By Dean Dunham – 21 November 2021
The pandemic has naturally created a staycation boom and therefore caused consumers to shy away from overseas travel. This will naturally encourage many people to buy UK based holiday homes and in this respect static caravan and lodges based on holiday parks will look like an attractive and cost effective proposition. But what many people do not realise is that the holiday park sector is currently a horror show, a toxic sector where the consumer rights of static caravan/lodge owners are simply ignored and where many park owners run roughshod through what is supposed to be the best and most consumer protective laws in the World.
This week I have filed a legal submission, in support of a submission submitted by the Caravan Action Group, to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The submissions seek to highlight to the CMA the significant consumer detriment being suffered in this sector and the consumer laws that are being flouted, with a view to the CMA stepping in to clean up the sector.
During my investigations I have heard and seen many disturbing things. At the heart of the issue seems to be the licence agreements consumers are entering when buying a static caravan and pitch; and these problems have been going on for years. By way of example:
Pitch fees – agreement are vague as to what is included in the fee. Pre pandemic sales agents sold the fee on the basis that it included a whole array of things like maintenance and security. However, when the pandemic hit and consumers started to claim a partial reduction (due to maintenance etc not being carried out) all of the sudden many parks had a sea change, citing that the pitch fee only include the pitch and that everything else was ‘free’ – meaning no refunds were due!
Pitch fee increases – Most parks increase picth fees on an annual basis. However, the licence agreements are vague as to what the formula will be for the increases and the reality is that the park owners can increase by any amount they wish. This breaches every rule in the book in my view.
There is so much more, as has been outlined to the CMA, but this gives a flavour of the significant problem with this sector. I should say, this does not apply to all park owners. I have come across some who play byteh rules and treat their customers very fairly, but they are in the minority in my view.