Select Committee on European Union Third Report

Chapter 10: Raising Public Awareness

139.  The draft directive requires Member States to inform the public of how the directive is transposed into national law (Article 10.1).

140.  The OFT described its campaigns including the provision of information in airline ticket wallets, flight magazines and at airports to make potential consumers more aware of the misleading and sophisticated hard-selling techniques used by some operators and of outright "scams", and suggested that the Commission could also play a role in providing information (Q 92).

141.  The TCA told the Committee that "So far the Office of Fair Trading and trading standards have done a pretty good job" (Q 31). Arlene McCarthy MEP commended the OFT's campaigns in airports and airline magazines: "I think this is an excellent initiative that could be extended to Europe, targeting the main countries involved" (pp 92-94). The Minister confirmed to us that the OFT was the lead body on consumer information and that his Department would be working very closely with the OFT once the new directive was in force, to publicise consumers' rights (Q 103).

142.  There is general support for initiatives to make members of the public more aware of their rights and more alert to possible "scams". Witnesses variously wanted information to be provided by the timeshare business and holiday ownership clubs, the National Consumer Council, the OFT, BERR and the Commission. The OTE outlined its efforts to encourage consumer awareness through advertisements in timeshare exchange company magazines and through its members (pp 24-26).

Conclusions and Recommendations

143.  Raising public awareness is not a substitute for adequate consumer protection. However, potential timeshare consumers do need to be better informed about their rights and about potential "scams", and to be much more wary when entering into major purchases of the nature discussed in this Report, particularly when doing so in another jurisdiction and in the absence of professional advice. (paras 141-142)

144.  We believe that the UK has made a good start in this area and commend the activities to date of the Office of Fair Trading. We consider, however, that a requirement on Member States merely to inform the public of the national law transposing the directive is not sufficient. We recommend that the Commission work with the Member States to draw up a strategy to improve consumer awareness of "scams", of aggressive and misleading selling practices in these sectors and of their rights in relation to withdrawal from the contract, focusing on key tourist destinations and encouraging regional and local authorities, local tourism associations, chambers of commerce and enforcement bodies to take part. (paras 140 and 142)

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