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Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

Is This Another Nightmare on Timeshare Street?

Just before publication Inside Timeshare received this news:

Nancy and Dan Callahan had been denied what they demanded until Inside Timeshare sent a draft of Nancy’s article to Diamond Resorts for comment. The company has since worked with the family to reach a positive outcome. The problem is, Inside Timeshare has received information from four other Platinum members voicing the same complaint as Nancy, from the same Las Vegas sales center, claiming they were told things like “people will be standing in line to buy your Legacy points” when not one member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will even list Diamond’s non-deeded points. All the respondents have credit scores in the 800 range and in the 60s or 70s, but considering foreclosure due to variations on Nancy’s theme.We have also heard from lessor loyalty level members and from other sales centers, especially in Virginia and Ka’anapali Hawaii where one side of the ocean will sell US Collection points while the other side claims the member should not have bought Hawaii points due to special assessments or the anticipation of rising maintenance fees. They are then instructed to buy more points to go from one side of the ocean to the other. As one former Diamond Resorts sales agent told Inside Timeshare, “It’s a Hamster Wheel.”

Nancy and Dan Callahan Share their Timeshare Experience

Why don’t corporations admit wrongdoing?

Grabbing hand

By Nancy Callahan

Without our Diamond Resort’s Advocacy Group, my husband Dan and I would not have known where to turn. Even though, as in our case, Diamond Resorts turned their back on us saying we lied and their sales agent at Polo Towers told the truth, we know where we stand and we know we are not alone.

I am 69 years old and my husband Dan is 67. We are both disabled and we both retired from civil service. Dan is a retired army Lt. Colonel and a combat Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran.  

We are Diamond Platinum members. We feel our most recent Diamond purchase was made under deceptive and extremely high pressure selling techniques. We had been struggling with two loan payments of $329 and $121 but the most recent purchase we did not even realize we made, will drive us into foreclosure.

Diamond sales agent Rick Casper in Las Vegas on January 22, 2017 sold us 50,000 Diamond points bringing our total number of points up to 106,000. Our new loan payment is $2,133 a month which we cannot pay.

We did not realize we made this $142,000 purchase until we returned home and checked our credit cards. Prior to this purchase we owned 56,000 Diamond points which cost approximately $101,000.  As I have had a double mastectomy, undergone cancer chemotherapy, radiation and have had two knee replacement surgeries, buying more vacation points was in no way our intention. Dan has had two minor strokes and a mild heart attack. He has chronic pain and is on 25 medications prescribed by the VA and our doctors. Dan also suffers from PTSD.

The $142,400 purchase price for the additional 50,000 points purchased from Rick Casper included:

  • $121,025 loan
  • $17,000 charged to a DRI Barclaycard
  • $4,375 charged to our Hilton VISA Card which is being disputed
  • $142,400 total plus our prior $101,000 purchase totals $243,000 in DRI points.

The current balance on the loan is $142,850 financed at 12.93% plus a monthly collection fee of $6.

Our credit score before this fiasco was 825. It has dropped 50 points since we disputed our Hilton VISA charge. We have received harassing calls for several weeks from Diamond.

We were not provided a truth and lending statement. The copy we have has has no signature or initials by a Diamond representative.

How in the world could anyone make a $142,000 purchase without their knowledge?

multi arm

It’s not as difficult as you might think.

We were invited to attend a presentation at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas to learn about new and exciting ways to use our Diamond points. Rick was there when we showed up and said, “I thought you were supposed to come to Polo Towers and not Red Rock Casino in Vegas.” Rick had arranged a conference room for the day.

Rick said we should join the new “Legacy program” that allows members to sell blocks of Diamond points to a third party with all Diamond benefits intact. This was said just to us as Rick took us to a private presentation because we were Platinum members. The benefits Rick talked about involved selling Diamond points and those benefits could only be obtained if we became part of the Legacy Program. He said if we joined the Legacy program “people would be standing in line to buy our points.” One of the biggest complaints from members is that you can’t sell Diamond points. “You will have enough points to travel to even Dubai Paris and London,” Rick said. Rick said if we joined the Legacy Program we would receive as Platinum members 50,000 bonus points.

I was in terrible knee pain that day as I had not brought my pain killers with me. Rick provided me with two glasses of wine in a-Styrofoam cups with plastic lids because alcohol is not allowed at presentations.

Rick also talked about how using Diamond’s Barclay MasterCard to make purchases was a wonderful way to offset maintenance fees through purchase credits. We signed up for the Barclaycard for this purpose. Rick, however, used the card to charge $17,000 worth of Diamond points. He did not explain that, when the card is used to offset maintenance fees, the offset is only 1.5%.

Six hours went by and we had still not decided on the Legacy Program. As the hours wore on, my pain increased and I became more and more confused. I walk with a cane so it was an effort just to walk to the restroom and back as it was some distance. I was exhausted. Dan is diabetic and needed to eat so Rick ordered room service. Dan was confused due to diabetic symptoms. We were so overwhelmed by the time we were signing contracts, we did not even realize we were buying points. Rick kept saying we would be receiving 50,000 DRI bonus points.

When we returned home we were shocked to see the charges to our credit card. We were signing things just to get out of there thinking we were just joining the Legacy Program and opening the new Diamond Barclay Credit Card that would pay for our maintenance fees through purchase credits.

Diamond Resorts has a new Consumer Advocacy Department which “Promises to help Diamond owners with their membership from Day One!” Aaliah Moore, one of Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy “Hospitality” agents has denied that Rick Casper made any misrepresentations and determined we were aware of what had transacted. We have learned from our Advocacy Facebook, there have been numerous complaints filed against Polo Towers with at least four directed against this same sales agent. All the families are financially devastated.

We were told hardship surrenders are reviewed and considered on a case by case basis but we would be denied based on deception and misrepresentations. The amount of money we would lose is too much to walk away from just so Diamond can take back our points and resell them for full value.

We will be filing a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov alleging Financial Institution Fraud under the FBI White Collar Crime division. As credit cards were charged, we will be filing with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

We are notifying the timeshare lobby ARDA ROC that Diamond is violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics, the FTC because Diamond is one of the only major timeshare companies that cannot be listed with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association due to restrictions the company places on the use of points bought second hand more restrictive than Diamond’s competitors.

We would have never agreed to buy 50,000 points. We were struggling with the two loans we already had outstanding with Diamond and our home mortgage as we bought at the height of Las Vegas real estate and are underwater on our home mortgage. We sent Aaliah a spread sheet explaining our situation thinking she would realize it was obvious we would never buy $141,000 worth of vacation points given our medical condition, medical bills and home mortgage! We would have cancelled the contract immediately if we had known.  

The maintenance fees due on the new points are $6,830 in addition to the existing $9,554 or so paid for 2017 maintenance fees which we prepay each month on a credit card.

At prior presentations other deceptive tactics were used. We were told we had to buy Hawaii points in order to get availability on Maui. Then at the next presentation on the US mainland on March 1, 2014 we were told we should not have bought Hawaii points because it is dangerous to own Hawaii points due to special assessments at Diamond’s Poipu property.  We were told we had to transfer back to Diamond US Collection points. They said Hawaii point owners were charged a onetime fee of $9,000 for Poipu assessments. We had to purchase additional points to bring the Hawaii points back to the US Collection to get out of the Hawaii Collection.

Another reason we would not have purchased more points is because we have not been happy with the points we owned before this new purchase.

There have been many resort properties that we have never been able to make a reservation for. When we are able to book a reservation, these presenters wear us down with their high pressure tactics. When we say no to one salesman, another one appears with an even harder pitch. We check into Diamond properties with a sense of foreboding.   

We have notified the National Timeshare Owners Association that they need to warn existing owners about the harm Diamond Resorts is doing to many of their members.

The Arizona Attorney General’s officeAssurance of Discontinuance

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

A billion dollar class action Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright in Nevada

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

A Diamond Advocacy member sponsored Facebook

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/

advocate 1

At least in this case Diamond has reached out to this couple, and come to a positive outcome. Although there is still a long way to go before we no longer have stories like this coming in, it does seem as if Diamond are starting to take notice of these complaints, they are too similar to be isolated incidents.

Inside Timeshare welcomes any dialogue with the industry if it improves thing for the better, but it is your experiences that will make them look again at how they operate. If you have an experience, good or bad, you would like to share contact Inside Timeshare or one of the advocacy groups that we work with.

 

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.

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