Money thrown time and timeshare again

SINGAPORE: Instead of calling it quits after pouring so much money into certain questionable timeshare deals, some customers keep buying similar investments over and over again.

Retiree Wong Liang Yong, 69, is one such investor. He has spent close to S$80,000 since 1996, when he bought two timeshare investments for S$25,000.

"We did enjoy the timeshare holidays but when I retired in 2002, I found the S$1,000 in maintenance fees costly to upkeep and wanted a way out," he said.

In 2004, a timeshare company LGM approached Mr Wong to terminate his two contracts and promised him a cashback of around S$25,000 within five years. The catch: He had to pay S$10,000 upfront, which he did.

Mr Wong went on to sign two more resale timeshare contracts. In February this year, another timeshare firm Maxmega Group promised him a cashback of S$104,000 within 18 months, but he had to fork out S$35,000 first and he did.

Two weeks after signing the contracts, Maxmega told him that "they had problems with LGM as it had been suspended".

"They said Maxmega is an agent for Colco Ventures — a firm that has taken over all the timeshares all over the world, and it could not use LGM services. So it had to charge me some S$200,000 liability for subscription fees," he said.

Mr Wong became upset when the company threatened to sue him if he did not pay. He then contacted other timeshare victims. On Friday, 16 of them went to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), but only six filed complaints against Maxmega.

Customer service officer Juraimi Selamat, who has invested around S$85,000, hopes CASE can help get his money back. If not, the 16 of them might consider "legal action", he said.

"I’m doing this to warn other people about terminating their timeshare. I hope the government can do more against these practices," Mr Wong said.

CASE will be sending a Voluntary Compliance Agreement to Maxmega and will investigate whether it has breached the Consumer Protection Fair Trading Act. If it has, an injunction will be filed against the company.

Since 2008, CASE has received a total of 27 complaints against timeshare companies totalling S$791,000 in value.

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