The first to be visited was Absolute World Group in Patong. The team was met by Mike Hall, the company’s Asia-Pacific Managing Director.
V/Gov Punlop told him, “The problem is that clients have complained that they have paid for memberships but didn’t get what they were supposed to get according to the contract.
“Also, there is a problem with the sales technique; the sales people do not have a good hospitality manner.
“They accost foreigners walking along the street, which is unacceptable and will ruin the image of Phuket.
“I am also worried that these sales people may not have work permits.”
Mr Hall put up a stout defence of Absolute. “We have been doing this for many years, and we can guarantee that more than 90 per cent of our clients are satisfied with the products provided. We have solutions for our clients.
“If they book a specific time to stay [at a timeshare location], but it happens to be full, we will provide them with another partner location, which we have around the globe.”
As for the problem of timeshare touts, or – politely – Off Premises Canvassers (OPCs), whose job it is to persuade tourists to go to timeshare company offices to hear the sales pitch from company staff, Mr Hall told the Vice-Governor he was aware of this.
“I understand that there are some areas of timeshare in Phuket and Thailand that cause a bad name for tourism. That’s true. But not because of Absolute.”
He explained after the meeting, “The Vice-Governor said that he wants all of our people to be clearly identifiable with name badges with a photograph and with a work permit if they are foreign.
“I said, ‘Yes. All of our people ... have uniforms, name badges and lanyards with their ID [showing] that they are an employee. And if they are foreigners they have valid work permits. That’s something we are proud to say.’
“It’s up to the governor’s department to attack the other timeshare operations and check on their legality. He doesn’t want our people at any level to be aggressive, and I respect that, so I invited him – don’t tell me when, don’t tell me who – mystery-shop our people. Test for yourself.
“If our people don’t follow the rules we let them go. Unfortunately some of them go and work for other [timeshare] companies, but we can’t be held responsible for the way other companies work, whether it’s the way their people work or the product works. I welcome any attempt to try and clean up [the industry].
“We have followed all the regulations set by the government, and it is our job to protect the benefits of the clients.”
V/Gov Punlop’s second stop was at the Laguna Holiday Club (LHC) in Cherng Talay, one of the longest-standing timeshare businesses in Phuket.
A representative of LHC told the Vice-Governor, “Our clients see the real accommodation they will receive when they buy a membership, and we give them 14 days to consider the purchase after they have bought a membership. If they are not satisfied with the product we will give their money back.
“In the agreement letter for our clients we have a list of the hotels and resorts in our network to look at before they make a decision.
“Also, we have our on-line system where we encourage our clients to plan ahead, up to one year in advance. If they want to travel to one of the hotels in the period that they buy, they can check whether there is any availability at the time.
“If they want to stay at that property but there is somebody taking the room, we will try to reorganise their stay by asking if they are comfortable to stay at another period of time.
“If our clients don’t use their holiday in one year, they can save their holiday and top up in the following year, but they have to pay a fee for that.”
A Provincial regulation issued in 2013, specifies that the timeshare operator must provide:
Clear address of the company and partner residences, plus details such as length of time bought and the rights of members.
Expenditures and membership details – terms and conditions.
Details of the rights and limitations and terms of membership use.
The client's right to cancel the contract.