Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker looks at Whistleblowers of America and their report to the Veterans Affairs Committee. As we have reported in previous articles, we have received many complaints from veterans who have had very bad experiences with timeshare sales agents. These practices are unexceptable and need to be stopped, but that can only come from the top of the timeshare companies, if they have the will to do it!

Now for some news from the Spanish courts, more legal history has been made at the Supreme Court in Madrid, Silverpoint has had another 2 judgements made against them, bringing the total of rulings from Spain’s Highest Court to to 126!

The tally this week is:

2 Supreme Court against Silverpoint;

3 more Court of First Instance against Anfi del Mar;

3 Provisional executions of sentence against Anfi del Mar, (this has secured over 93,000€ for clients with Anfi depositing the funds at the court of San Bartelomé de Tirajana);

2 High Court victories against Diamond Resorts International.

In the Diamond sentences, the clients have been awarded their full purchase price plus double deposit for a total of 19,504€ and 30,000€ respectively. These and the contracts for the clients above have all been declared null and void.

In total the 7 sentences amount to over 370,000€ another expensive week for the timeshare industry in Spain. All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients from all over Europe by none other than those intrepid lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance.

As we near the end of July, we only have one more week where the courts are working, August is the annual close down, so we will see no new cases being heard until September.

Now on with our Letter from America.

Whistleblower Retaliation against Government Workers, Employees, Timeshare Members and Timeshare Sales Agents

62 out of 500 timeshare complaints we have received are from veteran and active duty members of the military and law enforcement

A Whistleblower Summit in Washington D.C. July 30 – 31

http://whistleblowersummit.com/

By Irene Parker

July 20, 2018

There are several federal and state laws in place to protect government and corporate employee whistleblowers from retaliation, but whistleblowing is never easy and can take a personal toll. A whistleblower friend of mine suggested I attend the Whistleblower Summit linked above, because of threats and accusations our advocates, Charles and I have received over the past two years. I have heard the following false statements made about Inside Timeshare and our advocates through the timeshare grapevine:

  • That our articles are based on false information. Many articles are submitted by our readers, which I edit, or the content provided by our readers.
  • Our advocates are compensated financially for assisting members,
  • Our advocates are practicing law,
  • Our advocates are compensated for soliciting business for lawyers,
  • We’re targeting certain timeshare sales agents (we call repeat offenders)

Articles written by timeshare members describing their timeshare experiences are revealing and important. One of the Whistleblower Summit presentations I am looking forward to attending is titled,

Unleashing the Power of – YOUR – Story

Moderated by Gloria Minott, Public Affairs Director WPFW

“Story is what defines us and set us apart. It’s what allows us to connect with each other. Story is powerful. Story is grossly misunderstood. A good story has conflict, but ultimately resolved. A story is messy and full of confusion, but there is meaning and completeness to it. Stories have natural momentum to them, fueling our passion to find out more from the teller. Stories are laden with bait and intrigue, with suspense and tension. Stories are provocative.” Jeff Goins

Whistleblowers of America is a nonprofit organization assisting whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation after having identified harm to individuals or the public. Founder Jackie Garrick will moderate a panel discussion at the upcoming Whistleblower Summit that will address resilience after retaliation

“My numbers are going up with new reports every day,” says Jackie Garrick, founder of Whistleblowers of America (WoA). Garrick created WoA earlier this year after discovering firsthand how difficult the process of reporting wrongdoing can be, and the personal toll it can take on the people blowing the whistle. By offering up the help and insight of former government insiders and whistleblowers like herself, Garrick is hoping to not only encourage more people to come forward, but also to simply support them once they do so.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/04/10/va-whistleblowers-under-threat-seek-help-from-outside.html

So far the only information available on timeshare whistleblowers concerns a lawsuit in which a jury awarded former Wyndham timeshare sales agent Trish Williams $20 million.  

She is also a rarity: a whistle-blower who has succeeded in bringing to light abuses at a powerful corporation that wanted to keep them hidden.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Despite several relatively recent Attorneys General investigations and settlements, lawsuits galore, and a flood of internet complaints, the timeshare industry continues to place blame on their customers and on advocacy groups. In other words, the industry believes Inside Timeshare either invented 500 timeshare complaints or that the 500 members would be happy timeshare members had they not read Inside Timeshare articles or joined one of several members sponsored advocacy Facebooks and websites. Almost all of the 500 members are highly educated, professional, high credit score citizens. At least they had a high credit score until they were sold or upsold into timeshare insolvency.

It doesn’t matter how many millions love their timeshare. What matters is that the majority of the 500 families have alleged they were fraudulently sold a timeshare product. All but a handful received an automatic “You signed a contract” dismissal from the timeshare company.

Whistleblower advice for corporations and agencies from Findlaw.com:

How (Corporations) can Avoid Whistleblower Claims

Here are a few steps that you (a corporation) can take to reduce the risk that your company will be subject to such a lawsuit. In parenthesis are my observations as they apply to timeshare:

  • Don’t retaliate — Try to remember not to treat employees (timeshare members) that have complained about your company any differently than those who have not.
  • Have a complaint policy in place and be sure to use it — It is a good idea to have a complaint policy in place, even if it is not required by law. Train and educate your employees in using the system. Once you have your complaint policy in place be sure to abide by it. (According to member reports, the timeshare complaint policy has been to provide the complaining member with their initials on fine print and dismiss them with, “You signed a contract” or “We’re not responsible for what our sales agents say.”)
  • Investigate all credible complaints — If you receive an internal complaint about alleged wrongdoing, be sure to investigate it, so long as it is credible. If you find that the complaint was truthful, take the steps needed to remedy the situation.(The timeshare member has often reported that they were told they were wrong and the timeshare sales agent judged truthful)
  • Be careful in disciplining whistleblowers for other misconduct — If you have a whistleblower in your company that needs to be disciplined for other conduct you must be very careful. Get evidence to support your claim that you are disciplining for reasons other than the whistleblowing and make sure the employee knows the reason he or she is being disciplined.

 

https://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/employment-law-and-human-resources/whistleblower-retaliation-could-land-you-in-trouble.html

Following the above advice would eliminate the need for timeshare advocacy groups and whistleblowers.

United in Speaking Truth to Power

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org @whistleP2P

601 Pennsylvania Ave, South Tower, Suite 900 Washington, DC 20004

Jackie presented testimony to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs March 14, 2018. She included Timeshare Advocacy Group’s veteran timeshare fraud report in her statement. Several of the 62 veteran timeshare members we have assisted struggle with disabilities and PTSD as described in the report. Jackie believes that retaliation can cause PTSD.     

  • The veteran population has very complex needs due to unique exposures/injury during military complicated by having two plus significant medical problems in one patient.
  • Veterans experience Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Brain Disorder (PTSD). According to the CDC, about 40,000 Americans die by suicide each year making it the 10th   leading cause of death. (Several of the veterans we have helped struggle with PTSD and TBI, one is a decorated Marine, and another a Marine who earned two Purple Hearts.)
  • Agent Orange exposure – For example, eye cancers are a continuous issue. (Two of our disabled veteran timeshare members are disabled from Agent Orange exposure)
  • Gulf War Illness – Illness haunts Gulf War veterans. (One of the timeshare members served in the Gulf War and is on 25 meds)
  • Camp LeJeune: Due to water contamination at the Marine Corps Base, Camp LeJeune, increased reports of cancer in veterans and their families have been documented over the last several decades related to the solvents in water.
  • Burn Pit Exposure: Those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 were exposed to a concoction of burning substances on military installations that has caused them to raise health concerns from cancers to respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. (One of the members we assisted was diagnosed with blood cancer having lived next to a burn pit in Basra)

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

Although WoA recognizes that it is not inherent within the VA mission to protect veterans from fraud and scams that could cost them their benefits, it suggests that it could be assistive in educating veterans against these unscrupulous tactics. For example, WoA has had multiple complaints from veterans related to timeshare deceit and bait and switch tactics, which are defined by the FBI as fraud for profit.  Often elderly veterans are mentioned as being targeted by the Timeshare Advocacy Group, TM which fights for active duty and retired military who fear losing their security clearance, career, homes or other assets.  Foreclosures and financial distress because of these misrepresented investments are happening every day to elderly disabled veterans and their families. In the past, VA has cooperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over mortgage and other loan scams that caused financial hardships for veterans.  Home loans and timeshare loans are identical as both are reported as foreclosures. WoA asks that Congress consider a role for the VBA Employment and Economic Initiative (EEI) could play in cooperation with CFPB to educate and protect veterans from unscrupulous financial predators and fraudulent practices.

Jacqueline Garrick is a former Army social work officer who has worked in the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense as well as for the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  She is a subject matter expert in mental health and program evaluation. She is an advocate for disabled veterans and the use of peer support to improve resilience in traumatized populations.  She founded Whistleblowers of America in 2017 based on her experience reporting attempted fraud with DoD Suicide prevention funds.

We thank Jackie and Whistleblowers for their support. It is our hope that through public awareness and knowledge, the consumer will be better able to make an informed decision as to whether a timeshare, especially one financed at 17%, is a good idea for the family.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

That’s it for this week, Friday is upon us and the weekend beckons, on Monday we will be publishing the court cases against Diamond and how Spanish law is protecting consumers, we will be comparing this with what is happening across the Great Lake with our US cousins.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all contributors to these articles and also to those who supply the evidence and information on the “fake” companies that are trying to rip you off. It is your valuable information which goes to help and save others from these unscrupulous charlatans.

Remember to check, check and check again, doing your homework will save you your hard earned cash. If you are unsure how to check, then use our contact page, we will be happy to point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week at Inside Timeshare.

Litigious Abogados: Another New Name to the Family.

Our regular readers will be aware that we have been following the many changes in name for almost 3 years, well here is another new name for you, Legalidad Abogados SA, with the website:

http://legalidad-abogados.com

Registered on 20 May 2018

The websites is as usual exactly the same as all the others except for the new names and photographs of the lawyers, which no doubt are photographs of genuine lawyers taken from the internet. We will be trying to identify the genuine people as we have done in the past.

 

The company apparently was was founded by Manuel Midan Embalori (photo below), on Monday 20th July 1990, which was in fact a Friday! They have the CIF Number (National ID Number), is A30458629, which is again not genuine.

 

The lawyers are named as:

Armando Calenam Salderol

Daniel Lominiar Golteras

Carlos Demanar Voltarisa

There address is one that week have seen before, although genuine, they are not there:

Legalidad Abogados S.A.

6-4, Calle de S. Francisco, Santa Cruz, 38002, Tenerife

Freephone: 0800 802 1938

Tenerife Tel: 0034 822 684 515

[email protected]

[email protected]

So what are Legalidad Abogados doing?

Obviously it will be the same ploy they have used in the past, your timeshare company and the director is being taken to court, for a payment to the Procurador you can be included in the case. The Procurador is named as Jesia Elisabeta Eliaz and the money is to be paid into her Bankia account.

Now the case our lucky reader was to be involved in was to be heard at the end of July, this involved his timeshare at Island Village and the director is named as one Mark Rowe, who for those regulars to our pages will know is not a director of Island Village but owns companies such as Hollywood Marketing, The Monster Group of companies, ABC Lawyers to name just a few.

No doubt within days our reader would have received the wonderful news that Mark Rowe pleaded guilty, which somehow no one will ever believe, Mark Rowe pleading guilty!

We also wonder which gang will steal the cheque and cash it, we have had Romanians and Ukrainians, we have heard that the new gang are Croatians!

Whoever they are, there is no legal law firm called Legalidad Abogados, there are genuine lawyers with those names, there is no case case at court and there will definitely not be a cheque sent from the court!

It will be the same old “Fraud” we have seen in the past, don’t fall for their story, the documentation looks real, but it is all fake.

If you have been contacted by this or any other firm with a similar story, then beware, unless you have personally instructed a Spanish law firm to act on your behalf then you do not have a case in court.

The courts do not instruct any company to contact timeshare owners, or to act on the courts behalf. They do not send out cheques and will definitely not instruct another company to investigate a stolen and cashed cheque.

Remember doing your homework, just like our reader, will save you a lot of money. If you are not sure about any company that contacts you or even one you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

This week’s Tuesday Slot we publish a revised article on How to File a Complaint, but first a quick word on the article yesterday and the post on Timeshare Talk by Mr William Dobbs. We have had several emails from readers venting there disgust at the use of Ian Smart’s name considering he passed away.

Mr Dobbs you should think very carefully at what you write and who about, to use the name of a deceased person who cannot speak or defend himself is the lowest of the low. I have had emails from his personal friends and family, all demand the removal of his name and for you Mr Dobbs to publish an apology.

It is also clear that you have no idea what you are saying or writing, yes I do know many of the people on that list, after all it is my job to know, but much of it is so out of date it is laughable. One person who you mention as sales at Palm Oasis, has not even been in the industry for at least 15 years and as we stated yesterday, in any industry people will be acquainted with each other. So Mr Dobbs will his family and friends get the apology?

Now on with today’s article.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (July 17, 2018 revision)

  

Start with the Attorneys General

If necessary, continue to the FBI at IC3.gov

Finish with the Federal Trade Commission, if Section 5 is violated

FTC Unfair Practices

An act or practice is unfair where it

  • causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers;
  • cannot be reasonably avoided by consumers; and
  • is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.

FTC Deceptive Practices

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

“I was told that in order to be released from a timeshare I had owned for years, which was a deeded timeshare week, I had to turn the deed into points. Believing the sales agent, on June 19th I bought $12,000 worth of points for no reason. A few weeks after purchase I learned through Social Media the company has a voluntary surrender program.” (Example of an actual complaint)

Inside Timeshare has received 499 U.S. timeshare complaints as of July 16, 2018. All but a handful of complainants allege they had been sold a timeshare by deception. In all but a few cases, the member was dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “It doesn’t matter what the sales agent said.” If timeshare companies would acknowledge that some timeshare sales agents do intentionally mislead the consumer, there would be no need to file complaints and no reason for the existence of member supported advocacy groups.

According to FBI agents and lawyers our advocates have consulted, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, but it takes volumes of complaints to raise a regulator’s eyebrow. The Federal Trade Commission released its 2017 complaint report, listing travel, vacation, and timeshare as one of the most costly frauds at $1,710. Our reader complaints dollar amounts range from $4,000 to $400,000 or more. We wish members were only losing $1,710. Inside Timeshare has received complaints from 61 veterans and active duty military and law enforcement.   

Travel, vacation, and timeshare frauds were the most costly with people losing a median amount of $1,710. The FTC also broke out fraud losses for members of the military and found their median fraud loss to be 44 percent higher than the general population.

https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/opinion/columnists/2018/04/06/ftc-releases-2017-complaint-statistics/493425002/

Timeshare Members need to be especially vigilant about “Get you out of your timeshare” firms because many are scams. Some are not. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ (TAG) has a scam research team formed by members who have themselves been scammed. This 15 page US Department of Justice timeshare scam report illustrates the seriousness and extent of the problem, caused by the lack of a viable secondary market. Timeshare company annual and quarterly reports have mentioned a viable secondary market as a risk to investors.    

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+scam+report&op=Search&affiliate=justice  

Advocates for reform feel the problems that exist in the industry today are caused by an overreliance on the oral representation clause, iron clad developer based contracts, the lack of an adequate secondary market, and limited enforcement. We don’t dispute there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare and many sales agents who sell the product properly, but here are the most common timeshare complaints reported by our readers:

  • The agent said I could easily sell my points,
  • The agent overstated the value of travel awards to pay for airline tickets, or the use of a travel credit card to pay maintenance fees,
  • The agent said I had to give up my deeded timeshare and buy points,
  • The agent said I have to give up my deed and buy points (or buy enough points to get to the next loyalty level) or my heirs will be burdened,
  • The rescission clause was dodged because the agent said the (bogus) program would not be available until after the first of the year, or we were  not allowed access to the booking site until after the rescission period.

To begin your complaint, raise your right hand.

Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Present your information factually and without opinion or inflammatory language.

Information Needed to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Down Payment

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Loan Number

Current Loan Balance

Name of Credit Card if one was used to pay the down payment

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment?

Why? Is it due to Deception, Health, Age or Financial Burden?

Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded as will a request based on not being able to afford the timeshare. If you feel you were deceived, list the reasons why. If there was no deceit, ask for relinquishment. Maintenance fees must be current and there can be no loan outstanding. Just like your personal residence, you can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say you can’t afford it. The difference is you can sell your home if there is an outstanding loan.  

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint. Begin with when you first became involved with the company and proceed chronologically. Keep your history brief up to the point when things began to go wrong.

After you complete your complaint, email it to the appropriate resort department. Expect to be denied. Typically your resort reviewer will restate your concerns, produce your initials and signatures, point out the oral representation clause and inform you, “If something was important to you, you should have asked for it to be put in the contract.” File a rebuttal if you disagree with the company response.

Mark your email to the resort urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. If one of our advocates is assisting the member, the member will report back to us if the issue is resolved. Due to the required non-disclosure, terms and conditions will not be discussed.

Attorneys General

If the resort has dismissed your complaint, the next step is to file a complaint with the Attorney General of the state where you signed your contract. It can take sometimes a month to hear back from an AG but once your complaint has been accepted, debt collectors are not allowed to call. You can find any Attorney General by searching the state name and Attorney General. Some states will direct you to the real estate or consumer division. You should file a complaint with the state Real Estate Division against the agent if the agent was deceptive. Not all states require timeshare sales agents be real estate licensed.     

We have determined, based on reports from our readers, some Attorneys General walk lockstep with the developer, responding to complaints with, “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” Thus, in those states, the consumer is out in the cold and at the mercy of the developer’s decision. In other states, Attorneys General have opened investigations and reached settlements based on a volume of complaints and a pattern of consistent reports of deceptive behavior.

The FBI

Any complaint reported to the FBI should be of a more egregious nature. “They promised me a free cruise but it wasn’t free” is an example of a complaint that is not serious enough for the FBI. Our opening example, describing a buyer told they had to give up their timeshare deed when that was not necessary, would merit an IC3.gov report. To determine if your complaint is serious enough to file an FBI complaint, review the FBI definitions of criminal acts:  

White-collar crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial—to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage. These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three).

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of financial institution fraud known as “fraud for profit”:

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

The FBI has advised our members, if the allegation involves credit card fraud, the member should also file a complaint with the Secret Service.

https://ask.metafilter.com/81136/Should-I-call-the-Secret-Service-over-credit-card-fraud

Most important, consider reaching out to local or national media. Reporters look for content and are surprisingly easy to reach. Write an article about your experience. The more people who come forward, the more the public is made aware of timeshare black holes before engaging in a timeshare sales presentation.

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • The Attorney General’s office where you signed your contract. Most AG complaints can be filed online.
  • The Real Estate Division of the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against the agent.
  • The FBI at IC3.gov portal if you feel you were deceived. For allegations of a serious nature you may also contact an FBI field office to file a tip orally. Have your facts and figures ready. The FBI complaint website is called IC3.gov which stands for Internet Crime. This is a bit confusing. IC is the name of the portal. That doesn’t mean it has to be an internet crime. Click IC3 as your choice when filing. Sometimes your local field office will pay closer attention than say Las Vegas, where losing money is a tourist attraction. You can find your nearest field office from this website. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
  • The Federal Trade Commission is one of the most important agencies to file with, because it is federal. Most states have incorporated a portion of the FTC’s “Unfair and Deceptive Trade Act” in their state law.   
  • The media – the court of public opinion is often the only court available. Inside Timeshare, published in Spain, welcomes member submissions, positive or negative.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for credit card or lending complaints, under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage), selecting the bank involved. Timeshare has dodged this regulatory bullet because most members don’t know the identity of the lender as the timeshare company often services the loan (Timeshare companies are not an option from the CFPB’s drop-down menu). CFPB is the organization that helped Wells Fargo victims. The CFPB lost influence after the roll back of the Dodd Frank act March 2018. The Dodd Frank act was enacted after the abuses caused by subprime lending. The CFPB is still considered a regulator. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints. Sometimes the BBB allows you to log in and file a rebuttal. If you file a complaint, a review is not allowed. We have received complaints from members reporting that a company representative called, saying the message is time sensitive, but does not answer the phone when the member repeatedly tries to call back. We suspect this boosts the company BBB rating because the company can report, “We reached out.”
  • Lawmakers – The problem is the timeshare buyer typically does not buy in their state of residence which is why lawmakers don’t seem to take timeshare seriously. Still, any effort to contact lawmakers is encouraged.

If this sounds like work, it is, but you can file with some, all, or none of the agencies. If you pick two, pick the Attorney General and the FTC. We have a team of advocates who can answer questions and help guide you through the process. We feel “Action and Advocacy” is the best way to change questionable timeshare business practices.  

Depending on the seriousness of your complaint, you may forward your complaint to the firm’s public relations office or firm and to ARDA, the timeshare industry’s PAC, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. ARDA’s Code of Ethics can be found on ARDA’s website. ARDA ROC does not mediate disputes, but ARDA does have a Code of Ethics. Due to lack of response to about 200 of the more serious complaints we sent to ARDA, we do not recommend owners make the voluntary “opt in” or “opt out” ARDA ROC donation on your maintenance fee invoice. Not one of the members we questioned knew what ARDA ROC stands for, yet collectively gives ARDA ROC about $5 million a year. It is the opinion of our advocates, that although ARDA lobbies for the industry and for timeshare members, when the issue at stake is one that is at odds with members, members lose because they have no voice.

You may also forward your complaint to the Association of Vacation Owners. AVO has been tracking our complaints for research purposes. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-3/

If you are granted a positive outcome, you may not say or write anything disparaging about the resort, but there is no harm in staying involved by referring timeshare members who need help to Inside Timeshare or to one of the self-help groups listed below we know are not industry influenced.  

Who We Are and Why We Do This

Our advocates are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice. We have researched regulatory agencies and are here to direct consumers to the appropriate regulatory and law enforcement agencies. The right to file a regulatory complaint is the right of every citizen who feels they have been wronged.  

It’s a good idea to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever but an organized campaign to track complaints and report alleged fraud has already born fruit in the form of Attorneys General investigations and greater public awareness.

If all else fails, we will refer to an attorney if the member can afford one. If you are forced into foreclosure, but have an otherwise unblemished credit report, you can write to the credit reporting agencies in an effort to explain why you were deceived and why you were not able to resolve your dispute.

Contact Inside Timeshare or email Irene Parker at

[email protected] or call 270-303-7572 EST if you are interested in becoming a volunteer. Feel free to call any day of the week from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST. It’s best to schedule a call. All calls and emails are returned within 24/48 hours.  If your email is not returned, please resend and send a text message.

Self-help groups seek to provide members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

http://tug2.net/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

July 7, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy Group™     

Related article: FTC Section 5

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-12/

That’s it for today, you now have all the information to be able to file a complaint, if you need any help with this or want to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Start the Week

Last week we highlighted the new Timeshare Association, which is linked to David Cox of TESS, we do know that he appears to have made up with Mark Rowe, as all posts he had slating his companies have been removed. But The Timeshare Association is inextricably linked to Timeshare Talk, a forum owned by Mark Rowe.

They have posted a list of who knows who by a gentleman called William Dobbs, (if that is his genuine name), this in itself is nothing unusual, in most industries many people will know each other. After all they may have worked together in the past.

The one problem with this list is the title, Who Knows Who, Ian Smart, this is what can only be described as very offensive to all who knew Ian Smart, I say who knew, as Ian Smart passed away earlier this year. So to use the name of a man who is no longer with us Mr Dobbs is to say the least sick. You should be ashamed of yourself.

RIP Ian Smart

Last week the following information came in after publishing Friday’s Letter from America, it was certainly a busy week in the Spanish Courts, and a rather expensive one for the industry.

No less than 16 sentences were passed by various Spanish Courts, they are as follows:

10 were against Anfi del Mar

2 against Tasolan (Palm Oasis)

4 against the Tenerife based Silverpoint.

In all cases the contracts have been declared null and void and the amount of money the timeshare companies have been ordered to return is over 561,000€.

It was also announced by Canarian Legal Alliance that their Provisional Execution of Sentence team had also successfully had 2 more embargos place on Anfi cash accounts, securing the money for their clients.

Tomorrow Inside Timeshare once again publishes a revised article on How to File a Complaint, these articles are aimed at our American readers but are still of interest as you can adapt them to suit your own country and associations.

If you have any comments or stories you would like to share then use the contact page, also if you need to find out about any company that has contacted you or one that you have found on the internet, then get in touch and we will point you in the right direction.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker asks a very important question, What is a Defamatory Statement? This is in fact a very appropriate article considering Irene and Inside Timeshare have been accused of making them in respect of some of our readers “experience” stories. Inside Timeshare asks this question, how can a statement be defamatory if it is someone sharing an experience they have had with a particular company?

We started the week with an article highlighting two new companies that are what can only be described as dubious, the first was Davies & Howell Associates Ltd, with a registered address in London. They claim to have over 40 years of timeshare experience and can extricate owners from their timeshare, along with gaining them compensation.

The other is Ashton Group, apparently based in Nottingham, they have been cold calling timeshare owners with the same type of story. They apparently have a legal representative going by the name of Sir Drummond McFadzean!

So far no company record or website has been found about them, which is never a good sign.

On Tuesday, Irene published the 2nd quarter report from the The Timeshare Advocacy Group™, considering it is only halfway through the year, the number of pleas for help is huge. Thank you to all the advocates who work so hard to help these readers.

Another dubious setup was reported on Wednesday, this concerns a company called Positive Outcome – Contractual Specialists, with the names Lance Steer and Joanne Johnson. It turns out from information received that Lance Steer is in fact one Lance Oakley, a former Diamond sales agent who also worked for EZE Group. Again they claim to be able to get you out of your contract and claim compensation.

Now on with our letter from America.

What is a Defamatory Statement?  

When to File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Irene Parker

July 13, 2018

The above cartoon was not selected to play partisan politics. It was selected because it is thought provoking. Clearly the elephant is a Democrat and is feeling defamed. Does that mean he or she was defamed? For EU readers who may not be familiar with our political symbols, the Republican Party portrays the elephant as their mascot.  

Inside Timeshare always considers defamation. Our stance is that truth is not defamatory. The reports received from 496 timeshare members describe deceptive and unfair trade practices. A pattern of complaints creates compelling and compounding evidence, even without hard evidence like a recorded conversation. If timeshare companies and some state regulators are over relying on the oral representation clause, the public needs to be aware that they should not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. Are our readers’ allegations defamatory?   

Definition of defamation in law (from Webster’s Dictionary)

The act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person

Following is an excerpt from a New York Times article. I have edited out the names because we are exploring the topic of defamation, not singling out any one timeshare company. Are the following statements defamatory?

New York Times economics specialist devoted a long article…. One timeshare owner told the journalist: “The Company is much more ambitious, aggressive and downright nasty in their sales presentations compared to other companies. This Company just has an amazing reputation of being tough on people.”

A 77-year-old California woman said a 5-hour hard sell left her “shaking.” The Company gave her a voided receipt for a $4,840 charge on her credit card: “The representatives had been so certain that she would agree to the offer that they had charged her card for the down payment – even though she had not given approval,” the Times reported.

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints and published many articles submitted by timeshare members who say they were not aware a credit card had been opened or that they had been charged for the purchase of a timeshare product.

Unlike Wells Fargo victims, the timeshare buyer complaining of the unauthorized opening of a credit card, or unauthorized charges, often could not file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB has lost influence since the roll-back of the Dodd Frank Act, but even before the agency’s demise, timeshare buyers could not easily file a CFPB complaint because the timeshare company serviced the loan. A lender must be selected from a dropdown menu. Timeshare companies are not an option. When the member selected the bank that issued the credit card, the bank would respond that they did not actually sell the timeshare points or fill out the application for a credit card. End of story.  

The response from the company to the article:

The CEO said he had “belligerently zero tolerance” for any of his sales representatives who “goes off script.”  

In my opinion, some companies could care less if their sales agent “goes off script” unless the buyer happens to work for the media or holds a smoking guy, like a recording of a fraudulent transaction. Two of our readers who worked for the media resolved their dispute in one day. According to FBI agents our readers have contacted, or attorneys I checked with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” is in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission’s Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act.

In order to determine whether an act or practice is “unfair,” the FDIC will consider whether the practice “causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which cannot be reasonably avoided by consumers themselves and are not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.” (5)

To correct deceptive trade practices, the FDIC will take action against representations, omissions, or practices that are likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances, and are likely to cause such consumers harm. The FDIC will focus on material misrepresentations or omissions, that is, those that affect choices made by consumers because such misrepresentations are most likely to cause consumers financial harm. 6

https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/compliance/manual/7/vii-1.1.pdf

Almost all members reporting are highly professional, educated people, alleging they were a victim of unfair and deceptive trade practices. All but a handful were angry, desperate, overwhelmed, and confused until empowered with straight answers about how to report and rectify their timeshare nightmare. A few were just tired of aggressive attempts to sell them more points. They just wanted out.  

More on Defamation

http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/what-defamatory-statement

A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or trade. Statements that are merely offensive are not defamatory (e.g., a statement that Bill smells badly would not be sufficient (and would likely be an opinion anyway)). Courts generally examine the full context of a statement’s publication when making this determination.

In rare cases, a plaintiff can be “libel-proof”, meaning he or she has a reputation so tarnished that it couldn’t be brought any lower, even by the publication of false statements of fact.

Defamatory statements that disparage a company’s goods or services are called trade libel. Trade libel protects property rights, not reputations. While you can’t damage a company’s “reputation,” you can damage the company by disparaging its goods or services.

Because a statement must be false to be defamatory, a statement of opinion cannot form the basis of a defamation claim because it cannot be proven true or false. For example, the statement that Bill is a short-tempered jerk is clearly a statement of opinion because it cannot be proven to be true or false. Again, courts will look at the context of the statement as well as its substance to determine whether it is opinion or a factual assertion. Adding the words “in my opinion” generally will not be sufficient to transform a factual statement to a protected opinion. For example, there is no legal difference between the following two statements, both of which could be defamatory if false:

“John stole $100 from the corner store last week.”

“In my opinion, John stole $100 from the corner store last week.”

For more information on the difference between statements of fact and opinion, see the section on Opinion and Fair Comment Privileges.

Defamation Per Se  

Some statements of fact are so egregious that they will always be considered defamatory. Such statements are typically referred to as defamation “per se.” These types of statements are assumed to harm the plaintiff’s reputation, without further need to prove that harm. Statements are defamatory per se where they falsely impute to the plaintiff one or more of the following things:

  • a criminal offense;
  • a loathsome disease;
  • matter incompatible with his business, trade, profession, or office; or
  • serious sexual misconduct.

It is important to remember that truth is an absolute defense to defamation, including per se defamation. If the statement is true, it cannot be defamatory. For more information see the section on Substantial Truth.

Emily Doskow, attorney

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/defamation-law-made-simple-29718.html

  1. A defamatory statement must be false — otherwise it’s not considered damaging. Even terribly mean or disparaging things are not defamatory if the shoe fits. Most opinions don’t count as defamation because they can’t be proved to be objectively false. For instance, when a reviewer says, “That was the worst book I’ve read all year,” she’s not defaming the author, because the statement can’t be proven to be false.
  2. The statement must be “injurious.” Since the whole point of defamation law is to take care of injuries to reputation, those suing for defamation must show how their reputations were hurt by the false statement — for example, the person lost work; was shunned by neighbors, friends, or family members; or was harassed by the press. Someone who already had a terrible reputation most likely won’t collect much in a defamation suit.

Scotty Black is a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocate. The FBI definition of white-collar crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Scotty has an MS in Criminal Justice and works in law enforcement. A few months ago Scotty sent me the criminal code that stated that someone aware that a crime may have been committed must report the alleged crime because it is a crime not to report a crime. When timeshare members report actions that meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime, FBI agents have advised us that we should direct those members to file a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov and with the FTC.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Related article: Timeshare Advocacy Group™

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-11/

That’s it for this week, we shall be busy watching the World Cup Finals this weekend, unfortunately England didn’t make it to this years final, that is between France and Belgium.

Have a good weekend and join us next week for more information and more stories on the world of timeshare.

The Timeshare Association: Another New Website from David Cox

Here we go again, another new website has come online, https://www.timeshareassociation.co.uk

Registered on 13 June 2018, The Timeshare Association with the company registration number: 09041038 and a familiar address of: Coniston House, 3 Beach Rd, St Anne’s-on-Sea, Lancashire, England, UK, FY8 2NR, which for many of our readers is the address associated with our old friend Mr David Cox.

The company registration number is actually for the company known as The Long Term Holiday Product Association Ltd, formerly known by two previous names, The Timeshare Consumer Association Ltd and Timeshare Mediation Ltd. Which according to company house records Mr David Cox resigned from on 25 May 2018.

Although this website is fronted by two new names Mrs. Sofia Foley & Mr D Burnes, with the address according to the website of 25 Dyer Street, Kirkham, Lancashire. PR4 2JA.

Obviously it is another David Cox adventure as the “About us” section states: “We are a community company “not for profit” and the company is under guarantee, that financial guarantee provided by Mr David Cox”. (Well not for profit! If Cox is involved there will be profit coming his way).

Again just like TESS was borne out of the Timeshare Consumer Association when Cox was director and owner, that website funnelled unsuspecting consumers into the hand of David Cox and TESS!

The news section is again probably written by him, although it does look like he may just have someone to “edit” his very poor command of the written English language, mind you saying that, it is still full of grammatical and spelling errors.

But that is besides the point, it is again attacking other companies without any fact or foundation. Praetorian Legal and Mercantile Claims are once again under attack along with a very defamatory article about Mr Eugen Kaiser and Canarian Legal Alliance. (I pity the front people when the lawsuits begin, Mr Cox is well out of the frame!)

The website bolsters the news section with news going back to 1997, well I suppose that they did need to make the website look as though it is older than it actually is. Another point is the logo, it looks very familiar, just like the old logo for TATOC, which was also known as The Timeshare Association. (Is this to again confuse people into thinking it is the same organisation?)

So is this another wonderful ploy by Mr Cox, the failed director of many companies to confuse and snare the poor timeshare owners into the clutches of his businesses and his partners?

On the website there are many sections, all with little drop down category menus, one from the “About Us” section is “Highly Regarded Companies” and starts with the following:

“The Companies contained on this list have proven to be highly regarded by any of: the Government, authorities, industry professionals, professional bodies. They are known to have maintained their service and appear not to have faltered in delivery of the good and professional services.”

“Those Timeshares we have considered as highly regarded are from investigations we have conducted, including taking advice from others. It has been explained that those on the list that they have excelled in considering and delivering benefit to the consumer and are highly regarded and respected by others.”

Yet there is no list, does this mean that you as a timeshare owner must contact them to get it?

If so which companies are “Highly Regarded”?

One could surmise that it will be one of his companies or that of his associates, could one of these also be a Mark Rowe company, after all he did pull all the negative comments about Mark Rowe from his TESS website!

Click on the following link and nothing comes up any more!

http://tesslimited.co.uk/2016/09/13/the-monster-in-monster-credits/

One thing Mr Cox is very good at and that is pulling the wool over people’s eyes, so all we can say is timeshare owners beware the false stories peddled by any website or companies that DAVID ANDREW COX  has anything to do with.

As for the new front people at The Timeshare Association website, you really need to take stock of your situation, while Mr Cox is behind the trenches just like the old world war one generals, you are now in the firing line!

 

For more information on the inebriate that is David Andrew Cox click on the following:

 

http://timeshareexitsupportservices.com/

http://www.tess-timeshare.com

https://tesstimesharefacts.com/

https://tesstimesharefacts.com/news/david-cox-bernadette-cox-disolve-companies-faster-alker-seltza-glass-water/

http://insidetimeshare.com/david-cox-tess-attacking-sundry/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tess-allegations-facts/

Now for another warning about a fake law firm that we have previously mentioned Abogados Lopez, this “firm” are contacting clients of Canarian Legal Alliance and claiming that they have taken over their cases.

http://insidetimeshare.com/what-a-pitch-readers-share-their-information/

This is “FAKE LAW FIRM” they are not working for or on behalf of Canarian Legal Alliance, they have not secured funds for your timeshare with the courts, they are only out to steal your money.

The callers are Hope Brugge or Megan Heywood, the numbers being used are:

0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga code

0034 602 654 670 which is a Spanish mobile

Another number that has been used is

0044 1291 440 500 which is a Chepstow code.

DO NOT FALL FOR THEIR VERY CONVINCING PITCH!

 

Midweek Roundup and Another Dodgy Looking Setup

Important Update: Another reader has identified Lance Steer as one Lance Oakley, an ex-Diamond Sales Rep and also of ex-EZE Group.

Another name has come to the attention of Inside Time share from a worried reader:

Positive Outcome – Contractual Specialists

With the address:

Rural Innovation Center, 10 Street Avenue, Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, CV8 2RG

Which is a serviced office rental center where meeting and conference rooms can be hired by the hour.

They use the telephone number:  02476 960 735 which is a coventry code, when this number was called Inside Timeshare was told we had the wrong number. We have susquently found that the telephone number belongs to Coventry Creative, Advertising and Graphic Design , Rover Road, Coventry, CV1 3HT which is Coventry market, a completely different area.

The contacts are: LANCE STEER & JOANNE JOHNSON with the email address:

[email protected]

So far no company with this name has come up on any internet search, using the email address does not link to any website and no information about Lance Steer or Joanne Johnson appear on any search.

So what has concerned our reader?

Very simple, they have paid by bank transfer for a relinquishment of their Diamond membership, yet are still getting demands for maintenance arrears. So it looks like yet again money is paid and the relinquishment is not done.

According to the emails our reader has received, Lance says he has been helping timeshare owners for over 5 years, funny how we have not heard of him before. The other strange fact is that in his emails he goes on to say why he has not been in touch with his clients, listing his illnesses, bereavements and severely disabled Father. Even getting an assistant Joanne, to email clients and explain all his personal problems. (see PDF at the end). Not the sort of information one would normally give. (Looking for sympathy comes to mind).

His emails also go on at length about Spanish Supreme Court rulings, how he has studied many case files and come to the conclusion that all these contracts are illegal. (Which is not surprising considering he sold many of them).

In order to give credibility he mentions Canarian Legal Alliance and places links to their website, even including screenshots attached to his emails. All the details he puts in these emails look as though they have come directly from the CLA website, even using the same phrases.

Another part of his emails go on to tell the clients that Diamond and other timeshare companies have no right to chase for maintenance arrears, or that Daniels Silverman the debt recovery company has no right to chase the debt.

Unfortunately, all this information has convinced our reader to pay for a service which Lance cannot provide, after all we have stated on many occasions in these pages that Diamond, Club la Costa and many other timeshare companies and resorts will not deal with third parties for cancellation of contracts. They will only work with the members directly.

So just from the lack of information on the internet and the lengthy explanations on his illness and private life, plus the fact that Canarian Legal Alliance have never heard of Lance, does get the alarms bells ringing.

Sticking with Canarian Legal Alliance, this week they have announced the following:

Their lawyers have secured another 242,391.46€ on behalf of 6 clients, on the receiving end of this is Anfi Del Mar. These funds have been paid directly to the court of San Bartelomé de Tirajana in Maspalomas. The clients are: 2 from the United Kingdom, 2 from Norway and 2 from Germany.

This comes from the procedure put into place by CLA with a team of their senior lawyers Eva Guitierrez and Judith Diaz Pascual and Cristina Batista, enforcing provisional execution of sentence within 40 days of the judgement being issued. This means that once the judgement is issued the timeshare company must lodge the awarded amount with the court voluntarily or it will be enforced.

There is also another form of securing the funds which has just been enforced by the Court of First Instance No 4 in Maspalomas, which has placed an “Embargo” on Anfi accounts in respect of funds which are due to a German client. These embargoes allow the court to directly take the funds from those accounts and place them in the courts account ready to be paid out to the client.

These moves by CLA have been placed to ensure that funds due to clients are secured, even if the offending timeshare company is appealing. It also stops the timeshare companies from delaying the payouts, which has been the case in the past, now the clients know that their money is secure.

That’s it for today, if you have had any dealings with any company or individual such as Lance Steer, use our contact page and get in touch, we would love to hear from you. You can also contact Inside Timeshare if you require any information relating to your timeshare or any company that has contacted you.

Click below to read the two emails.

Lance Emails

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker looks at the 2nd quarter of the year from The Timeshare Advocacy Group™, it clearly shows how this group has grown. This group is clearly making the industry very jittery, but as we have said before, “they only have themselves to blame”.

In tomorrows article we will be having a quick look at the latest news from the courts in Spain, there have certainly been some incredible results this week. So rather than give them here they deserve an article to themselves.

Now on with the Tuesday Slot.

The Timeshare Advocacy Group™

2nd Quarter Report

By Irene Parker

July 10, 2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™  assisted 483 timeshare families as of June 30, 2018. TAG took root February of 2017. About a half dozen of us started a clearing house of information and as Inside Timeshare gained readership, more and more timeshare members reached out to us for assistance and advice. One of our Facebooks that began with 30 members February 2017 now proudly posts comments from 1570 members from 30 countries!

TAG received a total of 267 requests for assistance for all of 2017. Just through the first half of 2018, TAG received 228 requests from timeshare members, so we approached double the volume of complaints, just in the first six months of 2018.  Timeshare members seek straight answers which our advocates provide free of charge from Australia to England and between.

All but a handful of our 483 families reported back to us that their complaint was dismissed with, “You signed a contract” or “We’re not responsible for what our sales agents say.” If this is the official position at some timeshare companies, we feel the consumer should be aware of this in order to make an informed decision as to whether a timeshare is right for you or your family.

Not one of the 483 families that reached out to us was aware that there is little to no secondary market for many timeshares. We encourage timeshare buyers to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare. Licensed timeshare resale brokers, charging nothing to list a timeshare, work in all timeshares and can cover the spectrum of available choices helping you decide whether it is best to buy on the secondary market or direct from the timeshare developer. There are pros and cons for both. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

About half of the members reaching out to us are battling serious medical issues or hit one of life’s road bumps that made the timeshare unusable or unaffordable. Many are saddled with high interest rate loans and some with higher interest rate credit cards. Unlike your personal residence, it is difficult to get rid of a timeshare that has an outstanding loan. We have been contacted by senior after senior, facing foreclosure for the first time in their life, because of defaulting on a timeshare loan. Almost all have high credit scores and have rarely been late paying a bill. The foreclosure process can be devastating.  Just knowing you are not alone can be a comfort. This is a difficult process for the young as well.

Our Military Team leader, John Collick, experienced his complaint dismissed with “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” As described in John’s Inside Timeshare’s July 3 article. John said he was told the timeshare he had owned for years was being acquired by the company he booked a stay with, told he needed to buy timeshare points from that company as the points would cost much more after his resort was acquired. According to John, this information was false.

“We’re not responsible for what our sales agents say,” seems somewhat of an admission that Section 5 of the FTC code has been violated. According to the Federal Trade Commission Section 5:

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances;
  • and the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

Our standard disclaimer is that we know there are millions who use their timeshares with no complaints. We are encouraged by some timeshare developers who seem sincerely interested in improving timeshare sales practices.

We are proud to have grown to 44 advocates, professionals bringing their skills and life experiences to the table to advocate on behalf of timeshare members seeking to address concerns about their membership. We have established seven teams. Although all our advocates are dedicated, it is understandable that once a dispute has been resolved, enthusiasm diminishes, especially if the member was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Over the past year, more core advocates have volunteered to stay with us for the long haul, as we continue to organize and improve operations. If you signed an NDA, it does not prevent you from joining our legislative outreach team, for example.   

Leading our efforts:

  • Reporting Team, functions as a quality circle management team     
  • Media Team Leader – Richard Sokolowski, real estate agent, Arizona
  • Military Team Leader, John Collick, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired)
  • Legislative Team Leader, Sheilah Brust, retired from the New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations
  • Scam Research: Deniece Vargas, California
  • Technology Support (Open due to Team Leader signing an NDA)
  • Foreclosure Support, Scotty Black, M.S. Criminal Justice

Probably the most common comment we at Inside Timeshare hear is, “At least I know I am not alone.” Proactive action, working with a volunteer towards timeshare resolution, relinquishment, refund, or even foreclosure, takes the problem from the unknown to the known.

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

Consultants and behind-the-scenes advocates add an additional layer of advice and protection. One very important consideration is that many of those we have helped were on their way to the upfront “guaranteed to get you out of your timeshare” firms that sometimes prey on those already victimized. Not all are bad, but scams abound.  From this perspective, the developer, the timeshare lobby, and TAG advocates are on the same side. This 15 page Department of Justice report listing timeshare fraud, jail terms and fines, says it all:

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+fraud&op=Search&affiliate=justice

Thank you to all our Contributors and upcoming new Contributors. Contact Inside Timeshare if you, or someone you know, needs assistance or would like to share their timeshare story for the benefit of others.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” Jimi Hendrix

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

So that’s it for today, all it leaves us to say now is if you have been contacted by any company or found one on the internet and want to know if they are genuine and can be trusted to what they claim. Contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Start the Week

It’s Monday and the start of another week, today we highlight some more new names that have been cropping up over the weekend, we start first with Davies and Howell Associates a new cold calling claims company.

The company was registered on 30 August 2017, with the company registration number 10939012, with the registered address  20-22 Wenlock Road, London, England, N1 7GU. Telephone: 0203 857 9497 and the email: [email protected]

The director is registered as David Alan Taylor, with the correspondence address as above, according to company records this is his first appointment. Chances are he is not the owner but just a front name.

They have a website http://www.daviesandhowell.co.uk/  which was registered on 22 October 2017, a relatively new website and company. So what are they offering?

According to their website they have a wealth of experience and knowledge spanning over 40 years in the holiday ownership and financial services markets. They claim they are able to extricate you from your timeshare contract and claim compensation. Reading between the lines with their mention of finance agreements and credit cards, this claim looks very much like a Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974.

As we have said before, if you have used your timeshare then a refund under Section 75 is unlikely, the timeshare company will rightly say that you have used it therefore you have received the goods or services paid for. If your timeshare company has gone into liquidation, then you may have a chance. Section 75 is unlikely to cover breaches of the Spanish Timeshare Laws, for this you would need to employ the services of a Spanish lawyer with extensive knowledge and experience of the timeshare laws in Spain. Also you must still be a member, once a contract has been cancelled you cannot take any case to court.

The website itself is very basic, having only one page and very little information, it looks like the classic information collection site. These are designed to collect as much information about you and your timeshare as possible, the chances are this is then used to pass on to other companies. So the moral of this story is beware.

We now move on to another new company that was found during our usual search on the internet, this company was highlighted by Mindtimeshare on 6 June. This is called Ashton Group, with the following address and telephone number:

H5 Hash Tree Court, Nottingham Business Park, NG86PY Nottingham, UK

Tel. 0044 203 519 23 38

At customer services is  Paul Menard

Email: [email protected]

So far we have not even found a website, even using the ashtonagency.co.uk from the email address draws a blank.

What actually caught our eye was the name of the legal representative, Sir Drummond McFadzean, so we began our search for this Knight of the Realm, well couldn’t find him. We did however find a Mr Drummond McFadzean, a director of  Ashton (Estate Agency) Ltd of Romford with an entry on Linkedin. Checking with Company House records we did find a company called Ashtons (Estate Agents) Ltd with a registered address in St Albans Herts. The director of this company since 1993 is MR KARL GEOFFREY JUDD, Drummond does not show on the directors list.

We did a search on the name of the company Ashton Group but found nothing relating to timeshare, there are however plenty of other companies with very similar names, including one in the USA which is a financial services company.

So there we have it what looks like another resale scam on the way, remember not all is as it seems, do your homework, check, check and check again, then double check. If you are unsure on any company that contacts you, or even  one that you have found while searching for a way out of your timeshare, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will point you in the right direction.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Sheila Brust gives us an update to her previous article “Pencil Pitch”, again edited by Irene Parker.

It would seem that Darth Vader has sent in his Imperial Stormtroopers and Inside Timeshare is under attack from the dark side, no problem, the force of the good is with us. Keep your stories coming, the truth will always prevail!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

An Update to Sheilah Brust’s Pencil Pitch

The Florida Timeshare Division told us,

“You have no Proof” and we were not allowed a rebuttal

Why is this not proof?

July 6, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Many potential timeshare buyers have watched timeshare sales agents scribble timeshare promises on a piece of paper. Buyers are not allowed to keep a copy of the “Pencil Pitch” but Sheilah Brust managed to walk out with hers.

Sheilah listened to her pencil pitch in Daytona presented by Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie. She filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) and was told the following,

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  Based on our review, it did not appear that the information provided to you by the sales agents were false and misleading. Lack of clarity could be an issue but that in itself cannot be considered a violation. We are not surely, if the sales agent had voluntarily provided the hand-written notes or you had kept them on your own.  If there are discrepancies between the notes and what was actually received in terms of points, we will address that issue.

By Sheilah Brust

My husband Thomas and I have been Diamond timeshare members since Diamond acquired our resort. Our original timeshare was purchased in 1994. Things were fine until we fell for the Pencil Pitch.   

On February, 4, 2017, we attended an update meeting at Diamond’s Daytona resort The Cove. We wanted to attend the update because Diamond had been sold to Apollo Global Management. We are Platinum Diamond members so already had more points than we needed, but wanted to hear about the changes.

Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie said that he had just returned from training in Orlando and had learned about a new program that would allow us double point usage. We patiently followed Brad’s presentation. He wrote the numbers upside down. I remarked at how he could he do that. He said practice.

We feel Diamond must not understand the Pencil Pitch or they would cancel this purchase. I have learned Diamond retained the law firm Duane Morris to write a letter implying our article was defamatory. I have submitted this article as our rebuttal. We understand the figures we were presented. We were not confused. I have an accounting background. I wrote down everything Brad Leslie said.

Here’s the pitch. We hope you post a comment expressing your interpretation.  

The actual Pencil Pitch is three pages long. Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 additional points instead of 25,000 points pictured above because we said no to 25,000 points. The numbers below reflect 65,000 points instead of 75,000.  For those not familiar with the point system, a Diamond timeshare points sells for around $4 a point.

Timeshare members incur annual maintenance fees. For Platinum members the annual maintenance fee is $.15 per point, or $8,631 for the 50,000 points we owned before the purchase of 15,000 additional points.

From the original illustration above, to offset maintenance fees, on the right side of sheet, Brad said and wrote:

  • Own 75,000 points
  • Ability to get (Double Usage) 150,000 points – 50,000 points is what would be left for travel
  • 100,000 points would be available for point redemption @ 10 per point through a Travel Reimbursement program. Brad told us to book hotels, etc., and then cancel the reservations. We would receive a reimbursement check back for $10,000. The 50,000 points tendered would not be credited back. Brad said we would be reimbursed via check in about 30 days or 72 hours if via a reloadable debit Visa card. Without the double points, this program is of no value. If we used all our 50,000 points for redemption at $.10 a point, we would receive a reimbursement check for $5,000 that would only pay $5,000 towards a $8,631 maintenance fee bill with no points left for travel.

Brad said we could use the reimbursement check to pay maintenance fees but he said he could not tell us that. He said, “It’s your money!”

Brad said we paid $8,631 in maintenance fees for 50,000 points in 2017.  Following Brad’s logic, we could eliminate $8,000 of the increased $11,252 maintenance fee (due to the purchase of 15,000 additional points), by taking advantage of this new program.

65,000 own                 $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given              2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

80,000 left                 $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

Brad said Diamond was working on a new member page for the new program that would have a split screen and that we would be able to see our newly acquired 15,000 points in the background. He said the 65,000 points “given” (Brad’s word) would also appear on a “split screen” on our member account page.

When I asked about the maintenance fees on the new 15,000 points, Brad said, “If you don’t use them you don’t pay maintenance fees on them. They will be kept in the background. If you want to use them then you will pay maintenance fees.”

I specifically asked Brad, “So if I had all 130,000 points reimbursed, they could all be redeemed for a check? Brad said, “Yes.”

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED.     

We met with Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad said Diamond was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. He said DRI was working on the split screen. He said now we would need to generate the reimbursement checks by participating in the Travel Reimbursement program. I was familiar with this program and had used it before. This was a benefit we already had as Platinum members, but only beneficial if we were to lose points. We feel Brad adulterated the Travel Reimbursement program, incorporating it into his February Pencil Pitch.  

Brad’s reply to our complaint submitted to the Florida DBPR was that 15,000 points in the background was for a Dream Vacation. He said I was confused! Dream vacation points were not in any background account. They were added to our account February 17, 2017 so these could not have been the points in question. Brad sent us a $2,621 check to reimburse us the maintenance fees on the newly purchased 15,000 points. If it wasn’t for the NEW 15,000 points, we never would have gotten a $2,621 reimbursement check for the maintenance fees. Diamond representative Brandi said sales agents are allowed to reimburse members for their first year’s maintenance fees. Dream Vacation points don’t have maintenance fees.

Of course Brad was selling a double point program. He wrote down 130,000 and called the 65,000 points “given” points. I had told him that this program better be right because we are retired and living on fixed incomes and that we had NO extra money if he was not telling us the truth.  His answer was that he hoped to rebuild our trust in Diamond. We had told him we had been duped previously, told we had to buy 4000 points to prevent our heirs from being stuck with Diamond points.

Diamond’s response to us was that the information as presented was confusing, but not illegal. This is the CLARITY promise Diamond launched in response to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an Assurance of Discontinuance.  

The CLARITY Promise: With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a DRI Hospitality agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

Summary

As a result of this upsell and lack of clarity, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and $26,000 Barclay Card balance.

Brad charged on two Barclay Cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. He had us fill out a credit card application to see if we qualified for the new program. He returned and said, “Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned we had been charged these amounts. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.  

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service taking advantage of 65,000 bonus points. You can book a lot of vacations with 50,000 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,000. You can stay a week for roughly 2500 to 5000 points. At an estimated 4000 points per week, about 12 weeks.       

What CLARITY?

According to the Federal Trade Commission Section 5

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

 

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

 

 

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/jun/17/whconsider-when-buying-time-share-vacatispot/472994/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help with a timeshare concern or would like to share your experience.   

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Sheila for your candid story, it just amazes us that this type of sales practice still goes on, yet the companies involved deny all responsibility for their sales agents actions. In Europe timeshare is very much on the decline, partly due to the antics in the past of unscrupulous sales reps, not all I hasten to add, I do know many who abhor the deceitful practices and are genuine in their approach to selling the product. They believe that telling the truth sells the product.

We have said this on many occasions, timeshare was and could be a good product, it may not suit everyone but sold properly and truthfully will only strengthen it and give it a future.

So we say to all timeshare companies, get your house in order, reign in your sales agents / reps, stop these types of sleazy sales presentations, take control or you will lose a product that could work.

News has just come in from Canarian Legal Alliance of this weeks court cases, on the receiving end are Anfi in Gran Canaria once known as the flagship of timeshare resorts in Europe and Silverpoint in Tenerife.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, has had NINE sentences passed against them this week. The clients will receive back all their money and have had their contracts declared null and void.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint, who are well known on these pages has lost another case in the Court of First Instance in Arona. Again the court ordered the return of all money and the contract declared null and void.

In total these 10 cases will cost these timeshare resorts over 325,112€ plus legal interest and in most cases the return of the client’s initial legal fees.

So the week ends with another “Black Cloud” hanging over the timeshare industry. Will they ever learn?

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, if you would like to share these with the rest of the timeshare world, then use our contact page and get in touch.

So that is all for this week, join us on Monday for more news and views of the timeshare world, have a great, enjoyable and safe weekend.