OFT recommendations for buyers
Back in 2003, the OFT took action against unfair terms in holiday caravan contracts, and urged buyers to check the details of their pitch license agreements before signing a contract. With recent developments seeing new rules for permanent, residential static caravan park owners being enforced, we at My Holiday Caravan feel that more information is required to inform holiday homeowners of their rights.
Here is a full list of the advice given by the OFT, for owners, or people looking to buy a holiday caravan:
- Check how long a licence is for; this will state how long the site owner has agreed to allow the caravan to be kept on site. It varies depending on the current age of the caravan.
- Find out what services are provided in the costs; what these entail, and whether the price includes utilities such as gas and electric.
- Research charges, and the trends for fee increases (if they increase at all)
- Does the caravan require insurance, and if so does this need to be purchased from the park owner or independently?
- Are there any restrictions on the sale or disposal of the caravan? Will this process cost or include hidden fees?
- Find out what should happen if one party decided to terminate the contract. Make sure to ask for notice periods, particularly regarding the sale or disposal.
- Make sure you understand how disputes will be handled.
They also published a list of common complaints in 2005, which are listed below:
- Lack of written agreements
- Short duration of pitch licences
- Potential requirements to move the caravan to a different pitch
- Age limitations on caravans
- Pitch fees
- Restrictions on use
- Restrictions on assignment and sale
- Tying in
Should problems arise, legal cases can be made provided there is evidence of unfair practice, where unjust terms are included in contracts. The OFT produced a list of best practice recommendations, and what park owners should be offering in their contracts in 2003. The best practice code is described below:
- During the application process, the company is obliged to provide a full or partial refund when either the company or the owner terminates the agreement.
- Limitations on which the company can move the caravan, and they should provide a right to terminate if the consumer is unhappy with the relocation and oblige the trader to pay a proportion of the site licence fee paid, if the owner cancels the agreement as a result of the changes.
- Company can only terminate contract for serious breaches of non-observance of conditions
- Company is obliged to provide/detail all of the contract terms at the outset
- The company cannot deter the sale of caravans on the park
- Company cannot enforce a transaction link to a credit agreement where the latter falls through
- Liability no longer excluded towards quality/condition/fitness for purpose of the caravan sold
- Any change in price result in the customer being notified, and they then have one month to cancel any agreement/contract. Prices cannot be increased by more than 20% in one go
- The company cannot retain excessive sums in compensation for any sales or termination.
The National Caravan Council, along with other trade organisations, met with the Office of Fair Trading in January 2008 to address underlying issues of conflict between park and caravan owners. They created a new model in which parks under the umbrella of the NCC would follow set guidelines, or be held accountable for breaching their membership terms. These new guidelines would focus on:
- Transparency of rights and obligations for the caravan owner and the park operator
- Clearer rules focusing on the behaviour of both parties
- Fairer rules regarding the purchase/sale of the caravan
- Distinct contract termination terms and a choice to cancel an agreement early, receiving a proportional reimbursement of any prepayments made
- A transparent way to review pitch fees
- Preservation of consumers rights when the park operator wants to move the caravan for development purposes
- A conspicuous dispute resolving process
These factors are all currently a part of the NCC’s Approved Holiday Home Ownership Scheme. More information on this can be found here.
If you have any queries about these recommendations, do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 612 7541.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly or have an unfair contract agreement, the matter may be worth pursuing with the OFT, or through official channels at your park’s office.