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February 2017

fraud alert

Litigious Abogados: The Plot Gets Thicker

There seems no end to the lengths some will go to fleece innocent and elderly people of their hard earned cash, we thought we had seen it all, then this.

In a new twist which we have never seen before, another “scam” has appeared, it is actually quite audacious. The client who had previously been informed their case had been won and a cheque was about to be issued, upon payment of certain taxes, receives a letter from the court.

 

Court Document 01
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Attached to the letter is a cheque, unfortunately, the cheque is missing, the envelope was delivered open, all there is left is a staple and a torn piece paper where the cheque should be.

Next, they receive a series of letters stating that the cheque had been stolen and cashed by a gang of “Rumanians”. One of these is from Manuel Valentins Asesoria, who state they have been officially appointed by the Court of First Instance Number 6 of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

As they will be dealing with the recovery of the misappropriated funds a 10% payment is required for them to act on the client’s behalf, in this case 718.80 Euros. Off course this in in advance, but will be fully recovered from the clearing bank and added to the original amount awarded by the court.

Another twist to this sorry tale is at the end of the letter, they state: “It is showing on the system that you have a refund of tax from Hacienda the Tax office for the amount of; 1,509.48 Euros and we shall also follow up on that for you”.

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Again this is designed to give the impression of authenticity.

It must be remembered that when an award of this nature is made by a court, they do not send out cheques, especially on Banesto cheques, who were taken over by Santander many years ago and no longer exist. The payments would be made by wire transfer direct to the client’s account, the courts do not use cheques.

This particular scheme, from the start with letters of a pending case through to sentence, backed up with fake court documents, right through to the latest twist are a very sophisticated operation. The standard of English in the letters suggest a relatively high level of education and from a native English speaking person.

All the documents are very well put together and certainly would look genuine to those who don’t know.

Follow the link for previous articles or search Litigious Abogados in the search box.

http://insidetimeshare.com/news-litigious-abogados/

If you have been contacted by any of the “law firms”, “procurators” or “Asesorias” mentioned Contact Inside Timeshare. It is your information that just may help others to avoid losing a lot of money.

Again, if you have any doubts about any company you may have had contact with or may be thinking of using, Inside Timeshare is here to help.

valuation

Pricing Points: Advocates Group try to Explain.

Irene Parker is once again ending our week with the following article, she asks the question that many owners have wondered, How are points valued?

We all know that most timeshares are well overpriced, many reps will tell you about the “stack and drop” method of selling, which was mentioned in the last article. In this article Irene, points out the use of leased aircraft by company executives, again another question is posed, who pays for them?

Would the inflated price per point pay or does it come from rising maintenance fees?

Mind you I’m sure most of us would love to have the use of private company jets, at least we wouldn’t be lumbered with the screaming kid or the semi drunken holiday maker.

In the second part of the article, we get the views of five of the advocates from the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy facebook group. This is a new forum for owners to air their views, ask questions, seek help and guidance on many issues and share in the latest news. These advocates will also intervene on your behalf in negotiations with the resorts.

In the short time this has been running there have been some very good results, as we say at Inside Timeshare, debate is better than confrontation.

How is a Timeshare Point Valued?

By Irene Parker – February 24, 2017

graph $

There were many responses to this week’s article, “Is This Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?”  We have summarized the comments in today’s follow-up article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-proposal-merely-monopoly-money/

Old fashioned fixed weeks were real estate. Units were sold with a deed, meaning you could see, feel and touch what you bought. Points later developed claiming greater flexibility, but rising maintenance fees, problems with availability and the sinking feeling you get when checking in, knowing you must brace for the sales staff, has caused more than a few timeshare owners some discomfort.

Most of the original fixed week resorts did not maintain a fleet of aircraft. There is not enough information to know if a fleet of aircraft ends up in maintenance fees or in a point price. Here is one Timesharing Agreement concerning leased aircraft.

Relationship with the Company’s Executive Officers and Chairman of the Board

Time Sharing Agreements

Diamond Resorts Corporation (“DRC”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company, is a party to time sharing agreements with each of David F. Palmer, President, Chief Executive Officer and a director of the Company, and Howard S. Lanznar, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the Company, in each case with respect to use of an aircraft leased by DRC. In each case, the time sharing agreement provides for the use by the individual of such DRC aircraft, together with use of DRC’s flight crew, and permits the relevant individual to reimburse the Company for specified costs related to such use. Stephen J. Cloobeck, the Company’s chairman of the board of directors, may also enter into one or more time sharing agreements with DRC with respect to his use of aircraft leased by the Company or DRC.

The Company and DRC have also agreed that the Company will not charge Mr. Cloobeck for use of Company-leased aircraft for non-business purposes for an aggregate number of flight hours with a value, based upon the relative costs of operating the Company-leased aircraft, equal to 50 flight hours on the most expensive to operate of the aircraft leased by the Company.

While leasing executive planes is not unusual for a corporation, it is disconcerting to many families struggling with rising maintenance fees and loans financed at 12% to 18%.

Diamond Resorts does not currently own or lease aircraft”. Clarified DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

I would not be surprised if a company the size of Apollo has a lease fleet.

Back to Points

Critics accuse us of being dummies who don’t know how to use Diamond points.

Here are replies from a few of our Advocates.

Blackboard

Several members of our “think tank” and Diamond Owner’s Advocate Facebook expressed alarm over the $8.52 retail price. Today I learned the retail price is expected to increase 25% under Apollo’s guidance to $10.60 and then $12.25.

One of our Facebook members described this as “Anchoring” which is a way to make people think they are getting a bargain at $4 when the retail price is $8.52.

According to Wikipedia, and cognitive and behavioral economics, such a price creates a benchmark for perceived value.

Most people understand the MSRP sticker on the window of a car on a dealer’s lot is not the price the buyer will pay. The buyer understands the car will depreciate the moment the car is driven off the lot and they will in all likelihood sell the car for less due to depreciation. Consumers do have a reference point found in “The Blue Book” of automobile resale value.

We know there are people who will pay well above $3.00 a point for a Diamond point listed at $8.52. However, unlike a car, the selling side of the market doesn’t know what any specific buyer is willing to pay. Thus, they start with a high “opening offer” and then lower it until they discover the buyer’s willingness to pay. Economists call this price discrimination – selling the same product at different prices to different buyers. It is particularly effective when different buyers (or groups of buyers) have differing sensitivities to prices, often caused by differences in income and wealth.

A final observation is that when Diamond was publicly traded, they held quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts. I listened to about 10 of these and was surprised that the price per point was never discussed. The CEO and CFO didn’t mention it in the prepared presentation and the analysts never asked about it. The focus was always the average price per transaction, which is the number of points times the price — something like $22,000. Even when an analyst asked: “what was driving the increase in the transaction price?” the answer was never price-per-point.

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

advocate 1

Our same advocate #1 offered a comparison of Diamond fees with other timeshare systems. The conversion factors are obtained from Diamond’s own Club Combinations valuations. Fees for the non-Diamond systems are trust fund fees (not deeds) for the respective systems.

Chart advocate

A second Advocate

The company determines the price per point.

I would imagine that the value is based upon the “cache” of the brand, the location, demand and the competition, much like any company would value their product.

Say a developer has a resort with 100 units that they sell 50 times/weeks = 5,000 units.  I would image that determines the profit they want to make, divide it by the number of units, and then turn that into points and pricing. How do they convert the value to other travel awards?  How much does the award cost the resort and what does it take to recoup the points they traded in?

I know the conversion from timeshare points (a day or a week) to hotel points is not equal. It cost more points to stay in hotels than resorts.

Advocate #3

I am concerned with the downturn in earnings announced coincidentally just after the Apollo acquisition announcement:

Diamond Resorts‘ second-quarter earnings release was delayed after the company’s independent registered public accounting firm BDO USA said that the company may not have correctly applied the relative sales value inventory valuation model when preparing its consolidated financial statements for 2014 and subsequent periods. Thus, even Diamond accountants did not answer the question accurately.

After the correction, the change resulted in a decrease in net income of $5.6 million for 2015 and a $1.3 million decrease for the first quarter, in each case from amounts originally reported, according to the second-quarter release.

Significantly, second-quarter net income decreased $10.1 million or 28.5% to $25.5 million year over year, compared with a first quarter increase of $8.4% or 32.6% to $34.4 million, prior to the restatement.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13702895/1/diamond-resorts-international-s-second-quarter-earnings-reversal-is-worrisome.html

Advocate #4 responded:

The issue is that the developer owns the inventory, even though the inventory is first returned to the HOA.

  • The HOA, where members sit, is a nonprofit, which takes financial responsibility for the ongoing operations of the club;
  • HOAs are standalone entities, but are often controlled by the developer, who writes the HOA instruments (using standard language – they are all very similar);
  • Developers give themselves board control, along with declarant control, and hire themselves as managers;
  • If a member defaults, the timeshare points/weeks are actually returned to the HOA, but the HOA rules give the developer the right to grab them;
  • Return points/weeks (inventory) flow through the front door of the HOA and out the back, into the developer’s hands;
  • Developers then get to sell the inventory all over again- and the cost of doing so is essentially only marketing / sales;
  • But they have to pay dues on those weeks/points, like everyone else.

The cost of carrying those points has to show up on the developer’s books, which includes the annual maintenance costs and the VALUE of the inventory (which is reported as a short-term asset).

Since the developer controls the inventory, they control the pricing. In my view, they are pricing it at that rate for two reasons:

1 – To try to fool consumers (as they always drop the price)

2 – For inventory management purposes within their own corporation (developers) (that is, for their own financial reporting purposes).

According to extracts from Wyndham and Hilton’s annual reports:

Wyndham’s 2016 10K

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1361658/000136165817000004/wyn-20161231x10k.htm

Following are descriptions of these inventory sources:

  1. Self-developed inventory: Under the traditional timeshare industry development model, we finance and develop inventory specifically for our timeshare sales. The process often begins with the purchase of raw land which we then develop. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, this process can take several years. Such inventory can include mixed-use inventory developed in conjunction with one of our hotel brands, where a portion of the property is devoted to the timeshare product.
  1. WAAM: In 2010, we introduced the first of our WAAM models, WAAM Fee-for Service (formerly known as WAAM 1.0). This timeshare sourcing model was designed to capitalize upon the large quantities of newly developed, nearly completed or recently finished condominium or hotel inventory in the real estate market without assuming the significant risk that accompanies property acquisition or new construction. This business model offers turn-key solutions for developers or banks in possession of newly developed inventory, which we sell for a fee through our extensive sales and marketing channels. WAAM Fee-for-Service enables us to expand our resort portfolio with little or no capital deployment, while providing additional channels for new owner acquisition and growth for our fee-for-service property management business.

In addition to the WAAM Fee-for-Service business model, we utilize our WAAM Just-in-Time (formerly known as WAAM 2.0) inventory acquisition model. This model enables us to acquire and own completed units close to the timing of their sale or to acquire completed inventory from a third party partner based upon a predetermined purchase schedule. This model significantly reduces the period between the deployment of capital to acquire inventory and the subsequent return on investment which occurs at the time of its sale to a timeshare purchaser. For the most part, inventory is recorded on our balance sheet at the time we are committed to purchase such inventory, which generally coincides with the time of registration.

  1. Consumer loan defaults: As discussed in the “Purchaser Financing” section, we offer financing to purchasers of VOIs. In the event of a default, we are able to recover the inventory and resell it at full current value. We are responsible for the payment of maintenance fees to the property owners’ associations until the product is sold. As of December 31, 2016, inventory on the Consolidated Balance Sheet included estimated recoveries of loan defaults in the amount of $256 million.
  1. Inventory reclaimed from owners’ associations or owners: We have entered into agreements with a majority of the property associations representing our developments where we may acquire from the association’s, properties related to owners who have defaulted on their maintenance fees, provided there is no outstanding debt on such properties. In addition, we frequently work with owners to acquire their properties, provided they have no outstanding debt on such properties, prior to those owners defaulting on their maintenance fees. This provides the owner with a graceful exit from a property that is no longer utilized due to lifestyle changes.

Hilton 10K

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1361658/000136165817000004/wyn-20161231x10k.htm

Inventories

Inventories include unsold, completed timeshare intervals, timeshare intervals under construction and land and infrastructure held for future timeshare interval development at our timeshare properties (collectively, timeshare inventory), as well as hotel inventories consisting of operating supplies that have a period of consumption of one year or less, guest room items and food and beverage items.

Timeshare inventory is carried at the lower of cost or estimated fair value less costs to sell, based on the relative sales value. Capital expenditures associated with our timeshare intervals are reflected as inventory until the timeshare intervals are sold. Consistent with industry practice, timeshare inventory is classified as a current asset despite an operating cycle that exceeds 12 months. The majority of sales and marketing costs incurred to sell timeshare intervals are expensed when incurred. Certain direct and incremental selling and marketing costs are deferred on a contract until revenue from the interval sale has been recognized.

In accordance with the accounting standards for costs and the initial rental operations of real estate projects, we use the relative sales value method of costing our timeshare sales and relieving inventory. In addition, we continually assess our timeshare inventory and, if necessary, impose pricing adjustments to modify sales pace. It is possible that any future changes in our development and sales strategies could have a material effect on the carrying value of our timeshare inventory and purchase commitments for timeshare inventory. We monitor our projects and inventory on an ongoing basis and complete an evaluation each reporting period to ensure that the inventory and purchase commitments for inventory are at the lower of cost or market.

Hotel inventories are generally valued at the lower of cost (using “first-in, first-out”, or FIFO) or net realizable value.

Advocate #5

It has been my experience that price per point representations were discretionary based on observations made in real time regarding the client’s perceived ability to pay. There appears to be a much more organized push to create acceptance of inflated price per point values by consumers. The timeline is consistent with Apollo’s takeover.

My recollection is that the most lucrative segment of DRI sales is up sell to existing owners. Given high incidence of owner re-tours it is no surprise that as they ramp up owner marketing to pursue this cash cow, consistency between properties regarding inflated costs creates a more effective sales tool.

When fictional upgrade options/letters are tied to an artificially high sales price per point a disciplined sales force will use this to their advantage.

The higher price is designed purely to strengthen and legitimize the subsequent price that will be offered. It was more random in the past. Since Apollo, it sounds like there is now some standardization regarding price point being offered. I would guess that final purchase price has become more uniform so as not to risk owners comparing prices while on property, and the fact that someone is paying attention, at least for now.

thinking pencil

All in all, more questions than answers.

Once again a very informative article from across the “Great Lake”, if you have any questions, views or news, Inside Timeshare would be pleased to hear from you. Having a problem with your timeshare, contact us and if we don’t know the answer, we can find someone who does.

friday-again

Have a good weekend.

truth2

Making up the News?

Just recently President Trump made very huge faux pas, announcing there had been a terrorist outrage, in of all places, Sweden. It was laughed at around the world with accusations of “fake news” and making up stories to enhance his views.

Well President Trump is not the only one to do this, on 8 August 2014 the RDO published a statement by Silverpoint. They made a big thing of how Silverpoint had appealed to the High Court and had the lower court rulings overturned. The article also stated that these rulings were not being published. Thereby implying that clients were being deceived, well that is the pot calling the kettle black!

Since then, the Supreme Court has overturned many of the judgments of the Tenerife High Court, that there were indeed breaches of the timeshare laws, with many more apparently in the pipeline. The Supreme Court is the end of the line, it is the Highest Court in Spain there is no where else to go!!

Another assertion (we use that term loosely) was that all cases would be lost, warning clients they would be liable for all costs and Silverpoint would pursue them for it. Well have they updated their views? It would seem not. No update that Silverpoint have lost in the Supreme Court, no update that they have been found to have usurped the timeshare laws, no update that it is they who have to pay clients costs and return the money paid. Sorry, these cases never happened. It’s “fake” news is the impression we all get.

One of the most long running cases is that of Mrs Shirley Wilson, who brought a case against the then Resort Properties, then Silverpoint, over the way she was sold multiple timeshare weeks. The case was originally won at the Court of First Instance, this was appealed at the High Court and overturned. Silverpoint claimed that the clients were “investors” therefore did not come under timeshare law.

This news is fact not fiction, as others would have you believe.

The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, it was overturned, with the Highest Court in Spain declaring that the clients were “Consumers” not “investors” and as such had the full protection of the timeshare laws. This has not been made up, unless the Supreme Court doesn’t actually exist in real life!

Only last week Mrs Wilson attended the offices of Canarian Legal Alliance, one of the so-called “scam exit companies” as the RDO put it in their 19 August 2016 news post. Mrs Wilson also attended a dinner to thank the lawyers and legal team for their efforts and hard work, this was attended by several State Prosecutors. Again this is not “fake news”, it actually happened.

Look we even have photos of the lawyers and a client who don’t exist!

law
The Canarian Legal Alliance Legal Team
IMG_6714
Eva Gutiérrez (lawyer), Csilla Nazali Mrs Wilson and Miguel Rodriguez Ceballos (lawyer).

I wonder if the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi is rather appropriate here:

“Truth Never Damages a Cause that is Just”

Or even this quote from Joseph Goebbels:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.

One day, the “fake” news will be replaced by the truth, the truth is starting here, Inside Timeshare will publish the facts. Inside Timeshare will publish what you the consumer needs to know about the timeshare industry. For too long this industry has ruled you, now it is time for you to rule them.

 

across-the-pond

Is this Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?

Many owners in Europe are also having some of the same problems as those in the US, that of constant upgrading when on holiday. One of the main tactics that has been used is the the price per point is about to go up, buy now and save money.

Many have been told the reason for the increase, is that it is to bring them in line with the price in the US. Some have even been told that today’s price will be frozen for them until their next holiday, or even they are entitled to last years price only if they buy today. All timeshare has in the past been sold on the “stack and drop” model, it gave the impression of the purchaser getting a bargain.

It must be said that in Europe things are changing, although there are some who still use the old methods. Unfortunately, the lack of a resale market is one of the biggest concerns, especially when clients are told they can sell, usually for more than they paid. The following article explains the problems in the US, many readers in Europe may have come across this here as well.

Is this Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?

You decide based on facts

By Irene Parker – February 22, 2017

Monopoly money

From Wikipedia

Monopoly money is a type of play money used in the board game Monopoly. It is different from most currencies, including the American currency or British currency upon which it is based,

Diamond Resorts points, according to Diamond Resorts sales agents, should be looked upon as “currency” in that Diamond vacation points can be used for a variety of uses – just like real money.  But does a Diamond point equate real currency?

Diamond Resort owners rarely can even give their vacation points away should the need to sell arise. Seeking to sell our Diamond vacation points due to overly aggressive sales presentations, rising maintenance fees, and availability falling far short of what was promised, I contacted David Cortese of Magical Realty.

David Cortese is one of 64 Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers who will buy and sell any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts non-deeded points, as the LTRBA members feel the  restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary market points is so onerous, it renders the points worthless on resale.

My husband and I paid $3.06 per point for 6,000 Diamond points in 2012.

Imagine the dismay of a consumer presented with the following figures during a sales presentation – after they learn the points they purchased are worthless when they try to sell. Is the buyer informed of the lack of a secondary market? The prices below are easily the cost of a nice home. Who would buy a $400,000 home that became worthless on resale the moment the contract was signed?

What difference does the inflated price make to anyone but the selling agent and the company?

  • 2013 Price per point $5.06 to $7.50
  • 2014 Price per point $7.70 to $7.95
  • 2015 Price per point $8.11 to $8.20
  • 2016 Price per point $8.28 to $8.51

The following chart was also presented:

  • 8,500 points @ $72,420 ($8.52 per point)
  • 17,000 points @ $144,840
  • 25,500 points @ $217,260
  • 34,000 points @ $289,680
  • 42,500 points @ $362,100
  • 51,000 points @ $434,520 ($8.52 per point)

Our existing owner was told, if they buy today, and with approval from above, they can buy points today for $4.80.

What benefit is this to a consumer if the points have no secondary market?

In addition to our personal price history, Roddy Boyd of Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation included a price per point history in a price chart included in his article “Diamond Resorts and Its Perpetual Mortgage Machine”  showing the price per point trending down to the $2 to $4 point range until 2014. Diamond did review the article pre-publishing.

Diamond Resorts and Its Perpetual Mortgage Machine

The Chart obtained from owner lawsuits:

http://98zo02bh3v9r369dtffl01cj.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/DRII_points_lawsuits.pdf

The Kroll Bond Rating Agency, as reported by National Mortgage News, offered the following warning, concerned with Diamond’s default rate:

dollar graph

http://www.nationalmortgagenews.com/news/secondary/newly-private-diamond-resorts-tests-securitization-market-1090005-1.html

Since the timeshare operator (Diamond Resorts) completing its previous offering, in November 2015, losses on the loans it makes to customers have been rising, primarily because more borrowers are seeking legal representation, according to KBRA. (Kroll Bond Rating Agency)

The ratings agency’s pre sale report attributes this to “a handful of [law] firms, targeting certain timeshare borrowers” and to borrowers’ use of “cease and desist” letters. The presale report does not elaborate, but TheStreet and The New York Times have reported that the company is battling two lawsuits over its business practices.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13702895/1/diamond-resorts-international-s-second-quarter-earnings-reversal-is-worrisome.html

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

These reportedly include pressuring owners to upgrade their membership in order to obtain benefits that do not materialize or are not as represented.

According to KBRA, the legal actions have dropped from their peak in the first half of 2016, but remain high compared with historical levels.

The ratings agency has the subordinate tranche of notes issued by a deal completed in July 2015 are under review for a possible downgrade.

Defaults reported by the deal, Diamond Resorts Owner Trust 2015-1, are zero, but only because the sponsor has been exercising its right to repurchase defaulted loans or substitute them with new loans. The company has the right to do this for up to 15% of the defaulted loans. However, it is not obliged to do so, and KBRA does not assume it will do so when it rates the bonds.

Diamond has also undergone a change in ownership. In September, the company was taken private by Apollo Global Management, which acquired it in a deal valued at $2.2 billion.

KBRA notes that, while other timeshare operators, including Wyndham, are experienced higher losses as the result of legal actions, “Diamond seems to be most affected.”

The presale report also notes that Diamond has made several changes designed to address the issue, including communicating with borrowers and attorneys on loans when possible and revising its sales and marketing training.

Bottom line: KBRA has increased its default expectation for the latest transaction considerably. Its base case is for gross losses of 17.9%-19.9%, compared with 13.05%-14.05% for the November 2015 transaction.

Roughly 99% of obligors are domestic and the weighted average FICO score is 732. However, the weighted average seasoning of seven months is approximately three months higher than in the previous transaction. The average loan balance remains high, at just over $25,000, which KBRA attributes to Diamond targeting obligors with higher FICO scores and incentivizing existing customers to upgrade into higher points programs.

Wells Fargo Bank will act as the “warm” back-up servicer in this transaction should the company experience deterioration in performance and be terminated as servicer.

At the very least, a timeshare buyer’s greatest advice:

group   Stay Informed and Seek Support

We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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.

Buyers should also beware a Diamond point at $8.52 is worth only pennies used for travel awards.

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

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Irene for the article, it has certainly shed some light on these practises. As we said in the opening, Europe is changing the way timeshare and points are sold, it still has a long way to go, but it is heading in the right direction.

Your comments and stories are always welcome, just contact Inside Timeshare and we will get back to you.

 

advocate

Owners Coming Together to Help Each Other.

Following on from previous articles from Irene Parker and the problems owners have, today’s article focuses on the setting up of a forum for owners with legitimate concerns. Many of these forums do not encourage those with problems who need true help and advice, they seem to be pro timeshare and actively discourage people with complaints and problems from posting.

Owners need to be able to get proper advice, not the opinion of a pro-resort owner, who only promotes that fact, labeling others as negative. Timeshare does have a positive aspect, but unfortunately the negative is much more the norm. We hope this article gives some of you hope.

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocate Facebook

Launched to Help Timeshare Owners who do not know Where to Turn

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

By Irene Parker

February 14, 2017

your voice advocacy

Aristotle Onassis, husband of Jackie O, famously said, “Some of the most money I ever made came from ideas that were very simple, but no one ever thought of them before.”

Timeshare owner are not trying to make money – far from it. They only want to be treated fairly. Several Diamond Resort members Facebook pages are feverishly trying to maintain an equal number of happy/disgruntled owners. Rather than worry about Diamond owners like Mr. Ralph Marble, tilting the balance towards unhappy – why not refer owners like Mr. Marble to a Facebook page designed to help owners with legitimate concerns? Mr. Marble’s case was resolved after eight years only because a television reporter called Diamond asking that Mr. Marble be released from his contract.

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/timeshare-woes-for-one-man-who-tried-to-cancel-after-an-illness

Inside Timeshare has been inundated with emails from timeshare owners who are tired of the stories we write week after week describing the harm being done to hard-working families victimized by rogue timeshare sales agents. Even sales agents are coming forward reflecting on how they used to earn a decent living selling timeshare according to rules that, while not perfect, did not financially devastate the lives of people who signed off on a “Vacation Experience of a Lifetime” only to learn their experience was at the opposite end of a dream vacation. Vacation nightmare is not too strong a word.

Over time, several owners, former sales agents, attorneys and advocates have formed a timeshare think tank composed of some of the greatest minds in timeshare. Some are attorneys, but most are owners bringing a lifetime of expertise in management, finance, accounting, legislative and advocacy skills that can move a timeshare mountain.

Helpful websites and Facebook pages posting helpful comments don’t go far enough. The beleaguered timeshare owner still faces what can be the challenge of a lifetime, unaware of the army of attorneys working against them. There’s a reason why people facing legal battles require opposing counsel and one on one advice and support.

A case in point is the family we will call William and Mary. This married couple has two sons, one stationed in Germany at a US army base. A timeshare sales agent painted a dream vacation describing how the family of four could stay at exquisite resorts, including Germany, where they could vacation near their son. The couple bought 2500 points for approximately $10,000. Their real names have been withheld pending the outcome from Diamond Consumer Advocacy.

Armed with 2500 vacation points and their membership ID and location booklet received long after the contract recession period, the family later sadly learned their 2500 points fall far short of what it would take for a family of four to stay at a promised resort for a week to ten days in Germany. Not sure where to turn, they contacted Charles and Irene at Inside Timeshare.

I spent a career in finance, but still fell for the dream of being able to stay at a New York Diamond property to visit our daughter. Like William and Mary, my husband and I learned the 10,000 points we accumulated fell far short of the 40,000 to 60,000 points required to stay one week at a Diamond NYC hotel, not told affiliated properties are not Diamond owned so never discounted. In real dollars, it means it would cost from $5000 to $10000 in Diamond maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at the same hotel booked online for $2400, including tax.  I checked several times throughout the year. We do find value at other parts of the country, so have made do, but the reason we bought our points remains unfulfilled.

Travel awards also fall short. A point purchased for $2 to $4 is only worth $.07 if used for airfare. Understanding basic math, I later learned it would take all our points or approximately $2500 in maintenance fees to book one domestic US airline ticket. Unless you intend to travel first class next day, this makes no economic sense. A Diamond customer service representative later explained travel awards are offered for convenience, not value, helpful for owners who have so many points they don’t know what to do with them all.

Where do we go from here?

Our timeshare think tank Facebook members may just follow along, unless they have advice to add. Send your story and we will follow up – one timeshare owner by one timeshare owner.

united we stand

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ….  

 The Statue of Liberty, written by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887)  

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

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or any article published on Inside Timeshare, please do contact us and we will answer them for you, failing that we will pass you to the appropriate place to have them addressed.

  

 

latest-news-1

Latest News on Tauro Beach

The debacle that is the Tauro Beach project has taken another turn over the weekend, the high winds, tides and waves have once again taken their toll.

The Anfi project to create an artificial man made beach, has over the past months seen the head of the Coastal Authority sacked and charged with wrongdoing in public office and forgery of official documents. The Mayor of Mogan being investigated for similar offences, along with the Canarian Government instituting legal proceedings to strip Anfi of the franchise to run the beach for the next 50 years.

Back in August 2016, the local residents had their homes flooded, as the high tide flowed over the beach, where once the natural defenses of the pebble beach would have stopped it. We also saw the local people filling sandbags to create a defense against it happening again, alas to no avail.

So what is the problem?

Quite simple, the project was not planned correctly, no account was taken for the fact the natural defence of the high pebble beach stopped the sea encroaching the land, that a lower flat beach would end in flooding. There was no building of a breakwater, like the one seen at Amadores beach, this protects the artificial beach from high waves, especially during the winter storms.

Only a few weeks ago the sea washed away a sizable chunk of the beach, then this past weekend we saw even more washed away, the cost, over 6 million euros, what a waste. Who paid for it? Anfi, with the money you owners paid for your timeshares.

Tauro beach gone
The beach after the weekend weather.
original beach
The original beach

Is it any wonder that the Guardia Civil are conducting a huge investigation into this project, with rumours of corruption abounding, prosecutions pending and untold damage to the environment and protected area, only 300 meters off shore.

Just seeing the damage, it is clear that no real thought had gone into the project. Even local people had warned that the beach would be washed away at the first high tides during a storm. Did anyone take any notice of their concerns? The answer is sadly no. But it is they who will suffer when the really big tides and fierce storms arrive.

Posted by an unkown English woman on The Canary New Facebook page.

This story is not over yet, but Inside Timeshare will bring you the latest as and when it happens.

Follow the links for some of main stories in past articles.

http://insidetimeshare.com/anfi-tauro-beach-project-people-flooded/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-project-latest-news/

http://insidetimeshare.com/nightmare-for-anfi/

http://insidetimeshare.com/first-prosecution-tauro-beach-project-filed/

http://insidetimeshare.com/mayor-mogan-investigation-anfi-tauro-beach-project/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-project-canarian-government-revoke-anfi-concession/

Since publishing La Provincia posted this on their website:

http://www.laprovincia.es/gran-canaria/2017/02/14/fuerte-oleaje-pone-nuevo-jaque/908733.html

 

 

 

abc

The Secret World of Timeshare Sales.

Following on from the many articles on timeshare in the US, Inside Timeshare today publishes the story of a former sales agent with Hyatt and Diamond Resorts. Her story is one that will resonate very clearly with many people who attended timeshare sales presentations, not just in the US but also in Europe, although in Europe it must be said, most of the industry especially Diamond have cleaned up their act. Much of this is down to the adverse publicity in the press and the ongoing litigation in the Spanish courts.

The many sales reps that I personally know and have known through the years are decent and honest people, the problem came in the way the industry was run during the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000. It was and still is with some companies, on a commission basis only, you don’t sell, you don’t eat. For many they were also tied into company apartments, so if they did not reach their targets and were fired, they also ended up homeless.

For those who did get a “basic wage”, it was usually twinned with “On Target Earnings”. Again if targets were not met your basic was reduced or not paid. Another factor which is well known in the European model was the so-called “drip feeding”, this was a method by which companies held on to staff who did deal. Basically, the company would tell the rep that the client had not completed, then that pay would be held back, this forced the rep to stay, knowing that if they left they would never get paid.

It was also not uncommon for some unscrupulous companies to claim that the client had cancelled, when in fact they had completed. For some this meant a “claw back” of the pay they had received from the commission and the “spiff” they received for dealing, (the spiff is an incentive payment, paid in cash at the morning meeting the following day).

So it is not difficult to see how normal decent folk would say anything to close the deal. That being said, yes there were and are some who are just out and out “blaggers”, having no sense of conscience or morals. Many companies loved these type of reps, as they would do whatever the managers tell them.

So now to the story of Candace, where she explains her time and experiences as a timeshare sales agent.

Former Timeshare Sales Agents Strike a Blow against Timeshare

By Candace Czarny – February 9, 2017

ethics

Several current and former timeshare sales agents, management and employees have joined forces with timeshare owners to take a stand against timeshare companies, including Hyatt Corp, Westgate, Wyndham, The Manhattan Club, Marriott, Highland Resorts, Sedona Pines and Diamond Resorts.

It’s a modern day David & Goliath story. Timeshare companies employ armies of attorneys in their effort to suppress the seedy side of timeshare. While many owners use and enjoy their timeshare year after year, others fall into deceptive and fraudulent sales presentations ending up with a vacation dream that sometimes turns into a nightmare. Others have called it a timeshare trap.

Now we are beginning to see a powerhouse of attorneys and regulatory agencies on the side of the timeshare consumer in an effort to expose selling strategies that incorporate psychological manipulation, omissions, deceptions, and fraud.

I am a former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent. While at Hyatt I was advised by management to order a copy of the CIA Guide to Interrogation and Human Manipulation. Some timeshare companies employ these strategies, designed to intimidate and confuse hardworking consumers worldwide, in order to generate profits and earn wildly inflated executive compensation. Honest sales agents, previously able to earn a good living with reputable timeshare companies, find themselves subtly maneuvered out of this new more sinister timeshare business.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to work in the timeshare industry because my family owned one and used it every year.  Our family created unforgettable memories every year using this property.

It was only after working in the industry as a sales agent that I came to see and understand the complicated strategy of greed from the inside.  Like Trish Williams, awarded $20 million in a recent Wyndham Whistleblower case, I am one of the single individuals not willing to be a pawn perpetuating a scam against hard working people trying to create a happy life for their families. Three former Hyatt sales agents are year five into our Whistleblower case.

At some resorts, dramatically rising maintenance fees turn a family’s vacation into a money pit with no way out. Voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed, so owners not able to keep up with annual fees and assessments fall victim to listing and transfer agents. Many owners with loans, not eligible for a “voluntary surrender” are forced into default or must obtain legal help in order to have their timeshare loan cancelled. This just adds to their existing financial burden.

This complex and convoluted strategy for wealth and power is like a hamster wheel. The timeshare company generates profits from selling the same timeshare over and over and over again. To arrive at a solution one must arrive at the cause and in the case of timeshare, the cause begins with corporate greed at the expense of the individual employee and the consumer.

Timeshare companies hide behind carefully and strategically worded contracts intended to shield them from responsibility and litigation. This leaves the owner feeling hopeless and angry with no recourse. Timeshare companies rely on the burdened owner not being able to withstand a costly and lengthy legal battle.

A new age is dawning where individual owners, in partnership with regulatory agencies and lawyers, are banding together to fight back against timeshare corruption.

huddle

The Arizona Attorney General has put a stake in the ground and alleged that Diamond employee’s’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Diamond Resorts Corporation has settled with the Arizona Attorney General for $800,000 in a case involving allegations of customer deception and was issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” (linked below).  This is just one of an avalanche of lawsuits and investigations exposing a minefield of corruption, fraud and deceit perpetuated at the highest levels of corporate timeshare.

While New York, Colorado, Tennessee and Arizona Attorneys General are making some progress, more needs to be done. There has been a notable lack of concern from many state and federal regulatory agencies. Lawmakers have demonstrated a “Well, they signed a contract” attitude. Such lawmakers have no concept of the depth of deception some timeshare companies go to in order to “close the deal”.

Based on ARDA’s estimates there are over 9,500,000 timeshare units in the United States.  To give you an idea of how profound this corporate culture of greed is and how the courage and bravery of single individuals are making a difference in the name of what is right, listed below are just some of the settlements, judgements and lawsuits against these timeshare giants.

  • Hyatt Corp is sued by three former Hyatt timeshare agents alleging deceit and fraud. They are in year five of a Whistleblower case alleging deceptive practice.
  • Tennessee Attorney General announced a $3 million settlement with Festiva, a network of vacation and timeshare companies, for alleged violations of the federal Telemarketing Act, federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
  • Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
  • Colorado Attorney General  is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.
  • Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices in a Whistleblower case.
  • The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club is proceeding. The motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to March 31, 2017 because the sponsor appears to have engaged new counsel, Gibson Dunn – the third set of sponsor attorneys in this matter. This motion is for request to release monies previously frozen by court order to pay the sponsor’s attorney’s fees.
  • The Marriott racketeering lawsuit as of February 7, 2017 is still waiting for a decision on motions to dismiss and is engaged in discovery, according to attorney Jeffrey Norton.
  • In Spain there are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euros, These cases are being brought by Canarian Legal Alliance.
  • A billion dollar lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts International.
  • Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond Resorts International.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations.

If you feel you are a victim of deceitful timeshare sales or are an employee whose livelihood has been threatened by refusing to participate in deceptive and fraudulent tactics, I encourage you to tell your story. Alone we perish under the weight of power and greed. Together we can overcome and thrive.

Diamond timeshare owners worldwide, who purchased a timeshare in Arizona since 2009, have until the end of April 2017 to file a claim of relief with the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

Instructions on how to file a complaint are included in this press release:

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

Thank you Candace for writing this article, Inside Timeshare welcomes articles from anyone with a similar story, or even from those who have been on the receiving end of the sales presentation. It through these article we might just see a change in the industry that will benefit not just the consumer but the industry as well.

For information about pending litigation or questions on how to file a complaint, contact Inside Timeshare either through email, by posting a comment, or finding us on Facebook. Please state if it is a US or European timeshare. We’re here to help.

https://www.facebook.com/insidetimeshare/

3 men

 

parting

Parting of the Ways: RDO Announces it is Dropping Mindtimeshare

It was announced yesterday 7 February, that the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation) is not going to renew the contract with Mindtimeshare SL. This follows last year’s announcement that Alberto Garcia was “stepping down” as director of mindtimeshare and head of the RDO “Enforcement” programme.

As we reported in our article of 16 March 2016, Alberto Garcia had attacked many firms with false allegations, all at the behest of the RDO in its bid to discredit any company who was not a member of that organisation.

enforcer

During his time working as “The Enforcer” (sounds like something from a hollywood film) this ex-police inspector falsified allegations and used his connections to discredit, have arrested and destroy innocent people. All under the guise of protecting the consumers of the timeshare industry, an industry that itself is doing nothing for the consumer apart from causing many financial burdens and stress.

This can be seen in the number of cases being won against RDO members in all the courts in Spain. The Supreme Court itself has made 46 rulings against these RDO members, yet nothing is said or done to change what the industry is doing. In fact the RDO backs up the claims from the likes of Silverpoint and Anfi that the laws are wrong and that these eminent judges are wrong in their interpretation of the law.

The RDO´s enforcement programme has been discredited, mindtimeshare has been discredited, Alberto Garcia has vanished (not that anyone had ever seen him, with this the only photo found).

Alberto-garcia-2

But in its place a new entity has been created to replace it, “The Timeshare Task Force”.

Another name that tries to imply it is a “legal law enforcement entity”. This time it is being coordinated by Kwikchex, a company owned by Chris Emmins, which claims to be a “Worldwide Reputational Management” company, which is only around 6 years old.

Mr Emmins, has a very long history as a director, having resigned fro 4 directorships, and held 17 appointments at 17 companies which have all been dissolved. It is also alleged that these dissolved companies have left a debt of over £500,000 to creditors. Not a very auspicious record! (see link to previous article)

http://insidetimeshare.com/kwikchex-chris-emmins/

It is also believed that Chris Emmins was the only tender for the contract to run the new “Timeshare Task Force”.

task force
OK guys lets take em out!

Again, it is designed to fool the public into believing that only the RDO can be believed, that when Kwikchex does its so-called verification process, it is doing so as a legal right. Any company not subjecting themselves to their questioning will receive negative comments on the Kwikchex Timeshare Business Check website. No company is legally obliged to answer their questions, there is no legal reason why they should, let alone have to join the RDO in order to conduct business.

Ask yourself the question, why would, say a law firm engaged in suing the timeshare industry want to join the industry trade body?

Why would they pay the organisation the membership fees to be accredited as “legitimate”, when it is those members who are flouting the timeshare laws?

These are questions for you the reader to decide the answer.

We also recently published the article on 6 February “The battle Lines have been Drawn”, we reported about the problems of TATOC and Harry Taylor. Since then we have received information of a major falling out between TATOC and the RDO, with RDO members withdrawing membership or reducing their contributions. In another twist to this story, it has been reported from the US that the American Resorts Development Association (ARDA) President and CEO Howard Nusbaum, will be speaking at the March Conference. We have also been told that this organisation will be contributing substantial funds to TATOC, apparently much to the consternation of the RDO.

On this we will just have to wait and see.

 

chickensoup

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

Chicken soup is used as a remedy whenever anyone is ill, I remember as a kid if I was under the weather mum or gran would ensure I had a bowl of hot chicken soup. Whether it did any medical good is not clear, but it did make me feel better.

The chicken soup for timeshare is a cacophony of abbreviated names, which many of us cannot work out what they stand for. I will not go for the ones on mainland Europe, for one simple reason, I don’t speak the myriad of languages we have. So here are the ones we have in the UK if you have a timeshare or consumer problem.

Firstly the timeshare ones: we have the RDO, Resorts Development Organisation, this is the trade body for the industry and represents only the industry not the consumer.

TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, this is supposed to represent you the owners, but as we know they are funded by the industry for the industry. Also they are in deep trouble as we saw in yesterday’s article.

Non timeshare organisations:

BIS, Business Innovation and Skills, this is a government department, in the past they are the ones who closed down several “dodgy” holiday clubs.

They also work very closely with TS, this is Trading Standards. Each county council has their own trading standards office, again they have been instrumental in closing down rogue companies.

CAB, this is the Citizens Advice Bureaux, this is an agency run mainly by volunteers who offer advice and information on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately when it comes to timeshare they will refer you to TATOC.

FCA, the Financial Conduct Authority, they deal with anything within the finance world, it is they who lay down the regulations for how businesses such as debt collecting agencies operate.

FOS, The Financial Ombudsman Service,this is a government body who is the last resort in any dispute on financial matters. For instance problems with loan agreement, credit card refunds, including complaints against debt collecting agencies.

There are plenty more but my soup pot is only small, so I cannot fit anymore in, Irene in the her article today explains the numerous ones in the US, this will be of specific interest to those in Europe who have bought in the US. You also have the right to lodge complaints there, even if you live in Europe.

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/surveying-administrative-remedies-for-timeshare-consumers-seeking-relief

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

Who are they? How can AGs, CFPB, FTC, or the BBB Help Us?

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

Many timeshare owners have little or no understanding as to how to go about fostering change when business practices have degenerated to the point such practices become harmful to consumers. This article takes some of the mystery out of governmental and nongovernmental agencies offering a blueprint for consumers to follow.

Given recent actions taken by such agencies, and in light of today’s timeshare climate, we look at what’s happening and examine where we can go from here.

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-court-order-barring-sales-manhattan-club-timeshare-hotel

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.bqeQAdL7#.whk6BDr5

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

Clearly, timeshare needs to change, so I reached out to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group in an effort to understand how regulatory agencies work. Mr. Finn describes his writing style as “lawyerly”.  In order for me to understand an article found on the Finn Law Group “Learning Center”, I have to rewrite it. This serves as some source of consternation to Mr. Finn, but he on occasion graciously allows me to redact one of his papers so that my fellow peasants can understand the topic.

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

The Federal Trade Commission was created in 1914 to prevent unfair and deceptive acts or practices. The FTC does not resolve individual complaints, but provides information about the next steps a consumer may take to resolve an issue.

The FTC looks at fact patterns in an industry. Several (the key word is always several) complaints may indicate a pattern of fraud and abuse which may lead the FTC to investigate and eliminate those unfair practices.

We begin with the FTC, because many states have enacted a portion of this federal act into state law.

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

If a consumer encounters a rogue sales agent in the timeshare industry, the experience can be described as a vicious cycle or circle that begins with the oral representation clause used and abused by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. Consumer complaints beginning with “the salesman said” are sadly told the timeshare developer is protected by the oral representation clause.

In some cases, as in the case of Ralph Marble, maintenance fees escalate so fast the timeshare owner can no longer afford the fee. Mr. Marble was never able to use his vacation plan because of being diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase. His maintenance fees increased from $200 to $684 over eight years.

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/timeshare-woes-for-one-man-who-tried-to-cancel-after-an-illness

Voluntary Surrenders are on a case by case basis. If a timeshare owner is denied a voluntary surrender, they are often driven into the nets of timeshare “listing” or transfer agents. Some transfer agents are bogus which means the owner thinks they have unloaded their timeshare but have not. If the transfer agent is “legitimate”, the surrendered contracts are bundled 50 to 100 contracts and sold back to the timeshare developer, who in turn resells for full price. Thus the circle is complete.

After a four to seven hour timeshare sales presentation, the beleaguered buyer is poorly equipped to read the mile high stack of documents they are about to sign.

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB is one of the newest government agencies created in July 2010 partly in response to the mortgage crisis in the late 2000s. The goal of the CFPB is to watch out for American consumers in the market for consumer financial products and services. The timeshare industry utilizes various financing tools in its sales practices and presentations.

The CFPB told me consumers should choose the mortgage option when filing a timeshare complaint, even if there is no mortgage. Timeshare is somewhat new to the CFPB. If the owner does not want to file a formal complaint, there is an option to “Tell Your Story”. I tell the CFPB stories almost every week.

The CFPB does publish the subject and data of the complaint, feeding its Consumer Complaint Database. Most importantly, the CFPB will report to Congress with the purpose of enforcing federal consumer financial laws and writing better rules and regulations.

As more credit card transactions involving timeshare purchases are generated, the credit card financing aspect should not be overlooked for consumers seeking a monetary resolution to their timeshare purchase issues, assuming a credit card was utilized. Diamond Resorts offers a six month 0% interest rate “Barclaycard” offer if the credit card is used to purchase a timeshare. More and more timeshare developers are acting as new credit card originators for third party financial provides such as Bill Me Later (a division of PayPal) Barclay Bank, Bank of America, and a couple of credit unions.

Unlike other regulatory agencies, companies must reply to the CFPB’s complaints or inquiries. Consumers should file their complaints with the CFPB, but expect only a modest resolution and an opportunity to be heard. However, the more complaints the CFPB receives regarding a company, practice, or industry – the more likely those complaints will be presented to Congress. Congress has the power to create new rules and regulations that can improve the market for consumers when Congress reviews and enacts new laws.

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

An Attorney General (AG) is a publicly elected position. Every state in the US has one. The AG is charged as the chief legal officer for their respective state. The AG’s Office proclaims to protect “timeshare owners by investigating business practices” relating to the sale and resale of timeshare interests.

The AG’s Consumer Protection Division has the civil enforcement authority to investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The Division is additionally responsible for the enforcement of the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act,(“RICO”), which punishes businesses and “enterprises” conducting patterns of illegal activities within a state.

Notably, the AG by law cannot represent private citizens in legal disputes. When a complaint is filed by a consumer, and the AG investigates the alleged misconduct, the AG does not represent the consumer on an individualized basis, but rather the interest of consumers in their state as a whole.

As in the case of the $800000 settlement the Arizona AG reached with Diamond Resorts, if the Division investigates and is successful in prosecuting or settling the action, there is a potential for recovery.

Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation (“DBPR”) state regulatory agency – Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”)

Florida is a timeshare mecca center. The DBPR is an extension of the executive branch of the Governor, and is charged with licensing and regulating all businesses and professionals within the state. The DBPR subdivision relating to timeshares is known as the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”). The Florida Timeshares Division licenses and regulates timeshares through education, complaint resolution, mediation and arbitration, and developer disclosure.

The Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) of this division represents the interests of Florida residents and does not represent individual complainants. In most cases the Department, even with successful prosecution, does not typically recover money that a consumer has lost. Many consumers rightfully wonder what the likelihood of success would be if they take the time to file a complaint.

Statistically speaking, from April, 2014 through April, 2016, the Florida Timeshares Division received 2,360 complaints. Of those complaints, only 110 resulted in action by the Florida Timeshare Division – less than 5%!

The Better Business Bureau BBB

The Better Business Bureau is not a regulatory agency. It is a nongovernmental nonprofit that serves to promote a community of business that consumers can trust. The BBB does not solve consumer disputes. Success is not based on the outcome, but whether the business responded or not.

The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues.

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

The National Timeshare Owners Association is a social purpose organization dedicated to educating, advocating and protecting ownership interests. For nearly 20 years, the NTOA has worked to ensure owners have access to resources available to them. As the oldest and largest member based association, NTOA works closely with other industry associations and stakeholders such as CRDA, TBMA, TATOC, CARE and FTOG. NTOA’s extended relationships include 12 domestic and international developers, HOA‘s and management companies. The NTOA seeks to find solutions to some of the industry’s most complex issues.

Summary and Conclusion

What avenues, if any, exist for the unwary consumer who gets pressured into purchasing a $25,000 to $100,000 or more timeshare interest with credit at a 14% to 19% annual interest rate accompanied by a lifetime and beyond maintenance fee obligation? A thriving resale scam industry exists due to the limited and sometimes nonexistent secondary market.  

It’s not until long after the contract is signed, or if the family experiences a life crisis, they learn that the purchase contract often contains no way out. In all likelihood, the perpetual contract was signed in a same day sale, after a sales presentation that lasted for hours. The elderly are targeted, according to several lawsuit allegations.

success

Given recent regulatory decisions and legal actions, a highway of hope is under construction.  

GET INVOLVED!

To perhaps state the obvious, the timeshare industry is a well-organized and wealthy industry that has the ability to lobby for favorable laws and treatment.  Contrast this with the average consumer who is economically stretching to afford a $25,000 timeshare interest.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to learn more about organized efforts to reform an industry badly in need of reform. Thank you to timeshare companies working towards a safer and owner friendly timeshare industry.

We would like to thank all contributors to this article especially Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group.

Inside Timeshare is here to bring you the latest news on what is happening in the world of timeshare, at present we are very much focused on Europe and the US. We are however working on collaborating with writers in Australia, this will bring you the news on a worldwide scale. We would also like to hear from any owners in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. You can contact Inside Timeshare through our comments section or email direct to admin@insidetimeshare.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

tug o war

The Battle Lines have been Drawn.

There appears to be a massive falling out in the timeshare industry, TATOC, the self proclaimed voice of the owners is under fire. Harry Taylor looks to being discredited, not just over the Lakeview debacle but also for his unbridled support of the move by MacDonald Resorts to force fixed week owners to change to the points system.

This being said, MacDonald Resorts have not been members of the RDO since the end of 2005, yet TATOC still supports them. One has to ask why are MacDonald’s no longer members of the industry trade body?

Silverpoint has (reported by TESS 2 February) reduced their membership from Platinum to Silver, so are the industry backers realising this organisation is failing?

Among owners themselves, TATOC has been losing credibility, many comments from readers who have approached them for advice have not been impressed. The number of comments on the different discussion forums also confirms this. Is it not time that a new and more credible independent voice be created, the only way change in the industry is possible is through dialogue with those that keep them in business.

round-table

The industry is in turmoil, the Arizona Attorney General has secured an $800,000 settlement from Diamond Resorts International, with a $1billion suit being filed in Nevada, Wyndham have lost a lawsuit for $20million, brought by an ex-employee.

In Colorado, the Attorney General has sued Highland Resorts for deceptive trade practices and the New York Attorney General has halted sales at the Manhattan Club, with a class action lawsuit underway. Hyatt is also in legal dispute with former sales agents, this has been going on for several years.

It is not only in the US that we are seeing problems, in the past week we have seen SIX, yes SIX Supreme Court rulings against Silverpoint / Resort Properties. In these rulings the product “Club Paradiso” has been declared as falling under the Spanish Timeshare Laws, with purchasers being considered as “consumers” and not “investors”. These judgements have again made legal history.

The length of the contracts have also been confirmed in these rulings as illegal, being for a period of more than 50 years. The courts have also returned double the amount paid on the deposits, these were taken within the stipulated 14 day cooling off period or reflection period, in some cases this has been extended to 90 days where the relevant information has not been supplied. Under this ruling if the balance was paid in this period then the total amount has been awarded double.

Silverpoint seem to have taken over the news from another beleaguered company, Anfi in Gran Canaria. We have seen around 29 Supreme Court ruling made against them since the first in March 2015, which also made legal history.

legal history

It is not only for the sales of the timeshare product that Anfi are suffering, there is also the ongoing problem with the Tauro Beach project that Inside Timeshare has been highlighting. There is at present a case in the court to remove the concession and permissions for Anfi to run the beach for the next 50 years, this is being brought by the Government of Gran Canaria. We are also waiting for the trial of the former head of the Coastal Authority, he has been charged with wrongdoing in public office and forgery of official documents.

The beach itself has been badly damaged by high tides and rough conditions, with major parts being washed away. Also remember that in August 2016, the local residents and their homes were flooded. The residents themselves ended up building defences to stop it happening again.

The sand itself which was imported from Western Sahara, which under UN rules should not have taken place, as this area is deemed under occupation by Morocco and is subject to sanctions. This sand around 70,000tonnes was laid on the beach without first being treated, so this could also have an environmental impact on the area.

So, there is a lot going on in the world of timeshare, we are only reporting the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There is more to come and Inside Timeshare will bring it to you as it comes in.

You can find the articles relating these stories by using the search box, if you have any comments, Inside Timeshare would like to hear and share them with others, it is only through your contributions that the truth will get out.

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