In this week's issue

UAE customers conned in time-share ‘scam’

Angry investors take Vacation International to court, say they were conned by sales pitch, false promises

  • By Jay Hilotin, Chief Reporter
  • Published: 22:10 November 14, 2012
  • XPRESS

Dubai: It starts innocently enough with an invite for mall-goers to fill up a form for a “free” draw.

A subsequent call tells those who signed that they just won a holiday. To claim the prize, however, they need to visit them for a 90-minute presentation.

Before they know it, many find themselves falling prey to a hard-to-resist sales pitch and agreeing to invest in a time-share package.

Many customers told XPRESS the alleged scam is being peddled by Vacation International to UAE residents with promises of guaranteed returns.

The key issues involve deceptive sales techniques and refunds.

Amir, a Jordanian teacher, recalls how he was holed up inside Vacation International’s Deira office in a five-hour “presentation” from 7pm to midnight in May. In the end, he coughed up Dh21,000 for a week-long timeshare deal. He claimed the company staff charged his credit card even before he signed the contract.

Sales pitch

“They put a lot of pressure on people during those sales meetings. They brought out the contract, and while I was still reading the fine print, they charged my card already,” said Amir. When he tried to use the house booked in Egypt, Amir found out from another website that the unit does not even cost Dh300 ($81) for a group of six for a week. “They promised that the unit can be rented out for $2,000 to $3,000 per week. I felt scammed,” said Amir.

Harish Chander, 45, an Indian hotel executive, has been trying to claim his refund since 2008 from the company. “They promised me a week’s free stay in a property in Zahabia Resort, in Hurghada, Egypt, which I could sell or rent out to anyone.”

He paid Dh11,450 for a contract worth Dh26,000. “I was paying happily till I lost my job in December 2008,” he said. “They told me they would help me sell my weeks. I was told I could withdraw anytime. This is the point that got me.”

When Chander asked for a refund, he was told it’s only possible if he paid in full.

Nitesh R., who signed his contract in May 2012, gave a laundry list of what he alleged as deceitful selling. “During the seminar, I was informed I would be able to rent my week the very night I pay my deposit. This, I found out, was not true. Six months down the line, I have not received any services for the 50 per cent deposit (Dh15,950) I have put down,” said Nitesh, who threatened legal action.

Sri Prakash, an Indian project manager, filed a fraud case in Dubai Court against Vacation International in August 2011, two months after having invested Dh18,000. “During the first hearing on October 22, 2012, no one from the company showed up.” The next hearing is on November 19. “What they do is fraudulent, taking money from so many people for nothing. I’ve been here for the last 20 years. I respect the good law and order. I value this country, but companies like Vacation International should not be allowed to dupe victims here.”

Joshi, an Indian finance manager, invested Dh14,550 in September 2011 and said he knows at least a dozen people who had been allegedly duped. “When I tried to get to get my money back, they told me that I can’t.”

A Vacation International spokesperson told XPRESS “Any client who has an issue with us, we get back to them and discuss their problem. We have well-trained staff to help customers according to the contract terms.

“[For] any business in the world, there will be clients who get a wrong understanding [of the business]. We work under Dubai laws. In almost all our contracts, it shows that we are doing travel and timeshares. We never mention this as an investment.

“When a client signs a contract, he is aware of the terms and conditions… nobody forces anyone to buy what he doesn’t like.”

“From our 15,000 members, there may be 20 or 25 who misunderstand the system, but it doesn’t mean we are so bad. We built a reputation for 16 years and we will keep on working like this because our reputation is our capital.”

Comments (3)

Your comments
  1. Added 13:27 November 15, 2012

    This same company has a stand in Lamcy Plaza also. The trade licence copy which the stand staff carry all the time says the company is a 'real estate' company. They show the trade licence copy just for couple of seconds while the unsuspecting client can only see the company's date of registration; which indicates the company is running for so many years. I was lucky to have read about them in this same newspaper some time back and kept myself out of their trap. However, I gave them full time to speak to me and I was impressed by how perfectly they convince people to fall in their scam. Next day I received a call also, to say I won a free holiday for myself and my family. But the condition was to visit their office in Hamrain Center Deira for a 90 minutes presentation along with the family. I request the concerned authorities to please look into the matter and take the severest action against this and all such companies.

    Moosa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 09:00 November 15, 2012

    ALL THAT GITTERS IS NOT GOLD. THESE SCAMS HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR YEARS BUT PEOPLE STILL GET DRAWN IN AS THEY THINK THEY ARE GETTING A BARGAIN. WAKE UP.

    jack, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 00:03 November 15, 2012

    Often i walk in burjuman and i see how these poeple con tourists and residents. Many times they have tried to stop me but i have resisted. Their stand is on the first floor of Bur Juman walking straight from Paris Gallery. Its a shame that such con services are being run from malls.

    zuhair, dubai, United Arab Emirates

XPRESS