File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – A Cape Town travel club faces prosecution by the National Consumer Commission (NCC) for a string of charges, including tricking consumers into signing up for membership.

Vacation Hub International (VHI) was investigated by the commission and the report referred to its prosecutions unit, said commission spokesperson Trevor Hattingh.

VHI is a membership-based wholesale travel club and lifestyle company focused on travel and tourism, according to its website.

Hattingh said complaints were that VHI misrepresented material facts to trick consumers into signing up for membership, that the company used unfair tactics to prevent consumers from cancelling membership contracts within the statutory five-day cooling-off period provided under the Consumer Protection Act and that VHI exploited the vulnerability of timeshare-owning consumers who were struggling and desperate to get out of their timeshare.

“The investigation was recently finalised and the report referred to our prosecutions unit for further enforcement. Our prosecutor will, after assessing the report, formulate charges,” Hattingh said.

VHIs member service manager Hannelie Jacobs said they wanted evidence from the commission so they could investigate the matter themselves.

“Like most companies, we do have disputes at the NCC. In fact, we advise our members of their rights to refer disputes to the NCC. 

"We have never refused to cancel any member who wanted to cancel. All our members receive a copy of the agreement the day that they join and have very clear instructions how to cancel. It is not possible for us to stop a person from giving notice in the cooling-off period,” Jacobs said.

Separately to the commission’s investigation, Trudie Broekmann Attorneys said they had sent cancellation letters for seven disgruntled VHI clients, due to their alleged misleading marketing and refusal to accept reversal of the contracts.

One client, Mzwamadoda Grootboom, said he entered into a contract with VHI in October last year for a lifetime membership with VHI.

“The very next day after signing the contract, Grootboom phoned VHI to reverse the contract within the five-day cooling-off period as allowed by the CPA,” lawyers said.

“Instead, the consultant told Grootboom to call VHI again in two weeks’ time. However, when Grootboom called VHI two weeks later, the consultant told Grootboom the contract could not be reversed because it was now outside the cooling-off period.”

Jacobs said: “We are in complete disagreement with the statements made by the attorney Trudie Broekmann.

‘‘Our legal department did respond with evidence to each of the six cancellation letters that she sent us.”

Cape Times