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Friday’s Letter from America

Here we go another Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker explains reporting a crime to the FBI, regarding timeshare complaints. To us in Europe this appears a little excessive, especially when we take the situation with timeshares purchased in Spain. But in the US, consumers do not seem to have the same protection as those in Europe.

Now for a round up of European news, once again Anfi have been ordered by the High Court in Las Palmas to return over 36,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest to an ex client. In this case the contract was again declared null and void, the main infringement of the timeshare law is once again the contract duration of over 50 years, or what is known as perpetuity. This point has been the subject of many rulings from the Supreme Court.

Still on the subject of Anfi, a Norwegian journalist and Anfi member is starting to ask questions about the accounts for Puerto, Monte and Gran Anfi. It would seem that they are owed huge amounts from Anfi Sales and Anfi Resorts.

At present Inside Timeshare is looking into this and will publish in the near future, suffice it to say, from the copy of the post received, it looks as though there is a substantial amount outstanding. This journalist also asks the question if this is the reason for the lack of maintenance and upkeep at the resort?

More on this subject as and when we get the confirmed information.

Amador Galeca, one of the “Fake” law firms which springs from the Litigious Abogados family has been active again, with Inside Timeshare receiving many enquiries as to if these are genuine.

Once again, these firms are not genuine law firms, they have in place a very elaborate fraud, designed to fool owners into believing they have cases at court. Search Litigious Abogados in the search box, there you will find the story going back around two years.

The unfortunate aspect of this is the frequency with which they change the names of the law firms and the websites. This makes it very difficult for the authorities to keep up on their investigations. The one thing that does help, is the fact the websites are all the same except for the names.

In the end, it is up to you to check if they are genuine before paying these companies, it is no use after you have made the bank transfer, that money is long gone. This is the reason for creating the urgency, with stories such as the director is pleading guilty and the trial is in 3 weeks, so you need to hurry if you want to be part of this claim!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America.

How to Report a Crime to the FBI

graph

By Irene Parker

January 19, 2018

There has been a change in strategy in reporting to the FBI if timeshare members feel they meet the definition of white-collar crime, financial institution fraud defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.”

I’m still recovering from the comment Anthony Davis posted January 11 in response to one of my articles. Anthony wrote that he recorded a timeshare sales presentation. Anthony is an army vet, 90% disabled after serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coincidentally, someone who works in law enforcement contacted me just after I spoke with Anthony, informing us they wanted to donate a GoPro Hero 5 Session camera. My husband and I picked up the camera and drove to Orlando to meet Anthony and Ashley. They came to Orlando because they said they were required to attend a mandatory timeshare presentation scheduled for January 13th. This was their second required new member orientation and they had to bear the air and Uber expense to travel from Tennessee to Florida for two days, just to attend the orientation. Armed with our new GoPro, we recorded an interview with Anthony and Ashley. We also recorded the recording of the orientation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI

The next morning, alarmed at what I had heard on the recording, I contacted the FBI. It took a while to explain the significance of this recording, because the FBI is not as familiar with timeshare as they are with say, terrorism, but the agent took the time to understand. At the end of our conversation agent #2222 (I did not ask permission to use his real number) concluded timeshare members need to call their local FBI field office and report orally through the FBI public access line, selecting option #4, white-collar crime. I thought he was going to dismiss me by sending members to the Attorneys General Offices! Here are the FBI field offices:

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

Previously, FBI agents had advised me to direct members to the IC3.gov portal. This is the FBI’s online complaint site. Filing at IC3.gov is similar to filing an online AG complaint. Timeshare members who feel they have been a victim of deceit and bait and switch should still file with IC3.gov, in addition to filing orally with your local FBI field office. Here’s the IC3.gov link:

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

From the FBI website (my comments are in italics)

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of Financial Institution Fraud. It is crime characterized by some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission in relation to a mortgage loan which is then relied upon by a lender. A lie that influences a bank’s decision—about whether, for example, to approve a loan, accept a reduced payoff amount, or agree to certain repayment terms—is mortgage fraud.

Inside Timeshare US has received 278 timeshare complaints from readers. Of the 278 complaints, 263 allege that what happened to them meets the definition of white collar crime, “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” Several timeshare members have reported timeshare sales agents advised them to falsify information, or the agent on their own falsified information, discovered when the member compares what they signed at the time of purchase to the document the timeshare company provides to the member after they asked for a document when pursuing a complaint.

The FBI and other entities charged with investigating mortgage fraud, particularly in the wake of the housing market collapse, have broadened the definition to include frauds targeting distressed homeowners.

This includes distressed timeshare members as a timeshare loan is considered a mortgage and is reported as a foreclosure, the same as a home mortgage foreclosure. However, timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group did sue Bluegreen and managed to get foreclosed knocked down to “charged off” on behalf of 11,000 Bluegreen members and, going forward, Bluegreen no longer reports their timeshare point “take backs” as a foreclosure. Foreclosure is the most damaging hit to a credit report, and according to Mike, timeshare companies tend to pick the most damaging category to report.  

There are two distinct areas of mortgage fraud—fraud for profit and fraud for housing.

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

Timeshare member can relate to this definition! We have compiled three repeat offender summary reports. One of the reports describes highest loyalty members being up-sold to buy more points because they will be able to pay maintenance fees or sell points when no such program exists.

The FBI seeks to maximize its impact on the mortgage fraud and financial institution fraud as a whole through collaboration.

For example, the Bureau operates Financial Crimes Task Forces within several field offices throughout the country that act as force multipliers in addressing large scale financial fraud schemes. Comprised of federal, state, and local regulatory and law enforcement agencies who work together on a daily basis, these tasks forces have been an effective way to merge valuable resources of participating agencies.

By leveraging the skills, knowledge, and resources of various government agencies and private industry, the FBI and its partners are able to bring more perpetrators of fraud to justice.    

Common Mortgage Fraud Schemes (I selected those pertinent to timeshare)

  • Foreclosure rescue schemes: The perpetrators identify homeowners who are in foreclosure or at risk of defaulting on their mortgage loan and then mislead them into believing they can save their homes by transferring the deed or putting the property in the name of an investor. The perpetrators profit by selling the property to an investor or straw borrower, creating equity using a fraudulent appraisal, and stealing the seller proceeds or fees paid by the homeowners. The homeowners are sometimes told they can pay rent for at least a year and repurchase the property once their credit has been reestablished. However, the perpetrators fail to make the mortgage payments and usually the property goes into foreclosure.

The DOJ places timeshare exit scams complaints second only to debt collection complaints. Timeshare exit scams flourish when timeshare companies do not allow a secondary market. This is a 13 page DOJ report on timeshare exit scams:

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

One new timeshare term I learned is “Viking Ship” comparing fraudulent timeshare transfers to the term used to describe how Vikings put their dead on a ship, set fire to it, and shipped it out to sea.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-hoa-collections-agent-shares-experience/

Loan modification schemes: Similar to foreclosure rescue scams, these schemes involve perpetrators purporting to assist homeowners who are delinquent in their mortgage payments and are on the verge of losing their home by offering to renegotiate the terms of the homeowners’ loan with the lender. The scammers, however, demand large fees up front and often negotiate unfavorable terms for the clients, or do not negotiate at all. Usually, the homeowners ultimately lose their homes.

Foreclosure is a guarantee, but you certainly don’t need to pay anyone to help you foreclose. These scams say foreclosure meets their promise of a guarantee!

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

Law rights

Thank you to our FBI field offices for even listening to us as no one else is. We appreciate the efforts of Attorneys General but they are limited in their scope. Federal enforcement is needed.

If you need help with a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or contact one of these U.S. advocacy groups we endorse, feeling they are truly member supported, not influenced by industry.

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/

There we have it, timeshare consumers in the US now have another way of fighting back, things across the Great Lake are a little more complicated for timeshare consumers than in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article published, contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you get the best advice possible.

Have a good weekend.

weekend cat

letter-from-america

Fridays Letter from America

In this week’s Letter from America, we welcome Lisa Ann Schreier to our pages, she is the author of two books the most well known being Timeshare Vacations for Dummies. In this article Lisa gives a very good insight into the timeshare industry and how it is weighed in favour of the developers and not the consumer. But first a quick look at Europe.

timeshare for dummies

This week has been rather quiet, although we have received several enquiries on companies contacting our readers, these are still being researched, but all are offering something similar, claiming your money back with a relinquishment or that your resort has already been found guilty and there is a substantial amount of money waiting for you at in the Spanish Courts. All you need to do is pay the tax!

Obviously this does set the alarm bells ringing, as unless you have actually employed a lawyer, given authorisation for them to act on your behalf, had all documents translated and the case filed on your behalf at court, then none of the above is true. We will be publishing when the research is done.

Some news from mainland Spain came in this week, the Court of First Instance in Fuengirola has declared a contract with Heritage Resorts null and void. The UK clients have also been awarded their purchase price back which amounts to over £8,000, also a return of maintenance fees paid amounting to over 8,000€, plus legal fees and legal interest, then to cap it all the judge ordered that the deposit paid within the cooling off period be returned back double, this comes to over £12,000!!!

Now on with our first article from Lisa.

lisa ann

Timeshares have long suffered from a negative image, brought on for the most part by the outdated and heavy handed marketing and sales practices that are still in use, despite what those in charge of ‘spin’ in the industry would like us to believe.

However, as 2018 dawns, it’s becoming clear that the developers and the national association that protects those developers have carefully crafted an environment where they reign and consumer protections are dangerously close to non-existent.

We’re not just talking one concerning developer practice here, but rather a carefully orchestrated business model that puts consumers at a clear and some would say, illegal disadvantage.

Consider this:

—At least one major developer, has a clause buried in their contract that bans any owner from starting or joining any class action lawsuit, forcing them instead into arbitration which in their case, they pre-selected the exclusive filing location or venue, making it costly and inefficient for the consumer and is so knowledgeable about the pool of available arbitrators from experience in using them, that they can in part control the outcome by striking any proposed arbitrator that hasn’t previously ruled in favor of the developer. The one shot that a consumer can’t compete in that game.

To protect themselves, within that clause the developer states that a consumer may ‘opt out’ of that restriction if they notify the developer within 30 days of purchase. Talk to 100 of their owners, and 99 of them are unaware of this.

Another developer, now exiting the industry themselves and formerly based in New York City, wrote their contracts in such a way that unsuspecting owners literally gave the developer the right to change the Offering Plan several times annually without owners’ knowledge or advisement. Changes were made with the New York State’s Attorney General’s office as well as with New York City Real Property Records to change the type of deeds the owners held.  You guessed it; the changes that were made inevitably favored the developer and put the owners at a disadvantage.

—Then there is the inability to access or use what you purchased until well after the rescission period. In the United States, there is a legal rescission or cooling off period which ranges from 3-10 days. On the surface, that sounds like adequate consumer protection. But dig a little deeper as I did in this article I wrote for Senior.com

https://senior.com/timeshare-industry-keeps-rescinding/

and you’ll see that while almost all developers pressure you to purchase within the scope of a 2-5 hour sales presentation; promising you the price is for ‘today only’, they are under no obligation, legal or moral, to process the paperwork giving you access to what you purchased within that same legally mandated rescission period. Additionally, developers are getting ‘creative’ in how they give you the legal paperwork concerning the purchase and the rules concerning rescission. Several developers now routinely use a CD ROM or a tablet of some sort, both of which are difficult at best to access while on vacation.  

—Check any timeshare contract and you’ll find the ‘oral representation clause’.  This nifty clause, also known as ‘the salesperson can lie all they want during the sales pitch’ clause allows salespeople working on behalf of timeshare developers to say whatever is necessary to obtain the sale during the course of the 2-5 hour sales pitch and be under no obligation to live up to any of it. To wit; one major developer is telling unsuspecting consumers that they’ll be able to ‘cash in their timeshare points’ at $.30 per. When the owner attempts to cash those points out, they are of course told that no such program exists.

—Most salespeople extol the many virtues of timeshare ownership, among them being the ‘full bundle of rights’ that being the ability to use, exchange, rent, sell or will their interest. Ah yes, the ability to sell. What they don’t mention is that in the majority of cases, the resale timeshare market is so depressed that there are hundreds of thousands of owners who are listing their timeshare for sale for less than  $1,000 and in many cases for nothing after spending upwards of $20,000 for their ‘piece of paradise.’ (In 2016, the average price of a timeshare was over $21,000)

—The American Resort Development Association (ARDA), funded by timeshare developers and exchange companies among others, has a Code of Ethics.

http://www.arda.org/ethics/

However, several high ranking members of ARDA including at least one serving on the Ethics Committee, have been copied on at least 80 and as many as 100 detailed complaints from one consumer advocate on behalf of owners. ARDA’s response?  They have ignored every single complaint. What, I ask you is a Code of Ethics good for if it’s not enforced?  The answer of course is ‘window dressing.’  It looks good but is in fact empty.

Skeptics of the premise that the consumer is clearly at serious disadvantage in timeshare matters will fall back on the old adage ‘caveat emptor’ or buyer beware. Defenders of the timeshare industry will point out that more than 7 million people own timeshare. However, even a cursory look behind the numbers will reveal an industry that consistently struggles against a negative image and furthermore, steadfastly refuses to do anything to change that, relying on the fact that consumers can not possibly read, understand and agree to language contained within mounds of paperwork signed while on vacation.

The timeshare industry has cleverly written their own rules. I’ve yet to find another product that has been able to do that and whose rules of governance so clearly disregard common legal and moral obligations to the consumer.

For timeshare and the vacation ownership industry to survive, some drastic steps must be undertaken, including sales and marketing methods of attracting new owners along with creating sustainable owner programs that show consumers that they are indeed a real stakeholder.

Lisa Ann Schreier has been involved in the timeshare community since 1998. After cutting her teeth as a timeshare salesperson and manager at a number of Orlando area resorts, she grew increasingly frustrated with the antiquated marketing and high pressure sales techniques that were (and sadly still are) the norm in the industry. Seeking to be a catalyst for positive change, she wrote ‘Surviving A Timeshare Presentation…Confessions From The Sales Table’ and ‘Timeshare Vacations For Dummies’.  She is a frequent contributor to major media outlets and a sought after speaker at consumer advocacy groups. In addition to her articles at Senior.com, she is the lead timeshare advocate at Elliott.org. Her ‘tell it like it is’ blog about timeshare issues is a source of solid information and continues to alert consumers to the myriad of less than reputable companies and practices.

Lisa’s blog can be accessed at:

http://www.thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com

Twitter users can follow her at @LisaLooksAt

Questions?  Looking for assistance?  Email Lisa at lisaschreier617@gmail.com

Thank you Lisa, we hope to publish more of your insights in the future.

If you have any question or need any advice about any article published or about any company that has contacted you but don’t know where to start, contact Inside Timeshare and we will be pleased to help. Remember, doing your checks before hand will save you a money and a lot of stress!

Have a good weekend.

weekend

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Friday’s Letter from America of 2018, we may be only 5 days into the New Year, but the Supreme Court has just made another ruling against Silverpoint.

Another client of Canarian Legal Alliance has had their contract with Silverpoint declared null and void, with the return of over £11,000 plus legal fees and interest. This now makes the number of rulings from the Supreme Court made by CLA to an astonishing 83!

Once again it is that time when maintenance bills start to drop onto the door mat, for many this is a difficult time, especially for the elderly who can no longer afford to pay the ever increasing bills.

For one elderly lady which Inside Timeshare has been highlighting for some time it has happened again. This is the case of Mrs B, as you will remember, MacDonald Resorts refuse to acknowledge that she no longer owns her timeshare at Dona Lola in Spain.

Mrs B and her sister, who are now in their late 80’s, employed the services of a company to be rid of their timeshares around 3 years ago. This company “sold” the timeshares and transferred them to another person, this was duly notarised by a notary in Spain. The Lanzarote timeshare has caused no problem, but MacDonald’s refuse to accept the transfer.

Mrs B has now received another demand for over £3000 for maintenance, obviously this will end up being sent to a debt collection agency which will incur even more fees.

It must also be remembered that they had not used the timeshare for over 10 years, yet still paid the maintenance until the transfer. Both are virtually housebound and cannot afford to pay these extortionate amounts.

Tony Hetherington has published several articles about MacDonald Resorts and their chasing of maintenance fees, even after the death of the owners or severe illness.

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-2698355/TONY-HETHERGINGTON-Even-death-not-rid-timeshare.html

MacDonald Resorts is one of the worst offenders in the timeshare industry for this type of behaviour, it is companies like this that have given timeshare the reputation it has. Greed it seems is the order of the day.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Hope for Beleaguered Timeshare Members!

Start with the Better Business Bureau

By Irene Parker

January 5, 2018

The Nightmare on Timeshare Street article scheduled for today has been cancelled because the resort listened and responded to the member. We don’t yet know the outcome, but at least the member has not been dismissed or ignored. The customer is not the enemy. The enemy is the timeshare sales agent that “pitches heat” making outrageous claims to sell points, knowing they are protected by the oral representation clause and that there is no federal enforcement.

If you have a complaint about your timeshare, first and foremost, contact your resort. It’s surprising how many who contact us have not tried to resolve their issue with the timeshare company before contacting an attorney or an exit company. It is the opinion of Inside Timeshare, in most cases, a member can accomplish what an attorney or an exit company can accomplish by following our complaint form. We are here to answer any questions for free.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint: Revised

In the U.S. it’s best to begin with the Better Business Bureau, although the BBB 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.

A BBB complaint is the easiest to file and can serve as your blueprint as you work your way down the list of appropriate agencies. File a complaint only if you feel you were a victim of deceit and bait and switch. “I can’t afford this” or “there is never any availability” or “you can always book cheaper online” are not specific enough complaints.

We compare the Better Business Bureau ratings among five major vacation point sellers. First, an explanation of the rating process from the BBB website:

The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues. BBB ratings are based on information in BBB files with respect to the following factors:

Business’s complaint history with BBB.

The BBB rating takes into account the following information with respect to closed complaints that relate to a business’s marketplace activities:

  • Number of complaints filed with BBB against the business.
  • The size of the business.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business appropriately responded to them.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB’s opinion the business resolved the complaints in a timely manner to the customer’s satisfaction.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business made a good faith effort to resolve complaints, even if the customer was not satisfied with the resolution.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business failed to resolve the underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints.
  • The age of resolved complaints. Older resolved complaints have less of an impact on the rating than newer complaints.

⦁ Type of business.

⦁ Time in business.

⦁ Transparent Business Practices

⦁ Failure to honor commitments to BBB.

⦁ Licensing and government actions known to BBB.

⦁ Advertising issues known to BBB.

From Best to Worst based on Stars

BBB Accreditation: If a business has been accredited by the BBB, it means BBB has determined that the business meets accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB accredited businesses pay a fee for accreditation review and monitoring for continued compliance.

https://www.bbb.org/council/for-businesses/about-bbb-accreditation/

Disney Vacation Club, Marriott Vacation Worldwide, Diamond Resorts International, Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited, Wyndham Vacation Ownership

                                                                     # of stars      # of Complaints       # of reviews +      –   neutral

A+ Disney Vacation Club                            5/5                             9                          1        1                   0      0

No Government Action No Pattern of Complaints

Accredited since 1991, in business since 1990

 

A+ Marriot Vacation Worldwide          3.68/5               123                                  11        0                   11     0

No Government Action No Pattern of Complaints

Not accredited, in business since 1994

 

A- Diamond Resorts International       3.27/5          1,115                                   89       2                  86      1

Government Action noted

Not accredited, in business since 1996

 

C+ Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited       2.47/5           781                                108         9                 95      4

Pattern of Complaints

Not accredited, in business since 1966

 

C+ Wyndham Vacation Ownership      2.39/5         2,085                             96             4                 92      0

Government Action noted and a Pattern of Complaints

Not accredited, in business since 1994    

Next week: The Consumer Protection Agency – What’s left?

A survey of all timeshare appropriate regulatory agencies:

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Always Remember:

U.S. Self-Help member sponsored groups we believe not to be industry influenced:

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have questions about this or any other article published, we are here to give you the best advice possible.

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America: End of Year Review

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.

Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.

Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.

Another firm that was the subject of our attentions was Keys Concierge, another credits based lifestyle company. It turned out that the director was one Franz Marcus Deutsch, an old associate of Mark Cushway of Silverpoint. In fact this new company was the latest product which would be peddled by Silverpoint, soon to change their name to Signallia Marketing Distribution SA.

While we are on the subject of Silverpoint, It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare. Hence the product Keys Concierge, which does not appear to fall into the realms of timeshare laws.

This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?

tribunal supremo

Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.

Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.

February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s “Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.

Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the AnfiTauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.

This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.

Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.

Another story we have been following is that of Los Claveles in Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.

There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.

In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.

This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.

This same month also saw a very big shake up in timeshare, TATOC, (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees). This was run by one Harry Taylor, who was very much a mouthpiece for the industry rather than those who his organisation purported to represent.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor for $30,000 Published May 2017

After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!

There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.

But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.

On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.

There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.

CLA Logo

Now for the year from a US perspective.

What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what

I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016

2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

By Irene Parker

December 29, 2017

Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.  

Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.  

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

Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.

We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.

April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.

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

This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.

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

I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.

Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016

2017

Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:

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

The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and  solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.

Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?

conference

 Westgate Update 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegel was seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.  

trump

Here is King David’s house

https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/03/09/the-queen-of-versailles-jackie-siegel-i-may-want-a.html

But back in 2016

“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

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is investigating Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

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

Wyndham $20 Million

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.   

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

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.  

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

The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneiderman managed to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.  

Back in 2016  

Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

 Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.  

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts Update: A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.  

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

holI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

⦁ A legitimate secondary market

⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling

⦁ Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.

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/

So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.

Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.

 

christmas

Christmas Greetings

This past week has seen more rulings from the Supreme Court in Madrid, with Canarian Legal Alliance racking up ruling Number 80.

Again this was against Silverpoint, with the British client set to receive over £33,000 plus legal fees and legal interest. Their contract has also been declared null and void, making them timeshare and maintenance free. A lovely Christmas present for these clients.

Anfi have also been subject to another judgement against them at the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, with this client being awarded over 20,000€ plus legal interest. With yet another Anfi contract being declared null and void.

With all these cases being announced it is no wonder the industry is stepping up their attacks on this very successful law firm. But as they say the proof is out there, the courts are ruling in the favour of their clients. No matter what the industry says, CLA does deliver what they promise.

Now a quick word from Irene Parker.

world heart

December 22, 2017

I wish to thank all our readers and supporters as we journey down the path towards resolution of conflict, be it with our timeshare, or with our world. Today I meet with Australian Contributor Justin Morgan in Orlando. The relationships that have blossomed out of our advocacy and grown are precious to me. The few I have had the opportunity to meet face to face solidifies and takes the relationship to an new level. I look forward to more of those experiences in the New Year.

There are no words to express the love and support I’ve felt from my band of brothers and sisters seeking to reform timeshare for the better, and we know there are honest timeshare sales agents and even some executives who feel the same.

Some say Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is a disrupter. Here’s hoping 2018 will bring communication, resolution and relief to those who have laughed and cried with me over life’s ups and down. I also want to wish the best to those who may not like us very much, but know in their heart we only wish for better accountability, transparency and respect.

So there is it, Christmas is now upon us, Inside Timeshare wishes all our readers a very Happy Christmas. Enjoy your Christmas Dinner, I know we will!

christmas dinner

  

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Fridayyyyyyyy! So welcome to another Friday’s Letter from America, Irene once again looks at Customer Service, this time with a positive outcome. But as usual a quick round up on timeshare news in Europe.

One of our long standing readers has sent in the following information, it concerns a long running dispute many owners have been having at Club Jardines del Puerto in Puerto Banus. Costafield Management have pulled the plug on the club 3 years early. It will close on 31 December 2017, after this no members will have any right to occupy.

It looks as though FNTC will be selling off the properties, they will also have to comply with the constitution which demands a 50/50 split between members and the developer.

Our reader also asks this question, How can a small thriving club in the centre of one of the most popular prestigious resorts in Europe become “financially unsustainable”?

More on this as we get the news.

The same reader also asked if we knew anything about MRL (MacDonald Resorts Ltd) taking owners to court for alleged unpaid maintenances fees in Manchester. At present we have found no reference to this in the press, although it must be said that cases of this nature do not tend to be publicised. But knowing the reputation of MacDonald Resorts, we would not be surprised in the least.

Further to the article about Anfi, yesterday saw 2 new sentences from the courts against Anfi.

At the Court of First Instance No 2 in Maspalomas, the judge declared the Anfi contract null and void. He also ordered the return of over 32,000€ plus legal interest.

The second sentence from the Court of First Instance No 1 in Maspalomas, also declared the contract null and void with the return of over 19,000€ plus legal interest.

So contrary to what Anfi say, the courts are finding against them, invoking the Supreme Court rulings, of which there are now 77, 32 against Anfi.

On the story of Los Claveles, there are now some very interesting comments being posted. These are measured and put forward opposing arguments in a sensible manner. Inside Timeshare welcomes these, but will not tolerate abuse or accusations against named people, especially ones of a criminal nature. Inside Timeshare has given a neutral forum for this debate, in the hope that an agreement can be reached. It is up to you the members to come to this agreement.

Now for this weeks Article from Irene Parker.

Grandview at Las Vegas – a Vacation Village Resort

A Positive Customer Service Outcome

cust serv

By Irene Parker

December 8, 2017

Was this a customer service representative showing compassion towards a former Marine, or a willingness on the part of Grandview at Las Vegas to support their customer over their own sales agent? Either way, it was a first for me in the way Grandview handled a timeshare owner alleging they were victimized by deceit and “bait and switch”, which may allow this timeshare buyer to put a wrong decision in the rear view mirror. Grandview is part of Vacation Village/Eldorado Corporation owned by The Berkley Group.

Jeff Diehl contacted Inside Timeshare asking for advice concerning his two bedroom unit at Grandview in Las Vegas purchased January 2017, alleging he was fraudulently sold by a sales agent making exaggerated claims. What was unusual about Jeff’s report is the specificity. Many complain saying they were told they can rent their unit or points for income, but Jeff knew the name of the sales agent, Marylou G, the specific amount promised – $2,000 to $2,500 per week for his fixed week and for eight more weeks using their equivalent 80,000 points. Jeff had told Marylou this was the only way the family could afford the week. After researching on TUG, there was no evidence to support a rental price of $2000 to $2,500 per week.

Rather than leave it at what Jeff had been told about renting, I advised Jeff to do a little research by checking TUG Timeshare Users Group to find out what a Grandview week would bring in rental income. Jeff found only one rental ad for $525 that had been listed since March 26, 2017, with no response.

After Jeff wrote out his complaint, I called the number listed on Grandview’s Better Business Bureau’s report and spoke to a Grandview representative. At this point, I am usually told the resort cannot talk to me so I was surprised the agent asked if I had a loan number and a phone number for the owner. I did. When I explained all of the above to the representative, she said she would call Jeff. I emailed Jeff and told him the name of the representative who said she would call. What usually happens next is one or two weeks of being ignored passes, prompting Better Business Bureau and other regulatory filings.

wow

A first! The representative called Jeff the next day informing him his loan would be cancelled.

As I mentioned, Jeff is a former Marine. He is also disabled. The specific data Jeff provided made it difficult to deny the sales agent told him something that was not true. This would not have prevented any timeshare resort from pointing to the oral representation clause found in the fine print of a volume of documents that allows a sales agent to say anything under the sun to close a deal. To soften the blow, some are told, “If something was important to you, you should have had it added to the contract,” perpetuating the hamster wheel called recycled inventory, as described by one former timeshare sales agent.

Jeff should not have to proceed to the next step which would have involved filing complaints with any or all of the following:

Jeff had initially included predatory lending in his complaint saying,

“Just a quick note to say that the reason I included predatory lending in my complaint, is that the definition of this type of lending says, that when a lender makes a loan to a consumer who cannot afford the loan, in order to benefit themselves, but harms the consumer in the process, this is predatory lending. So, I believe you misunderstood why I included the 17.9 % loan rate.”

I informed Jeff that all timeshare sales agents sell timeshare in this fashion so making this part of his complaint was meaningless.

Jeff also is demanding monies paid be refunded as he alleges the timeshare was sold by deceit, violation of trust, and “bait and switch” meeting the FBI’s definition of White Collar Crime Financial Institution Fraud. At the time of publication, Jeff had not yet heard if his monies paid would be returned, as he would have to contact the corporate office, which Jeff plans to do.  

Before we place Vacation Village up there with Inside Timeshare’s favorite timeshare, Disney, more due diligence is required.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F. Two sources tell us The Berkley Group is being investigated by the Florida Attorney General’s office. According to Berkley’s LinkedIn page, “The Berkley Group is a private timeshare resort development firm owned by more than 2,000 company employees. Under its Vacation Village Resorts and Affiliates brand, The Berkley Group has generated a worldwide owner base that exceeds 500,000 families.”

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/vacation-village-resorts-in-fort-lauderdale-fl-4003645/reviews-and-complaints

Grandview at Las Vegas, owned by Eldorado/Vacation Village has a BBB rating of B, so maybe this resort is trying to improve its customer service.

https://www.bbb.org/southern-nevada/business-reviews/resorts/grandview-at-las-vegas-in-las-vegas-nv-66863/reviews-and-complaints

Remember: BBB ratings are not a guarantee of a business’s reliability or performance.  BBB recommends that consumers consider a business’s BBB rating in addition to all other available information about the business.

https://www.bbb.org/council/overview-of-bbb-grade/

Inside Timeshare has heard from 227 timeshare member readers, of which 212 allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. If you need help or just the support of others in your situation, here are some member sponsored self-help groups:

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

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

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

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

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

roundabout

Thank you Irene, at least this is one family that has had a positive outcome.

On Tuesday we will publish another article from Irene, this is titled:

Another Military Family Wages War against Timeshare

Will Bluegreen Honor those whose sacrifice is so great?

This is a short but hard hitting article, it shows the disgusting lengths sales agent will go just to “close a deal”. For those who are ex-serviceman or those who support them, you will find this article will make your blood boil.

That’s it for this week, if you have any comment about this or any other article published, Inside Timeshare invites you to send it in.

If you need help with any timeshare matter, or just need to know which firms you can trust, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

friday dog

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to December’s first Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker examines Non-Disclosure Agreements in timeshare and should they be permitted. But first we have a look at what has been in the news in Europe.

Last month we ran the article on the court case involving Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they both pleaded guilty to some very serious charges at Birmingham Magistrates court. Their case has been sent to the Crown Court for sentencing in January, it has now been reported that they will be back in court on 15 December. Whether they will be sentenced then we will have to wait and see, but if they are, they may be having Christmas dinner behind bars.

Yesterday we published an article with an opposing view of the Los Claveles saga, this has prompted some rather heated comments. It would seem that each side is accusing each other of telling lies, this is not the way forward, there will always be a difference of opinion, just because one person does not agree does not make it a lie!

Just having opposing views does not mean you cannot work together, it is your resort and that is what counts not the bickering or personal animosities.

 

The courts once again have been busy, with no less than three Supreme Court ruling this week.

tribunal-supremo

After publishing last Friday’s article it was announced that the Supreme Court had made another ruling against Silverpoint, the court awarded the client over £42,000, plus £3,000 which is double the deposit paid within the 14 day cooling off period. The client will also receive back their legal fees and legal interest.

On Monday 27 November, the Supreme Court again ruled against Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void and awarding over £23,000 including the return of legal fees and interest.

On the same day they issued another sentence against Silverpoint. The contract was declared null and void with the return of more than £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

It was the turn of the Court of First Instance in Tenerife on Tuesday 28 November to issue a sentence against Silverpoint, the judge following the Supreme Court rulings ordered the return of over £11,000 and declared the contract null and void.

On Wednesday 29 November the Tenerife Courts again found against Silverpoint with the return of £11,000 and the contracts declared null and void.

The same day from Madrid the Supreme Court announced yet another ruling against Silverpoint, contract declared null and void with the return of £7,000 plus legal fees and interest.

Other cases this week saw rulings from other courts around Spain which included the return of all payments and contracts being declared null and void against Anfi, Blue Bay and Puerto Calma

Now just to rub it in, as if Dominic and Stephanie O’Reilly havn’t got enough problems the list also included a sentence against EZE Group!

The total amount being returned to clients this week alone is a staggering 403,336.25€

All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, with this week’s Supreme Court rulings bringing their total to 74, another record for the legal history books!

law

So on with this Friday’s letter

Timeshare Non-Disclosure Agreements

When they are fair and when they are not

 cloud

By Irene Parker

December 1, 2017

High school civics classes must be having interesting and lively class discussions about American politics today. Sexual harassment accusations have taken over the media and are raising questions about the damage caused by non-disclosure agreements (NDA). Sexual harassment settlements require the victim sign an NDA agreeing not to disclose what happened.

New Jersey lawmakers are proposing NDAs be banned in cases of sexual harassment. As NJ.Com reported, “Corporate boards of directors keep on approving settlements to cover executives who then go on to commit the same offense.”

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/10/harvey_weinstein_scandal_has_nj_dems_ready_to_ban.html

Timeshare members should lobby for a similar prohibition, especially when a member receives nothing in return after surrendering timeshare vacation points that can easily cost $100,000 or more. Out of 220 timeshare complaints voiced by our readers against multiple developers, 115 allege they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch, some just days after purchasing. Members have reported on the many ways sales agents and their companies can avoid the rescission or cancellation period. Especially in these cases, an NDA seems harsh.

The most common allegations of deceit reported by our readers include:

  •  The ability to sell or rent vacation points
  •  The ability to pay maintenance fees with points
  •  The need to always buy more points in order to have adequate availability
  •  Agents from the same company accusing each other of selling the member the wrong product. The member is told to buy more points to change from one product to the next only to be told by the next agent, they still bought the wrong points! The member is required to sign an NDA even when all they did was buy more points.    

One lawyer I spoke with, who asked not to be identified, said he is shocked by the use of NDAs in timeshare. He explained that as a litigator he saw large settlements awarded without a non-disclosure, but in timeshare even members who receive nothing in return for surrendering vacation points must sign an NDA.

When Inside Timeshare publishes an article about a member’s complaint, we no longer feature the article if the resort helps the member resolve their issue. We do maintain a complete list of all member articles for regulators and law enforcement and have compiled a 90 page complaint summary. With over 200 complaints, patterns emerge. Repeated complaints against certain sales agents point to repeating offenders. Comparing notes with law firms across the country, we have learned certain timeshare sales agents are household names at their offices as well.

Inside Timeshare published Deneice’s article September 29, 2017.

lady

 Inside Timeshare has received 23 reader complaints concerning Diamond Resort’s Las Vegas sales centers. Deneice Vargas alleges she was fraudulently up-sold in Las Vegas. Eight of the members reported a positive outcome working with Diamond Resorts to resolve their complaint.  

Initially, the DRI advocacy agent Deneise worked with seemed to agree with Deniece and had asked for supporting medical documentation about her husband Louis’s diagnosis of Bell’s palsy. Relieved, Deneice submitted the information only to learn the customer service agent who had been helping her quit and the new agent seemed to dismiss Bell’s palsy as if it were a common cold. I personally felt the loss because the hospitality agent who quit called me about my complaint over two years ago. We did not always agree, but I felt she had a moral compass.   

Deneice reached out to us recently to let us know how things were going. She was shocked to receive a call from one of Diamond Resort’s advocacy hospitality agents. According to Deneice, when DRI Consumer Advocates are not advocating, they make collection calls. “They called at 6:50 AM! Isn’t there a law that says you can’t do collection calls outside of normal business hours? I suspect the advocacy department called demanding payment because I was not answering the phone from the collection agents,” said Deneice.    

If there were no loan, I’m confident DRI would allow Deneice to surrender her points for resale, but Deneice’s situation is complicated by her allegations of deceit and bait and switch and the outstanding loan. We reached out to Diamond for comment, but there was no response. Deneice’s original article:  

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-21/

If Deneice’s resort does decide to help her, she will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, agreeing not to say anything disparaging against her resort. One benefit (for our advocacy efforts) is that Deneice will not have to sign an NDA if she forecloses. We lose a lot of advocates because of the NDA. I’ve gotten to know Deneice and feel she will be of great benefit to our team of core advocates determined to stop or at least reduce the “pitching of heat” prevalent in timeshare today, bolstered by points based programs that offer easy deception. One of our advocates is a Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover.

As a non-lawyer, I often rely on NOLO for legal advice. An added benefit of NOLO is somehow they prevent timeshare exit scam artists from posting ads all over their articles.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/nondisclosure-agreements-29630.html

When I looked up nondisclosure agreement on NOLO, the site connected me to Richard Stim. I submitted this question to Mr. Stim at http://dearrichblog.blogspot.com/

I write for Inside Timeshare. We are receiving a flood of timeshare complaints. If someone who feels they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, spending $95,000 for a timeshare, convinces the resort to take the timeshare back with nothing in return, should they have to sign an NDA? Thank you for your help.   

ballchain

What property would anyone buy, be it a boat, home or car, financing a loan at 12% to 18%, knowing the product they were buying could not be sold?  Not one of our 220 readers knew, at the time of purchase, they could not sell their timeshare. There is a limited secondary market for some timeshares. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out how your timeshare fares on the secondary market or if you are stuck with a product you don’t want, can’t afford, and can’t sell.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Thank goodness for Social Media. Here are some self-help member support groups offering good advice and a shoulder to cry one when one finds themselves caught in a timeshare trap.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all who contribute to these articles, they are certainly bringing new information to members / owners in the world of timeshare.

Inside Timeshare once again reminds all readers to do their due diligence when deciding which companies to do business with, as always, doing your homework will prevent the loss of your hard earned cash. If you need help in checking who to trust contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good relaxing weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

 

stop press 1

Just as we were about to publish, this came in from the Supreme Court in Madrid, another Silverpoint contract declared null and void with this particular client being awarded over £90,000 plus legal fees and interest. That is now 75, yes, 75 rulings from Spains Highest Court!

After publishing this also came in.

The High Court in Tenerife found against Silverpoint yet again. The judge has declared this contract null and void with the return of over £74,000 plus legal interest.

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, Irene this week looks at Black Friday, with a few books she recommends. Irene was wondering if we in Europe also have Black Friday, the answer is yes we do, it looks like the retail trade has followed in the footsteps of America. In the UK traditionally Boxing Day was the start of the winter sales, but as pre Christmas shopping was starting to decline as people waited for the sales rather than spend before Christmas, retailers began following the US trend.

Now for a quick roundup of the week in Europe, we begin with the news which came in late last Friday 17 November. The Supreme Court ruled against Silverpoint in tenerife once again.

gavela

The UK client will receive back over £67,000 plus legal fees and legal interest. The contract was also declared null & void. Then on Monday 20 November they issued another sentence against the same company. In this case the client was awarded over £25,000 plus legal fees and interest. The contract was over 50 years in duration and was declared null and void.

Then on Tuesday 21 November another Supreme Court ruling, again involving Silverpoint, with yet another Uk client awarded over £78,000 plus £3,000 double the deposit paid with legal fees and interest.

On Wednesday 22 November, the High Court in Las palmas Gran Canaria declared an Anfi contract null and void with the return of over 18,000€ plus legal interest.

Also on the same day in Tenerife, Eze Group was ordered to repay over £52,000 plus legal fees and interest. We also published the news that Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly had pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates court to “aggressive” sales practices and “coercion”. The have been referred to the Crown Court for sentencing in the new year, these are criminal proceedings which the magistrates are limited in sentencing power.

Thursday 23 November in Tenerife, the High Court Number 3, declared yet another Silverpoint contract null and void, with the UK client awarded over £38,000 plus legal interest.

This morning the news came in of yet another High Court ruling from Tenerife, Yes you guessed it, Silverpoint again. The clients in this case will now receive over £40,000 plus legal fees and interest.

So a rather expensive week for Silverpoint and some good news for clients of Eze Group. So now on with our Friday letter from Irene Parker.

A Cyber Monday Shopping Suggestion to Avoid Black Friday

For Timeshare Members and Advocates

Irene desk

By Irene Parker

November 24, 2017 Black Friday in America

The Friday immediately following our American Thanksgiving holiday is called Black Friday. People really do sleep outside shopping malls ready to cash in on deals designed to launch the holiday shopping season. Consider instead shopping at home on Cyber Monday with this holiday suggestion perfect for your favorite politician or timeshare advocate. This will allow you to avoid the rush and possibly prevent broken bones and trampled toes.

The trilogy of books I suggest are helpful for family and friends who work in or are involved in politics, timeshare, customer service, advocacy or law enforcement. We have a high turnover of timeshare advocates due to non-disclosure clauses, but those who have signed such agreements can still steer timeshare members in trouble to Inside Timeshare or to a self-help timeshare group.

Here are three advocate orientated book selections

#1  Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer

Author Jay Baer was the keynote speaker at this year’s Interval International’s Shared Ownership Conference attended by developers and private equity firms. Mr. Baer’s principle theme is: Haters are not your problem…..Ignoring them is.

http://insidetimeshare.com/customer-service-message/

His message is meant for customer service providers, but anyone can benefit from learning about how Social Media is changing the face of customer service. Take timeshare. Non-disclosure agreements, obstacles placed in the way of members designed to keep them from contacting other members, private arbitration rulings – all keep timeshare members silenced and isolated. That’s changing in the face of Social Media. A non-disclosure agreement doesn’t mean the signer can’t suggest someone read Inside Timeshare. There are thousands of timeshare members now comparing notes and Inside Timeshare has helped to tabulate and analyze patterns of concerns emerging from member submitted complaints.

http://www.jaybaer.com/hug-your-haters/

#2 More Davids than Goliaths

A Political Education

Former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.

Mr. Ford’s book is inspirational for politicians or advocates. When Mr. Ford’s father, Harold Ford, Sr., endured a ten year political scandal and lawsuit over alleged Mud Island Bridge misappropriations in Memphis, young Harold Ford, Jr. describes the success he achieved through grassroots efforts. By reaching out to the media, he learned how to educate and shape the public’s perception of his father. He reached out to broadcast and print media to expose improper jury selection. Mr. Ford, Sr. served 11 congressional terms. He was found not guilty.

In his own campaign, unknown and broke, unable to find speaking engagements, Mr. Ford, Jr., at age 25, was initially pleased to learn his co-campaign chair had arranged for him to speak at 32 graduation ceremonies, only to find out they were kindergarten graduation ceremonies! Still, he dug in with gusto and continued to build momentum throughout his campaign. Mr. Ford’s critics dubbed him “The Kindergarten Candidate”, which Mr. Ford turned into his moniker, and was propelled into congressional office by the votes of grandmas, grandpas, moms and dads who listened to him at kindergarten graduations. According to Mr. Ford, “The campaign was turning because of efforts that I never thought would yield this kind of momentum. The kindergarten speeches were catalysts….Often, the moment it seems least likely that something positive will emerge – it does.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7339799-more-davids-than-goliaths

#3 The Burglary

Betty Medsger

Any advocate or activist will appreciate the not-so-civil disobedience eight anti-war protestors undertook to break into the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office in 1971. Two were professors, led by Haverford College physics professor Bill Davidon. Without their extraordinary effort and courage, Herbert Hoover’s dirty tricks and illegal surveillance may have never been discovered. Catching them plagued Hoover for the rest of his life. More remarkable, they were never caught.

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/books/review/the-burglary-by-betty-medsger.html

Thanks

Thanksgiving in America is also a time for giving thanks and showing gratitude, so Charles Thomas and I both wish to thank our readers for reading and responding to our efforts to improve an industry desperately in need of repair. We especially appreciate our growing list of contributors, attorneys supporting our efforts we have chosen to support through their honesty integrity and experience. We would be remiss not to thank sales agents and developers trying to do the right thing by repairing broken customer relationships so that members can use and enjoy what they can afford. Charles, our advocates, contributors and I do this work and volunteerism so we can save vacations, not destroy them by tearing apart the industry. Let’s hope 2018 will be the year of working together. We can hope.

black fri

So that is it, another week over, some very happy ex-timeshare owners and two directors facing possible jail terms in the new year. Somehow I don’t think they are going to have a very Happy Christmas.

porridge

Don’t forget, before you deal with any company do your due diligence and check them out first, if you need any help in this, please do contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good weekend.

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s that time of the week again, so welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds. This article is from Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer, with the introduction from our very own Irene Parker. But as usual a roundup from Europe.

It has been a very busy week in the courts again with many case being heard, with sentence still to be issued by the judge but there have been a few announced.

gavela

On Monday there were two announcements, the first was the judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Anfi, once again the contract was declared null and void, the client in this case will be returned over 12,000€ plus legal interest. The courts are certainly sticking to the letter of the law.

In the second case that was announced, the Court of First Instance in Tenerife found against Silverpoint (Resort Properties). In this case the judge found that the contract was in breach of the timeshare law 42/98 in that it exceeded the 50 years that is allowed, this should have also been explained to the customer before signing.

The judge declared the contract null and void, ordering Silverpoint to pay the client over £59,000 plus legal interest.

The following day, Tuesday, another sentence against Anfi was announced by the Judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. Another contract was declared null and void, with Anfi being ordered to return over 26,000€ plus legal interest.

Back in September Petchey Leisure (now MGM Muthu) was ordered to repay over 16,000€ and declared the contract null and void, by the High Court in Tenerife. The client in that case has now had the money transferred to their bank account.

On Thursday, there were three court sentences announced, Once again Anfi have been ordered to return over 20.000€ plus legal interest, this was by the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. The judge also declared the contract null and void.

In Tenerife the Court of First Instance declared a Silverpoint contract null and void, ordering the return of over 30,000€ plus legal interest.

In the High Court in Tenerife, Regency Resorts was ordered to return £35,200 plus an extra £35,200 as double the deposit taken in the cooling off period, which is forbidden by law. This particular client will now be receiving £70,400 plus legal fees and legal interest. A nice Christmas present for this client!

Today as we this article was being prepared for publishing the following news was issued in a press release:

The Supreme Court in Madrid issued another damning sentence against Silverpoint, the Court ordered the return of the full purchase price plus double the deposit and all legal fees. The contract was also declared null and void. In this case the client will be receiving over £105,000.

All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, who are certainly at the forefront in the field of timeshare law.

cla-brochure

Inside Timeshare is still receiving many enquiries regarding “claims” companies and “law firms” contacting owners with the promise that they have cases and can get their money back. Many of these readers don’t even own in Spain, or even upgraded in Spain since the law came into place in 1999, so how can these cases go to the Spanish Courts?

Some of these are also being told that they pay for a relinquishment, then the claim will be filed on a no win no fee basis. This can only mean one thing, an attempt to claim under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974. Another aspect to this is the client will also be told at the meeting the only way they can do this is by purchasing another product! Sounds like the classic “bait and switch”!

There is also more news which at present we cannot publish as it has not been verified, so that is it from Europe, now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds – The Developer vs the Member

wall st

By Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer

November 17, 2017

On Monday Inside Timeshare published an article comparing hedge fund involvement in Puerto Rico to hedge fund involvement in timeshare. Today we examine further how debt affects timeshare with help from Economics Professor Michael Nuwer and private equity investor Justin Morgan.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-american-perspective-comparison/

Introduction by Irene Parker

As a Diamond Resorts member, I have access to information I would not have about other timeshare companies, so once again Diamond is used as an example with help from Michael Nuwer, also a DRI member, and Justin Morgan, a former DRI member, to explain the mechanics of timeshare inventory valuation and timeshare debt.

I asked Inside Timeshare Australian Contributor Justin Morgan how a company like Diamond can have a $2.2 billion dollar valuation when the entire inventory of points is worthless to the members, given so many complaints about the lack of a secondary market. Of course, there is value to staying at a property, but for discussion purposes, timeshares are a liability on an individual member’s net worth statement. Inside Timeshare has received 196 timeshare complaints from our readers against four major developers. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch. I have interviewed many families devastated, sometimes just weeks after purchase.

In an article I wrote for TheStreet, I expressed concern over inventory valuation irregularities that delayed DRI’s second quarter 2016 earnings report, the last public report before being taken private. Diamond previously reported 11 quarters of consecutive robust earnings growth. After announcing the delay, just after the Apollo acquisition announcement, earnings had to be restated from 2014 going forward.

“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

Justin Morgan’s analysis

The whole industry itself uses some quite questionable inventory valuation methods that may be designed, according to some, to target more the financing arrangements that were the traditional model in the industry when GMAC and others were underwriting timeshare sales departments. This is why private hedge fund equity in the industry has somewhat caused a shift in thinking. If private equity is funding the model based upon equity vs loan models, the capital structures underneath begin to change. The same accounting reports will still be drawn upon to make sense of the numbers, but let’s not forget that inventory valuations do have a bit of leeway to move. Even financial reporting itself can diverge from standard reporting models, but it usually is flagged as a change in accounting methodology that would have otherwise tipped off Apollo.

Like Enron, it depends upon who’s looking, and who might be wanting to look away to get a deal done. Even if Apollo did know, it doesn’t mean they’d fess to the knowledge of spotting an irregularity if they believed they were able to profit in the end, and I believe that Michael Nuwer showed the sort of cap structure that Apollo introduced. It largely turned the debt into the membership, so whilst Apollo may have even noticed non-standard valuations, it might have only forced a better price to come from Diamond vs flagging the issue or walking away from the overall deal. Clearly, Apollo are their own beast in these type of private equity deals which reap profits and shift debt restructuring unwittingly into club members. This is a bigger issue. It’s like taking a loan out in someone else’s name and handing them the bill after you’ve taken what you want for the deal. Club members were only ever at Apollo-DRI’s mercy after this.

There are definitely some important and significant value-implied shifts from these numbers since the street uses earnings to make their valuations, but the valuation of inventory is an area that is somewhat suitable itself. The industry bodies know how to make it work and actually fought to use non-standard inventory models. But I’ve not gauged for differences between the pre-order hedge fund industry and the one we’re seeing rise out of the seas today.

I have looked with horror upon the entry of these private hedge funds because I know that they have little interest in the product itself. They are only in it to devour the membership of as much as they can get, and given the legal models, that could be the scariest evolution to date. At least cryptocurrencies attempt to establish some monetary supply rules, but timeshare clubs know that they can just keep raising budgets legally to cover their required rates of returns.

In an industry that generally looks for 30% per annum returns as a rule of thumb, that’s going to cause some high maintenance fee jokes in the future. But I remember the old DRI hiking maintenance close to 25% circa 2007 and then again in 2009. They first blamed a strong economy, whilst the second blamed the weak economy. More like a satyr blowing hot and cold in the one breath! But the disturbing thing to me is how Apollo financed this whole arrangement. They shifted the debt onto the members. They made their money from the start…The rest is just cream…The debt which now pays the Apollonian entities is the debt Apollo created and lumped into the membership at the financing stage.

We must be clear. They created the debt specifically to land it on membership; so really, it is as if the DRI members paid a good chunk of the deal. If the Attorneys General don’t see this, then they’ll miss what chicanery has been done here.

Michael Nuwer

Diamond reports show increasing levels of bad debt accompanied by decreasing membership since the peak in 2013.

chart1

Membership is down 9% since 2013

chart2

One thing that is not clear to me is the economic value of points. It often appears that a developer sells the points (say 10,000 points) for, say, $20,000. But, the next day, if I (the owner) try to sell those points in the secondary market, they are worth, maybe, $1,000. (If Bluegreen points; DRI points are worth $0.) The economist in me thinks the developer originally sold me points for $1,000 plus a club membership for the remaining $19,000. Thus, if my points are foreclosed and resold for the full $20,000, only $1,000 is the value of the points.

So, the question here is: what is the developer selling. Is the sale just vacation points or is the sale a bundle that includes points plus other stuff? I’ve read my DRI contract many times and still can’t tell what it specifically covers.

So what happens when someone buys timeshare points?

Let’s look at this example:

Say Diamond makes a sale for $30,000. The buyer might make a down payment of 20% or $6,000. The remaining $24,000 is a loan. Diamond now has a short term financing problem. They have $6,000 in cash and $24,000 in a non-liquid asset. But Diamond has immediate operating costs. A bit more than $15,000 from the sale is needed for advertising, marketing, and commission expenses. The carrying cost of the inventory must also be paid. Additionally, Diamond faces G&A costs (general and administrative) which need to be paid. All of these are current expenses, but Diamond only has the cash down-payments to cover them.

To pay current expenses, Diamond borrows money from a bank (the jargon is a “warehouse facility”). This facility is a credit line agreement, and, just like my credit card, Diamond’s credit line has a limit. Before Apollo, Diamond’s credit line was $100 million with Capital One.

In short: Diamond must borrow money from a bank to cover the current year’s expenses while it waits 7-10 years to get re-paid on the outstanding loans made to members.

Securitization of the outstanding loans is a way to oil, and thereby speed-up, the lending machine. Once Diamond reaches its $100 million credit limit, it will not be able to offer more loans for the purchase of points. Thus, to overcome this limit, the company bundles outstanding loans into a trust fund and sells shares in that fund as an Asset-Backed Security. The proceeds from selling these shares are used to pay down the credit line and Diamond’s perpetual loan machine continues.

Irene asked how Apollo Global Management will fare in their purchase of DRI. Will the restatement of inventory valuation have an impact?

DRI EBITDA in 2015 was $385 million and thus the valuation multiple ($2200/385) is a mere 5.7. Apollo got the company for a steal. If they can spruce it up and get 10x, the valuation will be $3.8 billion. There’s Apollo’s 30% profit.

trust earned

Thank you to Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan for their analysis. I have nothing against private equity, but extraordinary investment returns at the expense of timeshare members or Puerto Ricans is not acceptable if so many complaint allegations are true. In addition to 192 Inside Timeshare readers who are timeshare members, I have interviewed ten current and former timeshare sales agents that all confirm predatory sales practices are widespread in this industry. There have been several recent investigations and settlements by Attorneys General including New York, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arizona, Tennessee and Colorado as well as lawsuits too numerous to mention. It is our hope developers will confront the problem and work with member complaints to improve the quality of timeshare sales today rather than continue to deny such practices exists. Contact Inside Timeshare or an Advocacy Facebook if you have timeshare concerns.   

Timeshare self-help Facebook groups

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to Justin and Michael, also to Irene for her introduction. This week Irene has been very busy dealing with the many enquiries we have received from US owners / members. Within an hour of publishing Tuesdays article, we received 3 pleas of help, these are sent to Irene who then makes contact with the relevant advice and which of our advocacy team can help. Keep up the great work US Team.

If you need any information or help with any timeshare matter and don’t know where to turn, Inside Timeshare is here to help.

Also remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that either contacts you or you find in an advert. This last one rings very true for one UK reader, She found an advert in the Royal British Legion Magazine for a company that said it could help with a claim. Being in the British legion magazine she believed it would be genuine, well we all would! Unfortunately, adverts are not checked for authenticity, they are sold by a marketing company to pay the cost of publication, the same is also true for any newspaper or magazine. So the it proves that you need to do your homework!

On that note, Friday is here, the weekend is once again upon us, so have a great weekend and we will be back on Monday.

friday dog

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we decided to run with this particular article following the news from Europe on Monday that Diamond was closing its sales offices in Europe. Obviously this will have a great impact on the many employees, who are now out of work and will need to find jobs in an ever decreasing sales industry.

As usual before we go on with our article, this week has not been a very good one for Silverpoint in Tenerife, with another loss at the High Court and also at the Supreme Court.

The judge at the High Court Number 2, found serious breaches of the timeshare laws, declaring the client’s contract null and void and ordering the return of over £49,000 plus legal interest.

At the Supreme Court in Madrid, the judges upheld previous rulings and declared another Silverpoint contract null and void. This particular client will now receive over 28,000€ plus all legal fees and legal interest. Another happy ex Silverpoint owner.

As usual these were clients of the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. So this does go to show that in spite of what many timeshare companies are claiming, such as the article published on Wednesday about Anfi attacking CLA, this law firm is doing what it says.

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

Inside Timeshare leapt at the chance to publish details of CLARITY, Diamond Resort’s program to promote accountability, transparency and respect for the Customer. The program was introduced after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of Diamond complaints. One source informed us the office received 400 complaints leading up to the investigation and 500 more complaints after the press release.

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

Diamond Resorts also provided a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to assist members from day one if they have concerns about their timeshare.

Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints from members almost daily, with common complaints:

Purchase more points as that will be the only way to sell points. (Diamond’s secondary market restrictions make Diamond points almost impossible to sell.)

Purchase more points because that will provide you with the ability to pay maintenance fees by tendering excess points at 30 cents per point. (No such program exists as this is an adulteration of a 30/30 program designed for other purposes.)

Agents working for the same company selling against each other from the Hawaii Collection to the US Collections telling the member they made a mistake purchasing the collection they purchased, depending on which side of the Pacific the member is on.

Inside Timeshare has forwarded members complaints to Diamond’s PR firm and to ARDA. Both have ignored the complaints, but it is unlikely ARDA will enforce their Code of Ethics against a corporate member that gives ARDA a million dollars a year from Diamond members who unwittingly are billed $7 as an “opt-out” voluntary donation on their maintenance fee invoice. It is doubtful the average timeshare members understands even what the initials ARDA ROC stand for.

After reading complaint after complaint from our Nightmare on Timeshare series, I am certain our EU Diamond agents did not stoop to such tactics. Did this contribute to sales targets not being met?  Inside Timeshare has received 187 reader complaints, of which 178 are from Diamond Resort members.

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never returned Marsha’s call. One of Diamond’s Advocacy “hospitality” agents left one message but never returned her calls. CEO Michael Flaskey ignored Marsha Young.

A representative from Barclay’s Bank did contact Marsha Young. Although they cannot help, as Barclays does not physically open credit card applications, Marsha appreciated the respect she was given by at least being acknowledged.

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

Since our first Inside Timeshare US member story was published October 2016, we have received 186 member complaints, of which 171 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Of the 186 complaints, 177 are from Diamond Resorts members. We don’t dispute there are many timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but many have not yet been made aware of the lack of or limited secondary market. The majority of complaints allege they were told to buy more points because only at the next loyalty level could they sell points or be able to offset maintenance fees. Neither program exists. These members are stuck with a product they paid thousands of dollars for, felt were sold by deceit, incur maintenance fees and can’t sell. Their network of friends and family want nothing to do with timeshare. Sales centers should take note as Social Media no longer keeps members silenced and isolated. Diamond Resorts did not respond to our request for comment.

November 10

By Marsha Young

The vacation memories my husband and I shared together at Embassy Suites and Sunterra in Hawaii on the island of Maui are my most treasured, but our memories so precious have been destroyed. Maybe not the memories, but the timeshare we knew and loved has turned into a financial trap.

My husband passed away in 2011. I still travel some with friends and family and I enjoyed the flexibility of the point program until I succumbed to high pressure sales. In the past, when explaining the struggles of raising a family, or other reasons why we could not upgrade, agents would not push us when my husband and I said no, so I was not prepared for what happened. In an effort to warn others to seek counsel before you sign a perpetual contract after a six hour sales session, with rising maintenance fees, and no secondary market, I share my story.  

My problems began at the Diamond Resorts sales center at Williamsburg Virginia May 2017. I told the hospitality agent about how I had been deceived previously by a Hawaii sales agent. She told me she understood and explained that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until a new program called CLARITY was put in place. My Williamsburg sales agents were Richard Rodgers and Mark Schilling. I told them I did not want to spend any more money as the maintenance fees were going up so much for the Hawaii Collection. They told me I should transfer my Hawaii points to the US Collection because maintenance fees would be less. The cost was never discussed. I thought there would be no charge. I saved the paper they used showing points transferring over to the US Collection. They also encouraged me to open a Barclay credit card because it accumulated points rather than miles, but neglected to tell me the card would be charged $7,100 for a down payment. I had sent an email to both Richard and Mark telling them I did not want to spend more money. The sales presentation lasted six hours. I was exhausted. When I got home and went to my DRI account. I was shocked at the new $34,000 mortgage. The maintenance fees did not go down.

I did not know where to turn so I called a friend who is an investment advisor. He called Mark Schilling. Mr. Schilling’s response was, “She signed the contract. The QA session was videoed.” Recorded QA Sessions are part of the new CLARITY program. The sales presentation is what needs to be taped because that is when sales agents make promises not kept.

Richard Rodgers told me $400 a month would be the maintenance fee but it is the mortgage payment, so I owe maintenance fees on top of the mortgage payment. I was also told I could still book Hawaii, but in July 2017 I went to a meeting in Hawaii and was told I should not have transferred to the US Collection, because I would not be able to get back into Hawaii. They also said the value of the Hawaii Collection was more valuable and had the highest availability. Jessica Ocegueda was the sales agent. She said I had traded down and if I want to go to Hawaii on US Collection points in all likelihood “it’s not going to happen.” I have learned from other members you still can book in Hawaii with US points. I was convinced to transfer all my US Collection points to Hawaii Collection.

After six hours, there is insufficient time or energy to review an inch high stack of documents. Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never responded to my complaint, but they did send the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Barclays Bank my initials for the charge on a document.

  • Of the $138,000 approximate purchase price, $66,915 was taken back as credit for the US points and the balance financed was approximately $70,000
  • The down payment charged to my personal credit card was $8,529
  • A Barclaycard was charged $7,100
  • The monthly payment is $917.58
  • Estimated maintenance fee is $7,418

sad

At age 71, I watched my credit score plummet from the 800s to the 700s. I am a widow living on a teacher’s pension. I learned from reading Inside Timeshare articles and joining an Advocacy Facebook page, many have been told if they purchased more timeshare points, maintenance fees would go down. While the maintenance fee per point may decline a cent or two, the maintenance fee invoice does not decline. It’s easy for the resort defending their position to say, “You were confused,” but the volume of complaints found on the internet speak of sleight of hand, in my opinion.   

Not knowing where to turn I had contacted Irene Parker. Irene told me about the new CLARITY program Diamond Resorts implemented after the Arizona Attorney General issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. She also said Diamond Resorts now provides an advocacy department for those who have concerns about their purchase. CLARITY is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. I received none and was ignored by DRI Advocacy. It feels like the customer is always wrong.       

The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. It is not as easy or as enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would have been able to remain a Diamond customer had I not succumbed to an upgrade for reasons that were not necessary or true.  

I should have learned from the first bad experience I had in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I had been charged $2,995 for a program called the Sampler. I was refunded for that purchase because I did not know a credit card had been charged then until I returned home. Diamond said the agent, Mr. Frank Rippe, had been fired. They also said he had been the top selling agent of that particular product.

It is my hope timeshare members will continue to reach out to other members. It is a sad day when vacation timeshare plan buyers need a support group and a media outreach plan to warn other potential buyers.

act now

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.

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

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

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

As we read many stories such as this it no longer comes as any surprise, what does seem to be a recurring theme is the age group of the people that contact us. They also all have the same story, credit scores being destroyed, after years of no defaults.

One thing that did make me chuckle in Marsha’s story is Diamonds comment on the the sacking of the sales agent, “he had been the top selling agent of that product”, well that is not surprising if he was being that devious!

Once again Inside Timeshare thanks all those who provide us with the information and contribute their stories, if you would like to contribute contact Inside Timeshare. If you just require any information about your membership or about any company that contacts you or even thinking of doing business with, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

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