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The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this weeks article is by a new contributor, Della Morris C.P.A., M.B.A., M.S. with the introduction by Irene Parker. As is usual with articles such as this, Inside Timeshare submitted the draft to the company concerned for comment. The reason for this is very simple, we hope that the situation can be resolved and on some occasions the article is then not published when a positive outcome is achieved.

In the case of some companies, no response is received, then when the article is published they start to issue legal notices, sending in the lawyers with threats because they don’t like what has been published. Well, that is their problem, they are given ample warning but fail to respond.

In the case of this article we did receive a response from ARC, all credit is due to them, you can read their comment in Irene’s introduction.

Senior Foreclosure

The Hardship created by Perpetual Timeshare Contracts without a Secondary Market

By Della Morris, an Americano Beach Resort owner in foreclosure

Introduction by Irene Parker

August 14, 2018

Inside Timeshare has published two articles about Americano Beach Resort as the developer, ARC, works toward reopening the resort damaged by hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Work is progressing, but today’s article is about how the perpetual timeshare contract is forcing senior after senior into foreclosure, often those with high credit scores who have rarely been late on a payment. The foreclosure process is demeaning and demoralizing, but for some seniors the relentless calls can affect their health and wellbeing. We’re not singling out Americano, or their current developer, ARC, as this is an industry wide problem. A few companies, like Wyndham and Diamond Resorts, are offering voluntary surrender programs, alleviating the problem for some.

My husband and I owned a deeded week at Port Elsewhere (named after the medical drama series St. Elsewhere from the 80s), Osage Beach in the Missouri Ozarks for almost 30 years. Living in Florida, we no longer desire to vacation in Branson. I called the resort, spoke to the person I had gotten to know over the years, who responded to my request to deed back with, “Yeah, we discussed this at our HOA meeting and decided it’s not fair to place such a hardship on aging owners, especially those who have faithfully paid their maintenance fees for so long. I’ll send you the form to sign and return.” We left Port Elsewhere holding no animosity, only fond memories. We knew it was time to go when all our neighbors said, “My grandma and grandpa bought this!”  

Out of the 530 timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare, not one was aware of how difficult getting out of a timeshare can be. Almost daily we hear from another senior bracing for timeshare foreclosure. Many of their stories are heartbreaking, and for more than a few, devastating.

For timeshare members, lucky enough to have purchased a timeshare that does have some salability, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no money upfront and can provide straight answers if your timeshare has no secondary market. Scams asking for upfront money to “get you out of your timeshare or your money back” abound. Based on 530 reader complaints, honesty is in short supply. Many of our readers have been duped by exit scams.  http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Della is at her wit’s end. She contacted Inside Timeshare after reading Meryl Stefan’s July 27 article that contained a description of Freedom 365, an exit and travel plan ARC is offering deeded owners. For many original buyers, the answer to their timeshare nightmare is not to spend more money by joining a Travel Club.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-14/

Della had already talked to ARC, but hoping to help find a solution I contacted ARC and was provided the following information. Della will follow up.  

The Association does have a hardship surrender policy.  It’s managed by the administrative manager at the resort  (Contact information was provided). Generally, the policy is that the owner has to bring their account current before the Association will accept the deed, but we’ll work with every owner based on their specific needs.

I believe many complaints can be resolved by finding the right person to talk to. The salespeople are paid to sell, so the sales agents mentioned in Della’s article were probably not the proper people to talk to about a deed-back. Through dialog we hope to create a kinder, gentler relationship between disgruntled owners and developers.

By Della Morris, C.P.A., M.B.A., M.S.

I am 70 years old and currently live in Virginia. I bought my Americano timeshare in 1994. It has been difficult for me to pay my dues each year and many times I asked Americano Resort to take my week back, even before ARC acquired Americano. When I bought the timeshare, I had no idea timeshare can be a product that cannot be sold or given back.

I had a back and neck injury that resulted in eight surgeries from 1990 thru 1997.  Many years my income was low, but I continued to pay the fees. I owe dues for 2017 and 2018, but cannot afford to pay them. I paid Americano maintenance fees from 1994 until 2016, despite never using the timeshare.

Sometimes you get the feeling that these resorts lump all seniors together like a herd of sheep. We are people. To give you an idea of my background, I worked for a company that audited corporations. A congressional law was passed by Senators Sarbanes and Oxley in response to the Enron scandal. The law required public companies with a certain amount of equity to have an independent audit by an auditing firm not connected with the company that prepared their annual report.   

When my health failed, I did not apply for Social Security. It was such a cumbersome process, so I just worked the best I could, sometimes for minimum wage, taking anything I could get. I have lived in West Virginia, Florida and North Carolina and was eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation in each of those states.

My contact with ARC, (Bernie and Edwin)

Edwin from ARC called me August 8 about turning over my Americano unit with a quit claim deed so my special assessments and annual fees would be forgiven, but they were asking $5,000 in order to do so, to join their Travel Club, Freedom 365. He said this would be a better deal for me than staying with Americano Resort. Edwin said Americano will continue to have large annual assessment fees and I will have to pay assessments plus maintenance fees each year.

Edwin stated if I do not pay the assessment and maintenance fees, my timeshare would go to foreclosure, plus I will have to pay property taxes. I told Edwin I knew of many not happy with the current Americano situation, with the resort not open. In my situation, I would be paying out good money after bad. I could not decide that day. They said they had to have $1,000 to hold the offer. I paid $500 with my credit card, but disputed the charge because of their aggressive sales tactics.   

Freedom 365 would require I travel to one of their properties at least one time per year at a cost of $299. I never even stayed at the resort I bought! They also offered 1,000 points each year to be deposited to my account so I could book other stays. The difference between the price given and the discount rate would come from the points. Points would not carry over if not used, or if some were remaining at the end of the year, after paying $299 for travel and the other travel destinations through Freedom 365. This plan sounded convoluted and the last thing I needed to do was pay an additional $5,000 for something I never used.

They told me foreclosure letters would be going out soon. I wrote a check for my 2017 dues but apparently the check was never cashed. I feel the industry needs to do something besides browbeat seniors who have been paying them money for years, holding them as financial hostages. So, I brace for the collection calls and demand letters. I find the industry shameful.

Thank you to Della for sharing her story and to ARC for their response. Della is not alone. Inside Timeshare has been flooded with complaints, and not just from seniors. We hope industry executives will wake up and realize this is not the way to keep timeshare viable and healthy. Many families are devastated.

If you or someone you know has a timeshare problem, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below.

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

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

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

Thank you Della for your article and also to Irene for the editing and introduction, also a big thank you to ARC for responding, at least they have informed us and our readers that they do have a policy in place and who it is managed by. As Irene stated in her introduction, it really does depend on who you speak with, if only other timeshare resorts and developers informed members of the correct department, we would not have the situation we have today.

If you have any comments or questions on this or any other article published, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you, use our contact page and please let us know where you are located. This helps us to make sure we get the correct answers for you.

Also it is that time of year, especially in Europe, when many cold calling “scam” companies start to make contact, if you are contacted by any company or even found one on the internet and want to know if they are genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article by Irene Parker looks at “whistleblowers”, Irene attended a Whistleblowers Summit in Washington DC and for Irene it was a real eye opener.

As for timeshare matters in Europe, it is very quiet, although one new cold calling company has been reported on the Mindtimeshare website. They are called Services Juridico Reservations and are based in Marrakech, they appear to be contacting mainly Dutch owners at the present with the usual tale of a “guaranteed buyer” for their timeshare.

The offer is a substantial cash amount, although the timeshare owner does not have to travel to Marrakesh, everything can be done by telephone or email. There is no upfront fee, but there will be a large amount to pay for “TAX” for the sale to go through.

The telephone number is +212 609 158 457 with a standard gmail email address: [email protected] which is not linked to any website. They give the address as Boulevard Mohamed VI Plazza D4, 40000 Marrakech, Morroc.

We just wonder how long it will be before other nationalities in Europe are contacted by this dubious outfit.

Now for this weeks article.

Timeshare Fraud and Whistleblower Retaliation

By Irene Parker

August 10 2018

Whistleblower definition:

A whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The information of alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud, and corruption.

Those who become whistleblowers can choose to bring information or allegations to surface either internally or externally. Internally, a whistleblower can bring her accusations to the attention of other people within the accused organization. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of an accused organization such as the media, government, law enforcement, or those who are concerned. Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower

I had the privilege of attending the Whistleblowers Summit held July 30 – August 1 in Washington DC. A frequent comment Charles Thomas and I hear from timeshare members, after describing how they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents is, “It helps to know I am not alone.” That’s how I felt meeting and listening to fellow whistleblowers.

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Whistleblowing-Works–12-by-Marta-Steele-Civil-Advocacy_Civil-Liberties_Civil-Rights_Civil-Rights-Violations-180801-756.html

One remarkable whistleblower at the Whistleblowers Summit was Aaron Westrick, Ph.D. Dr. Westrick, former Director for Research and Marketing at Second Chance Body, received a Pillar Award for exposing defective bulletproof vests. One police officer died and another injured when the vests did not hold up. Dr. Westrick explained how he had been fired from his company for exposing corruption and how he endured a 14 year legal battle as a result of his truth telling.

https://www.whistleblowersblog.org/2018/08/articles/whistleblower-news/bullet-proof-vest-whistleblower-aaron-westrick-receives-pillar-award/

When it was suggested I attend the Whistleblowers Summit, I thought I was attending on behalf of 68 members of law enforcement and military, veterans and active duty, who reached out to Inside Timeshare describing how they had been defrauded by timeshare sales agents. Veteran Administration whistleblowers were well represented. However, in the last few weeks, I have learned that I am a target of retaliation as a result of my attempts to expose fraud.    

Inside Timeshare has heard from 528 timeshare members angry beyond words. I believe highly educated, professional timeshare members alleging fraud over the timeshare sales agents they accuse. There are too many patterns of identical complaints and too many repeat offenders to be ignored. We have been contacted by senior after senior, up-sold into foreclosure. The foreclosure process is demeaning and demoralizing. For the young, unwittingly signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market, the credit downgrade is long lasting.

Two timeshare members are working on their own articles.

One member attended a timeshare presentation in Las Vegas. According to the member, he told the sales agent his wife purchased a deeded timeshare week 18 years ago and he had hated the timeshare for 18 years. He explained that he had never attended a timeshare presentation until this presentation, which he attended only to learn how to exit. The sales agent told him that in order to be eligible for the voluntary surrender program he would need to convert his deed to points. This was blatantly false. Many deeded timeshare members have surrendered their deed. The sales agent sold the member $12,000 worth of points for no reason. Worse, the timeshare company requires a six month waiting period before applying for a surrender, to capture 2019 maintenance fees.

Past articles have mentioned timeshare customer service representatives responding to members, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” After we published this response, the line was changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said,” as this member was told.

The other timeshare member was also up-sold by a Las Vegas timeshare agent. Six months ago a disabled veteran recorded a blatantly fraudulent up-sell. The recording was so obviously fraudulent you would have assumed the agent would be fired. Not so. Inside Timeshare received a complaint this week from a timeshare member reporting they had been defrauded by this same timeshare sales agent and that the sales agent told the member he was assigned to the highest loyalty level members. Two sales agents with this distinction had been fired, but only after years of complaints.

Wells Fargo made national headlines when they admitted allowing their representatives to open bogus accounts. It’s annoying to have an unauthorized credit card opened, but timeshare members report being defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Complaints involving $100,000 to $200,000 are not uncommon.

In the case of Wells Fargo, at least victims could file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Timeshare buyers could not effectively file a CFPB complaint because the timeshare company services the loan. The filer has to select a lender from the CFPB drop down menu and a timeshare company is not a choice.

It doesn’t matter what you are blowing the whistle on. I learned at the Whistleblowers Summit you can expect retaliation. In the case of Wells Fargo whistleblower Jessie Guiltron:

Jessie Guitron began working for Wells Fargo in 2008. Soon after, though, she realized they all faced a company-mandated quota to sign up new accounts. Some of her colleagues, she noticed, were promising to open free accounts for clients but signing them up for premium accounts which came with hefty fees. Customers were overdrawn, and their credit ruined.

“I kept complaining and complaining, and nothing ever gets done,” Guitron says. “I was doing what my conscience was telling me to do. It’s fraud. That’s what it is.”

Trying to stop that fraud put a target on her back. She was fired in 2010, she says, without warning. Unable to find a new job and believing she had been blackballed, Guitron filed a lawsuit claiming Wells Fargo fired her for speaking out against the fraudulent practices she witnessed.

But then, two years later, her claims against Wells Fargo were dismissed.

“I was deflated,” Guitron says. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m done.'”

In 2016, the world around her changed when the government accused Wells Fargo Bank of opening numerous accounts without their clients’ consent.  

https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/whistleblower-wells-fargo-fraud-could-have-been-stopped/

Like Bernie Madoff, unscrupulous timeshare sales agents and unscrupulous timeshare companies don’t care who they hurt. It is our hope that someday, some regulator will listen and respond. All timeshare complaints filed by our readers with the Nevada and Florida Attorneys General offices have been dismissed with, “You have no proof” or “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” In effect, there is no timeshare regulation in those states, at least not for the 528 members reporting back to us. Echoing the timeshare company’s “You have no proof,” provides a green light for fraud.

Like other whistleblowers, I have no regrets and would do nothing different. I would rather be attacked than ignored to shed light on so many responsible families financially devastated by decades of predatory, aggressive and fraudulent timeshare sales. Of course there are honest timeshare sales agents and happy timeshare members. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest, but researching Attorneys General investigations, lawsuits and complaints, Charles and I are not alone in our desire to take back our vacations. If only the developers and their law firms would take off the blinders. Charles and I know truth is our best defense.

If you have a question or concern about a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or an advocacy group.

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Related articles:

How to File a Timeshare Complaint  

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-teusday-slot-with-irene/

The St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

Thank you Irene, I know that you found the Whistleblowers Summit very intriguing and made many new contacts there. It is through people like those mentioned here that the truth is made public, without them large corporations and governments would get away with murder. Keep up the good work.

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, time for the beach, pool and BBQ’s, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, today Irene Parker looks at what Canada is doing to protect consumers of timeshare, are the events in Spain shaping the Canadian legislators views?

If so this can only be good thing for consumers, change is necessary, Spain leads the way in this field and the more countries that use their model the better off consumers will be. The industry needs to change, if they will not do voluntarily, then it is up to the legislators to make them change.

While doing our usual browsing of the many timeshare related websites and blogs this morning, we came across this rather interesting piece in Mindtimeshare, regarding a new cold calling company and timeshare claims.

Reclaims Yard, with a caller going by the name of Bob Cosgrove, who calls those who were taken in by bogus holiday clubs and resale companies. According to Cosgrove there is money set aside and waiting for them in respect of what they paid out. That even if the consumer doesn’t have any paperwork, that is not a problem.

According to Cosgrove, they do not expect any money from the consumer (no doubt that will come later to cover “TAXES”), but the consumer will be paid out by cheque, being paid out directly from some fund or other.

The telephone number they use is 0115 8242 356 which is a Nottingham code, they also use the email address [email protected] which as we already know is just another of those free email providers and is not linked to any website.

The interesting fact is that Reclaims Yard Limited, Company Number 07722606, is a genuine company, although according to Company House records has an Active order to Strike off.

This company has nothing to do with timeshare, they are in fact specialist in reclaiming, restoring a selling “interesting and unusual” pieces of the past, reclaiming building materials and architectural salvage.

They have also published on their website a warning regarding the fraudulent use of their name regarding the timeshare claims:

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:-

PLEASE NOTE THAT WE ARE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH SPANISH PROPERTIES,  TIMESHARING OR ANY OTHER TYPES OF FOREIGN INVESTMENTS OR RECLAIMING FUNDS.

THIS IS A SCAM!

OUR ADVICE IS TO NOTIFY THE POLICE IF YOU RECEIVE ANY COMMUNICATIONS REGARDING THIS.

WE ONLY TRADE IN RECLAIMED (PREVIOUSLY USED) BUILDING MATERIALS AND NOTHING ELSE.

PLEASE SEE OUR NEWS PAGE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION…….

https://www.reclaimsyard.co.uk/

Once again, we see a fraudulent operation using the name of a genuine company to give themselves credilbility when the consumer does a quick internet check. We cannot emphasise that when making these checks it is not just to see if they are registered but to actually look at the company name that is being used.

Now for today’s article

Quebec Canada Bill 178: An Act to amend various legislative provisions concerning consumer protection

187.13 A contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights is deemed to be a service contract

A contract related to timeshare accommodation rights is considered a service contract. You may resiliate your contract for other reasons, and you have other rights and recourses.

Resiliate: fait d’annuler, de résilier un contrat canceling , termination
The verb resiliation means “To draw back from a contract”
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/french-english/resiliation

By Irene Parker
August 7, 2018

Once again the nature of the perpetual timeshare contract comes under the legislative microscope, this time in Quebec. Perpetual contracts are not harmful in the case of your home or car, but with little to no secondary market for unwanted timeshares, the consequences of signing a perpetual timeshare contract has financially devastated many of the 515 families that have contacted Inside Timeshare seeking release. Many members have been scammed by timeshare exit companies and listing agents promising, but not delivering results.  

Among other provisions, Quebec Bill 178 defines a timeshare contract as a service contract. This could have lasting consequences for Canadian timeshare buyers who have felt trapped by the perpetual timeshare product. Many timeshare members are saddled with high interest rate loans and some with higher interest rate credit cards issued by timeshare companies.   

Under Bill 178, a service contract can be cancelled under liberal conditions. The profound implication boils down to the ability to cancel the timeshare contract if the purchaser is not getting the benefits of ownership. According to those familiar with the legislation, not getting benefits could be due to medical conditions, availability, or a host of other reasons.    

This is not the first time Canada has ruled on the definition of a timeshare. According to this 2017 ruling, the Canadian Court of Appeals defined a timeshare more like a country club than real property.

On July 11, 2017, In a decision that will likely affect all timeshares and owners of timeshares with properties located in Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal set aside the Tax Court of Canada’s decision in the case of Club Intrawest v. Canada. In doing so, the Court of Appeal substituted its own decision to refer GST assessments back to Canada Revenue Agency for reassessment of GST just for services supplied in Canada in relation to vacation homes situated in Canada.  Federal Appeal Court Judges Nadon, Gauthier and Dawson agreed with the Tax Court’s finding that a principal-agent relationship does not exist between the club and its 22,000 members. This decision also confirms that members of Club Intrawest (now rebranded Embarc by Diamond Resorts International (DRI)) do not hold beneficial ownership in the real estate and equipment in vacation home resorts and do not control the Club. The Court found that members merely own a right of occupancy in exchange for their resort points. This contradicts sales presentations, financial and marketing materials by Intrawest Corporation (“Intrawest”) and now DRI, to the effect that members have beneficial ownership of vacation homes and control the Club through election of the Board of Directors, responsible for managing the Club’s operations.  The ruling will require the club to pay reassessed GST back-taxes for tax years 2002-2007. The GST/HST tax liability for tax years 2008-2016 is unknown at this time. All timeshare owners with vacation homes in Canada may be impacted by this decision and may also see themselves assessed for back taxes on the supply of services in Canada related to vacation homes situated in Canada.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-canada/

Spain ended perpetual timeshare contracts.

Spain was the first country to rule that perpetual timeshare contracts are illegal. In Spain timeshare contracts purchased in perpetuity, floating weeks and points, have been deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court. To date, Spain has ruled in favor of the consumer in a whopping 129 Supreme Court victories.

Marriott Vacation Club (VAC U.S.: NYSE stock symbol) filed an 8-K Other Events, as reported by Market Exclusive July 19, 2018. One of the events was mention of Spain’s Supreme Court rulings invalidating timeshare contracts.

A series of Spanish court rulings over the past several years invalidating timeshare contracts have increased our exposure to litigation and such litigation may materially adversely affect our business and financial condition.

https://marketexclusive.com/marriott-vacations-worldwide-corporation-nysevac-files-an-8-k-other-events-4/2018/07/


Notes from the Quebec Bill 178
http://www.assnat.qc.ca/en/travaux-parlementaires/projets-loi/projet-loi-178-41-1.html

Introduced 18 April 2018 Quebec National Assembly
Passed 6 June 2018
Excerpts from the bill:  

Bill 178 defines a timeshare contract is a service contract and not a purchase agreement involving a property transfer.

Bill 178 (2018, Chapter 14) An Act to amend various legislative provisions concerning consumer protection

The Act proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection Act to introduce a protection regime governing contracts relating to timeshare accommodation rights.

  • The Act introduces rules specific to the making of that type of contract and sets out the compulsory information such a contract must include. It grants consumers the right to resolve the contract without charge or penalty within 10 days of signing it and specifies the circumstances in which that right is extended to one year.
  • The Act imposes on merchants who enter into a contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights the obligation to establish a payment schedule for each year covered by the contract…..Furthermore, the Act introduces a disclosure obligation related to promotion made by merchants engaged in the business of such contract, prohibits certain stipulations and provides that such contracts may not be automatically renewed.   

    Division V.3
    Contract Relating to Timeshare accommodation rights


    187.13 A contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights is deemed to be a service contract

    187.14 A contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights must be evidenced in writing. In addition to the information that may be required by regulation, it must contain or state the following, presented in conformity with the model prescribed by regulation:
  • (h) the term and expiry date of the contract;
  • (j) the fees to obtain an accommodation right, their amount on an annual basis if they are calculated on a basis other than annual, and the total of such amounts for the entire term of the contract.
  • (t) a statement that the merchant may not collect payment from the consumer before beginning to perform his obligation;
  • (u) the right granted to the consumer to resolve the contract at his sole discretion within 10 days after that on which each of the parties is in possession of a duplicate of the contract; and
  • (v) the other circumstances in which the consumer may resolve or resiliate the contract, any applicable conditions and the time within which the merchant must refund the consumer.

    187.15 Any stipulation that results in the automatic renewal of a contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights is prohibited.  

    187.16 The merchant may not make the entering into or the performance of a contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights dependent upon the entering into of a credit contract.

    187.21 The contract may be resolved at the discretion of the consumer within 10 days following that on which each of the parties is in possession of a duplicate of the contract.

    That period is, however, extended to one year from the date on which the contract is made in either of the following cases:
  • the contract is inconsistent with any of the rules set out in section 25 to 28 for the making of contracts, or one of the particulars required under section 187.14 does not appear in the contract; or
  • a Statement of consumer resolution and resiliation rights and a resolution and resiliation form that are in conformity with the model prescribed by regulation were not attached to the contract at the time the contract was made.

187.24 Any contract entered into by a consumer, even with a third-party merchant, on the making of or in relation to a contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights and that results from an offer, representation, or other action by the merchant who is party to the contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights forms a whole with the latter contract and is resolved or resiliated by operation of law at the time the contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights is resolved or resiliated.

In addition, the consumer may, with respect to a contract entered into with a third-party merchant and contemplated in the first paragraph, exercise directly against the merchant a recourse based on the non-performance of the contract or on the provision of this Act.

187.25 Within 15 days after resolution or resiliation, for the reason set out in section 187.26, of the contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights, the merchant must refund all sums paid by the consumer under the contract and under any other contract contemplated in section 187.24, including sums paid to a third-party merchant.

229.1 No person may, when making or promoting a contract relating to timeshare accommodation rights, make representations implying that the contract is an investment, unless the person gives the consumer a document showing the truthfulness of the representations.    

A contract related to timeshare accommodation rights is considered a service contract. You may resiliate your contract for other reasons, and you have other rights and recourses.


What’s next on the timeshare horizon?

The key word in 229.1 is “may” because in the U.S., the language in one state regulator’s ruling states “should” not make representations implying that the contract is an investment. What a difference one word can make.  

Thank you Irene for this very interesting piece of news, we do hope that others will follow in the footsteps of Spain and now Canada to put into place laws and regulations to protect consumers from the excesses of the timeshare industry. We can only wait wait and see.

From our warning of another fraudulent timeshare reclaims caller, this does really hit home that you must always do thorough company that contacts you or that you have found on the internet. Doing your homework is vital to protect yourself from scammers and fraudsters.

If you need help in checking if a company is indeed genuine, then use our contact page, Inside Timeshare will help you find the truth and point you in the right direction.

Remember DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND KEEP YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY SAFE!

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, this article is based on a report released by the St Louis Better Business Bureau, it is based on their full report published on the BBB website which we have included as a link. The full report carries some very sound advice along with recommendations for Government and the industry. Whether they take note is another matter.

August is the month for Spain to basically close down, so there is no news from the courts, but this little snippet from the RDO website news section and published on 24 July caught our attention.

“We never sleep”

During this particular break-out session the RDO legal panel will provide attendees with an update on a range of issues, including the latest developments in the Spanish Supreme Court rulings and the on-going lobbying programme.

Other issues that will be covered within the session will be ongoing collaboration with UK authorities to take fraudulent individuals/companies to court and new legislation that is being developed to curb the activities of claims companies. Attendees will also learn how ARDA is dealing with similar issues in the US and whether there are lessons for RDO and its members.

Well one thing is for sure, the RDO obviously believe that the Spanish timeshare laws are not good for the industry, with the judges getting it wrong, along with their belief that they will be able to change things in their favour through the lobbying programme. Well somehow I don’t think the Spanish authorities will be looking to changing their laws to return back to the bad old days!

In the end these court cases that are being brought are of the industries own making, if they had abided by the laws in the first place they would not be paying for it now. A very good case to remember is Silverpoint, whose CEO Mark Cushway was at one time also a director of the RDO, this company is being pilloried by the lower courts in Tenerife and the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Why?

Quite simple, they sold a product that flouted virtually every article of Law 42/98, especially with their promise of the “investment” weeks, where unsuspecting purchasers, many of them on the verge of retirement, were sold under high pressure and very misleading sales pitches a promise that these weeks would be sold or rented out. These never materialised and are the subject of many of these court cases. All this while Mark Cushway was one of the directors of the industry trade body, there to ensure that members operated in a legal and ethical manner.

On the legal front, Canarian Legal Alliance has just published their mid year report, it is certainly impressive and really does put the above statement from the RDO in a different light. Follow the link for the full report direct from the lawyers themselves.

https://canarianlegalalliance.com/canarian-legal-alliance-mid-term-successes/

Now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

A St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

Released July 24, 2018

Don’t Fall for Deception Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations

August 3, 2018

Inside Timeshare has received complaints against Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Hawaii, California, and Virginia sales centers. Missouri is no worse than the other states. We appreciate the St. Louis, Missouri Better Business Bureau taking timeshare complaints seriously.

From: American Resort Development Association’s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”

From the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report:

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT

  • Tougher law enforcement action. Regulatory agencies have reported receiving an increasing number of complaints about the timeshare industry. Bringing action against any bad actors in the industry could help consumers and deter companies from violating consumer protection laws.
  • New laws. BBB hears from many senior citizens who have been affected by the timeshare industry. Missouri legislators should consider special protections for those 65 and older who enter into agreements with timeshare and travel club companies. An extended right of rescission period could help seniors who may not totally understand what they have purchased. All consumers should receive pertinent information – such as access to websites and passwords – at point of purchase so that they can check potential savings and actual values of timeshares on resale market so that if they decide to cancel, they can take advantage of the rescission period.

(BBB) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY

  • More honesty from the industry. The timeshare industry needs to develop and adhere to a set of ethical standards to address widespread reports of high-pressure and deceptive sales practices and to deliver accurate, honest sales pitches to consumers. Reputable companies do not pressure consumers over several hours to purchase services they had little interest in buying or, in some instances, can’t even afford. If presentations are held, consumers should not be detained past the scheduled time or express a false sense of urgency to act immediately. Avoid telling consumers something that will entice them to sign but is later contradicted by your contract.
  • Honor promises. Provide tickets or other promotional items at the time of the presentation. Do not mail them later or make the consumer obtain them from another source.  
  • Do not mislead about timeshare inheritance. Too often misleading statements or scare tactics are used to encourage those who have inherited a timeshare to believe they are liable for it. Don’t misrepresent the law or circumstances for financial gain.
  • Do not require consumers to initial documents “under duress.” Too often, consumers are faced with presentations consisting of long hours; eventually succumbing to high pressure sales tactics.
  • More transparency from the industry. If a consumer is referred  to another company or person to complete the presentation process, be transparent about the process (ie. obligation to sit through a two hour presentation to obtain discounted tickets) and amount of time it will actually take to possibly alleviate someone from their timeshare.
  • Eliminate company mediation. Do not require consumers to mediate through the company’s internal program should a dispute arise. Instead, use neutral, third-party mediation source such as Better Business Bureau or American Arbitration Association.
  • Easier exits. The recent establishment of deed-back programs may be a step in the right direction. More consumers should be able to take advantage of these programs. The establishment of more deed-back programs is likely to lead in a decrease in fraud seen in the resale and exit markets.

Inside Timeshare has received 515 timeshare complaints from our readers, 271 since January 1. All but a handful report their complaint was dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Our advocacy efforts have had an effect. After publishing this last statement a few times, the defense has been changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said” still relying on the oral representation clause. About 200 complaints were copied to ARDA / ARDA ROCbut were ignored.

If “You signed a contract” – is the industry’s official policy, and the regulator’s position in some states, the public needs to be made aware misrepresentations reported by timeshare buyers will be ruled in favor of the timeshare sales agent. In Florida and Nevada, all our readers’ complaints filed with those state Attorney General’s timeshare divisions have been dismissed with “You don’t have proof.” An upcoming article examines proof and why FBI agents and several attorneys don’t buy this response.

Inside Timeshare contributor Sheila Brust reported, “We were given ludicrous advice from a regulator that is clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality. I was told to contact a licensed timeshare resale broker, but every agent I contacted informed me my timeshare had no secondary market. By steering complaining members to licensed real estate agents, when turned down, members often end up the contacting a scam that will charge the member upfront money promising to sell or cancel their timeshare. Often that promise falls short.”

Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints against Branson, Missouri sales centers. Our researchers discovered one Branson timeshare sales manager was selling points at the same time he was working for a timeshare exit company named Mutual Release a suspicious name for a company, as mutual release is the form signed when a timeshare issue has been resolved.

Our Advice

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION or any Luxury Item AT 12% TO 19% and don’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. As the St. Louis BBB recommends, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare. There you will receive straight answers.

 http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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

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

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

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the positives when it feels like the battle is all uphill. All we can do is reach out to those who feel lost to let them know Inside Timeshare and real advocacy groups are there for them. Consumer and advocacy are two words members should take with a grain of salt, used and abused by scam artists. We are real advocates.   

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, for those in Europe beware the heat wave, especially if you are travelling to Spain, Seville is reported to be facing temperatures of 48º C or 118º F.

Join us next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare, don’t forget if you have any comments, questions or just need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and don’t get sunburnt!

Another New Timeshare Claims Company

Once again one of our readers has pointed out another company that is offering timeshare reclaims, they are called Timeshare Redress with the website:

https://timeshareredress.com

With the following address Telephone number and email:

Ground Floor, 22 Vantage Park,

High View Close, Hamilton,

Leicester LE4 9LJ, United Kingdom.

0800 051 1738

[email protected]

The website is very new only being registered on 8 June 2018, with the registrar hidden by redaction for privacy, yet according to the Home page they are “helping clients claim back £thousands”, that they are “One of the leading claim handlers in the UK”, also stating they work on a “no win no fee” basis.

Well, for a website only registered less than 2 months ago these are rather grand claims to be making. So who are they?

The actual company is called Money Redress Limited with the company registration number 10483863 and registered at the above address. The company was incorporated on 17 November 2016 so only just under 2 years old.

The first director was Ian Richard Francis, who resigned on 25 April 2017, being replace by Robert James Jeffrey Ridge on 2 March 2017.

Mr Ridge who is aged around 41, has had a total of 18 appointments, 5 which are still active, 1 in liquidation and the rest are dissolved companies. One company is also registered at the same address which is called Pension Calculator Limited, Company number 08957148.

According to their website, (About us) they are working in partnership with one of the leading law firms in Spain, yet they do not name them anywhere on their website, surely that would be one of the most important points to give credibility?

They do go on to state the following about their Spanish partner:

  • Listed as recommended lawyers with the British Embassy/Consulate, US Embassy and Irish Embassy, as well as being members of regulated legal bodies such as the IBA (International Bar Association).
  • Qualified Legal Representatives: Their legal team are made up of fully qualified and experienced lawyers who can provide you with comprehensive information, detailed estimations of all fees, costs and taxes involved, and clear and concise explanations of the legal process.
  • No language barriers: Their office staff include native speakers from the UK and US, as well as Spain, and staff who can converse with you in English, French, German, Russian and Swedish – so you can be confident of fully understanding the legal process throughout the course of your case.

Inside Timeshare did contact the leading law firm in this field to check if they had any knowledge of this company, but they had never heard of either Timeshare Redress or Money Redress.

The website does emphasise the Spanish Supreme Court rulings and cases brought in Spanish courts against 5 of the major players in the timeshare industry, but again no mention of which law firm is responsible.

The Latest News section shows three reports, all three taken from other sources, one from New Business and the other two from the Telegraph. One of the articles from the Telegraph is extremely dated as it has quotes from the TCA by the late Sandy Grey, who as we know passed away in 2013.

When you check the Services section, you will get a drop box with the list of timeshare companies, each one takes you to a contact form asking for very basic details Name, telephone, email and was the timeshare purchased or upgraded after January 1999 and then a submit button.

So what can we assume from this website?

At first glance is does appear to be a “lead generator”, submit the details and they are then free to contact you and pass you on to another company, thus getting round the new data protection laws.

So what about the no win no fee aspect?

As we know any legal action through the courts in Spain requires a Spanish registered lawyer, it also requires that legal fees are paid upfront, so this rules out the no win no fee aspect. Although the no win no fee could be the success fee payable on completion of the case and a successful payout from the timeshare company through the court. Only one snag here, these cases can take a long time to actually get through to the payout stage, according to cases at court now, they have taken around 12 to 14 months to reach the trial date, this is without the timeshare companies making an appeal when they lose. One just wonders if these people will still be about by then?

Once again we have a new player on the block, with no actual evidence of who is behind it, after all directors are only the front men, not necessarily the owners of the business. We have a website that is very new yet makes some very big claims, a section which is typical of a lead generator and no mention of which law firms they are in partnership with. All this leads us to view them with great suspicion, as we keep saying the timeshare claims business is a very lucrative area and since the first Supreme Court rulings many have jumped on the bandwagon, even though they have no actual knowledge of the timeshare industry or timeshare law.

This is a classic example of why you should be doing your homework, finding out about any company that contacts you or you have found on an internet search, popup advert or even adverts in newspapers and magazines. After all, we even have the story of one reader who answered and advert in the Royal British Legion Magazine, a trusted organisation, then got scammed. As we explained to her, the marketing companies sell advertising space, they don’t do checks on the credibility of advertisers!

If you have any questions are need help in checking any company, then use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

Join us tomorrow for our Friday’s Letter from America, with a Timeshare Report by the St Louis Better Business Bureau, edited by our very own Irene Parker.

The Changing Face of Timeshare Scams Pt 2

Over the years we have seen various changes in the scams surrounding timeshare, from the development of resorts in the beginning then the resale scam to the latest of the fake law firms. Once the timeshare is purchased then the never ending problem of who to trust emerges. Today we have a brief look at how these scams have changed, the only thing that ties them together is they want your hard earned cash.

The first scams to take place in what should have been a good product was the off-plan purchase. In the early days when timeshare resorts were proliferating, those on holiday were lured to the presentation deck or showrooms to be sold “The Dream”. These “UP’s” or “Unit Prospects” as you are known, were usually picked up off the street by the OPC’s or the touts with the scratch cards, every single person given these cards would win the Star Prize. Then taken to the deck to claim it and sit with a “rep” for the presentation.

They would be shown architects plans and artistic impressions of what the resort would look like, what facilities it would have and the standard of the apartments. Usually photos of existing resorts would be shown to enhance the quality that you would expect. It was also sold as an investment, you were buying into property or real estate, which would go up in value. In essence you were buying a share in your very own holiday home.

A proposed date for completion would be given and then the hard sell kicked in, for just a small deposit you can secure the week and apartment of your choice, if you could not afford the full price a payment plan or finance could be arranged. After all it would be some time before you would be able to use the resort as it still had to be built.

Unfortunately, many of these resorts were never actually completed or even started, what you purchased was a hole in the ground and “The Dream”. Many of these sales took place in destinations such as Portugal, Spain and its Islands. This did give these countries a very bad reputation.

It must also be remembered that these schemes tended to be run by criminals who needed to launder their ill gotten gains from criminal activities in their own countries. That was the start of the word “Timeshare” becoming synonymous with scams.

Once timeshare was established, the resale scam began to appear, many of these were based on the Costa del Sol which had many timeshare resorts. Call centers were set up, usually in apartments and hidden, remember there was no internet at that time, so making checks was virtually impossible.

The caller would introduce themselves and ask if you still owned the timeshare, once this was established the question of have you thought about selling, as the prices of timeshares was increasing. After all the purchaser did think they owned property!

After establishing what the owner had paid and what they owned, the agent calling would come up with a wonderful story of how they had sold recently for almost double the original purchase price. Once the owner had been hooked with the greed factor, then the agent would be needing a payment to list the property for sale. That would be the last you heard from them or your money.

The next move in the resale scam was the guaranteed buyer, or the corporate buyer, these tended to be the Discount Members Holiday Clubs, such as Designer Way Vacation Club and Club Class Concierge.

These originally worked in 2 ways, the pick up off the street or cold line, the call center targeting timeshare owners through lists. The cold line didn’t generally target owners, but once at the presentation they would establish that you did own timeshare.

With the telephone targeting of timeshare owners, they would be told that there was a buyer who was looking for timeshares, usually a corporate buyer. Once you agreed that you would be interested in selling they would invite you to their offices in Spain with free accommodation, to attend a meeting.

Once at the meeting the corporate buyer turned out to be a sales agent for the holiday club, they would take the timeshare off your hands but to do so you had to purchase membership into the club. You would get a discount for the timeshare and in many cases what was known as Cashback, which was another con in itself.

It the turned out that the discounts promised never materialised, the excuse was always the same, sorry not available on those dates. It also turned out that in many cases several year down the line the timeshare company started for non- payment of maintenance fees. The timeshare had not been disposed of as promised.

Thankfully the main culprits have been closed down, but there are still some about, resale scams still exist, but from what we have seen they are mainly targeting French and Belgian owners and are based in Marrakech.

We now move on to the claims sector which has really started to take off since the first Supreme Court rulings against timeshare companies.

Some of these are very sophisticated frauds, such as those of the Tenerife based family of fake law firms which we have dubbed the Litigious Abogados Family. Their method is very well put together, they even have some excellent fake court and procurator documents.

First they contact the owner, (in some cases the timeshare is no longer owned), with the story that the timeshare company is about to be taken to court and you can be in on the case. You are likely to receive thousands in compensation, but you do have to pay a fee to the procurator. Once paid, give it a couple of weeks and you are then notified that the director pleaded guilty and you have been awarded a substantial amount. Unfortunately there is a tax to be paid, which is 20% of the awarded amount, to back this up the unsuspecting timeshare owner is sent fake court documents showing the sentence and a photocopy of the cheque they will receive. Yes you guessed it there was no trial and you have just lost thousands.

Another ploy is the so-called firms calling themselves lawyers or claims companies, the pitch is simple, you have a claim which they will do on a no win no fee basis, great no legal fees upfront. There is one snag though, you need to cancel the contract first, but guess what they can do the relinquishment for you. All you have to do is pay upwards of £5000 and you will be out, then they will start the claim for you.

In some cases these companies have also used the “bait and switch” tactic to sell their own product, “Leisure Credits” (think Monster Credits) which is a discount club (very similar to the holiday club), again not worth the paper the contract is written on.

What we have seen with these particular schemes from many of our readers is simple, they have never received any money for the claim and they are now being chase for around 3 years of back maintenance. Their contract have never been relinquished.

We have seen this with one company that has gone out of business, RSB Legal. They operated for about 3 years so must have taken hundreds of people for tens of thousands of pounds. It must also be said that the UK authorities such as Trading Standards as well as the police are investigating many companies.

Yes, for the poor timeshare owner it is a very perilous world, a veritable minefield where thousands are lost on an almost daily basis, with very little hope of ever recovering what has been paid.

There are some genuine law firms and claims companies, these will not tell you that you have a claim if you don’t, it is not in their interest to take on cases which are not valid. As for relinquishments, many resorts will not deal with third parties, Ona Group, MGM Petchey, MacDonald Resorts, Diamond, Club la Costa and many more, they will only deal direct with the member. Then in most case the fee they charge is usually far less than what you would pay these other companies.

It now remains to be seen what form the next phase of scams will take, these crooks will always find an angle, after all they do want your money!

So the moral of this tale is doing your due diligence and plenty of homework, if you don’t know where to start, then use our contact page. We are here to give you free advice and point you in the right direction.

Marriott Change Contracts to Bypass Spanish Timeshare Laws

Since January 1999, when Law 42/98 came into force, many timeshare companies continued to sell their product as they had before, this all change when these laws were challenged and the Supreme Court ruled on the definitive interpretation. This interpretation made many contracts illegal, especially on two main points, the duration of the contract was limited, allowing only for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years, the Supreme Court also ruled that floating weeks and points systems were also illegal as they lacked any substance or a tangible product.

The unfortunate thing is that many timeshare companies still sell floating weeks and points, one company Anfi, has added a week number and apartment number in an effort to get around this, but the courts still rule that it is floating as the contract actually states that. Others are using another ploy to get around Spain’s strict timeshare laws.

Inside Timeshare has received from one of our German readers a new contract that Marriott tried to get him to sign in May, to replace his existing contract for Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Exchange Program.

This would not be a problem if it were to comply with the law as it applies to Spain, but as we explain it is not designed to do this, it is purely a way to circumvent the strict laws on duration, points and floating weeks.

What Marriott have done has already been tried with contracts sold by Diamond Resorts and Club la Costa, in the past these two companies have used UK, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands or other offshore havens and registered as  Limited Companies. The contracts also have a clause which states that the laws of the United Kingdom and the Jurisdiction of UK courts applies. Even if the contract was sold, signed and paid for in Spain.

With the case of Marriott, they now use a United States Florida address on the contract, 6649 Westwood Boulevard, Orlando, Florida, 32821-6090. They have also included in the terms and conditions a very unfair clause, this relates to the possibility of taking any legal action against them. This clause is placed in section 8 on page 5 of the contract we have seen, below is a translation from the German contract.

“By joining this program, you waive your right, under applicable law, to go to court for any legal action or lawsuits that may be brought by or against MVCEC or its affiliates in any way as to its interpretation, design, validity, enforceability, or instruments, related to the program (including replacement procedures)”.

The original in German.

So what does this mean?

You as a purchaser will no longer have any recourse to take legal action against Marriott, when you find out that your contract is illegal in Spain and would be declared null and void in a Spanish Court.

This is obviously a blatant attempt to surpass the laws of Spain, which have been put into place to protect consumers from unfair contracts and purchases.

Points which are the basis of many timeshare contracts are illegal in Spain, but they are still legal elsewhere, the duration of the contract is limited to a maximum 50 years in Spain but perpetuity is still allowed elsewhere. By using this method to bypass the laws of the country where the purchase is made, does not protect the consumer. It goes back to lock them into never ending contracts and a points system that most find are unusable due to no availability.

This can be born out by many comments on various forums, below are just a couple found on Tripadvisor; (spelling mistakes are from the originals).

“Unless you live in the US, forget about investing in a Marriott timeshare. I have bought one weeks ownership in in the resort in Phuket. The resort as such is beautiful and it seems well managed. However if you dont want to go to your home-resort every year exchanging it through Interval becomes extremely difficult especially if you are looking at resorts outside the US. Interval has very few properties of similar standing in Europe or Asia, even the Marriott property in Marbella Spain is almost impossible to obtain in exchange.

I am so frustrated with the investment that iI am considering selling the ownership. Marriott offered my app. 15% of what I originally paid inspite of the fact that property prices in Thailand have gone up considerably. I can only say that buying ownershi at Marriott Vacation in Phuket was the worst investment I have ever made in my life.”

“It is difficult to give feedback on the use of it when the places you want to go are never available unless you book 13 months in advance. That is ridiculous. I don’t know anyone who books their vacations that far in advance. So, I’ve only used it once in Florida (Panama City Beach) which is on the bay side. It was nice, but not convenient being I wanted to be on the beach. I agree with the others, it’s not worth the money. I can stay in places just as nice for the $ and book closer to the date which is convenient for me.”

So for those who have in the past purchased in Spain, if your old contract shows that it was signed in Spain and indeed comes under Spanish law, you have a right to claim the purchase price back and have your contract declared null and void in a Spanish Court. If you sign the new contract you will lose this right, if you are a new purchaser, then the advice is don’t bother as you will have no consumer rights at all.

If you have any questions or comments on this subject or wish to know if your contract is illegal under Spanish law, then use our contact page and get in touch, we will get back to you as soon as possible.

In tomorrow’s Tuesday Slot we publish yet another Veterans “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this highlights their Tahiti Village Timeshare Experience. Inside Timeshare has been receiving many such stories from Veterans, serving members of the military and law enforcement officers, some of these have been published others have just related their stories and asked for help. The author of tomorrow’s story has requested anonymity we have complied with their request. So join us again tomorrow.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish an article from a new contributor, Meryl Stefan, with the introduction from our very own Irene Parker, but first a quick look at Europe.

Another warning is being issued on a fraudulent resale company which has just come to our attention, Mundo Tours Viajes SAC, with the address, Calle Serrano 78, 28006 Madrid – Spain, Tel: +34603108836 a Spanish mobile,  fax +34 917693079, a Madrid number. The email address is [email protected], which is an email  address provider just like gmail or yahoo and is not linked to any company website. None of the registration numbers show up on any Spanish registry and are false, Licencia S.A. 253797/ES , Registro mercantil 679-369-GOY-98.

There is a genuine Mundo Tours SAC, but this is registered in Lima Peru and is a genuine tour company, it has nothing to do with this operation in Spain. The paperwork sent to the client even has the logo of the genuine company at the top, including the company name as it appears on the genuine website. Again we see a fraudulent operation using the name of a genuine company to give some credibility when you do a search on the internet, this is a ploy that has been used for many years.

Click to see a PDF of the letter.

mundo_tours  

According to our information they tell the timeshare owner they have a buyer for the timeshare, this buyer has offered a substantial amount 27,000€ and is a guaranteed sale even naming the buyer! The only thing is to get the sale underway and sort out all the legal paperwork and transfer, a large sum of money is required. In the case of our reader, this amounted to 2,900€, which needed to be paid upfront!

Remember, as far as resales are concerned, there is no resale market, timeshares do not sell for the fantastic amounts these companies tell you, there are no “guaranteed” buyers. Just look on ebay, people can’t even give them away, even if they are fixed weeks and cheap on management fees!

We have also had a few emails from readers who have been asking the question on The Timeshare Association, another website trying to fool owners that they are genuine and concerned about owners. They have all asked the same question and it is the logo that has confused them, “we thought the Timeshare Association was part of TATOC, and they no longer exist, is this Timeshare Association the same as the logo is very very similar to the original?”

Simple answer is NO they are not the original, they have hijacked the name and the logo, again this little enterprise has none other that David Cox from TESS behind it. How do we know David Cox is behind it, they tell you on the website, plus just read the news, it is unmistakably Cox’s writing, full of grammatical errors, sentences that don’t make any sense and his usual diatribe against all and sundry.

The one problem is that the names that are the front for this website are the ones in the firing line when it comes to those being slated take the matter to court. They are the ones who are the “company” and therefore will be the ones held accountable. Do they actually realise what they have let themselves be drawn into?

We let you the reader decide on that one, now on with our letter from America.

Americano Beach Resort – post Hurricanes Matthew and Irma

What does the Future Hold?

By Meryl Stefan

Introduction by Irene Parker

July 27, 2018

Inside Timeshare published our first Americano Beach Resort article June 19. Since then we have heard from several Americano owners wondering what their vacation future holds. Obviously, no developer benefits by keeping a resort closed unnecessarily. The issues at stake are complex for both sides.

ARC has a public website that provides construction updates. According to the website, work is progressing. The installation of new windows is underway. One major area of concern to owners is the possibility of additional special assessments. According to ARC FAQs, no additional special assessments are planned, but that uncertainty remains, especially for seniors on a fixed income.    

http://www.americanobeach.com/irma-update-center.html

From our prior article:

Americano Beach Resort, a/k/a The Suites at Americano Beach, now managed by ARC Resorts, LLC, has been shut down since a few days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September 2017. http://www.insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-9/

By Meryl Stefan

We have been an Americano owner for 22 Years. One of our primary concerns is the special assessment of $1,834 levied because of hurricane damage and the possibility of future assessments. We can accept that increase might have been necessary, but on top of possible additional special assessments, it’s too much for many seniors like us living on a fixed income.  

Hurricanes can’t be predicted, but I feel that by now ARC should have been able to determine how much money will be needed and how much owners will be required to pay. If this was a one time assessment of $1834, we would understand that there could be a shortfall in insurance. The ambiguity of possible unknown assessments has forced us to walk away because of not knowing the extent of the liability. In addition to the special assessment, we paid our 2018 maintenance fee, booked a week for June 2018, but then learned the reservation had been cancelled.  

We originally paid $6,500 for a floating summer week. Maintenance fees in 2016 were $899. In 2017 they increased to $1,086. We never had a problem paying annual maintenance fees. We had always been able to book any week as long as it was 60 days in advance. I always paid my maintenance fees in January and then booked our week.

I am 65 years old, and my husband John is 75. We just don’t know what to do. We have always been responsible citizens. This is painful for us, and I know it is for many others as well. We had two other timeshares which we gave away to friends and family. We wanted to keep Americano so that we could vacation there every year with our family.

We attended one ARC meeting June 2017, after hurricane Matthew, but before Irma, after ARC acquired Americano. They tried to get us to buy into a different plan, which required more money. We declined. ARC agents wanted us to upgrade. They showed us many pictures, but the plans did not seem practical. We did not like the remodel proposed.

Comments from members,

We have heard nothing as far as an opening date other than possibly January 2019.  One member reported that he had heard it could be a couple of years before it might open. New windows are being installed but nothing has been done on the inside as far as anyone knows.

Since June 1, there have been 72 units deeded back to the Association. Some who have deeded back are under non-disclosure agreements so cannot reveal the circumstances.  Some claimed hardship, some are individuals who may have completed special warranty deeds and have submitted them to the court for filing.

The Freedom 365 plan (described below) has been purchased by some members, but other members have reported that they will not pay special assessments; although some have paid, hoping it will open.  

Many Americano owners are senior citizens now. The majority just want out of their obligation.  Some have hired attorneys but members should do due diligence before retaining any lawyer or timeshare exit company, as scams abound.

ARC has offered owners at all their resorts the opportunity to get out of the perpetual deeded timeshare by deeding the property over to ARC via the new Freedom 365 plan.

http://perspectivemagazine.com/060320175942/arc-delivers-membership-adaptability-with-freedom-365

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/03/arc-delivers-membership-adaptability-with-freedom-365/

One owner reported that ARC Freedom 365 requires a purchase price ranging from $12,995 to $21,995. Another owner reported being quoted $5,000. For some seniors on a fixed income, spending more money is not a viable option. One member expressed reservations about Freedom 365, because she said she would need to book one year in advance. A member provided this description.

The Freedom 365 Platform gives you unlimited weeks of travel in timeshare accommodations for $299, any size, any season, anywhere. Additionally the ARC Platform gives you access to inventory not available through RCI or II at great rates!

Our future retirees love the fact that they will have travel dreams fulfilled in their retirement with our RENEWABLE CURRENCY (Savings Dollars)! A currency that not only allows them to get GUARANTEED best rates on hotels and cruises but restaurants, and thousands of everyday products and services!!

Additionally we offer the opportunity for you to discover Europe without paying for your accommodations through our Heritage Program!

Let’s take a look at your options. Do nothing, keep your unit, and in ten years you will pay over $12,000 (without inflation or assessments) and get 1 week of vacation every year. You will have an expensive week of vacation, a liability that will continue to get more expensive and difficult to opt out of.

Trade in your unit and replace them with the Freedom 365 platform and a Deed to a 2 bedroom at Magic Tree, our ARC resort in Orlando if you are interested in continuing to own a deed or have RCI points (the maintenance fee is $600 per year but is given back to you in Savings Dollars to use for future travel or to purchase products and services 365 Days a year)

Trade in your unit, have no deeded liability and use the unlimited weeks through Freedom 365 for $299 for all of your travel needs. Additionally you will enjoy $2000 savings dollars per year to travel to hotels, take cruises, purchase products, entertainment and even restaurant cards using your renewable currency.

ARC worked in cooperation with RCI Club 365 on ARC’s Freedom 365 plan:

The benefits of Club 365 are wide-ranging, with multiple uses for affiliates in North America. Club 365 can be seamlessly integrated into virtually any sales process, and can be utilized to best suit business needs by serving as:

  • A low-cost, value-added benefit to enhance core product offerings
  • An enhanced purchase incentive to increase closing rates
  • A strong non-buyer program to increase revenue and build the pipeline of future prospects

https://rciaffiliates.com/north-america/en-us/rci-news/rci-launches-club-365-to-deliver-year-round-benefits/

From the FAQs found on the ARC website

In addition, ARC sponsors a travel & leisure discount program called Freedom 365 which affords its members steep discounts on cruises, hotel & resort stays and consumer products. ARC Freedom 365 is not a deeded product, and the Member may remain so for as long as they like or may cancel their membership at any time.

From Irene

Americano members are seeking answers they hope will be forthcoming. Posting answers to questions on the ARC website helped me understand the situation better. It looks like there is a long way to go, but progress is in the works. Owners hope to be able to vacation with families and friends as they have in the past.  

If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help members sponsored Facebooks and websites. Remember not to pay anyone to get you out of your timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups below. Meryl paid two exit companies $395 each to get out of her timeshare, to no avail.

This Better Business Bureau report, released July 24, 2018, is the subject of next Friday’s Inside Timeshare:

In this report, we look at all aspects of the timeshare process — from buying an initial property to attempts by businesses to sell consumers on vacation club memberships to consumer endeavors to divest themselves of their timeshare investments. BBB advises consumers to use extreme caution when considering the purchase of a timeshare or vacation club offering.

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

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

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

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

Thank you Meryl and Irene, a very informative article, we just hope that some kind of resolution is forthcoming. Next week in our Tuesday Slot we highlight another Veterans “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this contributor has requested anonymity which we have agreed. We welcome our readers to submit their stories, we will always respect their wishes if they wish not to be named.

Well here we are again the end of another week, Friday and the weekend beckons, whatever you are doing, having a BBQ or just relaxing down at the beach or pool, have a great weekend and join us next week.

The Great Anfi Battle of the Partners Round 2

Back in March 2016, Inside Timeshare published the article The Great Anfi Battle of the Partners, this highlighted the long running arguments between the Lyng family and Santana Cazorla, the 50% partner in Anfi, who also controls the Board.

http://insidetimeshare.com/great-anfi-battle-partners/

It centered mainly around the disappearance 8 million Euros between 2012 and 2013, the diversion of these funds was apparently noticed  by the Lyng’s while a lawsuit was pending between Cazorla and Lopesan. This lawsuit revolved around a 14 million Euro debt, which Lopesan claimed was owed to them by Cazorla as they had bought the debt from the Cardenas family. This debt it is claimed was for the land which Cazorla purchased from Cardenas for the golf course and complex at Anfi Tauro.

Well the story has not ended there, round 2 is up and running.

Just recently the Spanish press has been running several stories on the continuing battle between Cazorla and Lopesan, it also involves the new head of the Costas, Rafael López Orive, who is facing charges of “Prevarication”. (For the full story on this click the link below).

https://www.elconfidencial.com/empresas/2018-07-22/anfi-canarias-direccion-general-costas-juez-investiga_1595609/

http://espiral21.com/santana-cazorla-demanda-a-ifa-por-fraude-en-la-compra-de-anfi/

In another twist in this long running dispute between the two major players in the tourist sector in Gran Canaria, Santana Cazorla has issued a lawsuit filed in June 2018 at the Mercantile Court in Las Palmas, involves Bankia, the public bank of the Spanish State and 6 million euros.

http://espiral21.com/bankia-rebajo-6-millones-a-lopesan-la-compra-de-creditos-de-anfi/

Apparently it looks like Bankia lowered the price for the purchase of credits from Anfi del Mar by Lopesan by 6 million euros and according to the lawsuit Cazorla states:

“Lopesan ha estado comprando créditos existentes contra las sociedades de Anfi y contra las empresas del grupo Santana Cazorla a diversas entidades bancarias”.

“Lopesan has been buying existing credits against the companies of Anfi and against the companies of the Santana Cazorla group to various banking entities.”

The situation between the factions is complicated and we will no doubt be seeing many more lawsuits and counter lawsuits being filed, this now begs the question, what does this actually mean for those members of Anfi?

When IFA Lopesan purchased their 50% share, it left many wondering where Anfi would be heading, would Lopesan if they do take full control turn Anfi into a hotel and do away with the timeshare model?

Looking at the history of Anfi and comments from members, since the Cazorla’s purchased their 50% share and took control of the board, Anfi has been seeing a slow decline in standards, a series of scandals and lawsuits, with the latest being the Tauro Beach Project. It must also be remembered that Anfi are also losing heavily in the courts for the past mis-selling of their timeshares.

What the future has in store for this once great resort, no one really knows, what we can say however is that it is going to be at a cost of millions of euros in legal bills, something the Anfi members should be very much aware of, yet we believe that they will as usual be kept in the dark and fed whatever “spin” Anfi can put on it.

https://www.abc.es/espana/canarias/abci-sandwich-holandes-lopesan-incordia-santana-cazorla-anfi-mar-201806210739_noticia.html

If you have any questions or comments on this article or even want to know if you have a valid claim to retrieve your purchase price and have your contract declared null and void, then use our contact page. Inside Timeshare will get back to you and endeavour to answer your questions and concerns with facts.

Tomorrow Friday’s Letter from America asks what the future holds for Americano Beach Resort after the hurricanes Matthew and Irma, this is from another new contributor Meryl Stefan, with the introduction by Irene Parker.

So join us for our last article of the week for more news and information on the world that is timeshare.

 

Marriott Admit Losing in Spanish Courts

On 7 July, Market Exclusive published an article reporting on the financial statements issued by Marriott. (See link at the end). After the preamble they began by announcing they had identified Fraudulently Induced Electronic Payment Disbursements”, which resulted in $9.9 million resulting from unauthorized third-party access to their email system. They duly notified law enforcement and relevant financial institutions, commencing an investigation.

They have managed to recover $3,2 million, but are hopeful they will recover the rest. Now this is just a start in their report.

They have also acknowledged they are recording pre-tax litigation expenses of $16.3 million, these are to settle in principle, two actions in their North American business with the Petrick action and an owners action brought by those with fractional interests at the The Ritz-Carlton Club, Lake Tahoe. It will also include actions by owners of Marriott timeshare interests in Spain.

The litigation on their Spanish business is a result of the laws Spain has brought in to protect consumers, this law known as Ley 42/98, was enacted in January 1999 and invalidated many timeshare contracts sold after that date.

Marriott, as many other timeshare operators believed, that by filing a deed of adaptation they would be able to continue as before, but they were sadly wrong. It took many years and court battles to get to the stage Spain is at now, the strongest timeshare laws in Europe.

Marriott Marbella

So what makes these contracts illegal?

Many timeshare operators continued to sell perpetuity contracts, when the law stipulates they should be of a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years. They also continued to sell the floating weeks and points systems, which gives the purchaser no actual rights apart from the right to use subject to availability. With the fractional ownership, the Supreme Court clearly regarded this as timeshare, as usage was dependent on a points system being allocated. Fractional was designed to “replace” timeshare with the promise of “purchasing shares and investing” in a real estate property, but again in Europe timeshare should never be sold as an investment.

We have seen over the past few years many other companies falling foul of this legislation, Anfi, Palm Oasis, Holiday Club / Puerto Calma and the Diamond run resort Cala Blanca in Gran Canaria, Silverpoint in Tenerife and a host of others all over Spain. Marriott is just the latest to be hit by timeshare owners becoming aware of the laws and finding they now have a way out of the never ending cycle of upgrades and maintenance payments.

Marriott, have also conceded that this litigation is going to cause them to incur considerable and “material and litigation” costs, along with the settlements and judgement costs. They have also admitted that it will have a severe effect on their results in the European sector and will have repercussions on their business and financial condition.

The one thing Marriott along with others in the industry are still saying, is they all disagree with these rulings, that the law as interpreted by the 126 rulings of the Supreme Court are wrong, they are seeking to introduce legislation “that will implement a more balanced approach”. More balance, or do they mean going back to when they believed they could not be touched and did exactly as they wanted.

Although they do go on to say the following “The timeshare laws, regulations and policies in Spain may continue to change or be subject to different interpretations in the future, including in ways that could negatively impact our business”. Negatively impact their business, well they only have themselves to blame, had they sold within the regulations, they wouldn’t have to worry about negative impact!

On this point of Marriott and others in the industry lobbying for a change in the law, this has now been set by the Supreme Court, the only way that the law can be changed now is for the Spanish parliament to pass new ones. This is very unlikely to happen, even if it were to happen, then we would end up with many years of court cases and appeals to the Supreme Court to clarify any new laws.

At present the law firm which is responsible for the clarification of the law with now 127 rulings from the Supreme Court, Canarian Legal Alliance, has many cases upcoming against Marriott. These cases are only now just starting to take place, CLA have at least 2 cases already presented at court with around 30 in the final stages of presenting to court. They are also looking into new clients cases, all these contracts are in perpetuity and use the point system, so this figure is surely set to rise.

On the point of the Supreme Court rulings, Canarian Legal Alliance began seeking clarification from the Supreme Court well over 7 years ago, they eventually received their first victory against Anfi in March 2015. This case involved the Norwegian client Mrs Tove Grimsbo, it was a long drawn out case, but the precedent had been set. Within weeks of this first ruling, many more followed, setting in stone the laws that for many years had been interpreted differently depending on the court and the judge presiding.

It will be interesting to see whether Marriott go the same way as Anfi, Silverpoint and others in constantly appealing against any rulings made against them, or will they just payout and cut their losses?

Only time will tell, we will certainly be keeping an eye on these cases.

Link to the original article:

https://marketexclusive.com/marriott-vacations-worldwide-corporation-nysevac-files-an-8-k-other-events-4/2018/07/amp/

Links to previous Inside Timeshare articles on Marriott:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-parker-marriott-racketeering-lawsuit/

http://insidetimeshare.com/starting-the-week/

If you need any further information on this subject, whether it be a Marriott, Anfi, Silverpoint or any other timeshare, then use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

Have you been contacted by a company that tells you that you have a claim, and want to know if it is genuine and they are a legitimate company? Then contact Inside Timeshare for the facts.