When Timeshares in Mexico Go Sour: #PROFECO

23 11 2012

Punta Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico

While vacationing in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and without knowing exactly how or why, you wake up one beautiful morning looking at the Pacific Ocean, with a contract for timeshare worth more than what you can afford at your room desk. With your signature on it. Is there a way out? Maybe.


Beaches and coastlines in Mexico are a dream: pristine, warm, fun, exciting. Tourism is a growing industry, and sand and sea account for a good part of it. It is only natural that tourists—national and international—want a piece of paradise.


Timeshares are, per this definition, “a form of shared property ownership […] in which rights vest in several owners to use property for a specified period each year. (Timeshares in Mexico probably follow a figure different from property ownership, as foreigners are forbidden from owning land for residential purposes within the “restricted zone”—a stretch of 100 kilometers from the border, and 50 kilometers from the beach; rather, a fideicomiso is normally created.)


Visiting tourists are the natural candidates to buy timeshares. Developers know it, and they often hire salespeople, known for their aggressive sales techniques. Buyer’s remorse is very common in this situation, either by a genuine cognitive dissonance, or because the decision was made under false pretenses, coercion or fraud.


If you are thinking on buying a timeshare, or just—against your best judgment—bought one and want out, Mexico has a federal agency in charge of protection of consumers: the Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor, PROFECO (twitter: @profeco). On their English version webpage PROFECO has a link to a 2-page pamphlet on the issue, entitled “Take Your Time When Buying a Timeshare.”


I recommend the pamphlet because it contains advice on what to do before buying, basics of timeshare in Mexico, selling strategies normally used, and how to change your mind after signing the contract.


Per the Ley Federal del Consumidor, Mexico’s federal act on consumers’protection, the buyer of a timeshare has 5 days to cancel the contract after signing it. Sellers sometimes refuse to acknowledge this right, or do not accept the cancellation. PROFECO’s recommendation on “Take Your Time When Buying a Timeshare,” is to notify the developer by email and certified mail, creating a paper track of the timely cancellation. The law calls for a full refund without any cancellation penalties.


If the developer resists, you can contact PROFECO at extranjeros@profeco.gob.mx for orientation. If necessary, you can lodge a formal complaint with PROFECO.


Next time you are offered a timeshare—in Mexico or anywhere else—do your homework, buy if you really want, and if you repent, at least in Mexico, know that you have 5 days to cancel and get a refund.