Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Letter from America, this week Irene Parker looks at the Nevada Timeshare Senate Bill 348, which along with Florida House Bill 435, allegedly protects timeshare consumers. But as you will see it may just prevent consumers from seeking the legal help they may need. We begin with an editorial by Timeshare Insider.

ARDA ROC responded to our Tuesday Talk article by providing their press releases strongly in support of FL HB 435. ARDA feels the bill does not prevent a timeshare member who feels they were a victim of unfair and deceptive sales practices from seeking legal counsel, but what law firm does not charge a retainer for services that are to be provided.

Inside Timeshare, especially from the EU side, spends considerable effort exposing fraudulent timeshare exit services. It is a never-ending battle which in all likelihood cannot be won without ARDA and the timeshare developers acknowledging the obvious unfair and deceptive practices that have existed on the front end of the sale. When complaints are routinely dismissed because the buyer signed a contract, and Florida and Nevada seconds the ruling by informing the buyer they have no proof, there is in effect nothing to stop unscrupulous sales agents from making up any outrageous claim to sell points.

ARDA has launched a responsible exit program.  For one timeshare company, licensed timeshare resale brokers will not accept a listing to sell the timeshare, or if the broker does accept the listing, the seller is lucky to break even. If the buyer finds they were deceived seconds after the rescission period, which Irene in her article explains can be easily dodged, there is no responsible exit. Amounts of $100,000 or more are not uncommon.https://responsibleexit.com/

We do thank ARDA ROC for responding to Tuesday’s article. It is our hope two opposing sides can come together to stop hard-working citizens in the EU and America from  being financially devastated by the words and actions of timeshare sales agents and timeshare exit service providers. In any profession there are bad apples, but in the case of timeshare sales, bad apples have a tendency to be rewarded.           

Nevada Pot Calls Kettle Black

Nevada Timeshare Senate Bill 348 Purports to Protect Nevada Timeshare Consumers – but in effect Prevents Timeshare Buyers from Retaining Legal Counsel

“What is good for the Goose…, we would love to see a 24 hour waiting period requirement on the initial timeshare sale. Members are never told of the lack of a secondary market if a timeshare member needs to dispose of the timeshare. If a wait is good for consumers on the couple thousand dollar exit contract, it certainly should be necessary for the initial $20,000 to not uncommonly over $100,000 or more a timeshare buyer spends on the initial sale.” An advocate

Proposed Nevada SB 348

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6627/Overview

By Irene Parker

March 22, 2019

In an apparent knee-jerk reaction to Florida lawmakers offering a less than lukewarm reception to Florida House Bill 435, ARDA lobbyists and timeshare developers introduced a nearly identical Nevada SB 348 on the last day a bill could be filed. Democratic Senator and Majority Whip Pat Spearman and Senator James Ohrenschall are the bill sponsors.

This bill if passed would not allow an attorney to charge a retainer if they are known to provide timeshare exit assistance as part of their law practice. Exiting a timeshare contract can take up to three years. In essence, the bill seeks to eliminate attorneys who provide timeshare exit legal advice when timeshare buyers experience unfair and deceptive sales practices or wish to dispute a contract.  

Honest attorneys and legitimate exit providers feel ARDA and timeshare developers seek to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Legitimate timeshare exit providers feel as strongly as ARDA and the developer that the myriad of scam exit companies are harming consumers, but not allowing a timeshare buyer disputing a contract to retain an attorney is overreaching, according to attorney arguments presented during the Florida HB 435 March 12 workshop held in Tallahassee, Florida.

Like the Florida bill, the Nevada bill if passed would require a 24 hour “cooling off period” that would allow a consumer signing an exit service contract time to think about their decision before signing a contract. A 24 hour cooling off period before signing the initial timeshare contract would be heralded as a huge win for consumers and would provide a level playing field for the timeshare industry and exit providers. Timeshare buyers are typically told that if they walk away from the timeshare sale of the century they will never have an opportunity to purchase at the price point offered again. The reason buyers are demanded to buy the same day is because most will not buy a timeshare if given a chance to think about it.

According to Highlands Resorts’ sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in a Colorado Attorney General investigation in 2017, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”

https://www.businessden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/5B3AF6808EF5C.pdf

Dr. Amy Gregory, an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida studied the impact of buyer regret-and-remorse on rescission decisions and determined:

A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their purchase (for money, fear, confusion, intimidation, distrust and other reasons). Forty-one percent of buyers never thought they would regret their purchase, but they did; another 30 percent were neutral prior to buying, but then regretted it.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-world-timeshare-owners

There has been a tsunami of complaints from consumers describing predatory, unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Buyers often sign a perpetual contract after being held for hours in an aggressive high-pressure sales session. I have prepared a 126 page report of 75 Platinum members who report similar to identical complaints, up-sold into insolvency by being promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to be able to sell points, provided the buyer purchases additional points. The majority of these scams took place in Nevada. Of the 75 similar to identical complaints, 20 were filed against one Las Vegas sales agent allowed to up-sell for over two years, earning $2.4 million in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017. In a lawsuit filed against the company, he alleges management instructed him to create reasons why existing members needed to purchase additional points.  

In another Nevada incident, an Iraqi veteran recorded a fraudulent sale. The recording was provided to Inside Timeshare January 2018. After the veteran asked for his ID and credit card back for over an hour, when the sales agent left the room, he recorded the second hour of a five hour ordeal that resulted in the disabled veteran, who suffers from TBI and PTSD, taking out a loan the family could not afford. Instead of being fired, ten months later Platinum member Patty Boyak and her husband Brandon, a Navy veteran, were up-sold into insolvency by the same Las Vegas agent. Just recently, an elderly couple, without access to a computer, was up-sold by the same Las Vegas agent that sold Patty. They signed off on a loan of over $100,000, promised the ability to pay maintenance fees. The husband is diagnosed Alzheimer’s and English is his wife’s second language.

If you are just now jumping into Timeshare Wars, these are the links to our articles published last week about Florida HB 435 and our members’ responses to ARDA’s assertion that the rescission period offers adequate time to cancel the contract.

Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12

Timeshare member response:

According to one attorney I spoke with, the primary problem with the bill is that ARDA has exempted attorneys in Section 12(1) and then in Section 12(2)(b) states attorneys cannot get paid until “all” services are complete. One can only assume when ARDA states “all” services, they mean getting a full release, regardless this is not clear. As attorney Wayne Halper explained at the Florida HB 435 workshop, proof of release has not always been provided by developers.

This bill creates several problems.

  1. First, attorneys bill for their time.  If attorneys cannot bill for time and can only bill upon completion of services, it is going to create cash flow problems and prevent attorneys from taking these cases, which appears to be ARDA’s intent.  Further, given the lack of clarity about what “all” services means; it appears attorneys could potentially be held criminally liable if they billed a client for work performed. The sole effect of this would be to chill representation and is completely anti-consumer.
  2. Given the confusing nature of the drafting, as soon as this bill passes all the timeshare companies have to do is refuse to settle, forcing every attorney to go to binding arbitration and the attorneys would only get paid if they win. Very few if any attorneys are going to take that risk given the deck is already stacked against them at arbitration, which is anti-consumer.  Once again, trying to keep people who have been aggrieved by the timeshare companies, or are struggling financially, from being represented by counsel.
  3. The penalty for breach of this law is a felony. This will further deter representation by attorneys. There is no other area of law, where an attorney can be held liable for a felony based on representation of a Client and the manner in which we legitimately bill. That timeshare companies are already suing attorneys all over the country civilly, to be able to subject attorneys to potential criminal sanctions, is ludicrous and highlights the sole intent of this provision, which is to prevent aggrieved consumers from being represented by counsel.

If you would like to weigh in, contact Inside Timeshare.

We support the following self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all those who have contributed to this and the many other articles published on Inside Timeshare.

Please do use our contact page if you would like to comment on this or any article published.

It is Carnival Time here in Gran Canaria so this will be a very busy weekend, we hope you all have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Carnival Gran Canaria

Canarian Legal Alliance: Benalmadena Office Interview

While attending a meeting on the Costa del Sol, Inside Timeshare took the time to drop in on the new office in Benalmadena Costa of Canarian Legal Alliance. The office manager and senior consultant Sean Thacker was very kind in spending some time explaining what they do and answering a few questions.

The office itself is situated in the center of Benalmadena Costa, a stones throw from the wonderful Parque de la Paloma and the Aquarium Selwo Marina.

It is a modern and spacious office with facilities for conference calls, with a relaxed atmosphere, which will certainly put potential clients at ease.

The Benalmadena Office of CLA

Here is what Sean had to say.

Inside Timeshare.

As we know Canarian Legal Alliance has had a presence in Gran Canaria for many years, the Benalmadena office is a fairly new branch, when did you open and why was this location chosen?

Sean: This office opened in April of 2017, the main point was we understood there were many clients who took vacations on the Costa del Sol, especially as this area is full of resorts associated with timeshare. It was felt that many of these owners would be interested to learn more about their rights and how the judicial system can protect those rights.

In the light of the publicity surrounding the timeshare industry, we believed they would be more comfortable in visiting our office and discuss their concerns in person. The other advantage is we are also able to offer the many mainland European clients who opt for driving holidays a genuine service.

IT: Have you had many clients just walk in seeking advice about their timeshares and what has been the main concern of these clients?

Sean: Yes, we were very surprised at the number of clients who passed and came in for some general advice. We offer this advice free of any charge, explaining the law in Spain and what their rights are under the Spanish Timeshare Laws.

One of the main concerns was the mounting rise in maintenance fees, along with no availability, especially for the points and floating week owners, yet they were increasingly seeing that they could book online in the high season considerably cheaper than what they pay in fees. Another concern was where clients purchased on a rental basis yet they received no rental income.

IT: Are most of your enquiries made by telephone or do you receive more via email?

Sean: Our clients, apart from walkins, are mainly via enquires from the internet or social media and we now find we have a major source from our current client referrals to other owners or even friends and family.

IT: What has been the main nationality of the clients or have they been from all over Europe?

Sean: We deal with clients from all of the major countries, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium/Holland, Scandinavia and we have now found over the last 3 months a big increase in Finnish clients who are interested to understand their rights in Spain.

IT: As you said, many of your clients are now from Finland, which timeshare company has figured the most with these clients and what type of products have they purchased?

Sean:I notice that most of our Finnish clients predominantly purchased with Silverpoint / Excel, The Company Participation Schemes seem to play a major role in most of the purchases.

IT: You mentioned the Company Participations Scheme sold by Silverpoint, would you say that these are now becoming more numerous than the old “investment packs” that were being sold originally?

Sean:Yes, there seems to be a switch from the old investment packs to Company Participation which suggests that companies are trying to look for alternative sales tools to offer to clients while always trying to circumnavigate the Spanish legal system.

IT: How do the “Company Participations” differ from the original “investment packs” and would you say that the average amount spent by purchasers is much higher than before?

Sean:The biggest difference is that customers thought they were buying an apartment as freehold. But they bought between 8 to 52 timeshare weeks, these “apartments” are “registered” as SL or limited companies, this is another ploy to remove them from the strict timeshare laws. On this point, in a recent case held in Tenerife, Silverpoint admitted in court that The Company Participations are timeshare. We are finding that our clients are spending anything between 37,000 and 250,000 euros per purchase. That is a huge amount for a product which is essentially timeshare.

IT: Would you say that most clients are nervous about taking legal action and how do you overcome this?

Sean: Everyone is always nervous in the first place to take any legal action, especially in a foreign country, the most important aspect of our work is to make sure we offer full support and transparency in how the process works, then guide the clients step by step through the whole process. It is important at all times we never apply any pressure techniques. This process is totally in the client’s hands, we are a support vehicle for them.

IT: We know there is always going to be bad press on the internet, much of it made by the industry, which will make prospective clients sceptical, so how do you overcome this problem?

Sean:Bad press is something we deal with daily, it proves to me that we do our job correctly for our clients. If you take the record of CLA and the number of case victories including over 129 Supreme Court wins, this shows to our clients that bad press is the only option certain industry members have. I personally will always go through with clients all good and bad press so they feel comfortable, as I mentioned earlier, transparency is the key .

IT: Roughly, how many cases do you think you have taken on since opening this office and would you say that those which have been to court have lived up to the expectations of your clients?

Sean: Since opening, we have delivered over 500 cases from the mainland office alone, all our client’s expectations have been surpassed using the correct Spanish Laws. Our clients who have had their cases heard have received back the full purchase price, including double the deposit paid within the 14 days cooling off period, in some cases, this has been extended to 90 days, which then doubles any amount paid within that period.

Thank you Sean, you have explained what you do and how you work with your clients, I’m sure that anyone coming into this office is going to be put at ease and be given the facts.

The Benalmadena office is certainly following the success of their parents in Gran Canaria, no doubt we shall hear more of them in the future.


Sean Thacker indicating a Supreme Court ruling against Silverpoint

Sean also pointed out that Diamond has several resorts in the area one is their flagship Sahara Sunset. Diamond has also had rulings against them from the Supreme Court, Inside Timeshare published this in December 2018. Below is a PDF of that ruling.

In another court case, this time held at the Court of First Instance in Barcelona, Restotel SA, MedHotel Group SL and ONA Group (Club Dorada SL), were found to be in breach of the timeshare laws. The contract was declared null and void with the client being awarded 112,724€ including double the deposit paid within the cooling off period. Below is a PDF of that ruling.

Inside Timeshare has highlighted the great results achieved by Canarian Legal Alliance in Gran Canaria for several years now, including all the Supreme Court rulings. Even though the facts speak for themselves, the industry is still in denial, they will not admit they are losing. There are still false statements about Canarian Legal Alliance being posted on the internet, much of it we know is from the industry itself, but the facts are these cases are in the public domain and cannot be denied.

Below are two links to previous articles published by Inside Timeshare on Silverpoint, to find more use the search box on the website.

If you would like further information on this article or any other published, use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Eze Group Clients the Target for Scammers

Over the past couple of months, Inside Timeshare has been receiving many enquiries regarding money held by the courts for “victims” of Eze Group. As we know Dominic O’Reilly, Stephanie O’Reilly and Eze Europe Ltd are due in Birmingham Crown Court on 21 March for sentencing.

The latest firm to appear with calls telling “victims” they have been appointed by the High Court to contact them to ensure that they receive the money due to them is Money Advice Limited.

This company is newly registered at Company House, being incorporated only on 30 January 2019, so it is not even 2 months old. Company Registration Number 11796746 with the registered address:

10 Adamson House, Towers Business Park, Didsbury, Manchester, United Kingdom, M20 2YY

The registered director is Joshua Rice, born April 1989, with the occupation of Financial Consultant. Also registered at the same address. He has no links to any other directorship or company on Company House records.

The address is one that is owned by Regus PLC, one of the largest office space providers. Part of their service includes rental of office and conference facilities by the day and virtual offices. The Virtual office facility provides a business address at a prime location, call answering service and mail handling. So a very convenient way to provide a company such as Money Advice Limited with the cover of legitimate company.

https://www.regus.co.uk/locations/United-Kingdom/Manchester/Manchester-Didsbury?utm_source=yext_places_gmb&utm_medium=places&utm_campaign=yext_traffic&utm_content=3775

According to our information Money Advice Limited is contacting customers of Eze Group and Regency Shores SL and informing them they are working directly with the courts. That only Money Advice Limited will be able to recover the money paid by the customer. As we know, the courts do not use third party or private companies to contact “victims”.

If during any investigation by the Police, Trading Standards or any other authority, they discover “potential victims” of fraud, it is they who would make contact. They would then be asking for information and statements in order to facilitate their inquiry into the alleged fraud.

So the question arises, how has Money Advice Limited got hold of customer details, knowing what they have purchased and for how much?

The only answers are very simple, either they are ex-employees of the company and have stolen the customer records, or they have purchased them from another ex-employee.

So along with Claims Assistance Bureau Limited and other companies, Money Advice Limited is using genuine court cases to defraud people who have already lost a great deal in the original purchase.

As we have already highlighted, Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, have hijacked a genuine company name to make their calls, all to give them credibility. (see link below)

If you have received a call or unsolicited email from any company claiming they have been appointed by or working with the courts to retrieve any money, whether it is Eze Group or any other timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare using our contact page and let us know the details. We will research them and publish our findings to warn other consumers.

Have you paid for a timeshare or timeshare related product and want to know how to get out or even if you can get your money back, use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

But do remember, you must do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you have found on the internet or advert in any publication. Only by doing this will you prevent yourself from being scammed.

The Tuesday Slot: More on Florida House Bill 435

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, we continue this week with more on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held in 12 March, once again written by Irene Parker who attended.

As usual before publication we have sent the article to Wyndham and ARDA for comment, but as always these tend to be ignored. As a matter of course we always send the proposed article as we welcome comments from the industry, as it furthers debate and it can accomplish our goals of consumer protection.

Without this debate nothing will ever be achieved and the consumer will forever be at the mercy of the industry. In this respect the lack of response only says one thing, for that we let you the reader decide what it is!

More on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held March 12

In response to ARDA ROC and Wyndham’s testimony:

How Timeshare Sales Agents can Dodge a Rescission Period

Why Reading the Timeshare Contract does not Always Help

Why the Delay in Reporting Fraud

By Irene Parker

March 19, 2019

The Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee:

At the Florida HB 435 workshop held in Tallahassee March 12, Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 timeshare complaints in 2017 and 2018, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation. There have been 700 complaints filed so far in 2019. Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale.

This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints submitted to Florida’s http://Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) were met with “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.” This lack of enforcement gives a green light to perpetrators, knowing their company will dismiss complaints with, “You signed a contract,” echoed by DBPR’s response, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

Platinum timeshare member Sheilah Brust, who designed our Timeshare Regret T-Shirt pictured above, and other Platinum members, are organizing a protest in May in Orlando, astonished at the figures reported by Florida’s timeshare division. The oral representation sentence in the timeshare contract stating, “I did not rely on oral representations to make my purchase,” buried in an 80+ page contract, gets a workout. Our goal is to alert the public that they should not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, which is not fair to timeshare agents selling the product honestly.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 735 families. Of the 735, 100 are veterans and active duty service members. Over 200 of our readers have sent complaints to the timeshare lobby and PAC ARDA ROC. ARDA ROC does not mediate complaints, but they have a Code of Ethics. All complaints sent to ARDA ROC but one were ignored. ARDA ROC responded to one complaint, “This has been resolved,” even before the member, with a top security clearance, had heard from the company. The CEO of the company sits on ARDA’s board.  An active duty service member or a defense department worker can lose their security clearance, their job and their career over a timeshare foreclosure. ARDA ROC purports to be the voice of timeshare members.    

On Saturday, March 16, I heard from Platinum member #74, told that by purchasing additional points, they would be able to sell or rent points to offset rising maintenance fees, now over $10,000 per year. A 126 page summary report I prepared of reader complaints, shows a pattern and volume of complaints, often the sales agent a repeat offender. All the Platinum members report being told of maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist or a program allowing the member to sell points, if they purchased additional points.      

Platinum report submitted by Andrea K, Platinum member #74:

Our family has been emotionally and financially devastated because of the last timeshare points purchased. By 2016 or 2017 our maintenance fees had increased. The sales agents said we were the only deeded owners left and that is why they said our maintenance fees were so high. They said they were not sure if it was too late, but they could try to get us converted to points.

In 2017 we went to Hawaii. We purchased $55,000 worth of more points. They said if we purchased Hawaii points, we could easier sell because Hawaii is so popular. He showed me a magazine listing Hawaii timeshares for sale. I still have the magazine. He also said if I have this many points I can rent, especially in January to pay for the maintenance fees. We have learned our timeshare company does not allow us to rent using the internet, and that their points are worthless on resale.  

In 2018 we stayed at Tahoe in California but purchased in Nevada. In Tahoe they said because we had not purchased at our last stay, we lost our $3 price so that we would have to pay $9 per point if we did not buy additional points that day. He said our price lock was lost, but when he checked our records, he said for some reason the $3 was still there. He said I needed to sign a paper to remove the $3 price and in the future I would have to buy points at $9. He should have told us our timeshare points are worthless on resale. These presentations have taken 6 to 8 hours, despite being told they would only be for 90 minutes.

As years have gone by, we have learned that things we were told are either exaggerated or not true.  Many of the reimbursements promised did not yield what they had said they would yield.

Twenty of the 74 Platinum complaints were lodged against the same sales agent over a two year period. According to a lawsuit the agent has filed against the company, he said he was instructed to create reasons why existing members needed to buy additional points. He reported earning over $1 million in 2015 selling timeshare points, $2.4 million in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017, before being terminated. His replacements are generating similar to identical complaints.

Mr. Ken McKelvey, ARDA ROC Chairperson, questioned why timeshare buyers wait so long to report deception. Mr Jason Gamel, Wyndham Sr. VP, Legal said exit companies are not needed because Wyndham has a hardship department to address members struggling with high interest rate timeshare loans. Both spokespersons said the rescission period provides enough time to review a contract and rescind. Our reader complaints address these objections:

How timeshare sales agents and timeshare companies can easily dodge the rescission period:

  • The buyer is told, “This is a new program, so don’t say anything to quality assurance because I could get fired.”
  • The buyer is told, “This program will be available after January 1.”
  • The buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Several buyers report being told airfare is included when booking. It’s not until they attempt to book they learn this is Blarney.
  • The buyer reports being told loans will be consolidated, but then the loan is not consolidated. The buyer does not learn this until the next loan payment, after the rescission period.
  • The buyer is told to wait a few months before refinancing.

Why reading the contract does not always help:

  • Buyers are shown a booklet of resorts, but the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Actual availability cannot be determined by reading the contract.
  • My contract stated, “You can sell points, we will not assist you.” It left out the part about licensed timeshare brokers will not accept a listing for my timeshare points.

Why there is a delay in reporting fraud:

  • The reason that it may be several years before fraud is reported is because a negative life event triggers the need to sell. It is not until that trigger occurs that the buyer, who was sold on the promise that the timeshare is like real estate, easily sold, learns their timeshare is worthless.
  • It is not until a tax preparer, attorney, or grown child of elderly parents discovers predatory actions, such as the retired Navy veteran, living on a letter carrier’s pension, up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. There have been numerous complaints involving Alzheimer diagnosed buyers.

We are hoping Marine veteran James Sherwood fell through the cracks at Wyndham, and that Wyndham will reach out to Mr. Sherwood. Mr. Sherwood’s wife broke both hips three years ago and has had a total hip replacement. He is disabled. Neither can travel. Wyndham would not accept that Mr. Sherwood was disabled. They demanded proof he could not travel. The VA provided a letter stating Mr. Sherwood could not travel. This was not sufficient. Mr. Sherwood felt it was an invasion of privacy to demand all medical and financial records, especially since he was told when he purchased the timeshare, that the transaction was a real estate transaction and could easily be sold. http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/

Timeshare members are deeply grateful to Florida lawmakers, who echoed some of their negative timeshare experiences during the Florida HB 435 workshop. For the first time in memory, lawmakers’ voices talked back to the timeshare industry and to industry lobbyists. A timeshare consumer protection Arizona HB 2639 bill is currently being debated, strongly opposed by ARDA. The Arizona Attorney General’s office received 400 complaints against just one company. After a press release announcing an investigation a few years ago, they received an additional 500 complaints, according to members who spoke with the Arizona AG’s office.  

The question I am most frequently asked:  “How do they sleep at night?”

My answer, “Bernie Madoff had no trouble sleeping at night.”

The comment I hear most frequently, “I feel so stupid.”

I answer that the following have reached out to us describing unfair and deceptive sales practices, in addition to the vulnerable:

  • Three PhD economic and criminal justice professors
  • A Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover
  • A Consolidated Edison contract specialist
  • Lawyers and mortgage brokers

Can it be, after all this time, the consumer’s voice is being heard?

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help:

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/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all our advocates for all the hard work you put in on behalf of the consumer, without you there would be nowhere for them to turn.

If you have any comments or views on this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker gives her account on the workshop she attended at the Florida House of Representatives, regarding the Florida House Bill 435. As Sunday is St Patrick’s Day for all of our Irish friends, we couldn’t resist using the definition of Blarney in the opening graphic. After watching the recording of the Workshop, it seemed apt to use it, once you watch it for yourselves, you will understand why.

Before we go to Irene’s report some very brief news on the legal front in Spain.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint have been subject to a “cash” embargo, this is a result of a case brought by Canarian Legal Alliance for an execution of sentence on a recent case. Their senior lawyer Eva Gutierrez brought the order to the court to force Silverpoint to lodge the awarded amount with the court. This was done to ensure swift payment of the funds to the client, who will now receive 27,047.11€ plus legal fees and all legal interest.

CLA are now using this enforcement action as soon as the sentence is issued by the court. This stops any delaying tactics by the timeshare companies in making payment. It seems to be working very well.

It has also been published that the Fiscal Prosecutor in Gran Canaria, is looking into the accounts of Anfi Resorts and Anfi Sales, for the possible illegal movement of money to various accounts in order to delay the payment of funds to clients who have won cases against them.

For the Fiscal Prosecutor to be involved in this, shows that it is a serious matter, the full story can be read at the link below. Although it is in Spanish, use google and use the translate page feature.

https://m.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-timesharing-condenas-timesharing-insolvencia_punible_0_875612945.html?fbclid=IwAR0NGGZM0o8F8R8ZI3bD_Jsw5fS-HVuRSc0g1ed-lUJOS01GUZC48huO0_c

No for Irene’s report.

Florida House of Representatives

Business and Profession Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12

Florida House Bill 435

Does it restrict the rights of citizens to retain legal counsel?

By Irene Parker

March 15, 2019

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints about timeshare exit companies, in addition to reports from timeshare buyers describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Critics of Florida HB 435 feel if passed this bill would restrict the ability of timeshare buyers to seek legal counsel.

Due to disclosures, we will not publish the link to the recording of the Florida HB 435 workshop held March 12, but the recording can be easily found at https://thefloridachannel.org/. Search the workshop by entering 3/12/19 Business and Professions Committee. The first 1 ½ hours is about beer and spirits distribution. The timeshare workshop can be found by fast-forwarding to the session’s last hour.

A panel composed of exit company attorneys and industry attorneys answered questions from Florida state representatives, who clearly seemed on top of the issues. Panel members included:

Jason Gamel, Sr. Vice President, Legal at Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc.

Shannon Zetrouer, Outside Counsel, Reed Hein and Associates

Tiffany Kimble, Director of Underwriting, First American Title’s Vacation Ownership Services Division

Wayne Halper, Esq., in-house counsel Wesley Financial Group, LLC

K.L. “Ken” McKelvey, CPA, ARDA ROC Chairman

Boyd McAdams, from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), shed light on the number of consumer complaints filed in the last few years. Previously, our figures reported 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014. DBPR only acted on 110 of those complaints.

The approximate figures of timeshare related complaints, as I understood the figures, are:

2016        1200 complaints          600 reported misleading information

2017        1300 complaints          700 misleading information

2018        1300 complaints          700 misleading information  

2019        700 complaints            300 misleading information

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.

Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”   

Consumer attorneys matched the strength of industry attorneys. I would like to point out and dispute a few of the comments made by panel members Wyndham attorney Jason Gamel and ARDA ROC spokesperson Ken McKelvey.

Reid Hein’s legal counsel, Shannon Zetrouer, described how a buyer, typically held for hours in a high pressure timeshare sales presentation, signs a perpetual contract, often reporting that they were given misleading information.

Ms. Zetrouer argued that Florida HB 435 would infringe on a consumer’s right to seek other legal services, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or estate planning advice. She feels the bill, as currently worded, is overreaching in that it would affect timeshare buyers across the nation if they purchased in Florida.  “I specifically have concerns about House Bill 435. First, I think it will actually have a negative impact on consumers…It seems to infringe on the right of contracts and the right of companies to contract with consumers for relief that they [the consumers] are clearly seeking. Otherwise this industry wouldn’t exist,” said Zetrouer. “Simply put, if going to developers was an option for these consumers, then there would be no third party industry,” she added.

Mr. Gamel spoke of the 2012 Transfer Act that addressed disclosure, rescission, escrow and prohibited acts.

Ms. Kimball addressed the problems associated with fraudulent transfers.

Wayne Halper, Esq. described the criteria required to become a client of Wesley Financial Group, LLC. Wesley Financial receives 3,000 to 3,500 calls per week from timeshare buyers seeking relief from timeshare contracts. Of those initial contracts, only 150 to 200 per week are accepted as clients, because they must meet the criteria for fraud. Similar to the complaints Inside Timeshare receives, 100% of Wesley clients report being told the timeshare is an investment and will increase in value and 91% report the ability to rent will offset maintenance fees and provide an income stream in retirement.

Mr. Halper echoed Ms. Zetrouer’s comments, in that 99% of timeshares sold in America have a presence in Florida, and the bill as written would eliminate the right of timeshare members to seek the services of those offering exit services. Later in the discussion, Mr. Halper pointed out that being released from a timeshare contract can take up to three years. He felt it would be unfair to expect a provider not be allowed to charge for services performed until after proof of exit has been provided, proof not always provided.

ARDA ROC Chairman K. L. McKelvey said ARDA ROC represents 1.8 million Timeshare Owners. I have asked 742 families who have reached out to me, feeling they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, if they even knew what ARDA ROC stands for. Not one member could answer, yet collectively timeshare members give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year, often “opt-out” contributions.  

Mr. McKelvey described ARDA’s Responsible Exit Industry Coalition. For my timeshare, this is nothing more than media spin. I surveyed all 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Of the 64 members, 22 members responded, saying they would not accept a listing for my timeshare company, feeling restrictions the company places on points purchased on the secondary market excessive.

In response to a question asked by Representative Randy Fine (R), asking the percentage of Wyndham’s marketing costs; Mr. Gamel thought 30 to 40%.

Let’s compare this scenario to the primary housing market. The timeshare buyer sits across from a real estate agent in most states. There is an understandable assumption a buyer would think they have the same rights as a primary housing market buyer.

What would happen to the primary housing market if:

  • The Buyer paid 30 to 40% upfront in commissions,
  • The Buyer is demanded to buy the house the same day,
  • The Buyer learns licensed brokers won’t accept a listing to sell their home should they need to sell.

Committee member Representative Michael Gottlieb asked about “Adhesion” – meaning a timeshare contract cannot be changed, so why should someone need to talk to a lawyer before signing a contract, because you can’t change the contract anyway. The reason is because buyers are exhausted after an hours long high pressure sales session, signing a perpetual contract without being allowed adequate time to review copious and complicated documents. Not only attorneys, buyers are discouraged from seeking advice from a mom, dad, son or daughter. Sales agents are trained on how to defer this request, according to numerous current and former sales agents. Not being allowed 24 hours to think about a perpetual purchase, spending anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 highlights the unfair in unfair and deceptive practices.

There have been many Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits concerning unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams was awarded $20 million after reporting deceptive sales practices, and a recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed November 2018 on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents and employees, working at Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort. Buyers need to beware of potential deceptive timeshare sales practices.

Buyers sign perpetual timeshare contracts accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Often existing members are sold additional points, promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. The lack of a viable secondary market exacerbates the problem. Wyndham lists a viable secondary market as a risk to their stock market investors in their 10k reports.

Clearly, as Committee Chairwoman Heather Fitzenhagen stated, timeshare is a thorny issue. Let’s hope actual member voices can be heard in future sessions.   

On Tuesday, our reader data can easily address concerns expressed by Mr. McKelvey and Mr. Gamel:

1.     How rescission periods are easily dodged

2.     Why reading the contract does not always help

3.     Why the delay in reporting fraud

Related article: By Wyndham member and Marine Veteran Jim Sherwood, hardship appeal: http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/


Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

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.

Contact Inside Timeshare to let your voice be heard.  

Inside Timeshare did have trouble locating the recording mentioned in paragraph two of Irene’s report, so Inside timeshare has provided a direct link to it in order to assist readers, the relevant part starts at approx 1:45:50

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/3-12-19-house-business-and-professions-subcommittee/

Thank you Irene for your time in attending this workshop and writing this report, let us hope that the Florida Representatives see the need to protect consumers from the industry.

All that is left for us now is to wish you all a wonderful St Patrick’s day and to use one of their phrases

‘Bhi craic agus ceol againn’ : We had fun and music.

Join us next week for more news on the world of timeshare.

Update: Silverpoint, Nordic Consulting and the Farhouds

So here we are again, with more information supplied by our readers on the link between Silverpoint Vacations and the Farhoud Brothers, today we highlight a case a client who purchased and “apartment” via the “Company Participation Scheme” from the Silverpoint salesman, Alex Farhoud.

As we know he no longer works for Silverpoint but is a consultant for his brother’s company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, who are now making more money from the very people they sold the scheme to in the first place, this time through dubious legal action against their former employer Silverpoint and Mark Cushway.

Mark Cushway

It all began with a visit to Tenerife in 2017 and a subsequent invitation for a return visit with discounted air fares and two week stay at Beverly Hills Club. The only “condition” was they would have to attend an “information” meeting with Silverpoint.

Once they arrived they were contacted by the Silverpoint representative Alex Farhoud. They attended the arranged meeting and were greeted by the friendly Alex. He began in the time honoured timeshare “warm up”, enquiring into their health, how they are enjoying their stay and giving information on the variety of restaurants, trips and attraction that Tenerife had to offer. All designed to put them at ease.

Alex Farhoud

Eventually the conversation switched to a proposal which would be of great interest and benefit to the client, namely how they could purchase an apartment at Beverly Hills Club well below the market value, this equated to about 60% less.

He went on to explain that they would be able to use the apartment for up to half of the year and for the rest rent it out for a considerable income. Although they would have to wait a few years they would receive “compensation” of 4.5% of the the purchase price, around 155,000€

Alex Farhoud explained the business structure with the aid of the tried and trusted “pencil pitch”, (of which Inside Timeshare has a copy).  It shows the workings of the 4.5%, which would equate to 6,975€ which they would receive in the first year as compensation of forthcoming rental income.

This forthcoming rental, was also shown on the hand written “pitch” and showed the proposed income of 21,623.51€, although the amount was actually shown in Swedish Kroner. There would also be a 19% tax deducted from the amount to be paid to the Spanish Tax Authority. This note does have Alex Farhouds name on it.

For the purchase to go ahead a deposit of 5,000€ was payable at that time with the balance of 150,000€ within the next couple of months.

As they had received so much information it was proposed that they would return the following day after looking over the paperwork.

They obviously had many questions they wanted answers to.

According to the paperwork, they would not receive “title” to the property until all the “timeshares” had been freed from their owners, a process that would take approximately 3 years. The paperwork also stated that they were not purchasing “timeshare”.

To cut a very long story short, it seemed like a good deal, Alex Farhoud then contacted Mark Cushway to approve the deal.

Moving on to 2018 early 2018, Alex Farhoud makes contact with an important announcement, problems had arisen with the lease. He also announce that he had parted company with Silverpoint, but did not elaborate if he resigned or was dismissed. Now that he was an independent agent he would be able to restore the original terms of the Rental Program Agreement, but this would entail a payment of 2 x 5,000€, paid in two instalments.

It would also appear other “buyers” had received similar information.

Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL

Step in Nordic Consulting, as we have stated the CEO is Ali Farhoud, Alex Farhoud is the consultant. They announced they had “found illegalities” in the agreements, that what they had purchased was “timeshare”, which as we know is subject to some very strict laws in Spain.

Ali Farhoud

Nordic Consulting explained they had already taken several cases to court where the contracts were cancelled with the client receiving back full payment. They proposed that they would take on the case and help this purchaser. The cost would be over 30,000€ to be paid to Nordic Consulting.

So now we have the very people who sold the scheme in the beginning, making what must have been large amounts of money in “commissions”, contacting the very people they sold it to, claiming they had no idea it was “illegal” at the time. Now making more money from the very same people!

From information received, several formal criminal denuncias have been made against them, with apparently more in process of being filed.

We don’t know about you, but it does appear to us that something is very wrong that these brothers who sold the timeshare and the participations scheme on behalf of Mark Cushway for many years are able to operate in this way.

Have you been sold Timeshare with the promise of resale and rental, the Company Participation Scheme or the Overseas Lodging Participation Programme, including by those named here?

If so, use our contact page, let us know what you have purchased, Inside Timeshare will get back to you with information on where you stand and what is open to you on the legal front. Whether you are from the UK, Scandinavia, or any other European country, we can point you in the best direction.

The Tuesday Slot: Secret Shopper Report

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome back Laurie Sabbagh with her second Secret Shopper Report, this was edited by the Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbs, with the introduction by Irene Parker. But first some Breaking News from the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

British clients being represented by lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance has just received the news that the Supreme Court have found in their favour against Club La Costa Leisure Limited. Initially their case was heard at the Court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga, unfortunately this court found in favour of Club La Costa.

The CLA lawyers promptly lodged an appeal with the High Court of Malaga, this court overturned the First Instance verdict, finding in favour of the clients. Club La Costa launched an appeal with the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

The Supreme Court rejected the case and the verdict of the Malaga High Court stood firm. The contract was declared null and void with the client being awarded over 28,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.

This is a significant case as the offending company was Club La Costa Leisure Limited, a UK registered entity. This may just bode well for other similar contracts, more news on this legal aspect as and when we receive it.

The Team at Canarian Legal Alliance

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

My Secret Shopper Report

By Laurie Sabbagh

Edited by Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes

March 12, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from timeshare members told they need to switch to a different program within the same company because they should not have purchased what their last sales agent sold them. In other words, sales agents within the same company sell against each other.

Heartbreaking is the experience of Navy veteran Roy Simmons and his wife Lillian Simmons. A retired letter carrier, living on a letter carrier’s pension, he ended up switching back and forth between programs until he reached $2,700 a month in Diamond Resorts loan payments. The foreclosure process took a tremendous physical and emotional toll on the family. They sought legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney as Mr. Simmons felt he had no choice but to charge loan payments to credit cards. Roy and daughter Angela’s YouTube explains how this happened. In her research Angela discovered the FBI website, which is why she expresses her opinion that her mom and dad’s allegations meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. Roy and Angela’s February 26, 2018 YouTube:

Roy and Lillian Simmons, ages 69 and 70, Minnesota residents published March 6, 2018

Arizona representatives proposed House Bill 2639 offering protections for timeshare consumers. My experience over the last three years, reading emailed complaints and listening to 730 families report unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, has left no doubt in my mind as to the need for protection. I wrote an article, “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders.” that foreclosed members can provide to future lenders. The article offers support to my assertion, listing just some of the Attorneys General investigations and settlements and lawsuits. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

Bill sponsor Representative Shawnna Bolick and others who supported Arizona HB 2639, thank you. The timeshare lobby ARDA opposed the bill.   

Laurie Sabbagh’s Secret Shopper Report

I can’t believe it has been two years since my first Secret Shopper report was published March 17, 2017. I attended an update this month in Arizona thinking it had gone well until I was informed that the need to switch from my current Hawaii program to the US mainland program was likely proposed under false pretenses, based on the opinion of an ocean engineer. I want to state at the outset that I enjoy my Diamond points, find good value and absolutely love Sedona. As they say, God created the Grand Canyon but He lives in Sedona.

My first Secret Shopper report:  http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Diamond sales agent Paul said that he had worked in the industry for 22 years and had previously sold timeshares in Las Vegas. Paul and a second sales agent, Justin, asked me about the Hawaii special assessment I paid for the Point at Poipu water intrusion damage, which all right-to-use point owners and deeded week owners were assessed after Diamond bought out Sunterra. I told them that my portion of the assessment was much smaller than those of deeded week owners, who ended up being assessed about $5,800 per week owned.

Later Paul tried to convince me that the beach erosion problem at Ka’anapali Beach Club (one of four resorts part of Diamond’s Hawaii Collection), is putting me at risk for another special assessment. Paul further told me that if I were to switch to the US Collection, I would never be charged a special assessment because the US Collection is part of a trust. He insisted that this provision is in writing, but I was not provided documents to backup that claim.

One of our member-sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook members is an ocean engineer. He explained why beach erosion is not the responsibility of a resort, but the responsibility of the state or federal government. In a RedWeek post, a Diamond member had been advised to switch due to a 2020 special assessment:

My suggestion would be to ask Diamond for documentation to support the additional charges. For instance, it is reasonable to ask if the funding is for future flood protection that might be afforded by a beach nourishment project. If the assessment is intended for a beach nourishment project, it is likely that arrangements are in place for cost sharing between local stakeholders and government entities.  The cost and scope of government efforts are a matter of public record, and learning the particulars is typically as easy as calling the project managers.

In addition, 2020 is too far out to predict with any sort of fidelity. Concrete financial planning numbers at this stage are unlikely. I have not heard of a federal project in Hawaii. It could be state, but most major beach nourishment projects are underwritten in part by the federal government. I have not heard of a state paying for damages from a flood.  The member needs to know what the assessment is for, in more detail than just beach erosion. Is it for protection or for damage that has already occurred? One is flood damage expense, the other is flood protection afforded by beach nourishment projects.

Justin told me that Diamond bought out Sunterra but I was still an owner of Sunterra points. Justin said that I could apply my equity in Sunterra to the purchase price of 6,500 additional US Collection points to get me to the Silver level and bring the price per point of $9.33 to about $4 per point. We went back and forth. The last offer was for 2,000 points for $5 per point. I declined.

Later Quality Assurance representative Mark told me he used to be with Sunterra until Diamond bought them out, and my Sunterra points were automatically converted to Diamond’s “The Club” points, so I was indeed a Diamond member. This contradicted what Justin told me.

Mark offered me 20,000 points to be used within 24 months at $3,995. He said this offer is only valid to Diamond members. First, I thought it odd a Quality Assurance person was trying to sell me points, and second, the Sampler is a trial product, so available to anyone.

As I said in the beginning, I use and enjoy my Diamond points. I stayed a week at the Celebrity House in Sedona, two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen, using “Point Saver” at 8,250 points. With all expenses considered, it averaged $260 per day. Best Western in Sedona during the same period was $300 per night for a standard room so this ended up being a huge bargain for me.

I am disappointed that the pressure to sell points is so great that agents feel forced to misrepresent. I feel Diamond has a product, and when sold properly, members benefit. It must be the pressure to produce sales that prompts sales agents to mislead in order to make a sale, but that is just my opinion.

We appreciate Laurie’s second Secret Shopper report.

Timeshare is a product in which the sales agents demand the buyer buy the same day, even though most have no intention of buying the product prior to the day of purchase. Unlike buying a car, there is little frame of reference, especially for first time buyers. Buyers usually sign a perpetual product without even having had a chance to use the product, except to stay at a resort property. Numerous members have reported not being allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period has expired.

Learn to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, it’s advisable to not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, based on my experience and the experience of many.

These are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Social Media is here to stay, so consumers can now share experiences. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your timeshare experience, good or bad.

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/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you to Laurie, Pete and Irene for your efforts with this weeks article, we certainly look forward to more Secret Shopper Reports.

The breaking news today from the Spanish Supreme Court was very welcome news indeed, what a start to the day.

If you have been contacted by any company or found one on the internet or advert and want to know if they are genuine, use our contact page and we will help you find out.

Do you feel that you were mis-sold your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a claim, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will check to see if you have a valid and viable case and point you in the right direction. This service is done free of charge and under no obligation.

Start the Week: Do I Have a Claim?

Over the past few months, Inside Timeshare has received many enquiries regarding claims and legal action against timeshare companies. As we know there are now many firms contacting timeshare owners informing them they have a claim against their timeshare company. Most are not even law firms, but companies setup to get on the bandwagon of claims since the Spanish Supreme Court strengthened the laws.

Spanish Supreme Court Madrid

From the enquiries received, it would appear that everyone has a claim, unfortunately that is not the case, although the purchase may have been in Spain, unless it can be proved that there is a link to a Spanish entity i.e. an SL or SA company, there may not be a viable case.

For example, one reader contacted Inside Timeshare about a Marriott purchase in Mallorca, the company who contacted them was adamant there was a claim and they could take Marriott to court. This reader contacted Inside Timeshare as they were suspicious that what they were being told was not correct, how could they know there was a claim just by the conversation on the telephone?

This reader sent copies of their documents, unfortunately for them there was no viable claim, all the documentation and payments went via Marriotts Florida headquarters. There was no Spanish link, so no Spanish court would have accepted the case. The contract even though purchased in Spain was essentially a US contract, so it was not covered by Spanish law.

We have even had enquiries from readers who have purchased in the UK, being told they have a valid claim. With many of these they have been told they can do this on a no win no fee basis, then are told they must first pay for the contract to be cancelled. The no win no fee is the enticer, the claim is unlikely to ever be paid out.

Spain has the strongest laws regarding timeshare in Europe, by comparison the UK laws are weak and favour the timeshare companies, it is a fact that the EU has issued directives on the sale of timeshare, but these are not law, they are directives pure and simple. It is down to the individual state to place the basic guidelines into domestic law.

The basic criteria for a valid claim against a timeshare contract in Spain is one or a combination of the following:

  • The purchase must have been made in Spain after 5 January 1999;
  • The contract is over the permitted 50 year duration, i.e no end date known as perpetuity;
  • Contains floating weeks or points systems which also includes fractional and “investments”;
  • Any payments made within the 14 day cooling off period, this is extended to 90 if other infractions such as any of the above are present.

These have been reinforced by the Supreme Court and all lower courts must now follow suite, they have no choice. These are civil cases and it is all down to contracts. Other laws may also be invoked, this is usually done on a case by case basis when the lawyers are preparing the case. They may include Civil Consumer Law and Mercantile Law.

The Supreme Court has also recently ruled that in the case of any payment made during the cooling off period (which includes the 90 day extension) this must be paid back double.

What would be the claim?

  • Double the deposits paid within the 14 day cooling off period, the balance only if paid after, this is the minimum claim amount. If paid within the cooling off period then double that as well. (All double if 90 day invoked), this is the maximum claim amount.
  • Added to the claim will also be the return of legal fees (this is at the judges discretion), but also legal interest is paid from the time the case is presented to court.
  • Maintenance fees may be added to the claim, but again it is the judges discretion if he awards the return.

Obviously, to enable a case to be brought, a competent and genuine lawyer is required, they also should be registered to practice in Spain and have knowledge and experience in this field.

Legal fees are also required to be paid for the work and case to be carried out, these fees are broken down as follows:

  • Translations of all documents into Spanish, interpreters if the client is required to attend court;
  • Lawyers fees, for the preparation of the case and representation in court;
  • Procurator fees, (barrister), they work alongside the lawyer and is responsible for filing the case, submitting and retrieving documents at court;
  • Court fees and taxes.
  • Notary fees for Power of Attorney, if signing in Spain this is included. If the POA is signed in the UK then that must be paid separately by the client.

The fees are calculated on the minimum claim amount, which is the purchase price, they are a one time fee, so if the case has to go to an appeal court, no further fees are requested. This system enables the client to know the cost of bringing a case in advance, unlike most systems in the UK where the legal bill for a civil case is not known until the conclusion.

They do not operate a no win no fee system, in fact even in the UK, no win no fee is not what it seems. This system usually involves a litigation funder who pays the legal bills for the case to be brought. You could say they are gambling on the case, if successful, they will take around 40% of the compensation awarded. If you lose, you could be liable for the oppositions cost, which has happened in several timeshare cases in the UK High Courts. One aspect of these no win no fee offers is they do not advise you to take out a litigation liability insurance in case you lose.

As for the prospect of losing in the Spanish courts on these cases, as long as the correct law firm is employed, which has the experience in these cases and this field of law, that possibility is very remote. Plus the correct firm would not take on a case unless it fulfilled the relevant criteria and breached the laws.

If you would like further information Inside Timeshare would be happy to help, also if you would like to have your case checked as to whether you have a valid and viable claim Inside Timeshare can arrange that free of charge and without obligation.

The documents needed would be scanned copies of:

  • Purchase agreements;
  • Terms & conditions;
  • Any finance agreements if these were provided by the sales staff at the point of sale.

If any finance was taken out and is still being paid, then if you do bring a case this still needs to be continued. Once a ruling and sentence on your case has been issued, then the finance company can be approached to have the contract cancelled and all interest returned. This can only be done at the conclusion of the case, the reason is once the court finds in favour of the client the contract is declared null and void on the grounds it is illegal, therefore, the loan agreement was used to finance an illegal product. A claim for interest may be possible if the loan has been cleared.

Once you know for certain that you have a valid and viable claim, Inside Timeshare can then make a recommendation for the best law firm for your case, they would then be able to go through costs and procedure.

Also if you do not have a case which can be taken through the Spanish courts, but have a finance agreement which you are now finding to be a problem, Inside Timeshare may be able to recommend a firm which specialises in this field.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our weekly Letter from America, this week we have another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” from yet another veteran, this now makes 99 who have been in touch with us. In this article the Sherwood Family tell their story of their dealings with Wyndham. But first the latest from Europe.

At the Court of First Instance N1 in Barcelona, Case Number 362/2017, lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance, presented a case against Club Estela Dorada SL, Restotel SA, Medhotel Group SL  and Clubotel La Dorada SL, which is part of the ONA Group, based in Barcelona.

The breach of the timeshare laws were the contract was in excess of the 50 years laid down by law, what is commonly known as perpetuity, plus the illegal taking of deposits within the 14 day cooling off period. It seems that the companies involved tried to bypass Spanish law through the Tax Haven of Andorra, but the paperwork did show that a Spanish registered entity was involved, which put the case directly under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Courts.

Andorra itself is an independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains, it is mostly known for its skiing and being one of Europe’s main Tax havens.

Click on the link below to open the court document or click to download.

The client has now had their contract declared null and void, and will receive the following:

  1. Purchase price          70,778.07€
  2. Deposit paid              32,973.00€
  3. Maintenance fee         8,973.24€ (this is approximate as the final amount has yet to be determined)

This is a total of 112,724.31€ (approx).

The lawyer in this case was Judith Diaz Pascual, another of the young and dynamic CLA team.

Judith Diaz Pasqual

So congratulations to the client and also to the team at CLA, they are certainly making a mark on the world of timeshare.

Now for our Letter from America.

Veteran/Active Duty Service member #99 Timeshare Trapped

The “Unfair” in Unfair and Deceptive Practices

An Arizona House Bill 2639 designed to protect consumers is opposed by ARDA.

Please voice your support for this Bill by calling and writing to the Bill sponsors listed in this article: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-arizona-house-bill-2639/

By the Sherwood Family, a Wyndham Hostage

March 8, 2019

Mr. Sherwood’s YouTube:

I am sure there are plenty of timeshare members quite happy to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their timeshares every month because they are getting use out of it. However, what happens when your circumstances change? You will quickly come to regret every penny you sunk into the timeshare capable of holding the member hostage for life.

Due to health issues that have been piling up over the years, my wife and I can’t use our Wyndham timeshare anymore. I spent 20 years in the service of my country and am a 75-year-old 100% disabled veteran and retired Master Sergeant from the US Marine Corps. I also have early onset glaucoma. My wife is 71 and has had total hip replacement surgery twice in the past 3 years. Our Wyndham sales agent did not tell us about the Wyndham Armed Forces Veterans Club.

We bought our Wyndham timeshare in 2014. We used it twice a year for the first three years. It never lived up to the billing our sales reps gave it but we were happy enough. We never thought twice about handing over our money because we were getting something out of it. Unfortunately, getting old is no fun. Your circumstances can change overnight. Change may come soon after purchase or arrive years down the line. When those changes come you will be hit in the face with the reality that there is no way out of your timeshare if there is a loan outstanding. You are stuck with paying for your slice of thin air out of your social security allowance until the day you die unless foreclosed.

One of the reasons for this article is that I do not take kindly to being bullied and will not be dismissed, told to shut up and hand over my money. Another reason is that I would like as many people as possible to be aware of what they are getting into before purchasing a timeshare.

I sent Wyndham my letter from the VA attesting to the fact that I am 100% disabled. They would not accept that letter, stating they wanted proof I couldn’t travel. They requested full access to my medical history. I found this an egregious invasion of privacy so refused. I went back to the VA for a letter that stated specifically that I couldn’t travel but Wyndham would not accept this. A letter from the VA stating that I am 100% disabled and cannot travel seems more than enough for Wyndham to join the dots.

Imagine what the scenario is if you are not a senior, or a veteran, or disabled – if we are being refused, how many other people with their own reasons and issues will be refused?

Wyndham stopped communicating with me when I delinked to give them access to my medical records despite me reaching out by letter and phone on several occasions. They have now sent me to collections with Pinnacle Recovery Inc. I will tell Pinnacle what I told Wyndham; they will not see a penny from me.

To confound matters, the third Stooge in this story after Wyndham and Pinnacle; Barclays Bank, want us to pay them too. When Wyndham tried to open a credit card for us, my application was refused but my wife’s was accepted. My wife receives in income less than a thousand dollars a month but after Wyndham added my social security income, military retirement and VA compensation, they made it look like she was earning several times more than she actually did. Wyndham has charged the card several times already with fees we were not aware we would be asked to pay. Needless to say, Barclays won’t be seeing any money from us either.

My advice to potential timeshare customers; use Airbnb.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-reasons-why-airbnb-better-than-timeshare-wayne-c-robinson/?fbclid=IwAR3QPmnZYAHlyox8oNdjgru1ik7Kdb0WpPOo3vC85gqCvwJ62DUyJjp70pw

My advice to Wyndham; if you can’t listen to your customers then you shouldn’t be in the hospitality business.

Thank you to Mr. Sherwood for sharing his story. If the public knew the difficulties of getting out of a timeshare, would anyone buy one? What car, boat, home, or pair of shoes would you buy that you cannot sell if there is a loan outstanding?

Here are member supported groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you to the Sherwood Family for their contribution this week, as we mentioned at the start, this is the ninety ninth veteran who have been in touch with Inside Timeshare and the other groups. It would seem that even though they have served their country, the timeshare sales agents just do not respect that fact, they just see them as easy money. Not all the blame can be placed on those sales agents, the timeshare companies must also take responsibility for allowing their staff to get away with it.

So to finish today’s article, we are still calling on any reader who has had any dealings with Meredith Pritchard and Stephen Paul Fairclough to come forward, it is your information that will help the police get the evidence to bring Fairclough to justice. Use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget be vigilant when dealing with any company that contacts you or you find on the internet or advertising in any publication.

Thursday Update

Since publishing the news that Meredith Pritchard Claims Consultants Ltd and First Law Solutions Ltd had been wound-up by the High Court, further information has been coming to light.

The perpetrator behind this claims fraud, Stephen Paul Fairclough has seemed to have disappeared, his offices at Regus House are now empty. We do know that he does have links in Portugal and is believed to own a property and lives there. So he may just have fled the UK and is living his life of luxury on the money he has swindled from countless victims.

Apparently from information received by one source, who wishes not to be identified, it looks now like the Police in the UK will not be pursuing the matter against Stephen Fairclough. From the information received the reason is that they do not have sufficient evidence. As we know to secure a prosecution and ensure a conviction in any criminal trial, the evidence must be strong and be of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Inside Timeshare would love to see Fairclough prosecuted and convicted, so it is now up to you the readers and victims of his fraud to come forward. Inside Timeshare is in contact with one victim who would like to gather together all those affected and form an Action Group.

If you have lost money for services not provided by Fairclough, then use our contact page, send in your details and Inside Timeshare will pass them to the coordinator of the Action Group. It is only with your help that this person will ever be brought to justice.

As an update to the articles regarding Ali and Alex Farhoud and their involvement in the selling of the “Company Participations Scheme” on behalf of Silverpoint and Mark Cushway, Inside Timeshare has also been informed of “Criminal Denuncias” being filed against them (the Farhouds) with the Guardia Civil.

Our information is that two clients have begun legal proceedings against Silverpoint but they have also lodged the criminal complaints against the two Farhoud brothers who sold them the scheme in the first place. It is believed from our sources that more clients are also coming forward and more “Criminal Denuncias” are going to be made.

It must also be remembered that they are now contacting previous victims via their company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, with the offer of taking legal action against Silverpoint (their former employer) and claiming back what their clients originally paid. They explain that what was sold to them was not legal, yet they are the ones who sold it in the first place, yet they claim they had no idea that it was “fraudulent”.

Now, we also know that they will be charging huge amounts for legal fees to carry out this “service”, so in reality they made large amounts in commission for selling it and are now set to make even more by offering a “legal service”!

If you have purchased these “Company Participations” or any other product peddled by Silverpoint, or have been contacted by Nordic Consulting, then use our contact page to get in touch. Inside Timeshare will then answer your questions and point you to the best solution for your situation.

We also have an update of court cases held in the Courts on Gran Canaria, all these involved Anfi and were brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance.

In total there were seven sentences issued, 3 by the High Court in Las Palmas and 4 by the Courts Of First Instance in Maspalomas. Again all contracts were declared null and void as the contained infringements of the Timeshare Laws as laid down by the Supreme Court. These ranged from floating weeks to perpetuity contracts, the courts awarded over 241,545€ to the clients along with legal fees and legal interest.

Then on Tuesday 5 March, another sentence was issued by the Court of First Instance of San Barlelomé De Tirajana, again this was against Anfi. This quite a significant case as the amount involved is huge.

The client in this instance is set to receive over 212,476€ plus legal interest, along with the contract being declared null and void. This will be one happy client.

The case was conducted on behalf of the clients by the Canarian Legal Alliance lawyer Adrián Diaz-Saavedra Morales, who is another of the young and dynamic team at CLA. So congratulations to them all, and keep up the good work.

Adrián Diaz-Saavedra Morales

If you need any advice with a timeshare problem or paid a company for services which you have not received, contact Inside Timeshare via our contact page. We will point you in the right direction.