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The Monday Briefing

Well, here we go the start of another week in the world of timeshare, over the weekend Inside Timeshare has received numerous enquiries regarding companies offering a variety of services.

One reader who unfortunately has been taken in by Armando Gareca Abogados and the Litigious Abogados family. They have paid Ricardo Sannino a substantial amount of money, they have since tried to contact them by telephone, but the number is out of service. Not a very good sign.

number no longer in service

To recap on how the scam works, timeshare owners are contacted usually via email and informed that a case has been filed at court against their timeshare company / resort, they can be included in the upcoming case (usually within the next few weeks). They are told how much they will receive and when this will happen, in order to have their case included in this prosecution, the procurator fees must be paid. This will be around 10% of the amount being claimed.

Within weeks, you receive confirmation that your case has been successful, that the Director, usually a Keith Baker or Keith Balker, has pleaded guilty. This name has been used as the director of the following companies:

Diamond; Club la Costa; Resort Properties / Silverpoint; Incentive Leisure Group / Designer Way Vacation Club, Club Class Concierge and several others.

Not bad really, the same person acting as director for many rival timeshare companies, who also pleads guilty to every case!

Part of the confirmation that you have been awarded this substantial amount is a copy of the “court” order verifying the amount and a copy of a cheque with your name and the amount on it. The problem is the cheque is made out on a Banesto cheque, this bank no longer exists, it was taken over in 2012 by Santander, who subsequently removed all Banesto logos and name from all cheques cards etc.

Compensation_Cheque-page-001

To receive this lovely amount, “tax” needs to be paid, this is around 21% of the awarded amount. This once again needs to be paid to the Procurador, before he can release the cheque.

So once you have paid this fee, you then receive an envelope by post, but surprisingly it has been opened, document from the court is there, but the cheque is missing. Then comes the next phase to the scam.

You receive a letter from another company, the last one was Manuel Valentin, who states that they have been charged by the court with the task of investigating the disappearance of the cheque and retrieving your money. They inform the client that a gang of Romanians have stolen the cheque and cashed it. Not bad considering the cheque was made out in your name.

In order to do this work, you must once again pay a fee of 10% of the amount, they will then work on your behalf and retrieve this money for you. Guess what, you will never get anything back, you are now several thousand pounds the lighter.

Some facts.

  • You do not have a case at court unless you have personally instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf.
  • Cases at court will take anything from 1 to 2 years to get there, not the weeks this lot say.
  • No cases will have gone to court in August, the courts are closed.
  • No director of any timeshare company or resort is going to plead guilty.
  • Courts do not issue cheques for money awarded. Certainly not using a bank that no longer exists.
  • No company is going to be charged by a court to investigate and retrieve stolen cheques.
  • There is no tax to pay on any awarded amount, Tax would have been paid to the court when your case was filed.
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will never be involved.
  • Unless your purchase was made in Spain, then you will not have a case in a Spanish court.

If you require any information on court procedures and payments of legal fees and taxes, contact Inside Timeshare and we will explain them to you.

Remember, before you ever pay out any money, do your due diligence and check who the company is, do not be taken in by the large sums these companies say is waiting for you. For the full story over the months search Litigious Abogados in the search box.

search

Now on with another important story, this involves TimeshareTalk, a forum of timeshare owners, which was once seen as an independent place for the exchange of information and good advice.

Unfortunately there has been some dissention among the long standing members, as we know timeshare talk was the forum set up by the TCA, a once independent consumer website. These entities were sold a few months ago to Mark Rowe of Monster Credits, Hollywood Marketing and sellmytimeshare.tv fame.

Since his takeover, TCA have been doing nothing but extolling the virtues of of Mr Rowe’s new companies, such as ABC Lawyers. Timeshare talk members have had posts and discussions removed when they mention any of this person’s companies. The forum was no longer seen as the independent place for discussion. Totalitarian Regime practices took effect, the freedom of speech and expression which was the cornerstone of this forum had been eroded.

freedom of speach

But it is not all doom and gloom, many of those long standing members have now setup a new forum, Timeshare Users Forum, to bring in those lost ideals. It is a forum open for any timeshare user to join, you will need to go on the website and register as a user if you wish to participate.

Inside Timeshare has registered and will post any information that may be of interest to users, we will also be there to answer any questions with facts, if we do not know the answer, we will find out for you or point you in the right direction.

Inside Timeshare wishes this new forum the very best, we hope that the old ideals will be resurrected and also look forward to working with the members.

Follow the link to the new Timeshare Users Group Forum

https://www.timeshareusersforum.com/

August is almost over, so come September the courts will be back in full swing and we anticipate many more announcements of cases being won in favour of the consumer. Inside Timeshare will be keeping an eye on those announcements and will publish them here.

Tomorrow we will be publishing Part II of Hug your Haters, A Customer Service Message. This is based on the book, Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer, which is apparently available at most airport book stores. It is again written by our US colleague Irene Parker. Then this week’s Friday’s Letter from America will be travelling once again to the Land Down Under, for another installment from Justin Morgan our Antipodean colleague, in Friday’s Letter from Australia, this is titled “What Role Does Private Equity Play in Timeshare?”.

If you have any comments or questions, contact Inside Timeshare and we will try to answer them for you. If you have anything to share regarding your own experiences and would like others to benefit, we will work with you to publish your story.

So that is it for today, remember to do your due diligence, doing your homework will save you a lot of money and stress.

homework

Legal News From the US: Castle Law Group PC v Timeshare Developers

Today Irene Parker gives us an insight into one lawsuit that has made the headlines in the US, it would seem that across the great lake it is the timeshare companies that are on the legal offensive. In Europe the timeshare companies are very much on the defensive as we have seen in some of our previous articles.

Yesterday we published an article about the legal battle being waged against Silverpoint, they have stated that they will be filing a case with the High Court of Justice of the European Union, arguing that Spain has got the EU Timeshare Directives wrong.

eu court justice

Just to clarify one point on the EU Timeshare Directives, that is what they are “directives”, they are not law. A directive issued by the EU is a guide to all EU States to enact into their own domestic laws certain aspects which affect citizens. It is up to each individual state to interpret those directives as they see fit. The whole point is that each State may strengthen the directives, which is what Spain has done with their own timeshare laws, firstly with Ley 42/98 and more recently with Ley 4/12.

Directives are there to try and unify each State’s laws, especially on the matter regarding consumers rights, which the timeshare directive was intended to do. Before the timeshare directives came out, timeshare in Europe was what can only be described as lawless, timeshare companies could walk all over the consumer, there was no protection, timeshare was a new concept which nobody actually understood.

It followed an old economic system known as Laissez-faire, which has its roots in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was to be free of any government intervention, such as regulation. More recently a new term was conceived by conservative politicians and economists ‘free-market capitalism’. Timeshare has always followed this model, profit, profit and more profit at the expense of the consumer. (Again it sounds like Star Treks Ferengi).

Until laws are strengthened to the benefit of the consumer, we are going to see many more of these legal battles, be it consumer against developer or developer against law firms, the stage is set, let battle commence!

Now on with today’s article by Irene

Castle Law and Judson Phillips is Sued in Federal Court for Fraud

Orange Lake v. Castle Law Group PC

Westgate v. Castle Law Group

Diamond Resorts v. Castle Law Group

Who Next v. Castle Law Group

Speak truth

By Irene Parker

August 22, 2017

Who is Judson Phillips?

Tea Party Nation is a conservative American group considered part of the Tea Party movement.   The group was created by former Shelby County, Tennessee assistant district attorney Judson Phillips in 2009

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_Nation

Judson Phillips Ridiculed for Wanting to Deny Others the Right to Vote

Judson Phillips, the lawyer behind Castle Law Group (Nashville), latest idea has created a hurricane size backlash against Mr. Phillips. The Castle Law Group owner believes that only property owners should have the right to vote.  Phillips seems to believe those who aren’t the elite feudal lords of property can’t be trusted to vote. Instead, they must be put back in their place as serfs, working for their lords for scraps off the feudalistic tables.

http://www.brighthub.com/money/home-buying/articles/123520.aspx

A Bright Hub reader’s response:

Yes, I am Republican but in no way would I ever want to be affiliated with any political group who deemed renters shouldn’t vote in public elections.

Who Castle Law Group is not:

http://www.castlelawgrouppa.com/

I contacted attorney Ben Hillard of the Castle Law Group P.A. in Largo, Florida a few months ago – by mistake. Mr. Hillard responded saying he thought I had his law firm confused with Castle Law Group PC of timeshare fame, law firms differentiated only by the initials P.A. and PC. Mr. Hillard would like to make it clear his firm is in no way associated with Mr. Judson Phillips or his law firm Castle Law Group PC. In a recent letter to Mr. Hillard, Mr. Phillips said his firm is considering rebranding for reasons not associated with Mr. Hillard’s concerns, the similarity in names.

Here is the Castle Law P.C. and Orange Lake Lawsuit as reported by Paul Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel

Orlando-based timeshare companies Westgate Resorts and Orange Lake Country Club filed nearly identical lawsuits in Orlando against Tennessee firms Castle Law and Castle Marketing. Westgate and Orange Lake accuse the Castle companies of charging some customers an upfront litigation fee of $7,500. Orange Lake said Castle filed no lawsuits for any of its owners who paid the fee; Westgate said Castle hasn’t filed lawsuits for some owners who paid the litigation fee.

A senior partner with Castle — attorney and Tea Party leader Judson Phillips — denies those allegations…. he said in an email he believes the suits are frivolous, and he and Castle have obtained good results for clients.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-timeshare-cancellation-fraud-20170618-story.html

According to a letter sent to Orange Lake attorney Brian Lower, from a Castle Law Group attorney, Castle accused Orange Lake of “gross misrepresentations regarding the terms and conditions of the Orange Lake timeshares in that they were fraudulently induced to enter into the timeshare contract and the debt instruments associated with such contracts in violation of federal and state laws.”

A letter from a lawyer like this triggers a “cease and desist” demand of all communication with the client, including collection attempts. This cease and desist letter has served as a bone of contention to timeshare developers in that a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer if the consumer is represented by an attorney or has an open Attorney General complaint, under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.

Among the twelve causes of action in Castle’s cease and desist letter against developers, are those our Inside Timeshare readers who have contacted us asking for help would not disagree with:

  • Improper and unethical high pressure sales tactics.
  • Gross and deliberate misrepresentations regarding benefits of ownership.
  • Gross misrepresentation regarding the ability to utilize timeshare points to cover fees associated with membership and exchanges.
  • False information regarding the ease and/or ability to resell for a profit.
  • False sense of urgency to purchase the same day.

Castle Law Group PC is not Better Business Bureau accredited, is nonrated, and a consumer complaint warning has been posted.

https://www.bbb.org/nashville/business-reviews/timeshare-cancellation-and-litigation-attorneys/castle-law-group-pc-in-nashville-tn-37113357

According to the Castle Law website they are timeshare lawyers trusted by thousands with a 4.7 out of 5 star ranking based on 12 reviews (powered by GetFiveStars). When I reached out to the firm for comment, I was put on hold for a very long time.

https://timesharecancellation.com/

you decide

Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association was recently quoted by the Orlando Sentinel that more lawsuits against cancellation companies were likely in the works.

“Some of those cancellation companies that have been targeted by developers were actually started by their own former timeshare employees. Those folks learned how to exploit the system by learning what is called the inside track. They know how the high-pressure sales tactics work,” Crist said. “They attract timeshare owners in the same way — post cards offering a free dinner, or an evening out. They show owners how maintenance fees escalate, and literally scare the hell out of these people using calculations that are wildly inaccurate and overstated. These are not law firms but represent to have an attorney on staff, giving the illusion that there are legal services involved in the transaction. Rarely does the company even communicate with the resort and the timeshare owner doesn’t even know what is happening until it is too late. Why is that?”

Crist explained this is often due to an unqualified money back guarantee the company provides that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The owner is simply lulled into a false sense of security, until they are foreclosed on and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Crist has watched this happening for years, but says the industry is making a mistake by throwing legitimate attorneys in the same mix with resale, transfer and advocacy groups.

While the NTOA is involved with educating owners, advocating for their rights and helping them engage in the product they already own, they do not sell, transfer or offer services like TPE’s do. Any timeshare member or owner can join NTOA.

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

GBUgly

The present legal climate in the timeshare world is reminiscent of the old west with summons flying like bullets back and forth across the corral. Lost in the middle is the consumer, many complaining they purchased a timeshare based on false promises. The timeshare lobby ARDA and the major timeshare developers seem determined to ignore outcries of deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale.  

All attorneys are not created equal. It seems that timeshare developers don’t want a timeshare member to ever contact any lawyer and they lump all attorneys into a kettle of frivolous lawsuit filers. Two major developers attributed their rise in default rate due to “attorneys targeting members and cease and desist letters.” As in any profession, some attorneys do have questionable business practices, but any citizen should have a right to their day in court and the legal representation that accompanies that right if they feel they were deceived into purchasing a timeshare.

One former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent described “inventory recycling” as a hamster wheel that sometimes begins with deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. To date (as of August 16, 2017) Inside Timeshare has received 124 inquiries of which 110 allege they were deceived on the front end of the timeshare sale. Most have outstanding loans.

“I am asking you to look at the moon and you are staring at the end of my finger,” deceased Jesuit Priest Anthony DeMello once wrote. That’s how I feel listening to case after case from family members, often financially devastated, alleging they were deceived, sometimes just days after a rescission period. Why won’t developers take a closer look at their own house?

ethics cartoon

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a positive or negative timeshare experience to share, through your experiences others may have a better understanding of what they are going through and see that they are not alone.

If you need any further information regarding any article published, or wish to know where you stand legally with your timeshare, Inside Timeshare is here to help. Contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

What a Volunteer Does for Nothing!

As usual the industry attacks those that highlight their failings, this time it is the turn of our main writer and colleague Irene Parker.

In today’s article Irene’s husband Don, who knows her better than anyone else comes to her defense, like the knight in shining armour. Inside Timeshare has seen these sort of tactics many times in the past, the industry trying to discredit those who are doing some good, letting you know what they upto.

If the industry and the industry trade bodies, not just ARDA in the US but the RDO in Europe, focused on the failings of their own members instead of attacking and making snide comments about others, then maybe, just maybe we would have an industry that we could believe in.

For too long the industry has been riding roughshod over you the consumers, allowing their sales agents to lie to you just to get the sale, continually upgrading when you don’t actually need it. Collecting maintenance fees yet giving you nothing in return.

Then comes along someone like Irene, who gives all and expects nothing in return, take a leaf out of her book. She is known as the Peasant of Venice, as opposed to the Queen of Versailles (madam Westgate). Irene is an inspiration to many, she has pulled together many others who volunteer their time to help others all for no personal gain other than satisfaction that they have helped and made a difference.

We now leave the stage to Don.

ARDA, Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen

Irene does not get paid!

volunteer

By Don Parker

July 19, 2017

On more than one occasion, my wife Irene told me there are those at ARDA and at Diamond Resorts convinced Irene is receiving compensation from timeshare members who contact her asking for assistance after they explain how they feel they were victims of deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.

While I understand it might be difficult for those earning high salaries to comprehend why someone would forfeit their retirement opting to spend 40 to 50 hours per week advocating for others, people that know Irene and have worked side by side with her in previous advocacy efforts will vouch for her credibility.

Irene and I have been together for 35 years. Here are a few examples of Irene’s past efforts:

n Jersey seal

In New Jersey Irene ended up at the Drop-In Center for Aids patients in Newark. One Sunday we heard about an Aids Awareness Day at a Catholic Church in New Jersey where we lived at the time. Diocese wide, 90 volunteers were recruited. The problem was the Diocese did not expect that level of interest. They had no program. Having sent the Diocese a letter presenting her volunteer experience, the Bishop requested an interview with her. He sent Irene to meet Brother Joe McAlister at the Newark Aids Drop-in Center. When Irene told Brother Joe the Bishop recruited 90 volunteers to help with the 8,000 cases of Aids in New Jersey, Brother Joe replied, “We don’t need any fxxxing Florence Nightingale’s here.” After a staring contest, Irene asked Brother Joe, “Do you need money?” He wavered. Irene reached into her purse, took out her checkbook and wrote a check for $35 to buy a coffee maker for one patron and an iron for a Hispanic man who liked to iron his shirts. After that Brother Joe, the Drop-In Center patrons and Irene became the best of friends. I helped out too and have to say I learned a lot from those brave souls. That was about 30 hours per week unpaid.

Hawaii

In Hawaii Irene worked with the Salvation Army and was a founding mother of the Waimea Salvation Army Board on the Big Island. She worked about 10 volunteer hours a week helping the Army find appreciable assets for their Charitable Remainder Trust program. Hawaii has a high tax rate and Irene had several clients who could use the tax benefits provided by a Charitable Remainder Trust. She and their development director also gave presentations around the islands.

Irene came home from work one day with a Korean baby and mom. Irene had learned dad was alcoholic and addicted to heroin. He was a Harvard graduate and fellow Rotarian. Before I knew it we were at the Korean Embassy in Honolulu arranging to fly mom and baby back to South Korea so they could get out of Dodge before the baby was placed in foster care. Mom was here illegally since Dad never married her. Salvation Army Major Ganot advised us on how to handle this situation which led to Irene’s Salvation Army involvement. Major Ganot could be a major in anyone’s army. She worked 26 years in Haiti.

mich

Irene got really mad in Michigan. By now she had retired from the brokerage business and had been hired as a pipe organist and Music Director for a Catholic church. One day there appeared in the paper an article about how a few bad apple nuns sexually abused 120 Indian boys from the 1st to the 7th grade back in the 60s and 70s. Just like timeshare, our Priest said there is no evidence this happened, despite a four part article with the surviving victims interviewed by an Indian working on her Ph.D.

Before long, Irene and I were at the tribal headquarters meeting with the Chippewa Peacemaker (judge) and about a month later we were with Peacemaker Paul at the Diocese meeting with the Bishop demanding an apology. That’s all they wanted. But, just like timeshare, an apology is a tall order as it really is an admission of guilt. This was a good Bishop who listened and did offer an apology to a group of people and in print media. Irene calls them Indians because the root of the word means In-Dios, in God, and American means Amerigo Vespucci who contributed to the destruction of their land and people.

wku

Kentucky was another state where Irene worked full time for free as a CASA volunteer, advocates on behalf of children in foster care. After about a year, Irene raised enough money to fund a “Fostering Futures” program assisting teens aging out of foster care, who had agreed to extend their commitment for educational purposes. This population of youth “aging out” is probably the highest risk population in the country. Since Kentucky was the last state we lived in, there are many at CASA who will vouch for Irene’s efforts like Debbie Harwood and Andrew Wollin who wrote a grant in order to hire Irene to be a full time paid CASA Supervisor writing and editing court reports for children in foster care. CASAs also attend all hearings and trials.

Debbie can also vouch for the effort Irene put into selling ads for the Ombudsman program housed at legal aid. Ombudsmen advocate on behalf of nursing home patients. Irene put in about 20 volunteer hours per week on that one for several months.

Last, but not least, Irene became a Volunteer Enactus Advisor at Western Kentucky University helping Burmese Karenni refugee women, not literate in their own language, sell beautifully woven scarves and bags at the Farmer’s Market and was able to introduce them to a few stores. Irene convinced me I should teach a few of the Burmese how to drive (on our car). Enactus is a worldwide organization partnering major corporations with universities worldwide to improve impoverished populations. She completed a WKU graduate course on “Teaching English as a Second Language” concentrating on pre-literate learners. The Burmese speak over five languages. They are not dialects.

croc

That brings us to Florida where we live now. While we were in between houses, waiting for our home in Venice to be built, we attended a predatory timeshare presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach Resort in Orlando. The reason I say it was predatory is because I was 77 years old at the time. The last thing I needed was vacation points. I remember Irene asking three times if we would be paired with a commissioned sales agent as we were only interested in long term care plans at this stage of our life. Told no because there had been so many complaints, we were held for over three hours by bad and worse cops that left Irene so angry she wrote to Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi of Fox Business Property Man. Out of all the viewers who responded to a show about Westgate Timeshare called “The Queen of Versailles”, Irene and I were selected for an interview because the producer told her she was the only respondent who wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives concerning timeshare. Irene has called herself “The Peasant of Venice” ever since.

love

I hope this answers the question, “Does Irene get paid to assist timeshare members who are angry, confused, overwhelmed and desperate?”  

Instead of worrying about whether Irene gets paid or not, I hope ARDA, Diamond and Bluegreen will think about the harm being done to so many consumers. Instead of attacking my wife, I think they should track down the sales agents using unscrupulous tactics and drain the swamp of them, instead of always saying the sales agent didn’t say that.

I am the first person to read Irene’s articles and the articles submitted to her written by other timeshare members. I’ve heard and learned a lot about timeshare. Not all presentations are predatory. We are actually not unhappy with our Diamond points. I don’t know that I would use the word happy, but our first two sales presentations before 2015 were professional. It seems the escalation in aggression has really ramped up over the last two or three years.

When Irene and the member run into a dead end with the timeshare company, she does refer to a variety of lawyers. She receives no compensation from any attorney unless you consider the time a few of them give for legal editing.

By now, if you are still reading, you might be asking why Irene is so determined to find and assist victims. When Irene was 24 years old her best friend, Jayme Simmons, asked if she could live with her because she was afraid of her husband. Jayme and her two year old daughter left after two months. A week later her husband John Moore shot her in the face three times in front of her daughter. He served only seven years in a California prison. That kind of an event can have a lasting effect. You could say Irene has channeled that anger into advocacy.

I hope others volunteer to help write timeshare reports because there has been an increasing number of callers and emailers. We hope someday, somewhere, a lawmaker or regulator or AARP will either stop the predatory behavior or enough public exposure alerts the public to buyer beware.  Irene knows there are also a lot of Wyndham members who complain, but they have not been calling – yet.

Contact Inside Timeshare or Irene if you have a concern about your timeshare purchase, but I kindly ask that you call between the hours of 1 to 5 PM Eastern Standard Time as that is a good time to call. Irene writes reports and articles in the mornings.

peasent of vinice card

There you have it, that is what it means to be a VOLUNTEER, something these businesses fail to understand. It is not all about money, it is about doing what is right.

In Spain we are seeing the industry on the run, their failure to abide by the laws because they believed they were above the law, is now starting to bite them back. Millions of Euros are being awarded back to consumers by the courts. Other European countries are looking at Spain to see how they can protect the consumer from these timeshare giants.

The industry needs to take note, carry on running it like you do, then there will not be an industry left. Consumers are getting wise to your tactics, Inside Timeshare will publish what you do wrong, but we will also publish when you get it right. We would love to publish more positive articles, timeshare could be a good product, but your greed has destroyed what was once loved by many.

time for change

       

 

It Works in Other Industries So Why Not In Timeshare?

In todays article Karen Garello shares her experience as a Secret Shopper at a timeshare presentation. Most restaurants, bars and supermarkets are familiar with this concept, it is a useful tool for improving service. The first the staff know about it is when the report is filed by the Mystery Shopper.

The idea is that the staff, sales people, waiters even managers, have no idea, so it gives a very true reflection of service, it also keeps everyone on their toes, especially when you know that your firm employs these mystery people. Inside imeshare hopes you enjoy the article from our new contributor.

Timeshare Advocacy Group ™

Secret Timeshare Shopper

secret shopper

By Karen Garello

June 22, 2017

If you are reading this article, there’s a good chance you bought a timeshare based on something a timeshare sales agent said that was not true. You probably already know about the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which allows the sales agents to say anything to sell vacation points. Even with proof, the timeshare developer can still fall back on that clause.

After what happened to me, I have decided to become a Secret Shopper to report sales agents that are untruthful, as well as sales agents that do tell the truth, and to collect stories from other Secret Shoppers. Our Timeshare Advocacy Group’s new Secret Shopper program has been in existence since March when Laurie Sabbagh published our first Secret Shopper report.

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

But here’s what happened to me

head

I bought a Diamond Sampler product. This is a program that allows you to use a set number of points to try out a vacation plan. Since it is a trial program, the buyer is not locked into a perpetual contract. You do have to attend a sales presentation when you stay at one of the company’s resorts.

I attended a sales presentation at Polo Towers in Las Vegas. My first sales agent was Greg. Greg was respectful when I said I did not want to buy any more timeshares since I was already a Starwood member. He turned me over to Aries. I am a Filipino occupational therapist. Aries is Filipino. Aries offered me 20,000 Diamond points to try out the Diamond program because I was a Starwood member. He said they wanted to give me the points so that I would have an opportunity to compare Diamond’s program to Starwood. I have never had any problems with Starwood, so I had no need to buy additional vacation points. Still, it couldn’t hurt to compare.

Aries said I should open a Diamond Barclay MasterCard. The company was going to give me 20,000 vacation points. I saw no harm in filling out the credit card application. While I was putting my initials on a small piece of paper, I did notice the figure of $3,995 and asked what this amount referred to. Aries said it was the limit on the Master Card. I left with no paperwork.

Leaving the sales presentation, I was elated. Aries told me he was also going to give me a cruise and a $200 restaurant coupon. I called my cousin and told her this Filipino guy gave me 20,000 vacation points, a $200 restaurant coupon, and a cruise! I was embarrassed to later tell my cousin what really happened.

When I arrived home, I was shocked to see a charge for $3,995 on the BarclayCard. The statement said I had purchased a Sampler. Not only had I not heard the word Sampler before, I never heard the word purchase or buy mentioned throughout the entire sales presentation. I called Diamond thinking there must have been some kind of mix-up. I spoke with “Hospitality” agent Kayla. Kayla basically said, “Too bad, you signed a contract.”

Diamond Resorts has a new program called CLARITY™ which is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. How can the company claim to have this program when I have been treated this way?

Kayla kept repeating that I bought a Sampler. She said she would send me a copy of the contract. What contract? I walked out of Polo Towers with nothing.

What can I do to stop others from being harmed?

speak up

What happened to me wasn’t right. In my opinion, what happened to me was criminal. I began to research corporate fraud and found this on Wikipedia.

First, customers are “baited” by merchants advertising products or services at a low price, but when customers visit the store, they discover that the advertised goods either are not available or are not as good as expected, or the customers are pressured by salespeople to consider similar, but higher-priced, items (“switching”).

In my case, my switch wasn’t higher. I didn’t even know I bought anything!

According to a publication called the balance, unauthorized credit card charges include any type of charge to your credit card account that you didn’t give permission for. I should have called Barclays Bank right away instead of assuming Diamond Resorts would correct it.

https://www.thebalance.com/what-to-do-about-unauthorized-credit-card-charges-960260

Many of our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Group members say they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. It is one thing to use a timeshare for a long time and just give it back, but many of our Facebook members have invested sometimes $50,000 or more saying they were deceived and found out only two weeks, two months or a year later. I hope others join our Advocacy Group to get the support and encouragement I received in the hope of educating the public as to what to watch out for when on vacation.

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/

eye

By Irene Parker

Thank you to Karen for joining our network of Secret Shoppers. The more people who uncover deceptive sales practices and report to regulatory and enforcement agencies, the more likely the industry will be forced to change. Public awareness and education through print and broadcast media can make a difference, as in the almost overnight appearance of a generic $200 Epipen.

It is legal to record a conversation in Arizona as long as one person is aware, according to Attorney Carrie Wilcox. “In the case of a telephone or in-person conversation, recording simply means making a copy of the conversation between two or more people. Recording is illegal in Arizona if NO party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded. However, in Arizona, and this varies by state, if one party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded, it is not illegal. However, bugging/wiretapping is always illegal. Don’t make assumptions about the law in other states -consult an attorney to determine what is allowed.”

The Law Office of Carrie M. Wilcox

http://wilcoxlegal.com/bugging-and-tape-recording-conversations-in-arizona-is-it-legal/

There was a time we would never have thought people would not leave home without a phone in their pocket, briefcase or purse. Who knows? Maybe someday timeshare buyers will come equipped to timeshare sales presentations able to record with a blink of a contact lens eye!

https://www.facebook.com/ScienceNaturePage/videos/vb.693504594115135/1087812741350983/?type=2&theater

Deceit and bait and switch tactics will probably always be part and parcel of timeshare, but once victimized, you feel you have to do something about it.

shopper cartoon

Inside Timeshare thanks Karen for her contribution and once again thanks to Irene for her editing. If you would like to share your experiences with others contact Inside Timeshare or Irene on the advocacy facebook page. We look forward to and welcome your views, by sharing it helps other to learn and see they are not alone.

 

 

The RDO and a Selective use of a Spectator Article on Timeshare

Laura Whitcombe published in The Spectator the article: Timeshare? Think stylish getaways, not dodgy sales reps, on the 27 May. The RDO used it in their article of 23 June titled: Why Now is the Right Time to Reconsider Timeshare.

She actually paints a very nice picture of timeshare today as compared with the past, but how true is this?

In some cases it may be true, but for many the reality is somewhat different, there are still so many resorts that are clinging to the old ways, never allowing owners to surrender. Rising maintenance fees and generally treating owners with contempt.

the spectator

Yes, we have said before the concept of timeshare is a good one, but there are still many complaints about timeshare, this is borne out by the number of court cases that are currently underway. In the article she says that CAB has had only 11 complaints in March, but she also points out that they are to do with resale companies. It has to be remembered that CAB will refer anyone with a complaint about their own resort to contact them direct. So relying on figures such as this does not paint the right picture.

She also highlights a couple of timeshares, one is the Gleneagles Golf Complex, which to be honest is not what you could call traditional timeshare. One would expect that this prestigious club would be totally above board!

The other is 47 Park Street in Mayfair London (by Marriott), again not what you would consider traditional timeshare, especially as membership is between £118,000 and £270,000 with annual maintenance fees of between £7,000 & £8,000 per year, not exactly for us mere mortals!

http://www.47parkstreet.com/

47 park st

Another company she highlighted was the Club la Costa Yachts,with membership starting at £9,900 for this you receive eight sailing weeks over an eight year period. The cost is also huge, with £700 per person per week which covers meals, crew etc, but again there is an annual maintenance fee of £600 per sailing week. Not a cheap option for the ordinary folk.

The RDO are certainly using this article to their advantage, is it a case of, look even The Spectator says that timeshare is a good thing. They have been very selective in what they have used, the references to the timeshare directives and laws, which have been around for years. Yet in the past it has been the very members of this organisation that have failed to follow them.

If there has been no breach of legislation why is it that those very resorts are now having to payout large amounts in compensation?

As for the claim that timeshare is being sold with shorter contracts, well that is only because of recent court cases, where the Spanish courts have banned the perpetuity contract, these are still legal in many other countries. Yet what is being done about them?

Hilton, Gleneagles, 47 Park Street may be selling the 10 to 15 year contracts, but then these are responsible companies, not the old style timeshare resorts or developers, these are also being aimed at a different type of purchaser to standard timeshare.

So all in all, the article does not actually reflect reality, it is a journalist’s take on a different product to the one we all know and possibly loathe. Timeshare is on the defensive, the RDO is charged with putting a different “spin” on the product, with articles such as this trying to make it look appealing. Only time will tell!

For the full article follow the link, (you may have to register to read it).

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/05/timeshare-think-stylish-getaways-not-dodgy-sales-reps/

 

 

Timeshare Finance: Barclay’s in Hot Water at the High Court.

We all know about how timeshare has been sold, the long drawn out presentation to wear you down, the oral misrepresentations to entice you, which then never materialise or appear in the contracts. Then we have the sales staff offering finance agreements if you cannot afford the timeshare, with these same sales staff arranging the loans and completing the application forms.

One such timeshare operator, Resort Properties / Silverpoint even went as far as selling packs of weeks as an “investment”, with an “oral” promise that these weeks would be sold at a “profit”, or even rented out to make the owner money.

Many of these were funded by Barclays Partner Finance (formerly Clydesdale), Edwin Coe is representing around 106 of these timeshare customers in a suit worth more than £1.5 million.

edwincoe  barclays

https://www.edwincoe.com/our-expertise/group-action-litigation/resort-properties-barclays-partner-finance/

https://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/barclays-credit-arm-sued-106-holidaymakers-timeshare-deals/

The claimants say Resort Properties / Silverpoint arranged these loans indicating that by renting out the purchased “properties”, the incoming rentals would easily cover the repayments. As far as anyone knows this never materialised, if they were rented out the income just about covered the management fees on those weeks.

As for the reselling of those weeks for a “profit” which again they said would more than cover the cost of the finance, never happened. Everyone now knows that timeshare is not an investment, it is a drain. One only has to look on ebay to realise that people cannot even give them away, let alone sell them. We also see some very inflated prices from the many resale companies, after all those prices are what the owners want for them, not what they are worth.

These are the figures from one loan agreement over 15 years Inside Timeshare has been given for a 1 week timeshare, it is from Barclays:

  • Cost of the timeshare                   £10,900.00
  • Credit facility fee                           £65.00
  • Interest                                             £18,465.00
  • Total amount payable                  £29,430.00
  • Interest rate                                     17.6%
  • APR                                                     17.7%

So with an outlay of £29,430.00 it is not hard to see you will never recoup the “investment” promised.

It is also known that many of these sales staff falsified some of the applications, Inside Timeshare knows of one elderly couple who were pressured into signing up for one of these “investment” packs. When they purchased she was 76 and her husband was 78, both on small private pensions topped up with state pensions. Yet somehow they were given a loan through BPF for around £40,000!

The application was made out by the staff, they signed for the timeshare and the loan after around 6 hours of persuasion, also the husband was in need of his medication. It was not until several years later when they got into difficulty and the finance agreement was being looked over that it was found the income had been falsified.

When speaking with them they were asked, if had they gone to their own bank for a loan of this amount, did they think they would have been given it? Their answer was as you rightly suspect, a big affirmative NO! Their case against Silverpoint is waiting to be heard at the courts in Tenerife.

Another aspect of falsifying these loan applications is the purpose of the loan, on many we have seen it has gone down as “home improvements”. This was done to break the link with “timeshare”. Unfortunately, it could be argued that the people signing the agreements have been coerced into committing a fraud without their knowledge.

Barclay’s are not the only financial institution who are supplying the finance for  timeshares, Hitachi and Shawbrook Bank provide such loans. In the case of Shawbrook, they announced back in July 2016, that they had set aside £9 million to cover defaults on these loans. They admitted they had not carried out their due diligence when accepting and granting them.

credit check

As far as “due diligence” is concerned, one has to ask how has this been done when the loans are agreed on the day?

  • Have the correct credit checks been made?
  • Has the income been verified?
  • Has an income versus expenditure been done to check if the applicant can actually afford the repayments?

Somehow with the number of people Inside Timeshare has been in contact with, it would seem not. It looks like the only “checks” that have been made are ones that show your credit rating, such as Experian.

This has also been a problem in the US, where Irene Parker, Inside Timeshares US partner has been highlighting the problem.

http://insidetimeshare.com/shawbrook-bank-announce-irregularities-timeshare-loans-similar-activities-usa/

Timeshare is going through a very big upheaval, with the likes of Resort Properties / Silverpoint, Anfi, Palm Oasis / Tasolan, Holiday Club / Puerto Calma to name a few, all being pursued through the courts. All of these companies have also had judgements against them from the Supreme Court in Madrid, the highest court in Spain, which have strengthened the Spanish timeshare laws. These cases are costing them dearly, we are looking at millions of pounds in repayments and declaring the contracts null & void.

If you have any questions or comments on this subject or would just like to know if you have grounds to make a claim, Inside Timeshare will find out for you and point you in the direction of reputable law firms.

Remember, there are many out there who say they are law firms but in reality they are not, many are just after selling you another product or even just out to steal your hard earned cash. A prime example of this is Litigious Abogados in Tenerife, which we have published many articles about.

As we have said before and will keep saying, doing your homework is vital.

homework

Europe: Silverpoint News. US: News from Irene

Recently Silverpoint has been making the headlines due to the rulings against them not just at the Supreme Court, but all the lower courts on Tenerife have also followed suit.

Now it has been announced that Silverpoint has withdrawn its membership to the Resorts Development Organisation (RDO), this will come as a blow to the timeshare industry trade body, as Silverpoint was a major contributor. The CEO of Silverpoint, Mark Cushway was also on the board of directors.

Another announcement was from The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, (TATOC), only recently Silverpoint downgraded their membership from Platinum to Silver, now they have withdrawn their membership completely. Again Silverpoint was a major source of funding to TATOC. So the donation to them of $30,000 by ARDA has come at the right time. TATOC have also stated that the following resorts will remain affiliated members: Palm Beach Club, Hollywood Mirage Club and Beverly Hills Heights. We also have to remember, part of Beverly Hills Heights is being sold off, with many members being moved to other apartments or to the Hollywood Mirage.

beverly hills heights
Beverly Hills Heights

Silverpoint have also announced that they will no longer be selling “Timeshare”, well that is a surprise, as according to them in their own evidence to the courts, they sell affiliations to a club and “weeks to investors” and this was not timeshare. Fortunately the Supreme Court did not agree with them, this court stated they did sell timeshare, that the so called “investors” were in fact consumers of timeshare.

Many of these cases have been reported here on Inside Timeshare, for more information on this have a look at the Canarian Legal Alliance website news section. All the Supreme Court judgements have been published by them.

https://www.canarianlegalalliance.com/category/silverpoint/

So now the question has to be asked, what are they going to be selling if they are not selling timeshare?

Rumour has it, from very reliable sources, Silverpoint are going to be selling “Holiday Packs” and “Freehold Property”. Obviously, if they have withdrawn membership from the timeshare industry trade body, the “holiday packs” will not be coming under timeshare law, so what will that be regulated by?

On the “Freehold” side, is this going to be full freehold or is it going to be a rehash of Fractional?

Is this going to be regulated by Real Estate Laws?

Another question that needs to be asked is, could all this be down to the the courts now rejecting Silverpoints defence and finding at last in favour of the consumer?

Will the RDO and TATOC also now acknowledge the fact the law in Spain as laid down by over 50 Supreme Court rulings is correct?

Only time will tell, we will be keeping an eye on developments and report them here, as and when the news comes in.

Today we also publish another story from our US writer Irene, in this short article she announces the start of the new series from Fox News Property Man Season 3 with Bob Massi.

Bob Massi is a renowned Nevada lawyer with many years experience as well as a TV celebrity.

Irene and her husband Don will be on his show on 14 April, they recorded an interview segment some time ago with Bob Massi, on their own timeshare experiences. So Irene and Don have become “timeshare TV rock stars”. (I must get their autographs).

rock star cartoon

FOX News Property Man Season 3 Premiere airs Friday April 7

Follow up to first timeshare segment “How to Get Rid of Your Timeshare”

news paper

By Irene Parker

April 5, 2017

Season 3 of The Property Man with Bob Massi will begin airing this Friday, April 7th at 8:30 PM ET on FOX BUSINESS NETWORK. The show will continue to air on Friday evenings on Fox Business Network (FNC’s sister channel) at 8:30 PM ET.  We are looking forward to Season 3 in Arizona airing and wanted to thank all of you for joining us on the show.  I will send individual emails to all of you with the exact air dates for your segment(s).  We welcome all social media promotion and interaction:

Bob Massi Facebook: www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi

Bob’s prior Timeshare Segment featuring Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association Members:

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=bob+massi

Bob Massi Twitter: @RealBobMassi

In case you haven’t checked out Property Man website and clips,

http://www.foxnews.com/shows/the-property-man/index.html

http://video.foxnews.com/playlist/on-air-the-property-man/

calender sheets

My Vacation Plan has turned my life upside down. Let’s review the timeline.

July 2015 I attended a timeshare sales presentation where my husband and I were blatantly lied to. The same day I learned 4500 hundred promised exchange points were credited only 3000 the third year I used the program. I turned on the television and watched Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, host of Property Man air “The Queen of Versailles” about Westgate timeshare owners. I wrote to Mr. Massi and was selected for an interview because, out of a multitude of respondents, I was the only one who wanted to talk about the positives of timeshare, in addition to the negatives.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=peasant+of+venice

Second, advocacy efforts contributed to the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 settlement against Diamond Resorts and the issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=arizona+attorney+general

Last, but not least, one of the oldest law firms in Nevada filed a billion dollar class action against the company. A motion is pending, as reported by Irina Allen.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=billion+dollar+lawsuit

Diamond Resorts was acquired by Apollo Global Management. Apollo was founded by banker Leon Black. Mr. Black also founded Drexel Burnham Lambert of junk bond fame. When DBL declared bankruptcy, Mr. Black founded Apollo.

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

Stay tuned to Inside Timeshare and FOX News Property Man for upcoming turns of events.

Advocacy Works!

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=advocacy

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

around globe

Related story: FOX Celebrities Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham endorse

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-dave-ramsey-and-laura.html

 

So there we have it, Silverpoint no longer selling timeshare, the RDO and TATOC losing a major source of revenue and long standing member.

Consumers purchasing in Spain now being protected by the strongest timeshare laws in Europe, with massive payouts for past infractions of these laws. Let us hope that other countries will enforce the law to the same degree and protect timeshare consumers all over Europe, no matter where they bought. After all, that is what the EU Directives on Timeshare were put into place.

If you have any questions about this article or any published on Inside Timeshare, contact us and we will try to answer them for you. If we don’t know the answer we will find out for you. If you have been contacted by or are looking at dealing with any company and want to know more Contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

Parting of the Ways: RDO Announces it is Dropping Mindtimeshare

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

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

enforcer

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

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

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

Alberto-garcia-2

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

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

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

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

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

task force
OK guys lets take em out!

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

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

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

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

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

On this we will just have to wait and see.

 

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

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

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

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

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

Non timeshare organisations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

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

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

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

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

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

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

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

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

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

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

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

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

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

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

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

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

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Business Bureau BBB

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

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

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

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

Summary and Conclusion

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

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

success

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

GET INVOLVED!

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

The Battle Lines have been Drawn.

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

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

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

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

round-table

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

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

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

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

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

legal history

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

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

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

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

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

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