal. Bought in 1999, its annual charges are now around £930.

Christine decided to sell when her husband George died in 2014, paying ITRA £4,580.

Since she's not on the internet, her daughter Laura is helping.

“So far ITRA has done very little, getting me to do most of their work,” Laura says.

“The last I heard was that my mother had signed some legal documents and nothing more since that was well over a year ago.

“My mother has since had demand letters for the payment of her annual fees.

“She simply cannot afford to pay these fees and she no longer can travel abroad.

"I am tired of emailing ITRA and getting no response.”

Colin and Gail Mackay wanted to sell their Diamond International timeshare in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands when the yearly management fee reached around £1,500 and they couldn't get their preferred holiday dates.

“ITRA said that we would not get out of the agreement by ourselves,” says Colin, from Newcastle.

“The agent stated that our children would still be liable for payment of fees after our deaths because the agreement was for 60 years.

"They also said they would get compensation for potential mis-selling of an agreement.”

The couple paid ITRA £4,180 in May 2015 but say: “ITRA's only input was a standard letter that we modified.

Julia and Michael King are trying to get rid of a Club La Costa timeshare in Tenerife.

“We paid ITRA over £5,000, this was over two years ago,” says Julie, from Loddiswell, Devon.

“When I contact them they seem to palm us off saying that they have submitted papers to court are waiting for a court case, which supposedly was heard on 18 December last year.

“We have contacted ITRA to cancel as we were no nearer getting a result than when we signed up with them.”

Another unhappy couple is Anthony and Maggie Holloway from Broom, Warwickshire.

They own two timeshares, one in Scotland, the other in Kissimmee, Florida, and paid ITRA just under £5,000 in 2014 to dispose of them.

“After four years I am now informed that I still own the week in Scotland and am therefore liable for maintenance arrears of £742,” said Anthony.

“It has threatened court action via their solicitor for recovery of the arrears.

“I had been assured by ITRA that they would be taking charge of all demands being made by the management companies.”

They're in the dark about the Florida timeshare, despite sending notarized documents by registered post to an address in the USA in September 2016, as requested.

"When I phoned ITRA for a progress report approximately 12 Months later we were informed by them that the address had no record of the receipt for the documents," Anthony said.

"Further enquiries by myself by using the postal tracking service showed the documents were delivered to and signed for at the address.


"I informed ITRA of this and gave them the details. ITRA said they would follow this up and get back to me. They never did, that was the last we heard from them."

ITRA, which claims to have helped thousands of timeshare owners, gives a PO box in Gibraltar as its head office.

Here's what it said about the cases I've cited:

*Christine Carmichael - "This case was handed over to our collaborating UK Law firm Messrs Pinder Reaux. The lawyer that is looking into this case has been travelling and we have not been informed about the status of this case at this present time."

*Colin and Gail MacKay - "This case was handed over to our collaborating UK Law firm Messrs Pinder Reaux. The lawyer that is looking into this case has been travelling and we have not been informed about the status of this case at this present time."

*Julia and Michael King- they requested our Spanish lawyers stop pursuing their case.


*Anthony and Maggie Holloway - We engaged M1 Legal to write to the Scottish resort but "M1 Legal have not informed us if they have received a response to the letters sent at this present time." As far as the couple's Florida resort is concerned "We are currently investigating this matter with the agents that were involved with this case."

The statement also explained that its business is being wound down because “ITRA's principal Mr Peter Utal fell very ill two and a half years ago”.

In 2013 I raised similar issues with ITRA. Peter Utal's colleague Andrew Cooper blamed the timeshare operators for delays in terminating contracts, saying: “It is the very people who sold the timeshare in the first place that put in these hurdles for their members to get out of their ownership.”

That's probably true in some cases, but it doesn't help people struggling to pay annual management fees when ITRA hits them for more money with promises of an escape route that takes years to materialise, if at all.

Utal and Cooper were behind another outfit, Club Class Concierge, which was put into compulsory liquidation in the public interest in 2012 along with a string of linked companies.

It enticed people hoping to off-load their timeshares to meetings where sales reps flogged travel club membership for £7,000 to £15,000.

The Insolvency Service stated that the companies “were set up with the aim of duping consumers”.