Bill Aimed At Time-share Practices

Posted: June 09, 1988

HARRISBURG — When Roy Reinard got a letter promising him free round-trip airfare to Mexico as a prize for taking a tour of a time-share resort in the Poconos, he decided to check out the offer.

After he spent several hours touring and speaking with salespeople, Reinard discovered there were no tickets for him. The tickets, he learned, were part of a package deal: He could get the free airfare only after paying for accommodations at a specific Mexican hotel.

But what Reinard didn't tell the salespeople was that he is a state representative - and he was investigating time-share companies.

The results of his examination came recently in the form of legislation that would require businesses - including companies that sell "shares," or ownership of different time slots, of a single property to several owners - to award prizes at the time of a visit.

It would also require that ads use clear, "everyday" language and would give buyers 72 hours to back out of purchases or membership contracts.

Companies violating the act could be fined $1,000.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Douglas P. Yauger, director of the attorney general's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said many people visit resorts after being promised prizes, sign contracts under pressure, and then regret their decisions after a few days.

"At some of these places, you're browbeaten for five to seven hours. I've had people tell me they signed the contract just to get out of there," he said.

A 72-hour "cooling-off period" would allow people to get away from high- pressure salespeople before finalizing plans, he said.

The mandatory use of more clear language in promotions would help settle confusion on the part of prospective buyers, Yauger said. He said his department has hundreds of complaints on file.

"These promotions can be extremely misleading," Yauger said. "When they tell you the odds of getting a certain prize, they don't tell you the odds are based on all the company's resorts, that they are divided among the people who show up at the resort in Pennsylvania and the resort in Colorado and the one in Connecticut."

Reinard, a Bucks County Republican, said he introduced the legislation to protect consumers from the "very deceptive, very clever language" after he received complaints from some constituents.

Robert Uguccioni, executive director of the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau, acknowledged that resorts have misused promotions in the past, but he said the industry has stopped its "more questionable practices."

Uguccioni said he supports the legislation because there is still "a gray area" in some promotions.

However, Jack Kalins, owner of Split Rock Lodge in Lake Harmony, a time- share resort in the Poconos, said the resorts are being criticized unfairly.

"We have 12,000 members and over 95 percent are pleased. People are always looking for someone who is dissatisfied," said Kalins, who also owns a hotel in Lake Harmony and four other resorts in Pennsylvania and Florida.

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