Spanish holiday club scams cost consumers £1bn a year, says OFT

Holidaymakers are being ripped off for more than £1 billion a year by bogus holiday scams in Spain, says the Office of Fair Trading.

The OFT Scambusters team in partnership with local trading standards officers is running a new awareness campaign at airports this month to warn holidaymakers of the dangers. It is handing out fake holiday club scratchcards at Glasgow, Manchester, Luton and Bristol airports asking have you won a luxury holiday?’

OFT research has revealed October is the peak month for consumers to be targeted by bogus holiday clubs, with the average victim being ripped off for over £3,000. Every year 400,000 UK consumers fall victim to these scams at resorts such as Tenerife, Costa del Sol and Gran Canaria.

Consumers are targeted by ‘scratchcard touts’ who promise them a prize. They are forced to attend a lengthy presentation and are persuaded to sign a contract for an ‘exclusive’ club which makes false claims on the price, range and quality of holidays available.

The awareness campaign, which is being carried out in association with Spanish authorities, will also involve advertising at Tenerife South airport as UK holidaymakers arrive in Spain.

OFT head of consumer protection Mike Haley said: “Every year holidaymakers are deceived by the false promises and sophisticated high-pressure selling of bogus holiday clubs and their marketers. For thousands of consumers these breaks become holidays from hell when they realise they have paid thousands of pounds for worthless contracts.”

María Luz Peñacoba, director of the European consumer centre in Madrid, said: “We will be handing out information and advice to holidaymakers arriving at resorts warning them of the dangers of these distressing and expensive scams. The authorities are continuing to enforce the law and looking to tighten restrictions on bogus holiday clubs.”

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