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Don’t fall prey to tempting offers

More power to the consumer is our motto, whether buying rajma or a watch. Pushpa Girimaji tells you how to get empowered.
By Pushpa Girimaji | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON SEP 10, 2011 10:34 PM IST

At a petrol station, a local market or even a mall, if someone asks you to fill a small piece of paper, promising a free holiday to some exotic locale or some other fabulous prize, please look at it with utmost suspicion.

Rsemember, once you fill it up, you may well get caught in a web of deceit and end up losing considerable amount of money.

This is what happened to AK Bansal. While he was filling up petrol in his car at a gas station in Pitampura, someone approached him saying that as a customer of the gas station he was entitled to participate in a lucky draw and would he please fill up the form and give his personal details?

Bansal did and the very next day, he got a call saying that he had won a fabulous prize — a free holiday — and would he please come personally with his wife to a mall in Rsajouri Garden to collect his gift voucher?

On reaching there, he was met by officials of a timeshare company who drew a rosy picture of their holiday resorts and got him to part with Rs 35,000 towards the membership fee. But what happened next really shocked Bansal.

First and foremost, the amount of Rs 35,000 was to be deducted in interest free installments, but the message from his credit card company showed that the entire amount had been debited in one go.

Then came another shocker. The 'membership kit' delivered to his house the next day showed that he had been really taken for a ride. The resorts, the locations, the terms and conditions, were all so different from what had been promised that he really felt cheated.

AK Bansal: Since the timeshare company has betrayed the confidence reposed in them and tricked me into paying Rs 35,000, I want my membership cancelled and the money refunded immediately. Please advise what to do and where the application can be filed in consumer court.

Answer: First and foremost, lodge a complaint with the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police against the timeshare company.

You can also include the names of the petrol station and the mall, as they have willingly lent support to this fraud. This is not the first time this has happened and the police need to take action against them and put stop to it.

As for refund of your money, I would suggest that you write to the All India Rsesort Development Association (AIRsDA) and bring this matter to their notice.

The association has a code of ethics for timeshare companies to follow and this code calls for ethical marketing practices. It also provides for a cooling off period of 10 days for cancellation of the contract for a full refund and also clarifies that companies have to take responsibility for the acts (or misdeeds) of employees and agents. And they have an ombudsman-like mechanism for redress of complaints against timeshare companies.

If you go on to their website (http://www.airda.org) you will find their contact address too. Their telephone number is: 080-41255007.

If this fails, you can go to the consumer court. This is a clear case of unfair trade practice and you cannot only get back your money, but also compensation for the harassment caused to you and also for any consequential financial loss.

In the case of TV Sunderason Vs Sterling Holiday Rsesorts (FA NO 163 of 1995, decided in 2003), the National Consumer Disputes Rsedressal Commission clarified that timeshare companies too come under the purview of consumer courts and consumers can approach them for deficient services and unfair practices of timeshare companies.

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