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Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich

donkey tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Richard Cordray

Timeshare Developers and ARDA vs the Timeshare Consumer

donkey

ALEC – What’s a Corporate Bill Mill?

Part I – The Manhattan Club

Part II – Marriott and Florida legislation Tuesday, November 28

By Irene Parker

November 21

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an agency that overreached or a necessary protection for consumers?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Director Richard Cordray recently announced his resignation. Timeshare members not familiar with the CFPB may remember 3.4 million Wells Fargo customers receiving restitution from unauthorized credit card accounts being opened that allowed Wells Fargo representatives to meet incentive targets. CFPB conducted that investigation.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/15/richard-cordray-resigns-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-24493/

Timeshare today seems as polarized as Democrats vs the GOP. Given the corporate driven political climate in Washington DC, it is unlikely Cordray’s replacement will bolster the agency’s power or recourse for timeshare consumers.

Timeshare members have not benefitted from the CFPB like the Wells Fargo victims. The opening of an unauthorized credit card is annoying, but probably not financially devastating. The majority of our 209 Inside Timeshare readers, reaching out to us for advice, are often financially devastated by their decision to purchase a timeshare or continuing to own one. The perpetual contract, accompanied by rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market can spell disaster, especially if sold by deceit.

Still, timeshare members appreciate the CFPB’s interest in hearing timeshare complaints. The CFPB did initiate a Westgate timeshare investigation that lasted two years, only to be dropped after the 2016 presidential election. Call me suspicious, but seeing Westgate owner David Siegel pictured left of Mr. Trump on the stump during the campaign, while the Trump organization simultaneously launched a timeshare in Scotland, seems beyond coincidental.

Trump1

Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s name was mentioned in the Politico article linked above as a possible Cordray replacement. Given Florida’s current legislative and timeshare enforcement climate, timeshare members have little to cheer should a former or current Florida elected official be named director. In our opinion, Ms. Bondi has done little to address deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale. As Inside Timeshare previously reported, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints received from April 2014 to April 2016.

In contrast, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club members, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich $800,000 for Diamond Resort members, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III $3 million for Festiva members, and other smaller settlements by Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri Attorneys General.

Despite AG settlements that seem mere financial speed bumps in the life of a timeshare corporation, timeshare members are hopeful our grassroots efforts to educate lawmakers will someday bear fruit.

The Manhattan Club investigation was one member vs developer battle over lack of availability and other concerns that led to the $6.5 million settlement. TMC owners were banned from the timeshare industry as part of the agreement. While the settlement was hailed as a significant accomplishment, Douglas Wasser, an attorney involved with the investigation is not so sure:

The $6.5 million was set aside for the benefit of “hundreds of purchasers” as a restitution fund.  But The Manhattan Club has upwards of 14,700 unit owners.  So, the pool of Manhattan Club owners entitled to a purchase refund may be a very small one.

The forced divestiture by the current sponsor of control over the Manhattan Club could be a lift for the entire community. Given the lack of confidence in the current reservation system and the many complaints that the reservation system was heavily tilted to benefit the sponsor, this seems like a significant positive to the Manhattan Club community.  It may restore confidence, perhaps drive up market value of the units and allow those who want to leave to do so, and bring in new and willing participants.   

Will it be uplifting for all timeshare members?

Inside Timeshare and other advocates expect little improvement given the polarity that exists between member advocacy groups and ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. I have personally forwarded close to 100 complaints to ARDA, prepared by members alleging timeshare sales agents violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics, which have been ignored.

The two resorts which seem to have the highest volume of complaints each give ARDA ROC, the supposed owner’s arm of ARDA, $1million dollars a year through “voluntary” opt out donations. It took until November to have my $7 removed. When I contacted my resort to have the donation removed, it was instead moved to another account and reported as a delinquency on that account. When members ask what ARDA ROC is, members are told it is a nonprofit that helps members. However, ARDA seemed to be on the side of TMC developers.

mclub

The picture above shows two ARDA attorneys observing a TMC meeting and taking notes. The notes may have later turned into an amicus brief written by a high ranking executive member and attorney for ARDA attempting to defend TMC.  In the brief, Robb Webb described the company’s practices as “routine industry transactions” and, according to one source, drafted some TMC original documents.

Our readers would agree false promises and shady sales tactics are often routine industry practices or transactions, but members are alarmed ARDA defended such practices. In the settlement, the Manhattan Club defendants acknowledged that they misled buyers about availability and the ability to sell back the timeshare.

“The owners of the Manhattan Club lured thousands of timeshare buyers with false promises and shady sales tactics that violated New York law,” Schneiderman said.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

What’s a corporate bill mill and does such an entity play a role in timeshare?

On Friday in Part II we will examine how politics played a role in the Marriott racketeering case, as lawyers involved with the case suspect. It’s been reported backdoor politics contributed to a bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott that, in effect, rendered the Marriott case non-meritorious.

Unsure of the allegations, I researched lobby efforts and their influence on legislation and the possibility of timeshare participating in an ALEC type endeavor. Georgia Senator Nan Orrock described ALEC as “a corporate bill mill.” ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to Senator Orrock, ALEC is an organization that gets money from lobbyists and gives the money to legislatures and it is considered charity. Three lawmakers, mentioned in this video, received $22,000 in “scholarships” from ALEC, considered an educational charity. The YouTube is disturbing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNA0-GBuunc

The timeshare PAC ARDA also has a charitable educational organization called AIF ARDA International Fund. I don’t know enough about AIF to parallel it to ARDA, but the legislative action in the Marriott case seems similar.

http://www.arda.org/foundation/

Open Secrets list ARDA’s contributions to political candidates:  

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

So where do we go from here and why can’t we all just get along? Has greed so permeated timeshare and American politics that a working relationship between timeshare members and developers or between the rich and the not rich, is as unlikely as Bernie Sanders and President Trump coming to terms over health care?

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Fortunately, the court of public opinion is still open as long as the first amendment stands while timeshare members keep coming forward filing regulatory complaints and reaching out to the media if they feel they have been harmed. Someday, somewhere, someone will listen. Until then, we build our case brick by brick.

If you or someone you know needs help with a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help advocacy Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene, as usual you explain things in a way that is easily understood, we look forward to Part II next week.

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

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

November 10

By Marsha Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sad

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

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

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

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

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

act now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

weekend

end month

End of August Roundup

Considering August is usually a quiet month with all the holidays, Inside Timeshare has had quite a run on articles. We began August with news on the Tauro Beach Project entitled “Tauro Beach: In the UK News”.

This followed the publication of a story in The Guardian, a UK newspaper, on the importation of the sand used to build the beach, from Western Sahara. The article by Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer, two independent journalists who investigated the possible illegal importation of the sand.

They explained that if this sand did originate from the Western Sahara, which it most certainly looks like, it was against UN Resolutions and rulings from the European Court of Justice. In their article they quote the head of SEPRONA in Gran Canaria, Lt Germán Garciá who stated “The sand was brought illegally, it was discharged with no control at all,” we know this has caused concern among environmentalist on the Island, as there is a protected area just 300 meters off the beach.

gc-seprona

For the full story follow the links at the end of this article.

The following day we published the Mid Week Report, this started with the news that TATOC had truly gone as their website is no longer accessible. It was then followed with a link to The Canary News, an English language newspaper based in Gran Canaria. The Canary News article by Ed Timon, the editor, gave a very good insight into the history of Western Sahara, which was the subject of the previous article.. (Again see links below).

We also published the first article of the month from Irene Parker, from our US branch, this was to do with a lawsuit in the US by Welk Resorts against Timeshare Exit Team. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting lawsuits by timeshare developers against resale / exit companies and law firms.

Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare was the title of the next article. This highlighted Timeshare Compensation’s blog on Silverpoint now known as Signallia. In this blog Timeshare Compensation warns its readers of the “dodgy” past of this company, which was very surprising indeed as the owner of Timeshare Compensation, Mark Rowe, is an ex-senior sales manager of Silverpoint and thereby employee of Robert “Bob” Trotta, as well as colleague of the CEO Mark Cushway. Told you there were some strange things in the world of timeshare!

loyalty1

In our first Friday’s Letter from America for the month, we published the article by Eron Grant, this covered the question of why does ARDA have a code of ethics? One question we have also asked of the RDO.

Once again that family of fake law firms in Tenerife came up, yes you know the ones, Litigious Abogados.

Another new contributor from the US made her debut, Bonita Hill. Her article was on the question of Diamond’s Clarity Programme, regarding the Oral Representation Clause. This was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

We then published “Truth, What is Truth?” This was in response to readers enquiries about Anfi denying losing any court cases. This has caused confusion among members, after all these cases have been publicised in the press, yet Anfi tell everyone it is not true! So who do you believe?

In the next Friday’s Letter from America, we published Part 4 “Our DRI Misadventures” by David Franks. He Joined our team of writers from the US, some months ago and has given us a great deal of fun. He certainly has a style of his own and is a welcome member to the team.

We then started our “Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message” by Irene Parker, this is based on the book Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer. He is to be a keynote speaker at the Interval International Shared Ownership Conference to be held at the Miami Beach Eden Roc Hotel October 23 – 25. Mr. Baer has advised more than 700 companies including The United Nations and 32 Fortune 500 companies.

Next came the news of a story we published last year, it involved The Manhattan Club in New York. The NY AG Eric T Schneiderman had suspended all sales at the club back in July 2014, this followed many complaints of deceitful practises. The case is now finally over, with a settlement of $6.5 million, also the owners are being forced to sell and have been barred from participating in the timeshare industry. Well done Eric, one for the consumer!

Attorny_General_Eric_T_Schneiderman
NY AG Eric T Schneiderman

Once again Karen Garello from our Timeshare Advocacy, contributed another “Secret Shopper Report”. In this article, Karen gives sound advice on the questions you should ask when going on a sales presentation. Following her advice could save a lot of problems in the future.

It was back to Europe for our next piece, this was titled “ Timeshare In the Press”. This was actually very timely as it followed on from the Truth What is Truth article, it was based on the article in the Spanish paper El Diario. It highlighted the Supreme Court rulings, mainly against the Tenerife company Silverpoint, who just like Anfi deny any cases going to court or being lost.

It also included the article published in The Canary News, based on the one from the paper La Provincia, this began with a recap of the groundbreaking first Supreme Court ruling back in March 2015. Again throwing out the claims of the timeshare industry that these are all fictitious cases.

There followed a couple more articles by Irene Parker and a Timeshare Advocate. The first highlighted the  lawsuits between developers and law firms, the second was an open letter to the timeshare industry. Whether they take any notice is another thing.

In The Monday Briefing, we again focused on the Litigious Abogados family, giving a recap on how they operate their rather sophisticated scam, but also some sound advice which if followed will protect you from becoming one of their victims.

In the same article we welcomed and wished all the best to a new forum for timeshare owners, Timeshare Users Forum. This has been set up by disgruntled members of Timeshare Talk, a previously independent forum. We won’t go into detail here, but you can read the full article.

The last article for August was Part II of Hug Your Haters: A Customer Service Message.

So that is it for August, tomorrow we don’t cross the great lake to the US, we go to the land down under, for another Letter from Australia, contributed by Justin Morgan, on the role of private equity and the secondary market in timeshare. Do join us and bring your didgeridoo!

didgeridoo

Links to some of this month’s articles.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-uk-news/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-latest-development/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/28/trouble-in-paradise-the-canary-island-beach-accused-of-illegally-importing-sand?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://insidetimeshare.com/loyalty-no-thing-timeshare/

http://insidetimeshare.com/truth-what-is-truth/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-15/

http://insidetimeshare.com/manhattan-club-6-5-million-settlement/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-in-the-press/

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

 

victory-1

Manhattan Club: $6.5 Million Settlement

It would look like the long drawn out battle between the New York State Attorney General, Eric T Schneiderman and The Manhattan Club is finally over. It was back in July 2014, that AG Schneiderman announced he had obtained a court order halting the sale of timeshares at The Manhattan Club.

As AG Schneiderman put it in July 2014 “Purchasers Duped Into Paying Tens Of Thousands Of Dollars To Become Owners; Later Denied Benefits Of Ownership In Alleged Bait-And-Switch Scam”.

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

They were also subjected to ever rising maintenance fees and unable to book as there was according to the hotel “no rooms available”. It transpires that rooms were being rented out over the internet to non-owners, even though they were told it was for the exclusive use of timeshare owners. This is not an uncommon problem that timeshare owners face, we see the same practice at resorts in Europe.

As part of the settlement, the Manhattan Club owners are not only being forced to sell, they must also give up management control and will be barred from the timeshare industry. This must go out as a warning to other timeshare developers, times are changing, if the industry itself cannot improve itself, then we can see more AG’s taking up the fight on the behalf of owners.

manhatton club

It must also be said that Eric Schneiderman is only one of a hand full of Attorney General’s who actually sides with the consumer, there are many more who are in bed with the industry. This is a list of those who are on the side of the consumer:

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance following a probe of Diamond Resorts. A settlement of $800,000 has been awarded for restitution:

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

Other Attorneys General have come down on the side of timeshare owners, including:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, as reported by Business Den reporter Amy DiPierro, concerning Highlands Resorts in Colorado and Sedona Pines in Arizona:

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III settled with Festiva timeshare for $3 million:

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

One AG that is conspicuous by her absence is the Florida AG Pam Bondi.

http://insidetimeshare.com/news-across-pond/

Others that need to be congratulated are the following coalition that worked with the Manhattan Club Independent Owners Group and the NYAG,  they are: NTOA, RedWeek, Sharket and Attorney Douglas Wasser. This goes to prove that by working together nothing is impossible.

Images from meetings of the Manhattan Club Independent Owners Group

image1 image3 image4

Follow the original article by Alison Fox published in amNEWYORK

am new york

http://www.amny.com/real-estate/the-manhattan-club-settlement-includes-6-5-million-in-restitution-ag-says-1.14048559

Article by Inside Timeshare’s  Irene Parker originally published in TheStreet back in September 2016

thestreet

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13653117/2/the-timeshare-industry-has-improved-its-reputation-but-still-faces-scrutiny.html

In Europe we are seeing Spain leading the way for timeshare consumers, the Spanish Supreme Court has now made 57 rulings against the industry, this is unprecedented. This has been largely due to the efforts of one law firm, Canarian Legal Alliance who continue to make Spanish legal history and help consumers to gain justice.

If the timeshare industry is to continue and prosper, it must take note and change the way it sells the product. The owner / member should be the priority, not huge profits for the sake of profit, (could they be the Ferengi from Star Trek)?

ferengi_profit_by_aweswanky-d5du6p4
Timeshare Developer

We have said this before, timeshare is a great concept, it does provide quality resorts, it does suit some, but it also becomes a burden to others.

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments, if you have a story to share or just want information or advice, contact us and we will try to give you the best answers possible.

 

 

 

clarity meaning

Tuesday Review: Clarity

Following on from previous articles on Diamonds Clarity Program, Inside Timeshare welcomes today’s article from Bonita Hill, edited by Irene Parker. Bonita explains her experience of this program which is suppossed to “clean up” the sales process, it does appear to fall rather short.

But first a quick round up from Europe, as we said before August is usually a rather quiet time, especially in Spain, so at present there is little news coming from the courts as they are on vacation.

It would also seem the family of “fake” law firms, Litigious Abogados are continuing to claim they have cases waiting to be heard at court, with thousands in compensation waiting to be claimed. Well we do know there will be no money coming from this little crowd.

Inside Timeshare is also working on another Anfi story, they still seem to be denying that they have lost and are losing in the courts. Is it possible they are that worried of more litigation they are conducting a damage limitation exercise? More on this story when we publish.

Now on with today’s article.

Diamond Resort’s CLARITY™ Program

Battles the Oral Representation Clause

clarity

By Bonita Hill  

August 8,2017  

Diamond members on our member sponsored Advocacy Facebook page are confused about an email all US members received earlier this year describing a new Diamond CLARITY™ program being rolled out nationwide designed to provide members with enhanced transparency, accountability and RESPECT for the customer. Diamond’s CLARITY™ program was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

The response my husband and I received fell short of the CLARITY promise. Basically, the company said it doesn’t matter what the sales agent told us because of the oral representation clause, yet the requirement of the AOD clearly states DRI sales agents shall not deviate from approved sales materials. Instead of CLARITY, the company should just provide a person in advance of a sales presentation the answer we received after we filed our complaint:

“We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”

Here is what the Assurance of Discontinuance says. The complete AOD can be found linked at the bottom of the press release.

IV Assurances

Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

  • Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  • Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

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

We attended a sales presentation in Las Vegas in 2017 after CLARITY had been introduced in Arizona. Our sales agent was Adam Drell. There my husband and I were told by Mr. Drell that because we had so few points we were paying more in maintenance fees and that if we bought more points we would pay less. Mr. Drell also said he was going to add in a Westgate week so that we would be Silver. We did not own a Westgate week.

Mr. Drell said our new maintenance fee would be $1,124. However, I received a bill for $661 for the new points. I had already paid $880 for the old points so the total of $1,541 did not match. Adam did not respond when I tried to contact him.

family

I am 30 years old and my husband is 32. How can we pay for maintenance fees that will go up every year for life? We bought the additional points because we were told it would make our maintenance fees go down. Our loan is financed at 17.15% on top of the maintenance fees. Mr. Drell opened Barclaycards. I was approved initially with a limit of $2,100. Adam offered the Silver plan with a down payment of about $3,400. We did not want to put more money into timeshare that day. He then asked me to call Barclay’s reconsideration line. We were denied due to our high ratio balance on other cards, Diamond’s response tells us nothing prevents a Diamond sales agents from saying anything they can think of to sell vacation points because they know the company can and will fall back on the oral representation clause. This makes it easy and convenient for sales agents to tell falsehoods. I’m sure Mr. Drell’s response would be, “I didn’t say that.”

On our DRI Advocacy Facebook I learned of several others who posted that they were told things by the Diamond sales agent that weren’t true. Marjorie Menacker previously published an Inside Timeshare article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Marjorie Menacker’s letter to Mr. Michael Flaskey, Diamond CEO (excerpt)

I just listened to your podcast No Vacancy with Glenn Hausmann. We were told in Virginia by Brian Humphries that if we purchased more points on the day we were there, we would not have to pay maintenance fees again.  Why does Diamond allow their sales agents to say anything, no matter how outlandish, to sell points?  Since the Diamond contract is in perpetuity, the repercussions are even more disastrous.

When we explained this (our medical bills) to Mr. Humphries, he told us about a one day opportunity that day that would allow us to trade our points to pay off maintenance fees.  When we attempted to use the program he described to us, we learned no such program existed.

I was a satisfied Timeshare owner for over 15 years until, in our opinion, we were deceitfully up-sold at our last update. Instead of poisoning another Diamond customer, isn’t it best to do what is right by standing up for the customer instead of advocating for the sales agent? Another Diamond member not only posted an identical complaint, it was against Brian Humphries, the same sales agent.

Sincerely,

Marjorie Menacker

Marjorie had been hit by a construction truck while walking. The family was struggling to pay maintenance fees due to this and other medical issues. Diamond refused to cancel their loan and refund because of their allegations of deceit, but offered a voluntary surrender for medical hardship. However, more and more timeshare members like Marjorie and I are standing up to timeshare companies offering to take back their points in exchange for nothing when the member feels they were sold based on promises not delivered. There are so many complaints. It has to stop.

conference

Diamond’s Advocacy Department has helped several members resolve their complaints. Out of 80 complaints filed, 29 have reported a positive outcome. Out of 80 complaints, 71 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. Several of our member Advocates belong to this Facebook page.  

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

Members are concerned CLARITY is nothing more than a window dressing for the media.

Through social media timeshare members are finally able to get together to share experiences. This has produced a pattern of complaints that is compelling and compounding. It is hoped all timeshare companies will recognize the need to sell their product professionally and honestly rather than punish the buyer for life stuck in an unending contract with no secondary market often sold based on false promises.

fair trade

Through Inside Timeshare and our Advocacy facebook pages we have been asked about costs for legal services, we reached out to Mike Finn of Finn Law Group and this is his reply.

Hello all, thanks for your interest in our services.

We do try to charge a fixed fee because that provides a lot of certainty for the client as these cases sometimes take quite some time for resolution.

A couple of factors that we consider in setting the fee, is the date of the purchase, as that has statute of limitation ramifications, and also the amount owed to the resort and perhaps other third-party credit providers. Another factor is whether or not there is more than one active contract.

If I have this information I can provide a fixed fee and even offer terms in some cases.

Mike Finn

Thanks Mike, that has certainly made things clear, a lot more clearer than Clarity!

Remember, Inside Timeshare is here to give sound and accurate information, these are your stories, they are from owners experiences, the industry will eventually take note.

It just remains for Inside Timeshare to thank all those who contribute and help with the proof reading.

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

It’s that time again, another Friday Letter From America, this particular article has been submitted by Dr. Jeffrey Taylor, it really does shed some light on the Diamond Clarity Programme.

An Almost Nightmare on Timeshare Street

A Diamond CLARITY™ Experience

Shaking hands

By Dr. Jeffrey Taylor

Introduction Irene Parker

June 2, 2017

First the good news: CLARITY™ worked! Diamond’s CLARITY™ program was launched after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” having received hundreds of complaints filed by Diamond members who either lived in Arizona or purchased in Arizona.

Inside Timeshare previously reported on an instance in Sedona Arizona when a few sales agents must not have gotten the memo about CLARITY™. Diamond did reach out to those members and resolved the dispute.

Today we are grateful to report an example of how CLARITY™ is supposed to work and did work. Unfortunately, the Taylors previously purchased two 50,000 vacation point packages they allege were sold by similar deceptive tactics spending approximately $150,000 per package. The Taylors hope Diamond will help them resolve the prior purchases applying the same principles of accountability, transparency and RESPECT for the customer.

Inside Timeshare is grateful to Jeffrey and Debra Taylor for coming forward to explain why timeshare is an industry in need of reform. Diamond Resorts is certainly not the only timeshare company under scrutiny. The Taylor’s story is long, but tangled webs often are.

Today’s timeshare story comes from Diamond’s Virginia sales center. Inside Timeshare has received several additional complaints from the same Virginia sales center, including the most recent report written by Marjorie Menacker.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Timeshare Buyers Beware – A Lesson

By Jeffrey Taylor, PhD

My wife Debra and I were original Sunterra owners. Convinced we had to become Diamond points owners after Diamond acquired Sunterra, we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased enough points to become Platinum loyalty level members. We had been having problems with availability and were assured becoming a part of the official Diamond program would resolve the issue. However, after upgrading to Platinum in 2013, we still had problems with availability.

Twice we were convinced we had to purchase additional points and did purchase two 50,000 point packages. We would have purchased a third based on tall tales, but thanks to CLARITY™, the deception was stopped. CLARITY™ kept us from making a third mistake. We are sharing our story hoping others will come forward as Diamond needs to know about the harm being done to families like ours.

How CLARITY™ worked

Our meeting took place at a Diamond Sales Center in Williamsburg, Virginia in 2017. We were having serious issues with Diamond’s program and wanted to meet with a vacation counselor. After signing a contract to buy more points, we met with a Diamond Quality Assurance person named Rick who went over the new CLARITY™ forms with us. In doing so, we realized we almost succumbed to what we feel is deception a third time. Rick asked us to write a letter.

Rick:

Thank you again for the professional way in which you handled the horrible misrepresentation that happened during our owners update yesterday. My wife and I were so upset that it was difficult to put our thoughts together in your office. We have never had a business transaction where things were not only misrepresented, but outright lies were told.

My family has been a member of Diamond for almost 27 years. We have 150,000 points. Our sole purpose in coming to Williamsburg was to have an owners update. We were specifically interested in the ways that we might sell Diamond points and see if there were ways to offset the cost of maintenance costs. We made it clear we had no interest in purchasing new points.

We met with Geoffrey Cash for over six hours. After going over a number of routine items, Geoff got to the point of explaining some “New” programs that were instituted at Diamond on Apollo’s recommendation. He made it clear that Apollo was advising Diamond,  making sweeping changes to improve Diamond’s customer satisfaction. He then started a three hour conversation on a “new” program of maintenance fee offsets. The story we got was that Apollo thought that the value of Diamond points was undervalued, but that now Platinum members could use a 30 cent per point value to pay maintenance fees. Geoff did indicate that the going rate for fees was at 4 cents a point, but that platinum members had this new program. We were told that we could use ANY amount of unused points in November and a check would be cut to pay the maintenance fees. I took Geoff’s calculator and multiplied 100,000 by 0.3 and said, “So if we had 100,000 points left over in November, we could get a $30,000 check to pay fees with”. He said this was correct.

But in being totally honest with us, Geoff indicated there was a “catch”. Apollo could only do this for Platinum members who had a minimum of 100,000 points, but 100,000 of our 150,000 points were “deeded” and another 50,000 were in the Diamond trust. To qualify for this program we would need a total of 100,000 “trust” points. Geoff flatly stated that to be a “full platinum benefits member” we need to purchase 50,000 additional “trust” points in order to benefit from the maintenance fee program. We were shown two pieces of paper with 10 and 20 year projections of the maintenance fee cost now as opposed to the reduced costs over the same time periods if we purchased the additional points. The reduction amounted to about half the fee costs, from $380,000 for 10 years to about $180,000 in the new program.

We rejected a quote for 50,000 points. They came back with a 25,000 point quote. Finally we were presented a quote for 10,000 points and told our “equity” would cover the missing 40,000 points. Geoff went into a detailed written analysis of how the total cost of the 10,000 points over 10 years would be paid for by the maintenance points offset savings. The only reason we purchased the 10,000 new points was to gain access to the maintenance fee offset. We have zero need to purchase additional vacation points. Geoff acknowledged that he understood.

The paperwork that Geoff used to explain and justify getting these new points we found out later were shredded. Why were the sales related handwritten documents destroyed rather than presented to the buyer? We have no proof of what we were told. Geoff told us twice that we should not be concerned if the “finance guy” did not know about the deals we were offered. He said finance people were several months “behind” the sales promotions.

Thankfully Rick, you caught this and prevented us from making a big mistake based on serious misrepresentations.

It appears most of the information we received is seriously incorrect. Debra called the Platinum number this afternoon and tried to verify several key points. Almost everything was not in agreement with what Geoff told us, and the written guides Geoff gave us contradict what he verbally told us. At best this is unprofessional, at worst it’s fraud.

Thank you again for the professional treatment that you demonstrated with us.

Sincerely

Dr. Jeffrey L. Taylor and Debra C, Taylor

Why we purchased two 50,000 point packages for $150,000 each

truth

Thanks to CLARITY™ the 2017 upsell was cancelled, but the 50,000 points we purchased in Williamsburg in 2016 and 50,000 points purchased in Hawaii in 2014 at Ka’anapali were sold employing the same level of outlandish claims.  

The Hawaii Up-Sell

In 2013 we were Platinum members. Availability had not improved. We went to Hawaii in 2014. Here we were told that booking priority came from the DRI collection. We were told the Hawaii collection was the DRI flagship “Premier” collection and being in this collection would solve all our availability problems. We had to purchase another 50,000 points in order to transfer our 50,000 US collection points into the Hawaii collection.

This was the first time we heard about the 30 cent per point maintenance fee reimbursement program (we know now does not exist), said to be part of the new Diamond level above Platinum.

We were also told that “renting” the weeks around Christmas in Hawaii would generate more than enough money to cover the yearly maintenance fees and was routinely done by members. When we expressed concern over how complicated this seemed, the salesman said he could help advertise the rental.

 

The CLARITY™ forms were not available at this time but the policies are the same: I may not engage in any commercial rental activities to rent our Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public and understand that my membership may be suspended or terminated if I do.

Now we owned a total of 100,000 points but availability did not improve.

The Williamsburg Virginia Up-Sell

We went to Williamsburg for our anniversary in March of 2016 to get some answers. When we arrived we were immediately singled out as “premier double platinum members” and were assigned to their best representative, Brandi.

They explained that Brandi was based at the Polo Club in Las Vegas and was visiting the Williamsburg center to train everyone on the latest DRI offerings. She claimed to have helped develop many of Diamond’s policies.

Brandi said she would get to the root of our problems. We had Brandi go on her computer and log into our account to try and make reservations. Sure enough, there was no availability. She seemed perplexed. In checking our account Brandi was “horrified” to find that there was key information missing from our account that would help in booking resorts. After about an hour she said she knew what the problems were and, unfortunately, there was not an easy fix.

Brandi said the Hawaii Collection points only gave us booking priority in Hawaii. She said our current status in the Hawaii collections was essentially useless in booking US collection resorts. No one in Hawaii told us this fact. In addition, there was still an issue with the original grandfathered points that were not “real” DRI points. Our understanding was that the Williamsburg and Hawaii collection purchases resolved these problems and gave us priority in booking at all DRI resorts. She stated absolutely not. This was devastating news. We had points that were worthless unless we went to Hawaii every year or “rented” points.

Irina Allen has had her 139,000 Diamond points suspended, accused of renting her points. She owns Hawaii points and disputes Brandi’s verdict. “The Taylors could have used Hawaii points to book on the US Mainland as they would only lose the 13 month reservation priority. They could make reservations in any of the US Collection resorts up to 10 months in advance.”

“But gosh,” said Brandi, “You seem like such nice people.” Brandi said she was going to see if she could help because we were so upset. The answer from management was to buy another 50,000 points in the US collection so we could convert the other 100,000 points to the US collection. DRI was going to allow us to do this with only a 50,000 point purchase as opposed to 100,000 points if we did the deal that day. Our choice was leaving with 100,000 useless points or taking the 50,000 point purchase for 150,000 US points total.

We made several points clear to Brandi. We could not afford the maintenance fees over time on 150,000 points and we could not use that many points in a year.

I asked if DRI bought back points or if we could sell them. Brandi indicated that DRI did indeed buy points back. She said the market value of DRI points was $10 a point at that time and going to $12 or more in the future. Since they were selling us the 50,000 points at a huge discount of $3 a point, we could easily sell them on the open market for $3. However, if we were going to sell that low, DRI would most likely buy the points back at the price we paid for them. To prevent people from buying and dumping points, we would need to wait two years before DRI would buy them back or we could sell them.

Note from CLARITY™: Diamond does not offer a buyback program and makes no representation regarding tax deductions, refinancing, or that there will be a secondary market for the sale of Points. Points do not typically appreciate in value.

As far as too many points, Brandi told us about points being just like money and we could get rental cars, cruises, hotels, and travel tours for 30 cents a point in 2017. The same amount per point would be true for maintenance fees. When we pointed out that we could not find this on DRI’s web page, Brandi said the 30 cent deal would be in the 2017 handbook. She knew all of this because she was part of the Polo Club management team who were developing the policies.

Note from CLARITY™ form: Redeeming Points for reimbursement of travel services does not provide the best monetary value for my Points and is typically no lower in cost than spending cash for the same arrangements.

That brings us up to February 2017 in Williamsburg seeking answers because very little that Brandi told us came to pass. Geoff spun six hours of dialog, again telling us our points were not “real” platinum points and we need to buy more. That triggered the investigation and the complaint we sent Rick.

new beginnings

All Diamond members hope CLARITY™ does indeed mark a new beginning. If what the Taylors said they were told is true, it meets the FBI definition of White Collar Crime which is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.”

Inside Timeshare has been receiving a number of complaints from Diamond members with very similar, and in some cases, identical complaints from highly educated professional people. It’s getting harder and harder to accept that the Taylors and all those featured in our articles are making up allegations.

Dr. Jeffrey Taylor worked 30 years for Perkin Elmer in sales and sales training.   Debra worked as a Special Education teacher until their special needs grandchildren required their support.

The Taylors found Inside Timeshare by finding our member sponsored Diamond Advocacy Group launched February 2017, now up to 300 Facebook members.

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/

Here are other Inside Timeshare “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles

By Neina Orrillo

http://insidetimeshare.com/diamond-in-the-news-again/

By David Franks

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/

Barclaycard and Member stories

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-barlcaycard-us/

By Marjorie Menacker

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

By Eron Grant

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-4/

By Nancy Callahan

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

A Filipino Family

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

By Laurie Sabbagh

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

A Military Family

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

The Hurleys

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Irina Allen

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

Kathie Old

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/

Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndham-whistleblower-update/

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Sylvia Saldana

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Thanks to Dr Jeffrey Taylor for his excellent views also to Irene who is coordinating the articles from the other side of the great lake.  So all that remains is to wish you all a very good weekend.

friday dog

abc

The Secret World of Timeshare Sales.

Following on from the many articles on timeshare in the US, Inside Timeshare today publishes the story of a former sales agent with Hyatt and Diamond Resorts. Her story is one that will resonate very clearly with many people who attended timeshare sales presentations, not just in the US but also in Europe, although in Europe it must be said, most of the industry especially Diamond have cleaned up their act. Much of this is down to the adverse publicity in the press and the ongoing litigation in the Spanish courts.

The many sales reps that I personally know and have known through the years are decent and honest people, the problem came in the way the industry was run during the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000. It was and still is with some companies, on a commission basis only, you don’t sell, you don’t eat. For many they were also tied into company apartments, so if they did not reach their targets and were fired, they also ended up homeless.

For those who did get a “basic wage”, it was usually twinned with “On Target Earnings”. Again if targets were not met your basic was reduced or not paid. Another factor which is well known in the European model was the so-called “drip feeding”, this was a method by which companies held on to staff who did deal. Basically, the company would tell the rep that the client had not completed, then that pay would be held back, this forced the rep to stay, knowing that if they left they would never get paid.

It was also not uncommon for some unscrupulous companies to claim that the client had cancelled, when in fact they had completed. For some this meant a “claw back” of the pay they had received from the commission and the “spiff” they received for dealing, (the spiff is an incentive payment, paid in cash at the morning meeting the following day).

So it is not difficult to see how normal decent folk would say anything to close the deal. That being said, yes there were and are some who are just out and out “blaggers”, having no sense of conscience or morals. Many companies loved these type of reps, as they would do whatever the managers tell them.

So now to the story of Candace, where she explains her time and experiences as a timeshare sales agent.

Former Timeshare Sales Agents Strike a Blow against Timeshare

By Candace Czarny – February 9, 2017

ethics

Several current and former timeshare sales agents, management and employees have joined forces with timeshare owners to take a stand against timeshare companies, including Hyatt Corp, Westgate, Wyndham, The Manhattan Club, Marriott, Highland Resorts, Sedona Pines and Diamond Resorts.

It’s a modern day David & Goliath story. Timeshare companies employ armies of attorneys in their effort to suppress the seedy side of timeshare. While many owners use and enjoy their timeshare year after year, others fall into deceptive and fraudulent sales presentations ending up with a vacation dream that sometimes turns into a nightmare. Others have called it a timeshare trap.

Now we are beginning to see a powerhouse of attorneys and regulatory agencies on the side of the timeshare consumer in an effort to expose selling strategies that incorporate psychological manipulation, omissions, deceptions, and fraud.

I am a former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent. While at Hyatt I was advised by management to order a copy of the CIA Guide to Interrogation and Human Manipulation. Some timeshare companies employ these strategies, designed to intimidate and confuse hardworking consumers worldwide, in order to generate profits and earn wildly inflated executive compensation. Honest sales agents, previously able to earn a good living with reputable timeshare companies, find themselves subtly maneuvered out of this new more sinister timeshare business.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to work in the timeshare industry because my family owned one and used it every year.  Our family created unforgettable memories every year using this property.

It was only after working in the industry as a sales agent that I came to see and understand the complicated strategy of greed from the inside.  Like Trish Williams, awarded $20 million in a recent Wyndham Whistleblower case, I am one of the single individuals not willing to be a pawn perpetuating a scam against hard working people trying to create a happy life for their families. Three former Hyatt sales agents are year five into our Whistleblower case.

At some resorts, dramatically rising maintenance fees turn a family’s vacation into a money pit with no way out. Voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed, so owners not able to keep up with annual fees and assessments fall victim to listing and transfer agents. Many owners with loans, not eligible for a “voluntary surrender” are forced into default or must obtain legal help in order to have their timeshare loan cancelled. This just adds to their existing financial burden.

This complex and convoluted strategy for wealth and power is like a hamster wheel. The timeshare company generates profits from selling the same timeshare over and over and over again. To arrive at a solution one must arrive at the cause and in the case of timeshare, the cause begins with corporate greed at the expense of the individual employee and the consumer.

Timeshare companies hide behind carefully and strategically worded contracts intended to shield them from responsibility and litigation. This leaves the owner feeling hopeless and angry with no recourse. Timeshare companies rely on the burdened owner not being able to withstand a costly and lengthy legal battle.

A new age is dawning where individual owners, in partnership with regulatory agencies and lawyers, are banding together to fight back against timeshare corruption.

huddle

The Arizona Attorney General has put a stake in the ground and alleged that Diamond employee’s’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Diamond Resorts Corporation has settled with the Arizona Attorney General for $800,000 in a case involving allegations of customer deception and was issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” (linked below).  This is just one of an avalanche of lawsuits and investigations exposing a minefield of corruption, fraud and deceit perpetuated at the highest levels of corporate timeshare.

While New York, Colorado, Tennessee and Arizona Attorneys General are making some progress, more needs to be done. There has been a notable lack of concern from many state and federal regulatory agencies. Lawmakers have demonstrated a “Well, they signed a contract” attitude. Such lawmakers have no concept of the depth of deception some timeshare companies go to in order to “close the deal”.

Based on ARDA’s estimates there are over 9,500,000 timeshare units in the United States.  To give you an idea of how profound this corporate culture of greed is and how the courage and bravery of single individuals are making a difference in the name of what is right, listed below are just some of the settlements, judgements and lawsuits against these timeshare giants.

  • Hyatt Corp is sued by three former Hyatt timeshare agents alleging deceit and fraud. They are in year five of a Whistleblower case alleging deceptive practice.
  • Tennessee Attorney General announced a $3 million settlement with Festiva, a network of vacation and timeshare companies, for alleged violations of the federal Telemarketing Act, federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
  • Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
  • Colorado Attorney General  is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.
  • Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices in a Whistleblower case.
  • The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club is proceeding. The motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to March 31, 2017 because the sponsor appears to have engaged new counsel, Gibson Dunn – the third set of sponsor attorneys in this matter. This motion is for request to release monies previously frozen by court order to pay the sponsor’s attorney’s fees.
  • The Marriott racketeering lawsuit as of February 7, 2017 is still waiting for a decision on motions to dismiss and is engaged in discovery, according to attorney Jeffrey Norton.
  • In Spain there are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euros, These cases are being brought by Canarian Legal Alliance.
  • A billion dollar lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts International.
  • Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond Resorts International.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations.

If you feel you are a victim of deceitful timeshare sales or are an employee whose livelihood has been threatened by refusing to participate in deceptive and fraudulent tactics, I encourage you to tell your story. Alone we perish under the weight of power and greed. Together we can overcome and thrive.

Diamond timeshare owners worldwide, who purchased a timeshare in Arizona since 2009, have until the end of April 2017 to file a claim of relief with the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

Instructions on how to file a complaint are included in this press release:

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

Thank you Candace for writing this article, Inside Timeshare welcomes articles from anyone with a similar story, or even from those who have been on the receiving end of the sales presentation. It through these article we might just see a change in the industry that will benefit not just the consumer but the industry as well.

For information about pending litigation or questions on how to file a complaint, contact Inside Timeshare either through email, by posting a comment, or finding us on Facebook. Please state if it is a US or European timeshare. We’re here to help.

https://www.facebook.com/insidetimeshare/

3 men

 

advocacy

Timeshare Advocacy

On Monday 23 January we published “And So It Begins”, it was about freedom of speech and the press. This was in response to Irene Parker being banned from the Diamond Resorts Members Facebook Page, which is a members page for Diamond owners. Irene is a long standing Diamond owner. She campaigns for greater clarity in the sales process and for the secondary market, also for those who wish to surrender their ownership. In this she has engaged with Diamond in meaningful dialogue and has achieved some results.

Irene did managed to sneak in one Diamond owner’s testimony before she was banned from her Diamond Members Facebook page.

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

Irene caused an escalation in negative comments so was banned from the Diamond Members Facebook page, although the charge was because she posted our Inside Timeshare article about Attorneys General in the US working for timeshare owners, compared to Attorneys General who seem to be on the side of the timeshare developers. She was told she had been warned. When she posted her previous article on this topic, the article had been removed, but protest resulted in the article being re-posted. Irene erroneously  interpreted this as an approval of free speech.

The article banned and reposted was about timeshare dividing down party lines with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halting sales at The Manhattan Club for a “bait and switch” scheme, compared to Attorney General Pam Bondi seeming to be on the side of the timeshare developers.

President Trump has a golf resort in Belmedie in Scotland with plans for around 900 timeshare apartments, which is set to double under new plans. In America this was reported to be only a golf course, they had no idea of the plans for timeshare to be built along with a 450 room hotel and 500 homes. Not to forget a second 18 hole course. We will of course be closely following developments in Belmedie and President Trump’s new golf and  timeshare resort.

Irene was accused of being political. Most timeshare owners don’t know that their voluntary $7 donation to ARDA ROC goes toward the timeshare developer’s lobby efforts. Lobby efforts in 2015 resulted in a law being passed making it more difficult for timeshare owners to be released from contracts due to “immaterial errors” as reported by the Orlando Sentinel. Is this not “political”? We reported on this in the October article “More News from Across the Pond”.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html

For today, free speech still exists in Spain, Europe and in America. Free speech will always exist at Inside Timeshare or we will die trying. Without it you a will not know what is happening.

Today Irene´s article is about “Advocacy”, even Diamond agree this is needed and they have created a “Consumer Advocacy Department” to resolve consumer problems.

How Timeshare Advocacy Works

Update on Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”.

 Retired Canadian Army Family’s Diamond Resorts Advocacy Experience.

By Irene Parker January 24, 2017

Support

For years timeshare owners and prospective owners have been clogging the complaint sites, complaining about what the Arizona Attorney General’sAssurance of Discontinuance” or AOD describes as Diamond Resorts:

Deception, deceptive or unfair acts or practices, fraud, false pretenses, false promises, misrepresentations or concealment, suppression or omission or material facts violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has issued Diamond Resorts an Assurance of Discontinuance and announced an $800,000 settlement.

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

Diamond Resorts, while not admitting wrongdoing, despite hundreds of complaints filed, takes owners concerns seriously. The company has announced a new Clarity program. Next week we will publish an article on Clarity offering owner feedback as to how they feel about the new program. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

Diamond has also created a Consumer Advocacy Department. It is my belief that owners need an advocate not employed by Diamond, interacting with Diamond’s Advocate until the owner’s concern is resolved or the decision is made to seek legal recourse.

In today’s article we examine one family’s advocacy experience. Terry and Roxanne Hurley were prepared to sign their Diamond relinquishment papers until they got to the part about not being able to say anything negative about Diamond.

“We put everything we had for our retirement into this, and we are gutted to know our many years in the Canadian Military (Army), planning and saving for our retirement over 40 years, is most likely lost,” said Roxanne.

Not knowing where to turn, the Hurleys contacted me and asked if there was any way they could recover any of their life savings. Most people would have contacted an attorney, but we contacted Diamond’s Advocacy Department. The reason they invested all their savings was because the Diamond sales agent (Vacation Counselor) said buying Diamond vacation points was like buying a second home. He neglected to tell the family it was like buying a second home without a secondary market.

The Hurleys chief complaint was availability. “Ash painted a beautiful picture of Diamond and even gave us a beautiful book and said these were all the places we could go. He said we would have access to over 2500 resorts through Interval International,” Roxanne explained. “We were getting ready to retire from the Canadian Army and we thought what a wonderful way to spend our retirement! He showed us a beautiful suite we would be able to get if we wanted to stay at Mystic Dunes.”

Terry and Roxanne Hurley recently retired from the Canadian army.

Hurley

Terry and Roxanne twice bought Diamond vacation points from DRI sales agent Ash Hanting at Mystic Dunes in Orlando. They bought points a second time when they discovered they did not have enough points to book the following year after their first purchase. The Hurleys have spent 50,000 Canadian for 15,000 points.

Armed with 15,000 points, they tried to book Myrtle Beach but it was not available so they had to book through Expedia. Booking one year out they were able to book Arizona.

 Terry and Roxanne approached Ash on a third visit to Mystic Dunes asking how they would go about selling their points because the vacation plan they bought was not turning out to be what they had been promised. Ash told them they would need to get a broker.

Unfortunately, not one member of the 64 member Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will market Diamond points because they feel Diamond points are worthless on the resale market due to restrictions Diamond places on points purchased resale. LTRBA members will buy and sell any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts; although I’m told only one of the members will market Westgate.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

The Hurleys told Ash the level of quality of their current accommodation was nowhere near the standard of what they were showed when they were sold their initial points. Their complaints were ignored. Roxanne wrote to Founder Stephen Cloobeck and Victor McElroy about what they felt were deceptive business practices, but no one responded.

The Hurleys are coping with Roxanne’s mother who is very ill and who lives about 2000 miles from them in Ontario. “It is very difficult to scrimp up the money to get to her. And my husband is dealing with medical issues as well,” Roxanne added.

I contacted Maya Pogoda, Diamond’s Public Relations Representative helping to launch Diamond Advocacy and Clarity. While the Hurley’s concerns about availability and the burden of rising maintenance fees, exacerbated by the Canadian exchange rate, have not been resolved; Diamond’s Advocate was able to offer the Hurleys a little “time out” in the midst of the family’s medical crisis in order to allow the family some time to weigh their options. I had suggested someone from Diamond contact the Hurleys to see if someone could help them find better availability. That is not the role of the Vacation Counselor, so Mr. Hanting cannot be of help.

Timeshare Needs a CASA,  

CASA

Court Appointed Special Advocates, (CASA) is a national association in the United States that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes.[1]

The CASA is a volunteer who need not be an attorney, whose role is to gather information and make recommendations to the judge.[3]

Judge Soukup in 1977 formulated the idea that volunteers could be dedicated to a case and speak for children’s best interests.[5]

Fifty volunteers responded to his idea, which started a movement.[7]

A Proposal for our Attorneys General

Appointed Special Advocate for Timeshare Owners (™)

Here to help

CASA provides a voice for the voiceless. The Hurleys are not alone. I have talked to dozens of owners who don’t know where to turn or who to talk to.

Other advocates pictured above include Sylvia Saldana. The Saldana family is left with a $33,000 home equity loan and no vacation points.

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Kathie Olds and her husband were told to buy more points because Apollo would be coming up with a new program that would allow them to “cash in” points at $.50 a point to pay for maintenance fees. Points sell for about $2 to $4 a point.

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/#more-1397

BL, Our Devil’s Advocate saying positive things about Diamond having signed a non-disclosure statement.

Roxanne Hurley

Irina Allen (featured in last week’s article)

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

As a former CASA supervisor, I wrote court reports and attended hearings and trials on behalf of foster children and teens aging out. Victimized timeshare owners need a voice for the voiceless. Just like foster care, there is a need for advocates who understand the system. The Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance” is 37 pages long. It’s a lot for me to plow through.

Here is one reason why the Arizona AOD has encouraged DRI agents to stick to the script rather than make oral representations offering benefits not in existence. DRI Sales agent Wajdi’s promise below wandered far afield:

We (C and P) purchased an additional 60,000 points from Wajdi at Cancun Resort on July 25, 2016 based on our ability to sell half of our points back to DRI to pay maintenance fees. We have contacted Wajdi a few times, but still do not know how to pay our MF with points.

Through advocacy, C & P’s concerns were resolved. They will remain Diamond Platinum members because of their positive outcome. They ceased legal action.  

A lot is happening in Timeshare.

get-involved

This is what freedom of speech really means, without it nothing will change, Inside Timeshare will report what it finds, whether it is good, bad or ugly. We will continue to publish Irene´s articles on what is going on in the timeshare world in America. We also hope to start publishing news from timeshare owners in Australia in the very near future. The problems facing timeshare are not confined to Europe or America, they are worldwide.

Inside Timeshare welcomes those with news and views on timeshare worldwide, we will endeavour to publish and keep all informed on events and news which affect you the owners.

 

media

And So It Begins!!

Following on from Friday’s article Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump, it would appear to have upset a few people on a facebook page that Irene is or rather was a member of, Diamond Resorts International Members page.

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

Apparently some think it is political, well what isn’t political nowadays?

Gandhi free press

It asks the question what will happen to timeshare under the Trump presidency, a fair question considering his business background. He is a developer himself, having built a golf resort in Scotland, which includes plans to double the number of timeshare apartments.

He is all for business, fair enough, but is that going to be at the expense of beleaguered timeshare owners in the USA?

We have already seen in previous articles the predatory nature in the sale of timeshare including the continual upgrading and “lending” in order to fund this. It has been highlighted time and again that there is a lack of a “secondary market”, which ends up with owners being at the mercy of unscrupulous resale and termination companies.

Just from the actions in barring Irene from the group by a few, freedom of speech and expression is being eroded by a few, who think they know better. Are these people just stooges for the industry? Do they speak for the majority?

Voltaire free speech

Inside Timeshare thinks not, we will publish stories about both sides, whether they are “the good, the bad or just downright ugly”. Freedom of speech is the fundamental aspect of democracy, when we lose that we have dictatorship, Irene has lost one avenue for that freedom and it is to the detriment of those other members who wish to know the Truth.

Timeshare and Politics

Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech Works

By Irene Parker January 23, 2017

hand and pen

Whether we are talking politics or timeshare, media spin is usually the first line of defence. I have been banned from one of the Diamond Resorts Members Facebook page for posting the article Inside Timeshare published Friday, January 20 about US Attorneys General working for timeshare owners and Attorneys General who seem to be on the side of the timeshare developer. I was banned because the article was deemed political. I did not know President Trump was going into the timeshare business until I read the article after it was published.

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

Timeshare is all about politics. The problem is, timeshare is a one sided political game with all the muscle on the side of the timeshare developers.

Several of the members of the Diamond Facebook contacted me with their reasoning as to why I was banned. I’m told the quota of unhappy owners has exceeded its limits. Happy campers are encouraged to apply.
I worked with over two dozen of the Facebook members, several having been financially devastated by their vacation plan. I felt like I had been making real progress interacting with PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda, the newly formed Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department, and Diamond’s In-house Counsel – responding when legitimate examples of deceptive and fraudulent business practices are brought forth, similar to the Monarch example below.

Owners released from a timeshare contract cannot share their story because they are required to sign a confidential non-disclosure agreement or CNDA, agreeing not to say anything negative about Diamond Resorts. How can this Monarch owner go through life not saying anything negative about Diamond Resorts? I use Diamond as an example, but a few of the big players are just as guilty.
I am at the Cancun resort in Las Vegas and went to a breakfast where they said they would simply update me about the changeover to Diamond. I was told that I should have been invited to a dinner where I would have been given options, decided by a judge in a legal ruling against Monarch due to their bankruptcy. They proceeded to show me a print out that said when my current term expires in August. I would have to pay $573 per quarter to Monarch. They said that due to the bankruptcy, I would have no equity. That was option one. Pay more, have nothing. The other option they said was to transfer into Diamond at a cost of $12,000 plus and pay a yearly maintenance fee of $1,700. Less than the $2,292 I would soon be giving Monarch. They also told me that I would then have equity of $41,000 that I could sell. I was in tears. I do not have any extra money. In fact I have been looking for ways to get out of Monarch for over a year now. They said that was not an option and that as an owner, I was now proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. After reading the comments above I am even more scared. I am trying to start my own business and am already in severe debt. They claimed when they ran my credit though that it looked better than most and assured me I qualified for financing. I would have to pay off, basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now before I could look to sell. One of the reps assured me that she would put me in touch with someone who could help me sell my points. She even gave me her cell phone number to call after the sale/transfer is finalized. I am really scared though. Please help! We have to do something. It seems as though they have no qualms about lying to and robbing people for their own benefit.

bill of rights

Attempts are being made to suppress the America media. CNN has been aggressively targeted. Suppressing the media is the first step in a dictatorship. It pains me to see Anderson Cooper rattled by the absurdity of debating crowd size.

Propaganda and distraction are the means to control the message. In timeshare this is accomplished by requiring relinquishing owners sign a non-disclosure agreement. This is common in any industry, but seems harsh when an elderly or vulnerable family has turned over sometimes their life savings because they believed they were buying the equivalent of a second home. The family will receive nothing when they relinquish. The developer takes back the contracts and resells for full value. Amounts from $50,000 to $100,000 are not uncommon. I dare not show them past levels of executive compensation which I believe are wildly inflated. Is it fair to silence?

I sent our controversial article to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with this note:

I know Senators Warren and Sanders are kind of busy right now, but I really think they should know our President is going into the timeshare business and one of his best friends for the last 20 years is the owner of Westgate who you have been investigating for a couple years.

What can be done about it?

help key

There seems to be a real disdain for confronting a problem with the preference being to deny the problem exits. In the media, I have seen masterful examples of answering a question by not answering the question. I have always said half a problem goes away when confronted. How CAN the timeshare problem be confronted?

Finally, a timeshare company listened!

Diamond Resorts has created a Consumer Advocacy Department that allows owners who have been victimised by rogue timeshare sale agents to contact their Consumer Advocacy Department at:

mailto: ConsumerAdvocacy@DiamondResorts.com

Often issues are related to miscommunication. Meaningful dialogue can work wonders. The entire industry benefits although timeshare lawyers may notice a decrease in their earnings.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and his staff are working with Diamond Resorts to improve their business practices. Diamond is certainly not the only timeshare company that needs to improve.

OPC´s in Europe and the USA.

One of my favourite posts on my former Diamond Facebook was when an owner said Diamond needs to take the Blinkers off. Blinkers off? It’s a worldwide Facebook page so an American said the word we use is Blinders.

Timeshare needs to take its blinkers or blinders off and realize there is a problem with the timeshare industry and the continual conflict between timeshare developer lobbyists like ARDA, RDO and TATOC and timeshare owners and advocates. CRDA is not on this list because CRDA does have an advocacy arm. It’s called the National Timeshare Owner’s Association and it has been helping owners for over twenty years. Owners have available an “ASK CRDA” helpline that has operated without any interference from developers. But that’s Canada for you.

Too many senior citizens we used to call baby-boomers are being harmed by predatory marathon sales presentations repeatedly asking us to sign perpetual contracts with little or no secondary market.

Let’s wake up Timeshare!

The Arizona Attorney General has taken the first step by throwing out the oral representation clause in Arizona, or “license to lie” as timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group likes to describe it. For years deception and fraud has gone on unchecked because of the oral representation clause. The oral representation clause is the start of a vicious circle that ends with the widely reported timeshare resale scam industry.

Is honesty really that hard?

 

reform

Inside Timeshare will continue to publish stories such as these, without them timeshare owners around the world will be kept in the dark. If you have any comments on this or any other article Inside Timeshare welcomes them. If you have a personal story on your experiences which you would like to share, contact us and we will get back to you. You Have a voice, use it!