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Hug Your Haters Part II: A Customer Service Message

Today’s article by Irene Parker is part II of her Hug Your Haters, which we published on 15 August,

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=customer+service+message

But first some of the latest in Europe.Court Masp

At the end of last week, even though the courts are closed for business, another sentence against Anfi Sales SL and Anfi Resorts SL was published. This was issued by the Court of First Instance Number 1, based in Maspalomas, the court ruled according to the precedents set by the Supreme Court in Madrid.

In this case, the court ruled that the contract be declared null & void with the return of over 13,279€ plus legal interest. In this case the infraction was the length of the contract was greater than the 50 years allowed by Spanish Timeshare law 42/98, which came into effect in January 1999.

Again this flies in the face of Anfi’s assertion that their contracts are legal and that they have not lost any cases, see the article “Truth, What is Truth?”  Published on 10 August.

It is not just Anfi who deny these facts, Silverpoint have been doing so for years, they have even left the RDO and claim they no longer sell “timeshare”. So what are they now selling?

Well the ploy by Silverpoint is the move to transfer the blocks of timeshare weeks they sold to clients (with the promise to sell in 2 years for a profit), into what is euphemistically called a “Company Participation Scheme”. Not much is known at present, a lot more research is yet to be done, but it appears that clients sign a document at the notary which makes them shareholders of the company Club Paradiso. If this is the case, then all liabilities of the company will fall squarely on those clients shoulders. More on this when the research is complete.

Now on with Irene’s article.

Hug Your Haters Part II

My Marriott Customer Service Experience

By Irene Parker

August 29, 2017

Customer Service is a Spectator Sport, according to Hug Your Haters author Jay Bear. Although Hug Your Haters was written primarily for the providers of customer service, users of Customer Service can benefit from the book as well. Social Media has dramatically changed Customer Service in a way many timeshare companies have yet to acknowledge. The Marriott hotel chain seems to have gotten the message and has adapted to the new world order.

How does a timeshare company respond to the following complaint?  

An 85/83 year old couple was sold nine timeshare contracts over a 2 ½ year period, with the last contract sold four months ago. They were sold approximately $550,000 worth of timeshare vacation points. They were encouraged to open a Barclaycard to make a down payment on the last contract but the application was denied. They cannot travel alone and soon will not be able to travel at all. The wife has been diagnosed Alzheimer’s. The husband has dementia. He is a Vietnam Vet having served 21 years in the military. They cannot remember signing any contracts. Their maintenance fees and loan payments are $64k a year which is 100% of their after tax income.  

Mr. Baer discusses in his book the difference between onstage and off stage Haters. The couple above would be described as an offstage Hater, unfamiliar with Social Media. I describe myself as a seeker of timeshare accountability and transparency, but I acquiesce to the title of an onstage Hater to keep with the Hug Your Haters theme. Sometimes offstage Haters need an onstage Hater to plead their case. It has often been reported some timeshare sales agents target the elderly.  

 Disney Vacation Club seems to have bucked the timeshare trend, refusing to fall back on the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which translates to the customer is always wrong. Disney has few timeshare complaints so it’s not surprising to find former Walt Disney theme park executive Lee Cockerell, author of The Customer Rules, mentioned in Hug Your Haters. Mr. Cockerell explains in his book how he would encounter employees blaming the customer:  

“From time to time over the years, a customer would complain to me that a frontline employee had been belligerent. When I asked the employee what happened, I’d usually be told the customer was wrong about the facts, or had been abusive, or trying to cheat the company. Most of the time, the employee believed it was better to lose a bad customer than appease one.” p. 115

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

Another Hug Your Hater example is Pella Windows and Doors, VP of marketing Elaine Sagers. “Monthly, our executives call a random selection of unhappy customers to talk about their experiences with us…..We’ve also played recordings from the call center so you can hear the emotion in our customers’ voices around what’s been happening with jobs and their homes.” p. 120

Having listened to 133 timeshare complaints, mainly about maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to sell points when no secondary market exists, it’s hard to understand how companies can so often ignore or dismiss allegations, especially when a volume of complaints (119 out of 133) meet the definition of white collar crime – “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch” – painting a compelling and compounding picture of trouble within a company or within the timeshare industry as a whole. I challenge any timeshare executive to listen to the tone of the voices of families devastated financially by their vacation plan. “Well you signed a contract,” is not the appropriate answer. I’m sure Mr. Baer would agree.

Mr. Baer makes another important point I have often stated when it comes to offering a customer wronged an apology. “In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’” Mr. Baer quotes Michael Lasky, an attorney and litigator with the Davis & Gilbert law firm in New York City. Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125

Page 138 of Hug Your Haters discusses the importance of rapid complaint response time. My husband and I have been Platinum Marriott Rewards members for several years. About a decade ago I complained about something I can’t remember at a Marriott Hotel front desk. I was just complaining, not asking for compensation, yet the company responded with an automatic adjustment in reward points. Every 20 or so stays, something might happen that I would complain about had it not been for the times the company responded rapidly and appropriately.

Right out of the Hug Your Haters playbook, I posted a comment on the Marriott Facebook about how a trainee and a manager patiently and pleasantly changed our room three times to address our concern about highway noise. I posted this experience on Marriott’s Facebook and they almost immediately responded, “Irene, we would like to share this on our comment site if that’s alright with you.” As Mr. Baer explains, onstage Haters (or Lovers) don’t expect to be answered. When they are, they are taken aback, astonished that a company as large as Marriott would care.

I can’t speak for Marriott Vacation Club, the timeshare company, because I am not a member, but one of our Advocates, a senior manager with a Fortune 500 company, also a Marriott Vacation Club member, made this comment about Marriott in Part I of our Inside Timeshare article Hug Your Haters, “I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also, while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience.”

Onstage Haters compared to Offstage Haters – Chapter 7

Some companies respond to negative comments by expanding their advertising budget. “Advertising is a tax paid for being unremarkable,” is a quote Mr. Baer said is usually attributed to Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad,  but he rephrases the comment appropriately, “Advertising is a tax paid when you’re poor at retaining your current customers.” p. 18

“Listening is the ability to pay attention to what the sounds means and understanding it. We hear noise, but we listen to music. That is because noise falls on our ears without any effort at our end,” said an anonymous writer explaining the difference between hearing and listening. Too often customer complaints are dismissed as noise in the form or automatic denials to a complaint filed against a timeshare sales agent (s).

These are but a few timeshare Advocacy Facebooks and websites of members helping members because company complaints so often fall on deaf ears. They are closed groups, but all would welcome corporate representatives bold enough to listen and learn. We hope timeshare industry executives, ARDA and lawmakers will take the time to not just hear, but listen.

Bluegreen and Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebooks

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/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

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

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently sent a message in the form of a $6.5 million settlement against The Manhattan Club timeshare accused of restricting availability for members who paid thousands of dollars for a timeshare while allowing access to those booking online. The settlement response was a reaction to a chorus of timeshare members mobilized and action orientated. All timeshare owners are grateful because a victory for one is a victory for all. Lack of availability is a universal complaint.

Thank you Irene, once again you have given us a look into the world of “Customer Service” or in some cases lack of. It is one of the main complaints that Inside Timeshare does receive, in many cases the sales staff are only intent on getting more money from you, rather than helping to get the best from your membership.

If timeshare is to flourish, developers and resorts really do need to look at this aspect and change their practises. Disney is a very good example of this as we showed in a previous article by Irene, Disney Vacation Club Vs The Timeshare Industry, published in July’s A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies.

If you have any questions or comments Inside Timeshare invites you to contact us, your views are important, it will help to change the industry for the better.

Have you been contacted by a company you have never heard of, or want to know more about but don’t know how to start, again contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

 

Start the Week: Exiting Timeshare and the False Promises from Exit Companies

At the end of last week we started our Letter from America with information provided by many of our readers on their attempts to exit or relinquish their timeshare, for many this has proved to be very costly. Many of these readers have given the same account, they paid a company many thousands of pounds to “exit or relinquish” the timeshare, only to find out that 3 years down the line they are not out and now owe thousands in maintenance arrears. Many are also facing court action by debt collection agencies.

In many cases it all starts with a cold call, in others the timeshare owner is seeking help and has either found the company on the internet or has been recommended by one of the so-called independent timeshare consumer advice sites. Many of these companies pose as law firms, paralegals and experts in timeshare exit, all to fool you the timeshare owner.

The initial offer is to get you “compensation” for being mis-sold, all on a no win no fee basis, but this is just the bait, before this can go ahead you first need to have the contract cancelled. Unfortunately this is what they are actually after and it does entail a payment upfront, in some cases upto £10,000!

So how is the “exit or relinquishment” processed?

Very simply it isn’t, the company will send a “unilateral letter of cancelation” or “exit notification letter”, all this means is that you have stated your intention to withdraw your membership. Along with this letter the owner is then told not to pay anymore maintenance, if the timeshare company sends an invoice for maintenance, just ignore it, you are out!

Eventually, as has happened to many of our readers who have sent in emails, they are now being bombarded with notices of huge sums in arrears, with the threat of being taken to county court for a debt. The timeshare company itself does not take the “debtor” to court, it is passed to a debt collection agency who do the legal stuff on behalf of their client, the timeshare company. One of the main companies that deal with this field is Daniels Silverman, who have a reputation for always getting paid.

As far as the timeshare company is concerned, you are still a member / owner and are liable for the maintenance, they have never accepted the letter of exit from the company that was paid to “exit” you from your timeshare. As we have stated in many previous articles, the timeshare companies do not accept or deal with theses “exit or relinquishment” companies, they will only deal with the member direct. They have their own systems in place for dealing with a cancellation, subject to certain conditions.

Have you paid a company for the cancellation of your timeshare and are now receiving demands for maintenance arrears with threats of legal action, if so use our contact page and we will get back to you.

If you answer yes to this question and want to know where you stand legally and what you can do about it, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will get back to you.

Remember, do your homework!

Financial Service & Co: Another Dodgy Looking Company

Another reader has sent information on a call they have received from a Mr Fletcher of Financial Services & Co, with the address:

1 Bentley Road, London,N1 4BY

Along with the Company Registration Number LP003793, with no company directors being shown but plenty of documents showing change of partners and addresses. (See link below)

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/LP003793

The call was regarding his dealings with Regency Shores Marketing (EZE Group), according to the call (which has been recorded), there has been a successful outcome against them in recent court proceedings.

This was all confirmed in an email from Andrea Ward with the email address [email protected] yet another gmail address not linked to any website.

Apparently there has been a substantial amount awarded which will be sent by personal cheque or bank transfer, but there is a processing fee to be paid which is around 10% of the awarded amount. This is paid to a third party, and will be held in an Escrow Account, once these fees have been paid to the “Trustee” Financial Services & Co will finalise the claim and all the money will be settled within 5 working days.

The email also goes on to say “We are now giving you not only our company guarantee but that too of our contractual and fiscal arrangements with the Bank of Spain, the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and the High Court of Madrid. This means that all Business is backed and covered by these three entities and ourselves.”

All too good to be true I hear you say!

Now, there is a website called AW Financial Services:

http://www.awfinancialservices.com

This is actually the trading name of Mortgages Just4U, registered at Company house with the Company Registration Number 06329975 and the registered address:

18 The Cheveralls, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 3NH

Telephone: 01582 898216

Mobile: 07903 268208

Email: [email protected] which is linked to the website and differs from the one given by Andrea Ward.

On their website they also state they are an appointed representative of Personal Touch Financial Services Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Company number 03406454 with the address:

2nd Floor Gateway 2 Holgate Park Drive, York, England, YO26 4GB

and have been registered since 21 July 1997. They are also in the FCA register as authorised with the FCA Reference number: 187834.

So what do we have so far, a company registered at company house with no details apart from in the filing history showing several changes of address and partners, using a name for their email address similar to another registered company and using a gmail account, with no website of their own.

Contacting clients who have dealt with Regency Shores Marketing (EZE Group), with details of membership numbers, what they purchased, for how much and when, all very very suspicious indeed.

Inside Timeshare is not aware of any recent court proceedings against Regency Shores Marketing in Spain or the UK, we are however aware of the case against the directors of EZE Group Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly, but that has not yet been resolved.

So from what we know this does have all the hallmarks of another very elaborate scam, fairly well put together and pretty convincing. Although from the recording the caller Mr Fletcher is not that convincing, skirting over all the questions and repeating himself constantly with all “the scam companies are operating out of Spain and Portugal”. Well that is not quite how we see it, they are also operating out of the UK under dubious companies registered at Company House for a small fee, or just taking over another companies name.

This is the recording of the call our reader sent in, it has been edited to remove our readers personal details.

This really does go to show how careful you have to be, if our reader had not been a regular to Inside Timeshare, he may have just been taken in.

Remember

THE GOLDEN RULE

CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN, DO YOUR HOMEWORK

If you need help in doing this then contact Inside Timeshare, we will be more than happy to help.

Tuesday Slot with Irene

Inside Timeshare publishes members accounts of sales presentations.

The reason we publish members accounts is because all but a few members report back to us that their claims of false promises made to sell them timeshare points, which they call lies, are being met with “You signed a contract” or “We’re not responsible for what sales agents say.”

That’s fine if that is the official position at  some timeshare companies, but the public needs to be made aware of the FACT that their complaints, in almost all of the 483 reported (as of the end of 2nd quarter 2018, were met with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.”

The last thing we want to do is throw out the baby with the bathwater, lumping a fine timeshare company like Disney, into the tub of timeshare companies we feel need to improve sales and marketing practices.  

Please take the time to read decorated Marine veteran, John Collick, 100% disabled, his bio, and ask yourself “Who should I believe?”  

Now on to our U.S. British 4th of July edition of Inside Timeshare, submitted by John Collick and by Irene Parker.

Introducing Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Military Team Leader John Collick, and Military Team members:

George Yamada

Teresa Laird

Angela Sandstede

July 3, 2017

By John Collick, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired), and Irene Parker

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, the day Americans celebrate Independence from …. England. England and the US were once enemies, but now allies and friends. If two countries can resolve their differences, maybe timeshare developers can heal their relationship with 483 angry timeshare families that have reached out to Inside Timeshare for help. Like freedom, customer relationships must be daily earned and refreshed.  Four veterans share their allegations of deceit and frustration over the lack of timeshare enforcement.

There is no federal timeshare enforcement on the front end of the timeshare sale, and little to no enforcement in states where the Attorney General also falls back on the oral representation clause. Some Attorneys General conducted investigations based on members’ reports, but others, like Florida, mimic the timeshare developer’s response to complaints, “You signed a contract.”

Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s (DBPR)

The department’s response to all complaints we have directed to DBPR

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  

This is exactly why we need a media outreach campaign to let the consumer know how any complaint that begins with “The sales agent said….” will be received. In essence, the Florida Timeshare Division, DBPR, does little to stop the deceit. False verbal representations made by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents are allowed to continue unchecked. Repeat offenders receive awards.   

The Florida DBPR demands proof. What would be the proof? Florida is one of only a few states that require both parties be aware of a recording of an in-person sales presentation. Most states allow a consumer to record an in-person meeting without the other participant aware.

http://www.diligentiagroup.com/legal-investigation/private-investigator-tips-is-it-legal-to-record-a-phone-call-or-conversation/

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helped Wells Fargo victims, but timeshare members, even in the CFPB’s heyday, could not effectively file a CFPB complaint. This was because borrowers filing a CFPB complaint are required to select a lender from the CFPB menu. Many timeshare borrowers don’t even know who the lender is, as the timeshare company services their loan. A timeshare company is not a choice on the CFPB’s drop-down menu.

We know there are millions who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but 483 families have described to Inside Timeshare how they were deceived by false statements and promises. Such tactics are illegal in the eyes of the FBI, described as white-collar crime – deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.          

It is particularly disturbing to hear reports from 51 veterans, active duty military and law enforcement members. Several active duty military are worried about losing their security clearances due to timeshare foreclosure. Recent victims #50 and #51 are a police officer and a deputy.

John Collick, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired), 100% disabled, shares his timeshare experience. John is working on an article about his timeshare experience that he intends to submit to the DOD Inspector General and to the Military Times newspapers: Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Times.   

Several other veterans and members of veterans’ families have come forward to assist John in his efforts, including:

  • George Yamada, Vietnam Army veteran 70% disabled due to Agent Orange,
  • Teresa Laird, her dad Raymond Mori, a two time Purple Heart recipient, alleging he and his wife were up-sold into timeshare foreclosure,
  • Angela Sandstede, her dad a Navy veteran, up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments, living on his letter carrier’s pension, now facing foreclosure.

John’s bio

John has a long and distinguished career as an Intelligence Specialist, both as a Marine and a federal employee. John was a Terrorism Analyst for the Navy in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; later became the Coast Guard’s Senior Threat Analyst, where he wrote a protocol for identifying risks and threats in the maritime domain. When this was implemented in the Port of Boston, it saved the city, state, and federal governments several million dollars. The port recently used that protocol while conducting a live shooter drill, with success.

John held a Top Secret SCI clearance for over 35 years; in addition to those identified above, he was also a Supervisory Intelligence Specialist at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Senior Intelligence Research Specialist, responsible for developing a process for vetting Syrian refugees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Department of Defense HUMINT Issues Manager for Yemen. In this position, he was responsible for coordinating all classified activities concerning U.S. interests in Yemen.

Timeshare and the Military

Using his experience as a Marine First Sergeant, Mr. Collick advised that the Navy Criminal Investigation Service, Army Criminal Investigation Division, Air Force Office of Special Investigation and Coast Guard Investigation Service are responsible for investigating crimes against their service personnel, especially if it appears endemic. Although it is usually accomplished at the base commander level, any of the military service headquarters have the authority to place any business on the “off limits” list if it appears that their business practices are hurting military personnel. If endemic throughout the country, the Joint Chiefs could do the same. John has been reaching out to active duty members and others, gathering reports for his research and articles.

John is married with four kids; a 31 year old daughter, also a disabled veteran; a 27 year old son, an active duty Army officer; a 15 year old daughter in high school; and a 13 year old son, with Downs Syndrome, who has the mentality of an 18 month old.

His personal awards from military service include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Arctic Service Medal, Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Combat Action Ribbon. He was also awarded the Navy’s Civilian Commendation Medal, for his role in translating documents and identifying previously unknown terrorists in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

By John Collick

It is my intention to reach out to the military and others in an effort to warn the military and the public at large that timeshare sales agents are, according to our experience, encouraged to make any false claim necessary to sell vacation points. We purchased our timeshare in Florida.

We were told by a Diamond Resorts sales agent, that we needed to purchase Diamond vacation points to ensure our weeks owned at The Colonies in Williamsburg VA timeshare didn’t lose value. The salesman, Mr. Stephen Kim, stated this was necessary because Diamond Resorts was in the process of acquiring The Colonies. We had recently upgraded to four weeks at The Colonies, so had no intention of making further changes in our vacation program until we received this false information. Mr. Kim said the points would be much cheaper if we purchased before Diamond acquired The Colonies because after the acquisition, the price per point will increase significantly. It wasn’t until a year later, after we purchased a Platinum membership at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes in Florida, we learned The Colonies was not to be acquired by Diamond Resorts – or any other company.

I filed a complaint with Diamond requesting the contract be rescinded. Diamond’s Hospitality agent responded, “Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.” The FBI agents I spoke with, and attorneys have confirmed, hiding behind fine print is not legal, but with no enforcement, deception continues unchecked.   

We attended a mandatory orientation presentation at Mystic Dunes after our first purchase of Diamond points in Williamsburg VA. I asked sales agent Rida about Mr. Kim’s statement that Diamond was in the process of acquiring The Colonies. She said that she hadn’t brought it up because it hadn’t been made public.

We were also told we could use our Diamond points for amusement parks, concerts, the theatre, airplane travel, etc., only to learn airline travel was the only item mentioned for which points could be used, but even that was of little value.

All our timeshare experience has been with The Colonies of Williamsburg. They always told us the truth, not what they wanted us to believe. We have no desire to ever sell The Colonies of Williamsburg timeshare, but have every intention of ridding ourselves of Diamond Resorts.

Other veterans facing timeshare foreclosure, George Yamada, Roy Simmons, Raymond Mori  

George Yamada

Vietnam Army veteran 70% disabled

I work as a pension administrator. I was told the timeshare points I purchased were an investment. The first few purchases I made were based on the vacation experience but there is no question the last purchases were made because I was told the price per point had appreciated and was expected to continue to appreciate.

Angela Sandstede

My father, Roy Simmons, is a Navy Veteran. He had been happy with his timeshare points, but was up-sold to the point we are concerned about my parents losing their home if they have to file for bankruptcy. We made a YouTube hoping someone would listen and we will be reaching out to our Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson. My dad retired on a letter carrier’s pension. My parents were up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payment.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-13/

Teresa Laird

My father, Raymond Mori, also a Marine veteran, earned two Purple Hearts. My parents were sold a trial package, despite being timeshare members of this company for years. When I asked the company to cancel the purchase, they would not talk to me, insisting they had to talk to my parents. They “fixed” it by selling them 17,000 more points. When I went with them to Las Vegas, the agents there tried to sell them $234,000 in additional points at age 83, while my dad was dozing off in his wheelchair. Had I not been there, I feel they would have signed.    

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-42/

Whistleblowers of America reviewed several timeshare complaints reported by veterans and active duty personnel. They presented our timeshare fraud report to the Joint Committee of Veteran’s Affairs March 14, 2018.    

Anyone helped by our advocacy efforts is encouraged to make a donation to WoA.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Thank you John and Irene, the number of complaints that we have received from military and law enforcement personnel is only the of the proverbial iceberg, there are many more who have had the same experience but have as yet not found who to go to.

Inside Timeshare will continue to publish these stories, they may not be popular with the industry, but the 4th July is about the freedom to express yourself, if you believe you have been wronged then is in not your right to speak up?

To all our friends and readers in the United States we from Europe wish you a very happy 4th July.

Anfi del Mar: Lopesan Seek to Take Majority Control

ABC Canarias reported on 26 May that IFA Hotels the chain run by Lopesan, will propose to the shareholders meeting in Germany of increasing their capital to 128.7 million euros in a move to take a majority control of Anfi del Mar.

In September 2016 the announcement was made that the Lyng family had sold their 50% share of Anfi to Lopesan, for a mere 41.2 million euros, but this still left the Cazorla interest at 50% plus the golden share which gives them control over the board.

Lopesan is by far one of the largest hotel chains in the Canaries, they specialise in quality 4 and 5 star all inclusive resorts with three of their largest hotels in Meloneras, Maspalomas. It is also known that they do not appear to have any interest in the timeshare model.

This now leaves a huge question for those members at Anfi, if Lopesan do take complete control, where does this leave them?

Will Lopesan continue to run the resort as a timeshare, or will they close it down and turn it into a standard hotel in the model of their other interests?

Lopesan Villa del Conde Resort & Thalasso 5 Star Hotel

We have in the past seen this happen to other timeshare resorts, with those members, especially on floating weeks and points systems losing all their rights. For those on fixed weeks with fixed apartments the scenario is possibly a little better.

As fixed weeks owners enjoy more rights and protection, as they technically own a piece of the property, rather than being members of a vacation club, it could be they may just get a financial return, with Lopesan paying them for the weeks to be returned. This has happened elsewhere, when a resort has been bought out and changed from timeshare to a hotel.

For the members at Anfi the future is uncertain, along with the plethora of court cases against Anfi for the illegal contracts they have sold, is also taking its toll on their finances. We know that sales are not what they used to be, with many sales decks throughout Europe cutting the number of reps they have, with many closing down completely.

Although, at present it is pure speculation what the future holds, it is obviously a very worrying time for all those who have paid substantial amounts of money to purchase their weeks along with the annual maintenance charges. For those with floating weeks, who even now have a problem with availability, will their vacation club continue or will it just cease to exist?

As usual, only time will tell, will we see an increase in the number of cases being taken to court, as members look to recouping what they have paid before they possibly lose everything?

The other question is the Tauro Beach Project, if Lopesan does take full control, will the project be resurrected, this time without the controversy?

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

Click on the link below to read the original article.

http://www.abc.es/espana/canarias/abci-hotels-lopesan-hara-ampiacion-capital-para-controlar-anfi-mar-201805261103_noticia.html

Links to past Inside Timeshare articles

http://insidetimeshare.com/lopesan-buy-lyng-families-50-anfi/

http://insidetimeshare.com/lopesan-buys-lyngs-anfi-share-update/

If you have any comments or have any questions on this subject, use our contact page and send them in, your views are important, so share them here with others. As more information becomes available we will publish it here.

In tomorrow’s Tuesday Slot we will be publishing an article by another new contributor, Margaret Chandler, about her experiences with Wyndham, the introduction is by Irene Parker. Although Wyndham were sent a draft, they have so far not responded, if they do respond at the eleventh hour with a favourable answer, the article will be pulled.

Join us tomorrow for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, today we welcome yet another new contributor Mike Yelton, edited as always by our very own Irene Parker. This article will also be of interest to our readers in Europe, as many have been victims of similar tactics, so we are asking our readers, both members and hopefully developers, to weigh in on the discussion questions posted throughout Mr. Yelton’s article.  

The deception that prompts the presentation, as happened to Mike and Joyce Yelton,  is often the reason why the ultimate end is the timeshare exit company when the developer will not address these issues.  

If the developer would clean up the sales process, the back end of the timeshare exit problem would go away, or at least be reduced. Until the developer owns up to their being a part of the problem, the angry and desperate timeshare owner is here to stay..

Is Freewheeling Credit Card Lending Here Again!?

The Over Reliance on Credit Card Lending

Our Stormy Point Village, Summerwinds Experience

By Mike Yelton, Army and Air Force Vietnam Veteran

May 22, 2018  

Introduction by Irene Parker

Was this Elder Fraud?  

Was this Credit Card Fraud?

Was this an Unfair and Deceptive trade practice?

Was Summerwinds resolution to the Yelton’s offer fair?

Inside Timeshare has been receiving an increase in complaints about timeshare credit cards opened onsite and credit card charges made without authorization. This is exactly what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau worked so hard to put a halt to when Wells Fargo agents opened credit card accounts without the cardholder’s knowledge. Undeterred, Wells Fargo moved on to a $1 billion penalty announced April 20, 2018. This penalty was levied due in part to interest rate-lock promises. Mike and Joyce Yelton’s timeshare upgrade experience is somewhat similar, although they were promised a rate lowering.   

Another Wells Fargo Settlement

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau) announced a settlement with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in a coordinated action with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). As described in the consent order, the Bureau found that Wells Fargo violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) in the way it administered a mandatory insurance program related to its auto loans. The Bureau also found that Wells Fargo violated the CFPA in how it charged certain borrowers for mortgage interest rate-lock extensions. Under the terms of the consent orders, Wells Fargo will remediate harmed consumers and undertake certain activities related to its risk management and compliance management. The Bureau assessed a $1 billion penalty against the bank and credited the $500 million penalty collected by the OCC toward the satisfaction of its fine.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/bureau-consumer-financial-protection-announces-settlement-wells-fargo-auto-loan-administration-and-mortgage-practices/

Here’s what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Yelton. I have interspersed discussion questions hoping our readers will offer their input in our comment section. We encourage responses from the industry in addition to reader responses. We hope meaningful dialogue will help bridge the gap between the angry timeshare member and the timeshare provider.         

By Mike Yelton

My wife Joyce and I, both 79 years of age, bought a Stormy Point Village timeshare in Branson, Missouri in 2015 and upgraded in 2016. We enjoyed our stays there and had no major complaints until December 2017 when we attended what they said was a ‘mandatory update meeting’. We were told that if we did not attend we would lose our benefits. At that meeting we feel we were deceived and lied to. We may be older, but we are not stupid.

Discussion Question 1

Do you think it is fair for a timeshare member, who has made a prior purchase of a deeded week, be required to attend an update, threatened with the risk of losing their benefits if they did not attend? The Yelton’s would not have become angry owners had they not attended the meeting and we would not be writing this article.    

At this mandatory update, the salespeople presented what they described as a “change in need” or an exchange in benefits. We were led to believe it was not an upgrade. They said they could lower the interest on our loan if we opened a new lower interest rate credit card.

Discussion Question 2 & 3

Do you think this was more an attempt to open credit card accounts and sell an upgrade, rather than actually addressing the customer’s needs?

Was the “change in need” enough of a reason to tell the Yelton’s they would lose their benefits if they did not attend?

Due to our health we cannot travel far from home. We don’t live far from Branson. We were told if we wanted to limit our use to just Branson, two weeks could be broken down into four parts. We signed the papers, but later we found out we had purchased an upgrade which we did not want or could afford.

We felt we had become a victim of the unauthorized opening of credit card accounts and unauthorized charges made. We were not aware the cards had been opened or that an amount had been charged. We didn’t know the cards had been opened until not one, but two Bank of America credit cards showed up in the mail! We had agreed to one card being opened because they said it would be at a lower interest. It was never mentioned the card was being opened for the purpose of buying an upgrade. The cards have been canceled as Bank of America agreed they were opened without our knowledge.

Discussion Question 4

Was it deceptive to tell the Yelton’s the card was being opened to lower their interest rate if charges were made to make a purchase? What could have been done so that the Yelton’s would have been aware the card was being charged to purchase a timeshare product? From members young and old, we are hearing about credit cards opened and charged, and even loans taken out when the member was not aware. It seems the first thing a sales agent does is to run the card to determine the credit limit and then back into the maximum point purchase.  

To our utter dismay we learned that the sales agent charged $7,000 on a card opened in my name and $4,000 on a card opened in Joyce’s name! The salesperson told us we could charge up to $11,000 on the card but he NEVER said he was actually charging that amount of money or that he was opening two cards. He just charged it without even asking! We both were there. He told us we would get a check in the mail, which we should sign and send in, in an envelope that would be included with the check. We have no idea what the check was about, but no check ever arrived.

Discussion Question 5

Should the sales agent have explained to the Yelton’s why they would receive a check in the mail? This question was asked to encourage timeshare buyers to challenge vague statements like this. For example, Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from members purchasing additional points because they say they were told “You can pay your maintenance fees by charging purchases on the new credit card.” The problem is – the consumer typically does not ask the next question: What is the actual value? If 1% is credited, a family would have to charge $100,000 in one year to pay a $1,000 maintenance fee bill.    

We expected Summerwind to cancel the deceptive upgrade. We sent a letter of complaint to Summerwinds which they ignored. We then filed a complaint with the BBB which did get a response. Summerwinds asked us to take down the complaint so we could discuss the issue without a third party. They offered us a cancellation on the upgrade but not a full cancellation of our timeshare, which would have required the prior outstanding loan be cancelled.   

Discussion Question 6

Do you think the offer Summerwinds proposed was fair?

We will allow the cancellation of the last upgrade.

The debt prior to this purchase is still your responsibility.

We will start the first year of use for 2019 on the new contract. We will give you one free week in a 2 bedroom unit for use in 2018.

We will refund the amounts placed on the cards and any payments made to the lender since the time of your upgrade.

They never apologized for opening the second card or charging the credit cards without our knowledge. We had some good times at Summerwinds, but because of this experience, we have lost all faith in Summerwinds. We dread checking in.

Discussion Question 7

Should Summerwinds have apologized for the mistakes? Lawyers will be quick to respond….but not so fast. Hug your Haters author Jay Baer, obtained this answer from attorney and litigator Michael Laskey of Davis and Gilbert law firm in New York City.    

“In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’”

Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=hug+your+haters

So there you have it. Mr. Yelton has produced lots of food for thought. This is the YouTube Mr. and Mrs. Yelton produced. https://youtu.be/a1XCF479oa8

We hope you will express your thoughts on our comment section.

Summerwinds Resorts Services, LLC has a BBB rating of F

https://www.bbb.org/stlouis/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/summerwinds-resort-services-llc-in-branson-mo-29040/reviews-and-complaints

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from all branches of the military as well as law enforcement. We have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, a nonprofit that seeks justice for veterans, Active Duty military and government workers. We encourage those who have been assisted by our efforts to make a donation to this worthy organization. https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

I have never served my country, but I am honored to serve those who have by providing the means to let their voices be heard. Thank you to Mike for joining Inside Timeshare as a contributor and for your service to our country.

Additional self-help groups that can aid in your due diligence:

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/

In Europe we have not yet seen this use of credit cards, but we are familiar with finance being arranged by the sales staff, the main provider of theses loan agreements is Barclays Partner Finance. We have many readers who have informed us that they told the sales staff they could not afford the timeshare as they were only on pensions.

Yet after many hours of high pressure sales tactics they eventually agreed to finance being provided, the unfortunate thing is the usual due diligence checks such as income versus outgoings reports have never been done. Eventually this has ended in severe financial hardship.

It has also been the case that many of these loans have been brokered by unauthorised and unlicensed staff and companies. Yet the banking industry still allows these agreements to take place, putting yet more people in financial crisis.

If you have any comments or questions on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

 

Start the Week

Just as we were about to publish last Friday’s Letter from America, news came in from the Court of First Instance Number 3, Abona, Tenerife on the sentence made against Diamond Resorts Tenerife Sales SL.

In this case the court ruled on several infringements of the law 42/98, thus the court ruled that the contract was declared null and void with the client to receive a total of £44,790 which included double the deposit taken illegally on the day. (See PDF of sentence below)

1st N3 Diamond data protected (cla)

The EU Timeshare Directive 2008/122/EC which supersedes previous one along with the Spanish law states that no deposit shall be taken within the 14 day cancellation period (cooling off) even by a third party.

It is also stipulated that the consumer must also be informed of this prohibition in writing, failure to do so along with other information required by law, extends the cooling off period to 90 days. The courts are penalising resorts by paying the consumer double the amount taken within that period.

We have seen some sales decks using the method of issuing a voucher for accomodation, or even moving the purchaser into the resort and stating the payment was for accomodation, the courts have determined that this is indeed a payment to a third party to secure the sale, so is classified as a deposit.

Up until January 1999 most contracts were in what is known as perpetuity, or never ending. It was thought that as the original concept of timeshare was looked at as property, perpetuity appeared to be good thing. The law makers decided that contracts should be for a minimum of 3 years with a maximum of 50 years.

The thinking behind this was simple, it was felt that it is inherently unfair to saddle the children of purchasers with an ongoing debt for maintenance on a contract they did not instigate or sign.

The idea of “floating weeks & points” systems was made illegal due to the fact that they lacked any substance. With the fixed week system each purchaser was given a specific week number and apartment number. This was then logged at the land registry, this also had the effect of stopping overselling and guaranteed the purchaser a specific week in a specific apartment.

With the floating weeks and points systems you own nothing apart from a right of use which is subject to availability. You became a member of a vacation club rather than an owner with specific rights.

The sales of these were not governed to the same extent, therefore the resort was able to double, triple or even quadruple its membership. In other words have more members than actual weeks available, so actually being able to get your preferred date became a lottery.

It also has the advantage of more income in regard to maintenance fees, so obviously more profit!

There are other laws which are also being used in bringing these cases, they range from Civil Consumer Laws, Mercantile law and Criminal Law. All this is to protect the consumer and regulate an industry that for many years did what it liked, believing it could not be touched.

See PDF’ below for the English & Spanish version of Law 42/98 and EU Directive 2008/122/EC

42-1998 in english

42-1998 in spanish

eu_timeshare_directive_2008 Highlighted

There are many companies springing up now who will tell you that you do have a claim, many will entice you with a “no win no fee” offer. But then in order to do this you must first pay for a cancellation, this will cost thousands and as many of our readers have since found out, their contracts have not been terminated.

At present the only country in Europe that is seeing cases going to court is Spain, so unless your purchase was in Spain after January 1999, with the main criteria as above, then you may not actually have a claim possible.

If you have been contacted or have found one of these companies on the internet, it is important that you do your homework and check them out thoroughly. If you need any help in doing this then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, in this article which replaces the one scheduled, which we pulled once again at the last minute due to a very good response from the timeshare company, Irene Parker explains how US timeshare owners can file a complaint.

In Europe, Spain leads the way in protecting consumers of timeshare, we do understand that in the US, each state is responsible for their own laws, there seem to be no federal laws which govern the sale of timeshare. Europe has tried to unify how timeshare is sold, the unfortunate thing is that in many states the industry (with their large corporate law firms) have held sway.

Spain, which was one of the main areas where timeshare resorts were being developed, has suffered from the bad press associated with the industry. People being hijacked on the street while on holiday, bundled into taxis to endure hours of hard sell by unscrupulous sales agents. Although the blame must be on the sales and marketing companies,who paid only on results, commission only. Many start out okay, but the pressure to produce is enormous and an agent can be forced out by being given poor quality “ups” if they don’t produce.

The European Union developed a series of timeshare directives which each member state had to enact into domestic law, many have watered them down, Spain on the other hand decided that they needed to be strengthened and enacted Law 42/98.

This law came into force in January 1999, since then it has been strengthened by Law 4/12 along with the many Supreme Court rulings.

This now gives consumers more protection, no deposits within a 14 day cooling off period, no contract longer than 50 years, no points or floating weeks systems, with many other safeguards.

There are other laws which protect the consumer which are being used in the many cases coming before the courts, these include the civil consumer laws, mercantile law and by no means least, criminal law.

The way consumers are enticed to attend presentations has also been looked into, OPC’s are now regulated and licensed, unlike before. Infringements of the regulations can result in very severe penalties.

Timeshare in Europe has a very bad reputation because of the past, the original concept cannot be faulted, it is the greed around the sales that is to blame. We know this to be true due to the closing of many sales decks, with many of the sales agents now working for the “bogus” law firms and claims companies that are springing up on an almost daily basis.

Inside Timeshare is doing what it can to warn consumers of these companies, but as soon as we identify one there is another to replace it. Litigious Abogados is a great case in point, changing names every few months but the “scam” is the same.

It is only through the help of our readers that many of them are identified, as owners / members working together we will be able to protect the timeshare community.Now for this weeks Letter from America.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (May 2018 revision)

Start with the Attorneys General Office

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

May 18, 2018

By Irene Parker

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. Rosa Parks

Inside Timeshare received 425 US timeshare complaints as of May 16, 2018 (238 was the number of complaints reported as of our last revision 12/15/17). An escalation in the criminal nature of member allegations, especially those voiced by 45 active duty and retired military and law enforcement, led us to the FBI (9 members of the military/law enforcement reported allegations of timeshare fraud as of 12/15). Some fear they could lose their Security Clearances due to a foreclosure on their record. Active duty military feel this is a threat to our national security as just about anyone can get hired to sell timeshare points.

Members need to be especially vigilant about “Get you out of your timeshare” firms because many are scams. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ (TAG) has a scam research team formed by members who have themselves been scammed. Contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below if you are contacted by someone you don’t know offering to help you get out of a timeshare.

This US Department of Justice timeshare scam report details the extent of the problem. Based on 425 complaints, our advocates feel the front of the timeshare sale contains a comparable level of criminal activity.  

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

Timeshare developers created the criminal cottage industry of transfer and exit scams by overreliance on the oral representation clause, iron clad developer based contracts, the lack of an adequate secondary market, and ingrained deception run amuck, according to reported complaints. The vast majority of our readers are highly professional, educated citizens with credit scores around 800 who have rarely been late paying a bill. Identical complaints, directed against the same sales agent, sometimes in cooperation with a manager or vice president, can establish a pattern of complaints.

It is one thing to say I am a sinner, but let someone else say that about me and then I feel it – I am up in arms. If I am falsely accused I may suffer, whereas if correction be found on even a small reality – something in me having deserved it – then often that hurts more. We must be happy that our faults are known as they are. Mother Teresa

With no way out if the timeshare company refuses to even acknowledge the deception, hiring a lawyer or foreclosure were the only options until real consumer advocates formed Timeshare Advocacy Group™ – bridging the gap between the developer and the member harmed. At times it felt like turning the Titanic, but closing gaps on social issues never comes easy and some causes take longer than a lifetime. Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus at great peril to her safety, but Rosa reached a decision that enough was enough and action was needed. It was a small action, but one that led to great changes. Educator and activist Parker Palmer explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK0dXNK94BM

Almost all members have reported their timeshare company responded to their allegations of deceit with, “Sorry, you signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” This knee jerk dismissal is backed up by some Attorneys General, via their timeshare divisions, responding the same. Unscrupulous timeshare sales agents realize this of course, so the hamster wheel of recycled inventory never ceases beginning with “It’s not a sales presentation.” If there is still truth in advertising, change needs to begin there.   

According to the FBI and to lawyers consulted, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, but it takes volumes of complaints to raise a regulator’s eyebrow. The Federal Trade Commission released its summary report of 2017 complaints listing travel, vacation, and timeshare as one of the most costly frauds at $1,710, although complaints we have received from members range from $25,000 to $400,000 or more. We wish members were only losing $1,710.   

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

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

According to the FBI,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two most common complaints reported:

  • The agent said I could easily sell my points
  • They said I could pay maintenance fees by charging purchases to a credit card, neglecting to add only about 1% of each purchase is credited to maintenance fees. Some fell for bogus maintenance fee relief programs. Already struggling, they buy more points.

How Advocacy Works

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is organized into seven teams:

  1. Team 1 is our Reporting Team. Once the timeshare member has related their concern or grievance, the member submits their written complaint to the timeshare company. If ignored or the member receives a negative response, the complaint is forward to one of six advocates assigned to a specific regulatory or law enforcement agency. For example, Sheilah Brust is our go to person for the FBI and the Secret Service. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-4/
  2. Team 2 is our Legislative Team. Members on this team reach out to sympathetic lawmakers to advocate for better disclosure. It would be nice to know that the timeshare you just bought for $100,000 had little or no secondary market the moment you signed the contract. TAG has received an alarming number of complaints from seniors 75 to 85 who have signed timeshare contracts for $100,000 or more. Not one of the 425 members reaching out to Inside Timeshare realized their timeshare in all likelihood could not be sold, even when costing as much as a house.
  3. Team 3 is our Military Team. We encourage anyone who has resolved their timeshare complaint as a result of our efforts to make a donation to Whistleblowers of America. WOA is a non-profit that seeks justice for active duty and veteran members of the military and government workers. WOA has supported our efforts by helping to distribute our articles. Our timeshare fraud report was presented as part of a Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs March 14, 2018.  https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/
  4.  Team 4 is our foreclosure support group. Facing cruel and relentless debt collection calls can be an overwhelming experience for anyone who has rarely been late on a bill, but for those who have recently lost a spouse the experience is devastating. Some members of this team have been through this and are determined to stay involved to fight Elder Fraud especially.
  5. Team 5 is our Scam Research team. This team consists of members who themselves have been scammed. There is a very dark side to this illegal industry. We are careful in our approach.
  6. Team 6 is our Media Team. Given state regulators backing up the timeshare company by responding, “You should not have relied on verbal representation” or “You have no proof” the Court of Public Opinion and Outcry is the only court open in some states.
  7. Team 7 is our Technology team.  We have a support staff of volunteers to assist those without access to a computer due to age, illness or disability. This team also provides YouTube production support.

Contact Inside Timeshare or email Irene Parker at [email protected] or call 270-303-7572 EST if you are interested in becoming a volunteer. Feel free to call any day of the week from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST. It’s best to schedule a call. All calls and emails are returned within 24/48 hours.

Now it’s time to begin filling out the form. Before you begin, raise your right hand.

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

Our advocates are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice. We have researched regulatory agencies and are here to direct consumers to the appropriate regulatory and law enforcement agencies listed below. We have also developed media relationships and will continue to work with broadcast and print media to alert the general public as to what questions to ask before buying a timeshare. Life events can change your life in an instant or a day. If your timeshare provides no secondary market, it can make a member feel a hostage to their vacation plan. It’s a good idea to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card if one was used

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

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

If your investment is $40,000 or less and you owned and used your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment. There can be no loan outstanding and maintenance fees need to be current.

Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded as will a request based on not being able to afford the timeshare. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say you can’t afford it. The difference is you can sell your home. Your complaint should be filed with the FBI only if there are credible and serious allegations of deceit and bait and switch. If you feel you were deceived, list the reasons why.   

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

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

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

Depending on the seriousness of your complaint, your advocate may forward your complaint to the firm’s public relations office or firm and to ARDA, the timeshare industries PAC, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. ARDA’s Code of Ethics can be found on ARDA’s website.

We do not recommend owners make the voluntary opt in or opt out ARDA ROC contribution on your maintenance fee invoice. It is the opinion of our advocates that although ARDA lobbies for the industry and for timeshare members, when the issue at stake is one that is at odds with members, members lose because they have no voice. We also forward your complaint to the Association of Vacation Owners. AVO has been tracking our complaints for research purposes. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-3/

Mark your email to the resort urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. The member will report back to us if the issue is resolved. Due to the required non-disclosure or mutual release form, terms and conditions will not be discussed.

The FBI complaint website is called IC3.gov which stands for Internet Crime. This is a bit confusing. IC is the name of the portal. That doesn’t mean it has to be an internet crime. We think they should have a white collar crime option to avoid this confusion. Click IC3 as your choice when filing. https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Serious allegations of fraud should be reported orally by calling the FBI field office’s public access line available 24/7 (see Sheilah’s article). Sometimes your local field office will pay closer attention than say Las Vegas, where losing money is a tourist attraction. You can find your nearest field office from this website.

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

The next step is to file a complaint first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract and where you live. It can take a month or more to hear back from an AG but once your complaint has been accepted, debt collectors are not allowed to call. You can find any Attorney General by searching the state name and Attorney General.

If there was an unauthorized credit card charge or account opened or you feel you were deceived into signing off on a loan, you should file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage) and select the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card. This is the organization that helped Wells Fargo victims. The CFPB lost power after the roll back of the Dodd Frank act March 2018. The Dodd Frank act was enacted after the abuses caused by subprime lending. The CFPB is still considered a regulator. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/

You should file a complaint with the state Real Estate Division in the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against a sales agent. Your advocate can help you find the agent’s ID number. Timeshare sales agents are real estate licensed in most states.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints. Sometimes the BBB allows you to log in and file a rebuttal.  

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

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • The FBI at IC3.gov portal if you feel you were deceived by a bait and switch. For allegations of a serious nature also contact an FBI field office to file an oral tip. Have your facts and figures ready.
  • Attorneys General where you signed your contract. Most AG complaints can be filed online.
  • The Real Estate Division of the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against the agent.  
  • The media – the court of public opinion is often the only court available. Inside Timeshare, published in Spain, publishes timeshare articles online focusing primarily on the need for reform and oversight.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option selecting the bank involved. Timeshare has dodged this regulatory bullet because most members don’t even know the identity of the lender as the timeshare company often services the loan. Timeshare companies are not an option from the CFPB’s drop-down menu.
  • The Federal Trade Commission
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Lawmakers – The problem is the timeshare buyer typically does not buy in their state of residence which is why lawmakers don’t seem to take timeshare seriously. Still, any effort to contact lawmakers is encouraged.

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

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

Who We Are and Why We Do This

Timeshare members contacting us are often struggling with maintenance fees and high interest rate loans. Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever but an organized campaign to track complaints and report criminal activity has already born fruit in the form of Attorneys General settlements and a greater awareness.

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

I worked three years as a CASA supervisor, writing and editing court reports for Family Court on behalf of foster children. I find two commonalities between children of abuse, neglect or dependency and deceptive timeshare sales.

  1. The abnormal becomes the normal. After receiving 425 complaints, I fear deception is endorsed and encouraged by some timeshare companies. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney Vacation Club because of their scarcity of complaints.
  2. Victims are silenced and isolated via non-disclosure agreements and arbitration. Buyers should opt out of arbitration immediately after signing a contract.   

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. My husband and I owned three timeshares for 25 years with no problems or complaints. After we attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation in 2015, I began researching the industry, writing articles and assisting timeshare victims. My solo effort has grown to a network of 44 Advocates. We are not compensated. We are volunteers. We hope there will come a day our advocacy group is not needed.

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

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

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy GroupTM

 

That’s it for this week, the weekend once again beckons so join us again next week for more news and information on the world of timeshare.

Latest news just in from the Court of First Instance Number 3 Abona Tenerife.

The judge in a case against Diamond Resorts Tenerife Sales SL, has declared the clients contract null and void. The infringments are the points system which has been made illegal, the contract in perpetuity, when the law stipulates that it should be for a maximum of 50 years and the taking of deposits within the cooling of period, which is also illegal even by a third party.

The client will now receive a total of £44,790 which includes double the deposit illegally taken, the court also awarded legal interest.

The laws in Spain have been put into place and strengthened by the Supreme Court to protect consumers, they are having a profound affect on the industry, which for too long believed it was untouchable.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene we welcome a new contributor and member to the Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebook Group, Jenny Baldner, edited and introduction by Irene Parker. In this article Jenny gives her way of avoiding those persistent “update meetings”.

In response to Marcy’s comment about US Consumer Attorneys in Friday’s Letter from America, another Veteran has come forward worried about the $6,000 he paid US Consumer Attorneys after he was not allowed out of his timeshare. George Yamada served his country in Vietnam. He is 70% disabled, exposed to Agent Orange.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 44 veterans and Active Duty members of the military and law enforcement alleging timeshare fraud. Those who have put their life and health on the line for us should not have to suffer timeshare abuse that can ruin their retirement.

Last week after publishing Friday’s Letter from America, news came in of yet another Supreme Court ruling from Spain’s Highest Court in Madrid, Once again the lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance secured the ruling against Silverpoint in Tenerife, making the number rulings from this court a massive 112!

The judges in this case ordered that the client be awarded over 80,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void. So another happy ex-timeshare owner.

Considering the above and what has been published in the past, it seems strange that David Cox of TESS is still very quiet, still nothing published since his diatribe against Inside Timeshare, Canarian Legal Alliance and Praetorian Legal back in March.

Could it be he has run out of thoughts (not difficult for someone without a brain), or just forgotten how to write, not that he could write anyway, or is it he knows that he has landed himself in the proverbial legal dung heap!

We actually suspect that this enterprise is going the same way as all the others he has been involved with, LIQUIDATION!

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

Now for this Tuesdays article.

A Fair and Balanced Timeshare Review

By Jenny Baldner

May 15, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Two common timeshare complaints are:

There is never any availability!

You can always book cheaper online!

I don’t agree with either comment, but it is also true there are many times it is cheaper to book online than use vacation points. My mission is to slow the growth of deceit and bait and switch tactics used to sell points, inspired by the evolution of the points based timeshare product.

Today Jenny Baldner shares her fair and balanced opinion along with her words of wisdom on how to dodge efforts to get her to attend sales presentations. Jenny is a Diamond Resorts member, but Inside Timeshare has heard complaints from members who own points of several timeshare companies. More than a few members have told us the only reason they want out is because of the herculean efforts of greeters to get you to sit down for that 90 minute presentation that can end up taking as long as nine hours. Nine hours has been the record so far.    

The only comment of Jenny’s that I don’t agree with is “since we are stuck with it for life.” The old adage holds true. The only two things we are stuck with are dying and paying taxes. Developers are finally starting to wake up to the fact that ironclad one sided perpetual contracts, accompanied by rising maintenance fees, with little or no secondary market, are a one way ticket to disaster. As always, don’t pay anyone any money to get you out of your timeshare without checking with one of the self-help groups listed below or Inside Timeshare.

Three important considerations need to be input into Jenny’s model:

  1. The age of the buyer
  2. The initial investment
  3. The interest rate – never finance a vacation at 12% to 18% for 10 years   

We appreciate Jenny’s article submission. Due to the escalation in the number of comments and complaints Inside Timeshare receives, contributor articles allow Charles Thomas and I more time to answer questions and point members in the right direction in order to resolve their complaint. And I love to edit!

Jenny’s Timeshare Tips

I’m really glad I was accepted into this group.

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

I see that a lot of people have experienced what we have. So, I wanted to share a few ways to evade the badgering of sales agents and other ways I get my money’s worth since we’re stuck with it for life.

  1. We always check in late to avoid the rush. Sometimes we travel separately so I can say my spouse isn’t accompanying me on this trip. They leave you alone if your spouse isn’t with you.
  2. Skip the concierge desk after checking in.
  3. Don’t answer the room phone during your stay. Most of us have cell phones so you can go one step further and unplug the room phones which I have done if they’re persistent.
  4. When they call your cell phone, make sure that you let them know that every day is booked with set activities. This is not a lie.
  5. Program that number into your phone so you know not to answer it.
  6. Kill them with kindness. “Thank you so much, I appreciate it but, No!”
  7. We have way more points than we need every year, so I usually book extra rooms so families can join in on the fun. I supply the room and they either pay me money to go towards my maintenance fees, or they buy all the food while we’re there. They don’t have the money to buy or rent hotels or resorts. I always try to upgrade to get my money’s worth.
  8. I got tired of feeling like I was being duped, so now I use a budget planner to track my maintenance fees and points. When I find a location using my points, I compare the market value of the resort as if I were to book the same room through booking.com, Trip Advisor, hotels.com, and so on. I make sure that when I book a room, I couldn’t get it cheaper through the market.
  9. Lastly, I hate the way they sell you these timeshares! But, I have to admit I like the rooms and it forces me to take a couple vacations every year. If you have it, use it! Don’t lose your points. I have booked rooms for my friends and their families after they return from deployment. One year I even used it as my white elephant gift at work.

On another note…a few days after 1 January, I save my max points for the year. If I need them back because I went over the remainder to use, they just pull that amount back for your booking. You already paid your maintenance fees so you don’t have to pay anything extra. And then you don’t have to worry about forgetting to save your points by a certain deadline.

Below is a picture of this year’s budget. As you can see if I were to book these vacations without my timeshare it would have cost me an additional $2,552.79. The market tracker does include taxes and the additional resort fees we don’t pay.

I hope this helps you or someone. We started with Sunterra in 2006 and are now with Diamond Resorts.

Thank you again Jenny! Jenny worked as a Resource Advisor for a few years while in the Air Force and decided to take those skills and apply them to this. “Nothing worse than feeling like you were made a fool of,” Jenny added.

The consumer is not off the hook, but clearly more timeshare public awareness is needed to slow the volume of complaints as well as rising default rates. Consumer knowledge can address both negatives.    

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://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you Jenny and Irene, I’m sure that by using this advice, you will have a much more peaceful vacation.

If you have any comments or questions about any article published, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will be pleased to help.

 

RSB Legal Update

Over the past few weeks Inside Timeshare has been receiving many enquiries about RSB Legal, all are of a very similar nature, money paid and now they are unable to contact them. Their phone lines are down and the website is no longer available. According to company house records there is an active proposal to strike them off.

From all the enquiries we have received all had been contacted by RSB Legal about making claim against their timeshare resort for mis-selling, this was to be on a no win no fee basis. A meeting was then arranged at RSB Legals Office in Redditch, once there all have said it turned out to be just like the presentation for their timeshares.

The “consultants” went on about how the timeshares had been mis-sold and that they had very good cases for a claim. But then came the crunch, in order to do the claim under no win no fee, the contract had to be cancelled first. For this a large amount of money needed to be paid first, so deposits were taken and a date for the balance to be paid arranged.

The client was also told not to pay any more maintenance fees, as the contract would be cancelled.

All those who have made enquiries have the same story, they have received demands for maintenance fees from their resorts, also being told that their contracts have not been cancelled by RSB Legal or by Taylor Marshall who took on many of the cancellations from RSB.

We do know many RSB clients have received an email or letter from Club La Costa, this states that they have not paid out compensation or cancelled any contracts for clients of RSB Legal or Taylor Marshall. They have repeatedly informed these companies that they will not deal with third party companies in respect of their members, they will only deal directly with the members concerned.

They have also pointed out that CLC will allow any members to surrender their membership free of charge, which RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall were fully aware of.

RSB Legal also told their clients that the claim would be going through the Spanish courts, no cases have ever been filed, clients were not informed of which lawyers had their cases, no translations of documents had been done and no power of attorney signed to allow the Spanish lawyer to act on the clients behalf.

It is also a point of fact, that once the contract is cancelled then no claim can ever be brought to a court, so this then leaves the question how the claim would be made?

Just from the number of enquiries Inside Timeshare has received recently with the average payment made to RSB Legal being around £8,000 mark, some have been considerably more, we are looking at over £100,000 which just these few have lost. Multiply that by the possibly hundreds more clients that have been taken in by RSB Legal and we must be looking at well over one million pounds swindled over the 2 years this company has been in operation. This is looking like a major fraud, it begs the question why have the authorities not done anything about them?

If you have paid RSB Legal and have paid any amount by credit card, then you may have a chance of getting your money back through Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974. Provided you have paid a minimum of £100 by your credit card then you can claim back the full amount upto £30,000.

As this company is appears to be no longer trading, plus the fact a proposal to strike off has been made, will make the claim through section 75 stronger as the company is no longer solvent therefore you will not receive the goods or services paid for, in other words they have breached their contract with you. See link below for full details on section 75.

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/section75-protect-your-purchases

It would also be prudent to make an official report to the police and receive a crime number, this can be done very easily online through Action Fraud. The more that report this the more chance of an investigation. You can also make a complaint and report to Trading Standards. Details for both are at the links below.

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/contact/

If you have had any dealings with this company and have any questions or concerns then use our contact page, we will get back to you and answer your questions.

Have you been contacted by any company with a similar story and want to know if it is genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare, we’ll help you find out.

Remember doing your homework will save you in the end.