Browse Tag

Arizona Attorney General

us-eu-coop

The Wednesday Article from America

Following on from last week’s piece on the RDO’s use of an article in The Spectator, Irene Parker gives us the American take on it and how they are viewing timeshare in Europe.

One thing is for certain, they are looking to us for change in the way timeshare is sold in the USA, we have had many contact Inside Timeshare giving their stories, some are definitely “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”. This title has been used in three articles in the past, with stories that have hit home for many readers.

In this article Irene, interviews Timeshare Insider and author of Timeshare for Dummies, Lisa Ann Schreier, who we welcome as a new voice to our pages.

RDO – Are Unscrupulous Sales Agents a Thing of the Past?

A Timeshare Insider and one of 13 Platinum members respond

notes in hand

By Irene Parker

June 28, 2017

Inside Timeshare published a reality check response to Resort Development Organization’s article “Why Now is the Right Time to Reconsider Timeshare” offering an EU perspective.

http://insidetimeshare.com/rdo-selective-use-spectator-article-timeshare/

It is interesting to note an admission of guilt in this article as to the nature of the unscrupulous timeshare sales agent.

The Chairman of RDO is Susan Crooks, Director of Legal Services and European General Counsel, Diamond Resorts Europe, so the article is even more meaningful, considering her role. I have interviewed two EU Diamond sales agents. The agents said they refused to submit to the aggressive tactics imposed on American Diamond sales agents. One was the sales agent assigned to us when we stayed at Cala Blanca on Gran Canaria.

Here are excerpts from what RDO has to say about timeshare, followed by a report from one of the 13 Diamond Platinum members.

When you think of the word timeshare, what springs to mind? While for some it might be stylish and carefree getaways in your favourite holiday destination, for others it could just as easily be pushy salespeople trying to bamboozle you into signing an unwanted, lengthy contract.  Unfortunately, for a number of years the word timeshare has had negative connotations in the minds of many people, due to the often unethical and unjust way it was sold in the past. This is all changing though as the holiday market goes through a massive shakeup. Timeshare is evolving into something that everyone can enjoy!

In the past a proportion of timeshare was mis-sold to people through unscrupulous sales tactics from pushy sales people only interested in making a quick sale. People were persuaded to sign up for timeshare after lengthy and intense sales presentations which could last for hours. This included parting with large deposits on the same day. Now though, following strict restrictions imposed on developers by the European Timeshare Directive which must be followed by all shared holiday ownership companies operating within the EU, there is a ban on taking deposits on the day of the sales presentation from clients. In addition there is a mandatory 14-day cooling off period between a presentation and signing up for timeshare in which the individual is able to change their mind. The contract offered must also be in the client’s own language.

http://rdo.org/news/now-right-time-reconsider-timeshare/

In the EU and the US, the following groups have formed to protest and support other Diamond members.

  • DRIP website England, over 1,000 British members
  • Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy 350 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/

  • Club Intrawest: The Owners Group 3300 members
  • Gold Key Owner’s Forum 65 members
  • COPP website: Concerned Owners at Poipu Point
  • Monarch Grand Vacations Owners Group website

All of the above websites and Facebook pages include concerned Diamond members who don’t know where to turn. Most of those contacting Inside Timeshare are existing Diamond members, but complaints from several timeshare companies abound, alleging deceptive sales practices:

  1. Sell Diamond Points,
  2. Cover Maintenance Fees,
  3. Transfer from US to HI points because only Hawaii can rent points or transfer to US because there will be HI assessments (one Diamond member said they were shown pictures in Virginia of decaying Hawaii air conditioners),
  4. Prevent heirs from being stuck with Diamond points (this benefit is already available).  

In an interview with Timeshare Insider Lisa Ann Schreier and Diamond Platinum members Alan and Debbie Callner that took place at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes Resort June 19, we discussed timeshares flawed business model and the consumer’s deplorable lack of timeshare knowledge. Since the timeshare buyer in many cases cannot rely on the honesty and integrity of the timeshare sales agent, we agreed an organized media campaign is the only answer. “The sales agent is always right. The customer is always wrong” seems to be the developer’s motto.

End of Story

jigsaw 4

No it is not

Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, has worked in the timeshare industry for approximately 20 years.

It was a quiet morning after “Event of a Lifetime” – a Diamond promotion celebration with country music artist Cole Swindell performing to a packed house. The restaurant was open but in transition from Integrity Golf to Diamond management, so the golf course was closed and the restaurant temporarily without a liquor license.

I asked Lisa if she has seen an upswing in predatory timeshare lending over the years. One of the roles of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was the enforcement of the Dodd Frank Act which has recently been rolled back by the Trump administration. I asked Lisa if she thought the rollback would lead to even more free-wheeling timeshare lending practices, especially in terms of non-verified income and generous lending limits.

“Timeshare lending has always been freewheeling,” Lisa explained. She provided a true story example told in parable fashion:

This happened many years ago when I was a timeshare sales agent. I was getting to know a gentleman who agreed to a presentation. One of the first things he said to me was, “I need to know if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior.” Somewhat taken aback, I informed the man that it might be best if I found him another sales agent as I am Jewish. Intrigued however, I asked the man what led to his conversion. He responded he had been converted in jail and had been released just a month earlier have fulfilled a lengthy jail sentence.

Thinking this was the end of my tour, I sought my manager to inform him that my potential customer was a NQ (not qualified). My manager advised me to proceed. “Proceed? Should I conduct a vacation survey? Will his income history be relevant?” Lisa questioned.

Alan and Debbie Callner and my husband and I sat mesmerized as Lisa shared other incredible and interesting timeshare stories with us as several sales agents filed past us with their potential customers following their Event of a Lifetime.

Alan and Debbie are one of thirteen Diamond Platinum members concerned with Diamond’s sales practices. Seven of the thirteen allege almost identical complaints all having taken place at Diamond’s Polo Towers or Cancun Las Vegas Resorts.

Inside Timeshare encourages our readers to report positive as well as negative timeshare experiences. Alan shared his check-in experience.

Alan was somewhat concerned about the check-in at Mystic Dunes after reading a post from a DRI Facebook Member who said she had been held captive for three hours at Mystic Dunes in a hard sell presentation to buy points after check-in.

In the Callner’s case, Alan and Debbie were whisked through VIP check-in. They were invited but not pressured to attend an update. In place of an update, Marcos came to their room with a gift bag chatting amicably about Orlando and local sites to visit other than the theme parks.

A non-invasive program for Diamond members who really have no desire or need to buy additional vacation points would be a real plus. We hope Alan and Debbie’s  comfortable check-in experience did not happen only because their account had been flagged as a member who filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General.

Alan and Debbie filed an AZ AG complaint alleging they had been sold 20,000 additional points by Rick Casper at Cancun Resorts in Las Vegas July 2016, convinced to buy an eighth timeshare contract because of a resale program that months later they found out was non-existent.

Allegedly, “Rick Casper told us we should contact him when we needed to sell points because he had people that would buy them. This was the only reason we upgraded from 30,000 points to 50,000 points. When we contacted Rick earlier this year, we learned from Dan Percy (Rick Casper’s immediate boss) that we could not have been told that and we might be able to sell them through a resale third party. We never heard a response from Rick Casper.”

“In addition, we asked Rick about combining our seven previous contracts into one contract covering all 50,000 points. Rick Casper (allegedly) advised us not to do so as it would be easier to sell smaller quantities of points and inferred he could do so easier having contracts in increments, as when someone wants to upgrade from Gold to Platinum requiring only 20,000 additional points.”

“The thought of being able to sell was a relief.”

Inside Timeshare has received 82 reader complaints. Some expressed only the desire to relinquish, but 53 Diamond members have alleged deceit and bait and switch. Of the 13 Platinum members, six filed almost identical complaints against Rick Casper. A report compiling complaints from all loyalty levels is being prepared. If the timeshare industry continues to deny problems on the front end of the sale, efforts will be directed towards regulators, politicians, law enforcement and the media. At some point the testimonies will be overwhelmingly compelling.

know your rights

The two timeshare owning families at our Mystic Dunes table owned timeshares for a collective 70 plus years. We all agreed, verified by Lisa, timeshare predatory sales and lending has escalated to a level never seen before, perpetrated by more than a few timeshare companies.

“No heat, no eat” is a mantra shared by the eight timeshare agents I interviewed who, at some point, decided their conscious would not allow them to stoop to the level necessary to exist in a timeshare world that has led to thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits.

We hope the new timeshare world order as described by RDO will migrate to America as the timeshare members Inside Timeshare has heard from, clearly feel America is nowhere near the hospitable and transparent timeshare world RDO describes.

In a way, we in Europe seem to be the lucky ones in the timeshare world, we have a system of regulation which is being enforced. It all started with the European Union bring out the first Timeshare Directives to protect consumers, although the industry did lobby for their own versions, the EU has continually strengthened them. Some countries have gone even further and added even stronger regulations, Spain in particular is leading the way.

Some of the regulations brought in and enforced by Spain include: Contracts no longer than 50 years; Floating Weeks and Points Clubs being outlawed; enforcing the 14 day cooling off period and the taking of any deposits even by a third party, within this period.

Another aspect Spain has included and is being used by the courts is the doubling of any payment made within 90 days, where the consumer did not receive all information required by law.

Timeshare could be a good product, but regulation is the key, for too long we have seen in Europe, resorts and developers running roughshod over consumers. Unfortunately we still do have some who only think of themselves, we have highlighted many of them within our articles in the past. The story of Mrs B and MacDonald Resorts, the recent story of the Ona Group at Los Claveles are just two. There must be change and the time for change is now.

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

Welcome to this Friday’s Letter from America, first a recap on the past week.

On Monday we wished the National Timeshare Owners Association a happy anniversary. For 20 years this organisation has been the voice of US timeshare owners, it is a totally independent body, not governed by the industry. Greg Crist the CEO works very hard to create a dialogue with the industry, he believes as we do that without dialogue there can be no changing of attitudes.

We also warned about another new addition to the Litigious Abogados family, Abogados Amable & Garcia.

Their website http://www.abogadosamablegarcia.com/ is the same as all the others, except for new photographs of the so called “lawyers”, (probably just downloaded from the images on the web), even the names are variations of the others used. We have yet to see what the paperwork is like and what names appear on those and the emails, somehow we think the “Departmento Legal” will have the same ladies names as all the others.

Yesterday we publish the story about the legal action by the London law firm Edwin Coe, who are representing around 106 clients against Barclays Partner Finance. This case is being held at the High Court in London, it revolves around the issuing of loans for the sale of timeshare as an “investment” by Resort Properties / Silverpoint, with a claim of over £1.5 million.

This article has already prompted a huge response on both sides of the great lake.

On another matter, it would look like that MGM Muthu (formerly Petchy) are being very aggressive in chasing “arrears” in maintenance. Many of these that we are hearing about are those who believed they no longer owned as they “sold” years ago.

These demands are coming from “Customer Services” and signed by Luliia Sulovei. They threaten court action if they are not paid and also demand around £3000 plus the “arrears” to be paid for them to grant a surrender. Most of those contacting Inside Timeshare are elderly and some are widows. This is not a nice situation and in our view amounts to bullying and extortion!

extortion

We will be publishing a full article on this in the next week or so.

Now, on with this weeks Letter from America.

Don and Irene are making their way back home today from Arizona. Irene met many new and old Diamond Advocacy Group friends during her stay and two baby rattlesnakes. (These may have been trainee sales agents). Irene has a degree in biology and said she used to teach a class on reptiles. Irene says she likes snakes and alligators (you would need to to survive a timeshare presentation). Yes, they were rattling.

Irene would like to thank Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey, intervening on behalf of the ailing pool table at Spoke and Wheel restaurant at Los Abrigados in Sedona. Kyli, the restaurant manager, contacted Irene informing her that the antique Brunswick pool table (and I thought Brunswick only made pin spotters) is to be restored to its original glory and another manager, that same day, went out and purchased additional pool sticks (we call them cues). Don and Irene ate at the restaurant. The food was superb. While dining, the Diamond Advocacy Group gained a new member. Many of the guests staying at Los Abrigados are original ILX owners. Now they are Diamond members.

Eron Grant is not a pool table, but she hopes Mr. Flaskey will show her family the same compassion.

Diamond Resorts was a Huge Mistake!

Good choice

By Eron Grant

May 12, 2017

I have asked Inside Timeshare to publish an account of our experience with Diamond Resorts. We hope to warn others to not fall victim to high pressure same day sales and encourage readers to become involved with our Diamond Advocacy Group before buying something they will live to regret later.

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/

Many Diamond members are happy with their Diamond membership. I believe if sold properly, Diamond’s vacation program could be of benefit to some families. In our case the program was grossly oversold in terms of availability. The Diamond program will not work for us as we have all the basic timeshare benefits we need as Marriott timeshare owners.

Here’s what happened

We stayed at Diamond’s resort, The Ridge in Sedona Arizona, over Thanksgiving 2016. We booked our stay through Interval International. At the time, I had not heard of Diamond Resorts.

I called the concierge at The Ridge to ask for restaurant recommendations. She said she would get back to me. I thought it odd that a concierge needed to get back to a guest about restaurant reservations.

Later that day the concierge called back asking if anyone had scheduled us for a presentation with a DRI team member. She told me about a few restaurants she thought we would enjoy, adding that Diamond would give us a $150 gift card if we agreed to attend a 90 minute sales presentation. We agreed.

When we arrived we told the sales representative, Karen Calvano, we had a tee time scheduled in a few hours. She seemed irritated and said we would not be finished in that amount of time. Puzzled, we told her the concierge told us the meeting would only take 90 minutes. She wanted to know who told us that. She complained about the tee time when we followed her to the presentation area. She kept saying that she felt rushed going through the presentation. The presentation lasted six hours.

Ms. Calvano told us that Diamond owns numerous properties and that finding something in our local Texas area would not be a problem. We specifically asked about Texas and Louisiana because we are both working and with the kids, we can’t easily fly to take vacations due to the expense and trouble flying entails. We did say we could drive to New Mexico to ski with our kids, and added that we wanted to stay at Great Wolf Lodge.

We agreed to purchase 3500 Diamond points. When I tried to book Great Wolf Lodge, I learned it would take approximately $11,000 in equivalent DRI maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at Great Wolf Lodge when it could be booked online for $3,300. The same holds true for New York City and other big cities because Diamond does not own these properties. They are “affiliated” properties so never discounted.

I recently got in contact with another Diamond member on our DRI Advocacy Facebook group who reported an almost identical complaint. According to a DRI customer service representative, the only property available near Boston was Great Wolf Lodge Fitchburg.

The Fitchburg property was available August 14 – Aug 18 for 16,000 points.

Diamond only had availability for a Deluxe Queen.

Searching the Great Wolf Lodge Fitchburg site directly, Great Wolf had availability for a Wolf Pup Den for four nights for $1429.96 plus 270.31 tax totaling $1700.27.  At $.23 per point DRI maintenance fees, this equals $3,680 in equivalent maintenance fee dollars so $3,680 for the same property, the same week, could be booked directly with Great Wolf for $1700.

Back to our Diamond experience

Ms. Calvano told us we would be assigned the Platinum loyalty level due to being Marriott members. We own a three bedroom Marriott timeshare in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Therefore, Ms. Calvano said we could book a studio room and upgrade three times at no additional fee. Later we were told this was not true.

As we were leaving, Ms. Calavano said to contact her at any time if we had questions or needed anything at all. I emailed her on December 1, 2016 with a question but never heard back.  

In December 2016 Linda Barton, Member Marketing Agent called us and asked to attend an “orientation for new members”. She said we would learn all about our new membership, and told us to be sure to bring our tablet given to us by DRI. The orientation took place January 13-15, 2017. It was called a Diamond “Once in a Lifetime Event” in Orlando, FL. My husband had asked what this event of a lifetime entailed. He was told we would learn all about our new membership and possible upgrades. “But we just purchased our membership! We are not going to spend any more money,” my husband informed Ms. Barton.

Looking back, we should have suspected the orientation would end up a sales presentation. At the orientation the sales representative, Chris, told us we would only be allowed to upgrade one time at no extra fee. This contradicted what Karen Calvano had initially told us.

Chris said at the orientation we could sell our points back for 30 cents per point if we were platinum, but the brochure we had been provided said it was 10 cents per point. When my husband asked Chris to show us on paper where it said $.30 cents per point, Chris pointed to his handwritten notes to show us where he had written that number down. My husband demanded he show us somewhere in the DRI paraphernalia where it said points could be sold back for $.30 per point, but Chris said, “Never mind if you’re not interested. I don’t want you to have hard feelings.”

Next, we were handed over to another DRI employee who repeatedly said, “I am not sales.” He then proceeded to encourage us to purchase more points, because we could get them at a low cost of $4 something per point which, according to him, was unheard of. The fee to purchase the additional points was over $3,000 with another $4,000 something due in a year or so after that. We turned it down. This ordeal took over 3 hours.

We contacted the Diamond Resorts Advocacy Group at Diamond that promises “to assist Diamond member from Day One should a member have questions or concerns about their purchase!”

Diamond refused to cancel our contract. We filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General after learning Diamond had been issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” as a result of over 400 complaints filed against the company just in Arizona. Diamond automatically denied our claim, but after filing a rebuttal the Arizona AG said we are eligible for consideration.

In response to the Arizona AG action, Diamond has introduced a new program called Clarity that is about Accountability, Transparency and RESPECT for the customer. As far as we are concerned, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here’s a bit of information about one of our local Texas businesses owned by Jim McIngvale. Mr. McIngvale has owned Mattress Mack since 1981. It is a hugely successful business in Houston.  

Gallery Furniture believes in being on the right side, in other words, to be on the Gallery Furniture customers’ side instead of defending the industry. Advocate for the customers! Gallery Furniture makes it very clear, that we’re here for the Gallery Furniture customers, to better their lives with high quality furniture sold at the best price possible, not to pad the pockets of our manufacturers. Come out to Gallery Furniture TODAY for the best customer service in the business… (August, 2015):

http://www.mattressmack.com/macks_weblog/satisfied-customers/

Mr. McIngvale can be booked for speaking engagements.

Customer care

Perhaps Diamond would like to book him soon?

Thank you Eron for your contribution and another thank you to Irene Parker for coordinating it from the States.

Inside Timeshare welcomes contributions outlining your experiences, it helps other to know that they are not alone. Together you can influence the industry, changing the way they view the owners / members, along with the NTOA, the advocacy facebook pages and this publication you do have a voice. The industry is taking note, we know that for a fact, it is just a matter of time before they actually implement real changes.

All it leaves us to say is we hope that Irene and Don have a safe journey home from vacation, that all of you have a great weekend.

weekend cat

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

Another week over and another Friday Letter From America from our intrepid travelling writer Irene Parker.

Before we go to Irene’s article, a little news from Europe, we begin with the never ending successes of the lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, we begin with an announcement  which came in after publishing last friday’s letter. The Court of First Instance N1 in Arona Tenerife found for the CLA client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void, this was on the basis it was for floating weeks.

CLA Logo

These contracts according to the Supreme Court are illegal, under law 42/98, the contract must specify a week, date and location. The judge in the case at Arona awarded the client the return of 26,000€ plus legal interest.

On Tuesday 25 April Anfi was on the receiving end of another judgement at the Court of First Instance N5 in San Bartelomé de Tirajana. In this ruling the Judge found for the clients on two infringements of the timeshare law:

  • Contract is over 50 years in duration (perpetuity);
  • It contained floating weeks.

Again the contract was declared null and void and the client will receive 39,413€ plus legal interest.

On Wednesday 26 April the Court of First Instance N5 in Arona found once again for the client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this case the client has been awarded over £25,957 plus legal interest, for a contract which was for a duration of over 50 years (perpetuity).

Yesterday Thursday 27 April, CLA announce another First Instance ruling against Anfi, for a contract over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of a deposit within the stipulated 14 cooling off period. Over £37,913 plus legal interest was awarded back to this client along with the contract being declared null and void.

It is certainly a case of the lower courts adhering to the ruling laid down by the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, it leaves no doubt as to the illegality of many of these contracts with case after case being won, leaving many happy ex-owners timeshare free and reimbursed with money paid.

Inside Timeshare again this week published the latest in the saga of the “fake law firm” in Tenerife, Abel Garcia Abogados, one of the many in the Litigious Abogados family. This time one lucky gentleman decided to do an internet search of this “firm”, he came across our previous articles and contacted Inside Timeshare for clarification. This has saved him from losing thousands of pounds, he also provided Inside Timeshare with the letters documents and emails he received, these have been passed to our lawyers to be included in the denuncia to the Guardia Civil.

Another “firm” was also highlighted, FHA Marketing. Very little is known about this one as there are no entries at company house and their website registrant is hiding behind a privacy service, so it is not known who is behind them. One thing is for certain they haven’t got all their facts right.

So now onto the “Travelling Writers” article.

A Reader’s Response to Nancy Callahan and our Experience at Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links

guitar

By Irene Parker

April 28, 2017

One of our readers emailed us with a sophisticated comment in response to our article about Nancy Callahan’s extraordinary experience, unaware she and her husband had acquired a $143,000 loan to purchase 50,000 Diamond vacation points. Our reader’s comment is kind of heavy, so I’ll start by sharing our more light-hearted Friday, end of the work week comment about our Diamond Resorts, Scottsdale Links experience, post Clarity.

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

We checked into Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links in Arizona a few nights ago. Our unit is spacious and clean. We found good value using our Diamond points in that we used 6000 points to stay two weeks at a Sedona Diamond property as well. It’s surprising how many timeshare members don’t think about timeshare math, converting maintenance fees dollars into equivalent real dollars in order to make a comparison as to whether it would be less expensive to book online.

Sometimes it is more expensive to use points, but in this case, $.23 per point in maintenance fees times 6000 points equates $1,380 for two weeks or $98 per night. Online the cost was $112 per night for a one bedroom unit, but there was also a $13 per night fee and a 13% tax so we are way ahead. Of course, the initial amount we spent purchasing our points is not factored in. The older you are the less advantage buying a timeshare, as there is less time to make up that initial outlay.

We are not asked to attend sales presentations. It takes some convincing, but you can request that your name be taken off the prospect list.

Diamond’s new Clarity program is about accountability and transparency and respect for the customer. The program was recently launched in response to the Arizona Attorney General issuing an “Assurance of Discontinuance” which includes a toning down of the aggressive nature of the sales presentation and, most importantly, requires the sales agent not to deviate from printed sales material.

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

Diamond is certainly not alone among their industry peers in needing to improve the integrity and honesty of a timeshare sales presentation. In the case of Nancy Callahan, the agent went pretty far afield of actual policy, as explained by our reader.

I found only one lapse in transparency at Scottsdale Links. Of all places, it occurred at the activity center! I had asked activity representative Brandy if there were any good activities this week. “You’re in luck!” said Brandy. “We have a cowboy guitarist and singer tonight”.

The cowboy singer was Wally Bornmann. Wally started his performance singing Cowboy songs by composers no one, out east anyway, would ever recognize and worked his way up to Gene Autry. He peppered his songs with cowboy stories like when Gene Autry paid $5 for the lyrics of a song when he was traveling cross country that became famous. “It may not sound like a lot, but at $1.67 a mile, it wasn’t bad pay at the time,” explained Wally.

“Do cowboys use Facebook?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” responded Wally.

“Aren’t you a cowboy?”

“No”, said Wally. “I know a lot of cowboys, but I would be at best a cowboy looking in. I have great respect for the work a cowboy does. Only Diamond Resorts calls me a cowboy.”

As a Diamond Resorts member Advocate, I reported this lapse in transparency to Brandy.

“Wally isn’t a cowboy,” I explained. “There’s no need to call Wally a cowboy”. What Wally is, is a gifted “Cowboy Song Artist and Exceptional Storyteller.” Wally played a song he wrote that made me cry, ‘Till Morning Comes Again”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-XBdDT-GiU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVzayDyZo4

Fishin’ for Chickens was written by Hobo Jim, the Official Hobo of Alaska!

We have a lot of European readers. Arizona is a real special state that is now more Diamond member friendly thanks to Clarity. Next time our overseas friends hop over the pond, consider Scottsdale Links in Scottsdale and then head up to Red Rock Country in Sedona just south of the Grand Canyon. It’s our favorite place to hike.

The moral of my story is that Diamond has a product and if sales agents would stop overstating availability, understating maintenance fees and loosen the restrictions on secondary points so an owner could sell the darn thing if they had to, through a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, members would stop complaining so much.

Now on to our Reader’s Response

group table

It is very disconcerting to see that the unfair, unethical and misleading business practices described by these Diamond members’ experiences are not isolated incidents. It is clear that it has become endemic of the entire accepted Diamond sales process, as well as with other timeshare companies.

The misrepresentation of the ‘Legacy’ program as a ‘resale’ option when it is merely a way to ‘share’ a block of points with other family members, the embellishment of the value of points earned through the Barclay Credit Card, including how many points are actually earned, what they may be redeemed for (for example, NONE of the down payment for the purchase qualifies) and the false representation of the amount that may be applied to the maintenance fee.

In addition, the common representation that points have a “Currency Redemption Value” is being made by every ‘successful’ Diamond Sales Agent and is expected by the managers of the business unit. Basically, the actual benefit described in the Member Directory allows a member to redeem “up to 30%” of annual points towards, “up to 30%” discount on travel rewards.

Specific rewards have their own restrictions, limitations, terms and conditions however; what the sales reps are telling customers is that they may redeem their points for .30¢ per point. They tell customers that using this formula that with 50,000 points they can get $15,000 back EVERY YEAR! They use this to upsell, as with these unsuspecting customers in this article; that they will be able to pay ALL their maintenance fees and costs and that actually buying more will cost them less.

It would be bad enough if this were a case of a few outlaw sales reps pitching heat, however; this is encouraged by the industry. Sales agents are coached and compelled to present the product this way and reprimanded, ostracized and eventually terminated for NOT ‘going along with the program’.

Accurately presenting the product leads to lies being discovered by the customers that they were ‘pitching this heat’. It is absolutely disgusting to me that a product that promises to deliver quality family vacation experiences is sold with such reprehensible disdain for honesty and integrity.

Inside Timeshare wants to thank our industry insider for explaining what the Legacy program is and what it is not. Sometimes we hear so many versions of a program we don’t know what to believe.

honest

If you have a question or concerns about Diamond Resorts or any timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups.

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/

So there we are, another week over and more news from the murky world of timeshare.

If you have any comments or question about any of the articles published or have been contacted by any company highlighted, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and to Irene, enjoy your vacation.

weekend02

 

friday dog

Friday’s Letter From America

Here we go it’s Friday again, the end of another busy week in the world of timeshare, it does seem to be a world that never sleeps. There is always something new to be reported, be it another “bogus” company or an old company coming up with a new “scam”, the ingenuity of some is beyond belief.

So far this week the news from the Spanish courts has been flooding in, with more owners having their contracts declared null & void and the return of all their money. The intrepid lawyers that form Canarian Legal Alliance have been very busy. Most of these judgements have been from the lower courts, who are applying the Supreme Court rulings with a vengeance, leaving no doubt what the interpretation of the timeshare law is.

Inside Timeshare has also been receiving a great deal of information about one company and their new product, yesterday’s article “New Name Same Company” shows the lengths some will go to appear to be different. Unfortunately for them, some of us can see through their smoke and mirrors, so we shall be keeping a very watchful eye on their activities.

On the “Bogus” law firm front Litigious Abogados and their other associated “lawyers” are still at it, the UK Action Fraud website has been receiving many reports of their activities. Inside Timeshare can also report that the Guardia Civil have an extensive file handed to them for investigation. So we wait with anticipation as to what the outcome will be.

So, now on to this Friday’s article from Irene and Irina, Resale and Rentals.

Consumer Advocate Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi Launches Season 3 of Property Man in Arizona on Business FOX  

https://www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi/

Two more Timeshare Rs – Resale and Rentals

By Irene Parker – Resales

Irina Allen – Rentals  

April 20, 2017

Sign post 

If you own or are thinking of buying a timeshare – the Bob Massi Property Man show has provided important tips for timeshare buyers and sellers. In Season 2 Florida, Mr. Massi interviewed members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. The LTRBA members offered important tips for consumers interested in buying a timeshare as well as tips on how to avoid a scam when a timeshare member or owner needs to sell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHCdcS2Ds-U

As a follow up to Mr. Massi’s prior timeshare segments, my husband and I were interviewed to express concerns and problems faced by Diamond Resorts International timeshare members. There are many who use and enjoy their Diamond timeshare, but as has been widely reported, rising maintenance fees and the lack of a secondary market can spell disaster for families who need to get out from underneath their Diamond timeshare. Timeshares can cost $100,000 or more so walking away with nothing can financially devastate families.

Our interview airs this Friday, April 21 at 8:30 PM EST on FOX Business. Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi has been a champion consumer advocate for the underdog. While showcasing spectacular homes of the wealthy, he also contrasts the flip side of wealth by interviewing consumers struggling with faulty or predatory lending practices.

Mr. Massi interviewed my husband and me after receiving a multitude of complaints after his segment featuring the home of Jackie and David Siegel. The Siegels own Westgate Resorts, a timeshare company based in Florida. The segment, “The Queen of Versailles” resulted in a multitude of complaints about timeshare. The Queen of Versailles is the name of the documentary featuring the Seigel’s massive 90,000 square foot home with 30 bathrooms, a 20 car garage and a 4,000 square foot clothes closet. The original documentary took Best Director at Sundance. Many wealthy Americans have built large homes, but with enough complaints to prompt a two year Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigation of Westgate’s business practices, I wondered about such wealth at the expense of timeshare owners unable to sell and sometimes not even able to give back their timeshare.

Mr. Massi’s Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association segment warned timeshare owners to work through a licensed timeshare broker. Ironically, FOX Celebrities Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham are paid to endorse firms like Resort Release, transfer agent firms licensed timeshare brokers warn consumers to avoid.

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

A sequence of events led up to our interview with Mr. Massi. My husband and I attended a grueling and demeaning timeshare presentation at Diamond Resorts Grand Beach Resort July of 2015. We had purchased two Diamond contracts with few problems, but when I witnessed the tactics being used during this predatory sales presentation, I became alarmed. I returned to our unit at Mystic Dunes, turned on the television, watched “The Queen of Versailles”, and wondered how the wealth was won.

I wrote to Mr. Massi about my concerns. Never dreaming a response, I was surprised to receive a call from a FOX producer asking if my husband and I would be willing to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. Having just accepted a position as an interim music director, I declined, but was contacted again six months later and agreed to the interview. The producer said they had a multitude of responses to their first timeshare segment, but I was the only one invited to be interviewed, as I was the only respondent who wanted to talk about the positives, in addition to the negatives of timeshare.

To prepare for the interview I contacted LTRBA member David Cortese of Magical Realty in Orlando and asked if he would list our Diamond points. David was one of the LTRBA members interviewed by Mr. Massi. David sadly informed me he doubted that any of the LTRBA members would our list Diamond points as they felt the restrictions the company places on the use of secondary points are more onerous than that of any other major timeshare company.

To me this sounded like unfair business practices and a violation of fair trade. I filed a complaint with the FTC, but they just sent an autoreply pointing me in the right direction. If thousands of people complain, they go to Congress to enact better laws. That hasn’t happened.

Timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group maintains a steady 500 timeshares cases. Mr. Finn said about 20% to 25% of his timeshare cases are against Diamond Resorts. He said he has never had a Disney client. I asked Mr. Finn why legislators have not addressed the harm done to consumers when a perpetual contract does not have a secondary market. A secondary market is not to be confused with a voluntary surrender or exit plan as those leave the consumer who has spent $25,000 to over $100,000, often financed at 12% to 18% interest, with nothing. The timeshare developer takes back the points and resells for full value.

“Instead of shunning the secondary market, embrace it; the developers should invest some of their profits into stabilizing the resale market. Take the lesson the auto, boat and camper industries have long ago learned, that a healthy resale market is essential to the entire industry, from beginning to end there must be a continuous flow, a circle of economic life, if you will. If you can’t set up a used timeshare lot across the street from your project, at least sponsor knowledgeable licensed real estate brokers well offsite so as not to compete directly with your retail operations. Sure you’ll lose some initial business to these brokers, but by indirectly supporting these brokers, you’ll make timeshare interests affordable to the folks who really can’t afford to buy retail, but can perhaps afford to repurchase the interest of your newly divorced initial purchaser (something that you arguably owed the poor gal or guy anyway) and, more importantly perhaps, support the continuing financial health of the resort via the annual maintenance payments now to be made by the new owner, and ever crucial to the future of the resort you built and developed. Timeshare developers could take pride, not just profit, from making family vacations an affordable part of the American lifestyle by opening up that opportunity to even more folks!”

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/the-unconscionable-suppression-of-the-timeshare-resale-market

“Timeshare doesn’t need new litigation to assist the establishment of a re-sale market. All they need to do is support it from a market standpoint! They clearly have zero interest in doing that,” Mr. Finn added.

The Second R: Rentals (to be continued)

Part I – The 3Rs or F of Timeshare

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

Part II – The 3Rs Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund

http://insidetimeshare.com/part-ii-three-rs-timeshare/

If you or someone you know has a timeshare problem, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy groups. Our advocates are members helping other members, bringing our experience and knowledge to other members or owners while providing a clearinghouse of information about legal and legislative issues facing timeshare today.

Diamond Resorts has implemented a new Clarity Program after the Arizona Attorney General issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” and an $800,000 settlement. Diamond also has a Consumer Advocacy Department that claims to help members from Day 1 if they have concerns about their membership or purchase.

Timeshare owners worldwide would like to thank Mr. Massi and Business Fox for bringing this important topic to the attention of the public in America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. Inside Timeshare works with contributors and timeshare members in an ever expanding horizon.

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/

Jigsaw men

So there we have it, the end of another week, Inside Timeshare again thanks Irene and Irina for their contribution, we also thank all who have contributed information to help others. Next week we will be highlighting another military family who have fallen foul of the sharp practices of some timeshare sales agents. These stories are all too familiar, the consistency of the testimonies of different families bares witness to some very nasty sales techniques.

If you have a story to tell or have any information about a company that you would like to share with others, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

Have a great weekend.

friday cat

consumer protection week

Consumer Protection Week USA

Consumer Protection in Europe is governed by the EU Commission, each country within the EU also has their own consumer protection laws in their own legislation. Much of this comes from directives laid down by the EU Commission, the same way as the EU Directives on Timeshare.

In the UK, the Trading Standards Institute has an annual National Consumer Week, this has been running since 1989. It is a consumer education campaign run by the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP) and is usually at the end of November to the beginning of December.

Each year it focuses on different themes from buying a car to the quality of goods and customer care. The main focus is to educate the public on their rights, how to deal with complaints and who to turn to for help.

There are also many other avenues where consumers can receive help and advice, one of the most notable is “Which”, they have for many years published a magazine giving advice on various goods and highlighting major recalls. They produce many other publications free of charge including very simple guides on using computers, lap tops etc.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is also another well known place for help and guidance. Most towns have one and they will cover many areas of concern from benefits, problems with employers to financial problems. They tend to be run mainly by volunteers, but have experts such as lawyers and financial advisors on call.

In the field of timeshare there is a great lack of real advice, it is unfortunate that the 2 main organisations that give consumer advice will send consumers to TATOC. As we have highlighted in the past, this organisation is funded by the industry and is virtually run by them. Take a complaint about your resort, you will be told to contact them, as they will not intervene. Not a very good way of giving advice, sending a complaint to the ones that are the cause of the complaint.

In the Article by Irene Parker today, she highlights servicemen who have fallen foul of the high pressure selling tactics. In the UK several years ago there was a company that was preying on servicemen and their families, they set up a vacation club or what we know as a discount members club. It cost upwards of £6000 to join, with many servicemen taking up the offer.

As with many of these clubs the servicemen did not get what they paid for, with the so-called discounts being far more expensive than what was available on the highstreet. Many complaints went to the MOD, and this company has not been heard from since. Luckily many of those who paid did so on their credit cards and were able to retrieve the payment from the card provider using the Credit Consumer Act.

It is a very sorry state, when servicemen who put their lives on the line in defence of their country are treated in such a way. The most annoying aspect of the above example was many of the sales reps were themselves ex-servicemen, using this as a tool to gain trust.

Inside Timeshare hopes the following article will be of help to those caught foul some of these unscrupulous tactics.

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/index_en.htm

https://www.tradingstandards.uk/practitioners/events/national-consumer-week
Consumer Protection Week March 5 -11

Who needs protecting? The elderly, the ill, the divorced, the unemployed, the Army and the Navy

man cash

By Irene Parker – March 6, 2017

Consumer Protection Week in the US is sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). More than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations will participate in the 19th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held March 5-11, 2017. NCPW is a nationally coordinated campaign to inform Americans of their consumer rights while providing them access to free consumer-related resources.

Do Timeshare consumers need protecting? One need only review the 15 page Department of Justice report on Timeshare scams to answer with an unequivocal “Yes!”

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

What questions should people ask before buying a Timeshare? Should you make a $20,000 or more decision the same day without comparison shopping? Should you believe a word a sales agent says? Should you finance your vacation plan?

Timeshare Tip – Take your eye off the finger pointing to the low monthly payment, raise your head and ask, “At what Interest Rate?”

It’s surprising how many we talk to who did not know the interest rate they were paying until they started paying. I was two hours into our sales presentation, mesmerized by the numbers, before I thought to ask.

Today we use the example of a family who failed to ask these questions and are now devastated by a vacation plan that has turned into a nightmare. I use Diamond Resorts as an example, but they should not be singled out. I am a Diamond member so in contact with other members. Many Timeshare companies have complaints.

We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but in one week I heard from four military families. One is a Veteran, one family has a son in the military, and two are on active duty. We’re hearing a lot in the US press these days about how Veterans have not been treated fairly so a story about a Navy family is timely.

As the family has been referred to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, and an outcome is yet to be determined, we will call this couple William and Mary. This newly formed Diamond Advocacy Department has reached out to many of our Facebook members helping owners resolve issues and better learn how to use DRI vacation Points.

William and Mary feel they have been victims of fraud or “bait and switch”. They are requesting a full refund. Let’s weigh in on whether this case meets this simple definition of fraud: Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

William, age 47 is on active duty with the Navy, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia. An able bodied seaman, William is waiting on orders to be shipped overseas.  Mary, age 43, works for the Department of Agriculture. They have two children ages thirteen and eight.The summer of 2015 William and Mary booked a week at a Diamond Resort in Virginia by renting through RedWeek. They accepted an offer to attend a sales presentation. Mary does not remember the name of the sales agent (Vacation Counselor) in Virginia, but remembers he was a former Secret Service agent. The family purchased 15000 vacation Points for $63,232 or $4.22 per point. The current balance, financed at 14%, is approximately $43,395.

“Our original 50 minute presentation ended up to be 5 hours. We were told by the Virginia supervisor, a lady with a British accent, that we would have no problem getting a lower interest rate financed outside of Diamond since William was in the service.  All we would have to do is supply the lender with “duty orders” and it would go down to 1.5% as long as he was overseas,” Mary reported. The family later learned banks will not finance Timeshares, so that option was not available.

Anxious to try out their new vacation plan, the family booked a trip to stay at a Diamond Resort in Orlando. Now an existing owner, they were encouraged to attend an “owner’s update” which is always accompanied by an offer to buy more Points. The promised 55 minute update lasted three hours.

Orlando Sales Agent Joaquin told the family that since they now lived in Florida, they would be required to transfer the Points they purchased in Virginia to Florida.

The agent might have been alluding to a “Collection” as Diamond has a US, Hawaii, California and a few other Collections. There is no Florida Collection, but the family paid $4,898 as a down payment to transfer and buy more Points.

 “Joaquin promised to help resell our Points if we needed to. When we realized we could not afford the loan, I made a few calls and emailed Joaquin for assistance, but I was just ignored altogether,” reported Mary.

William was transferred to California. A Diamond Sampler package is ordinarily sold as a trial package, but on another trip to Orlando, the couple purchased a Sampler from Joaquin hoping William could stay at Diamond Resorts in California while stationed there. A loan of $1,100 financed by Diamond at 12.99% was obtained, but ultimately the three purchases were consolidated into one loan.

In William and Mary’s own words, here is why they feel they were misled:

“During the sales pitch we were told information that we discovered later was not true.”

  1. We were told the Timeshare is tax deductible and that we could later sell for a profit.
  2. We were told we could rent the Timeshare for additional income or help offset the Maintenance fees.
  3. We were told we would be able to refinance at a lower interest rate with any financial institution.
  4. We were told the sales agent would act on our behalf as a personal representative and help rent out our Timeshare.
  5. We were told that this Timeshare was an INVESTMENT!

By now, the family realized they had made a mistake and were deep in debt. December of 2016, while living in Jacksonville, FL the family was called and invited to a dinner of owners to discuss their account and give insight to how better to use Points. (Note: Buyers of Points don’t “own” anything as it is a right-to-use program similar to a country club)

William and Mary informed the Diamond caller they wanted to opt-out and were told a representative would be there to help start the process. However, when they went to the dinner, it turned out to be another high pressure sales tactic to get them to buy more Points with Apollo.

(Note: Apollo Global Management acquired Diamond in an all cash $2.2 billion deal September of 2016, as reported by Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times prior to the acquisition.)

As of July 13, Diamond’s top executives and directors beneficially owned almost 23 million shares in the form of options and company stock. If the transaction is completed, a filing stated, those 15 people “would be entitled to receive an aggregate amount of $624,131,129 in cash. The bulk of that will go to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Diamond’s founder, and Mr. Palmer, the chief executive. Mr. Cloobeck would be entitled to $384 million and Mr. Palmer would receive $173 million.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/business/accounting-error-may-not-derail-a-deal-but-ex-director-bails-early-anyway.html

Back to William and Mary:

navy

William and Mary told their hosts that they had a life change and could no longer afford their Maintenance fees or loan payments and wanted to relinquish their ownership (membership) per the buy- back program that they said they had.  At the meeting the account representative said Diamond did not have this program.

“Jose, the Supervisor, recommended we buy more Points as that would lower our Maintenance fees by taking back the Sampler. We were also financing the Sampler, so he said they could keep my monthly payment the same. After we left the presentation I reached out a few times to our original sales agent only to be told he no longer worked there. After we purchased the Sampler, we got called about 2 or 3 times a month by different account managers. At this point I could not even tell you the person’s name, but that was the last contact,” said Windy.

Where does the family go from here?

which way

“William has had a major loss in pay and we can’t afford the loan payments.”

Part II will provide a flow chart of options the family is facing.

Diamond is fond of boasting about how 70% of sales are sold to existing owners. William and Mary’s story is not unusual. I have reported our own personal Diamond story so many times, I dare not tell it again, but I have also heard from dozens of families telling the same story told over and over – existing Diamond owners told their Maintenance fees and availability issues would be resolved by buying more Points.

Again, Diamond is not alone. Based on my research, I have opinions on which Timeshare companies are the three worst offenders and which are the best, based on a census of online complaints, but that topic is for a future discussion.

Our Arizona Attorney General Assurance of Discontinuance article provides a blueprint for honesty and contains several items from William and Mary’s fraud checklist. Let us know if you think this family meets the definition of fraud.

Diamond has implemented a Clarity program in Arizona in response to the AOD.

http://insidetimeshare.com/arizona-attorney-generals-assurance-discontinuance/

Diamond Clarity is not limited to just one state. It’s a national program that includes four new operational initiatives. One of these initiatives is recording quality assurance sessions subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training.  The company has invested in technology to ensure that these recordings can be archived and searchable. Recording sales presentations would not meet these objectives and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity program,” according to DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Maya and I have had several healthy and interesting discussions about Clarity. I am concerned about the QA recording. In my opinion, I feel it will only strengthen Diamond’s position in court. As you can see from this article, the worn down member or prospect merely nods during the QA session checklist and none of the oral representations would be in that recording. I have learned recording without the other person’s knowledge is legal in Arizona as long as it is not wiretapping by phone.

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

At least Members are having discussions with Diamond. I think it might be a first and I thank Maya and the staff of Consumer Advocacy for their involvement and support. Inside Timeshare wants to get it right!

Coffe time

stop pressOfficial DRI Response has just been received:

“The options for any timeshare member or owner struggling to keep up with loan payments financed at 12% to 19% and rising maintenance fees are:

Surrender, Resolution, Foreclosure, Refund

A Diamond representative spoke to the family today to gather facts”.

Inside Timeshare will walk with this family along the road to timeshare recovery.

An upcoming article will take a look at the four options, the likelihood of each option, the process of foreclosure and its impact on credit reporting comparing and contrasting European and American processes.

Some resorts have the option of resale. The seller would be fortunate to recover 10% of the initial amount invested, but at least owners with this option are not solely at the mercy of the timeshare company.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contributed to Irene’s article, without your help we would not be able to highlight the problem or bring about much needed change.

On another note, news just in but not verified 100%, it would appear that Diamond Resorts Europe has now closed all sales decks which were run on a franchise basis. From reports this morning the only sales decks open and trading in Europe are those run and owned by Diamond.

With what has happened in the past few months with Diamond selling off their last concern in Mallorca, the question being posed now is are they getting ready for a major sell off?

When the news comes in we will be reporting it here, so stay tuned.

 

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

 

chickensoup

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 admin@insidetimeshare.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

tug o war

The Battle Lines have been Drawn.

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

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

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

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

round-table

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

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

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

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

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

legal history

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

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

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

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

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

Here to help

 

thoughts

My Thoughts Today: End of January

We began January with an update on “bogus” law firms Litigious Abogados and Litigar Abogados, with the addition of a third firm called Abogacia Española, with the founder being Fernando Holaci. All three websites are the same except for minor alterations such as colour and the names of the founder and the lawyers.

The method of enticing timeshare owners to pay is also very sophisticated, with fake court documents, copies of compensation cheques and official looking documents from the so-called Procurator, Davido Harstun Jaime.

LIT

They begin by sending or calling prospective clients about the court case they are about to conduct against their timeshare company, that they are eligible to participate. In order to be registered on the coming court case, a sum of around 1,500€ is required. This has to be paid quickly as the case is due to be heard within the month.

Once this sum is paid, the client receives another email with the fantastic news that their case has been won, with the court awarding many thousands back to them. All this is done within weeks, a feat not seen in a Spanish court or any other court for that matter. Now comes the main part of the “sting”, in order to get this sum paid out court taxes etc need to be paid first, the amount varies from client to client depending on the court award. But they are in the region of £4000 to £8000. For further information see the link below or search Litigious Abogados in the search area for all the posts.

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-plot-thickens/

Another article published was around a Credits based lifestyle company which popped up on our radar called Keys Concierge. The reason for this article was very simple, it is the link between the director of Keys Concierge, Mr Franz Markus Deutsch and the CEO of Silverpoint / Resort Properties, Mr Mark Cushway.

The company became active in August 2015 and has a credits based system to purchase goods and services. Credits are also “earned” with each purchase and shows substantial discounts on holidays and products. So far there has been no other information come to light.

http://insidetimeshare.com/keys-concierge-another-credits-based-lifestyle-company/

Inside Timeshare with Irene, also broke the news of a settlement between the Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Diamond for $800,000 which revolved around “Allegations of Consumer Fraud Act Violations”. This is a story that we have been following all month. (see following articles).

arizona-ag-seal

After the “Breaking News” of the settlement, a joint article by Charles and Irene on the role and use of OPC´s in the timeshare sales cycle. It began with an outline on what regulations various countries in Europe have on controlling how these “scratchcard touts” operate. Going on to explain how they work in the US, with Irene laying out the information they are after. She also spoke about an OPC that she knows personally. It was an insight into how you ended up on the presentation.

This was followed by more Litigious Abogados updates and the article “Thinking of Buying a Timeshare”. It was closely related to the previous article on OPC´s as it explained how the scratchcards work, then going on to ask “Is it worth buying one”?

It came to the conclusion that it depends on what you are after, it also weighed up whether to buy from the developer or a resale. There was also a link to Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group, who also gave some very sound advice.

Again we went across The Great Lake for more news from the US,

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

In this article Irene gave her analysis of the importance of the Arizona Attorney General’s settlement with Diamond. Irene told the story of the nightmare suffered by Irina Allen and her purchases, along with the fact she had her membership suspended on false allegations of being a “mega renter” with an AirBnB account. She had even been advised by a sales rep to buy more points as renting will help pay the maintenance.

Another article we published was on the subject of plagiarism, this was prompted by posts appearing on the TCA website which more than resembled articles written by myself and Irene. Any author will recognise their own writing style and use of words. Especially as the grammar used by the TCA writers is to say the least very poor.

But, the main point was the use of information not just from Inside Timeshare but also from Canarian Legal Alliance. In all the posts on the TCA site, no mention or accreditation to where  this information had come from. It all appeared  the TCA was taking credit for the information and the Supreme Court victories achieved by CLA. Whenever Inside Timeshare publishes any article that uses information or news from another source, that source is always credited for it. That is the basic rule of any journalist or writer.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tca-using-others-work/

plagiarism

The next article on US timeshare had a very happy ending, back in November Irene explained that Wyndham had launched “The Ovation” surrender programme. After receiving this news Inside Timeshare contacted one of our readers, Steve, who owned at Wyndham. Due to his personal circumstances he wanted to surrender his ownership, he did not have a claim, so relinquishment was the only option.

It was explained to Steve about the Ovation news and he duly contacted them to surrender his ownership. Within two months he got the news that they had indeed accepted his surrender request. Since then Diamond have also accepted the surrender of his European membership, although due to his statement of events at the point of sale, Diamond are investigating and we hope to report on that in the near future.

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndhams-ovation-surrender-program-latest-news/

On the day President Trump was inaugurated Inside Timeshare along with Irene published the question “Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump”. The article explained how the business and politics are linked, including the role of the “lobbyist”.

This was a subject being asked by many owners of timeshare in the US and only time will tell what effect his presidency will have on them.

http://insidetimeshare.com/attorneys-general-timeshare-trump/

In the article “And So it Begins”, it followed Irene being banned from the Diamond Resorts International Members facebook page. The reason, a few thought her posts and links to our articles were political, Inside Timeshare posed the question “what is not political nowadays”?

The real reason of her ban is simple, she asks questions about Diamond, she writes about Diamond, she questions Diamond, she questions the practices of the sales reps, but she also has dialogue with Diamond. She brings to their attention the concerns of thousands of members, she has also had statements from senior Diamond employees which she has used in her articles.

In her following article she called for advocacy in timeshare, highlighting Diamond creating an Advocacy Department, even contacting Maya Pogoda, Diamonds Public Relations Representative, who is also helping to launch the Diamond Advocacy and Clarity programme. But to some on the facebook page she was attacking Diamond, when in reality she and Inside Timeshare are calling for dialogue. Yes we do highlight the ugly, but we also highlight the good.

In another twist to this tale, two more people have been banned from this group, the reason? They have been highlighted in articles by Irene and published on Inside Timeshare, They are Irina Allen and the Saldana family. Do those calling for a ban who are the administrators believe in two sides to a story or are they only interested in promoting their own ego´s, one openly boasts how he owns so many points yet has never actually paid for them, one wonders how he got them? You know who you are and Inside Timeshare awaits your response.

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

CLA Logo

Back to Europe, Canarian Legal Alliance has been hitting the news again, published on the 26 January, was the news of two Supreme Court rulings against Silverpoint / Resort Properties. In the first judgement the court announced that the Club Paradiso product was indeed timeshare and fell under the relevant laws, they also concluded that the client in this case was a consumer not an investor as Silverpoint claimed. This has significant implications for other “Club” schemes operated by other companies.

This case was picked up by The Northern Echo follow the link:

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/15045851.Woman_wins_a_landmark_legal_ruling_on_timeshares/?ref=rl&lp=2

Within days there were another two verdicts delivered by the highest court in Spain, again against Silverpoint. In the fourth ruling, the court reiterated the earlier verdict that the “Club” scheme was timeshare, this was in relation to Hollywood Mirage and Beverly Hills Club Vacation package. Now if memory serves me correctly the second ruling on “Club” schemes now puts that into jurisprudence.

 

In the last article this month, Irene gave her views on Diamond’s Clarity programme, she had an interview with Maya Pogoda the Diamond PR and also had comments from Executive Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Flaskey. Now if this isn’t creating a dialogue, well I don’t know what is!

This will be followed next month by Part II: How Owners Feel About Clarity.

We have also been informed of a major news item that is just breaking, we hope to have an article on this tomorrow, Irene is busy on it now. But we must remember she is several hours behind us, so watch this space.

Inside Timeshare publishes these articles to keep you informed of the latest news, developments and views in the world of timeshare. Much of it you would never hear about, especially as many forums will remove posts the administrators don’t like. We will continue to publish even if it is controversial, that is what we believe in, the freedom to question, criticise and comment.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who have contributed to articles this month, either through information or comments, without you the stories would not be there.

great quote

 

not alone

Latest News from Europe and the US.

Before we go on with today’s article from Irene, there has been some breaking news over the past week. The Supreme Court in Madrid has issued three rulings against Silverpoint, on behalf of three clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, all three came within days of each other.

In the first was the British Client who purchase at Club Paradiso, the court ruled that this was indeed timeshare and not a club affiliation as Silverpoint claimed. This case has taken around five years to get to this stage, with appeal following appeal.

The second case was that of a CLA client from Belgium, the court declared once again the illegality of contracts over 50 years.

Another British client of CLA who purchased the Hollywood Mirage and Beverly Hills Club Vacation Package. Again this ruling was around the “club affiliation” scheme, the court once again ruled that this did indeed fall under the scope of Spanish timeshare law, (Ley 42/98) as in the first ruling.

So far since March 2015 CLA have achieved remarkable results, with around 42 rulings from the Supreme Court, involving numerous timeshare companies, with Anfi being the most prominent. (Follow the link to The Northern Echo article on the first case).

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/15045851.Woman_wins_a_landmark_legal_ruling_on_timeshares/?ref=rl&lp=2

In the article by Irene today, she looks at the Diamond Resorts Clarity (™) programme, it would seem that Diamond are trying to change the way they operate amid growing protests from owners, especially the elderly.

This programme at present will not be rolled out in Europe, Although Diamond Resorts in Europe have already begun to make considerable changes in their approach to owners / members. They have set in place a programme where members can surrender their timeshare under what Diamond call “exceptional circumstances”, with this there is no charge.

One reader has Steve has taken advantage of this, with Diamond accepting his surrender, but there is a twist in this story. Diamond are investigating how he was sold and how he also ended up with a finance package, they obviously believe that there is something wrong. Once this is completed, Inside Timeshare will bring you the results.

Contained within the article is an interview Irene had with Maya Pogoda the Diamond Public Relations Officer. She has welcomed the chance to speak with Inside Timeshare and has supplied numerous comments and answers to our questions. So on with Irene´s article.

Diamond Resorts Clarity (™) – The Good, the Bad and the Critical

Diamond Owners are Hopeful but Skeptical

By Irene Parker January 29, 2017

Skeptical Method

DIAMOND CLARITY(™) is the offspring of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” resulting from allegations that Diamond Resorts International violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

http://insidetimeshare.com/opcs-europe-usa/#more-1518

Maya Pogoda, Diamond Public Relations spokesperson, talked to me about the new national program consisting of a series of operational procedures and enhancements, new training and compliance procedures and protocols, and other customer-friendly changes to the sales process.

Press Release excerpts:

Missing from press release: “We recognize the need for Diamond Resorts and all timeshare companies to change or improve timeshare business practices that have led to predatory lending and deceptive sales techniques, resulting in harm to timeshare owners,” suggests Irene.

I took issue with several statements made in the press release:

“At Diamond Resorts, we already excel in customer satisfaction, but we are constantly looking for ways to do even better,” said Executive Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Flaskey.

I spoke with a few timeshare attorneys. One paralegal who works for a timeshare attorney asked not to be identified. Their firm has released 10,000 owners from timeshare contracts and said Diamond is their biggest “customer”.  Timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group carries approximately 500 timeshare cases with 20% to 25% against Diamond Resorts. Mr. Finn said he’s never had a Disney timeshare client.

There are also several angry Diamond owner groups:

DRIP Diamond Resort International Protestors launched by over 1000 angry British owners trying to be released from contracts.

Intrawest Embarc Diamond Facebook page has over 2500 Intrawest members. An administrator of this group recently suggested I post our last Inside Timeshare article on their Facebook page after being banned by a Diamond Influenced Member Supported 7000 member Facebook group.

I had sent the article to an Intrawest administrators individually. She receives a link to all my articles. Unfortunately, one of the administrators from the 7000 member group voiced a warning to one of the other Intrawest administrators urging a word of caution concerning the dangerous piano teacher, Irene Parker.

https://www.facebook.com/Club-Intrawest-Owners-Group-921012087982547/

The 7200 member Facebook group consists of about 50% happy/angry owners. Members who are 100% negative on Diamond Resorts are privately and quietly urged to join DRIP, according to one member who asked not to be identified. Ironically, the same administrator was banned from the DRIP website accused of being too positive.

Charles Thomas was banished within days of joining the 7000 member Facebook accused of supporting the Canarian Legal Alliance. Charles can better explain the success CLA has had fighting timeshare abuse.

Owner infighting is strongly encouraged by Diamond Resorts because United we Stand and Divided we Fall. There is a lot of that going on in the world today.

Inside Timeshare allows political commentary to enter into our articles. In fact, given the fact the Trump family is launching a timeshare in Scotland, it is even encouraged. One of President Trump’s closest friends of 20 years is David Siegel of Westgate. Westgate has been under Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigation for the last few years.

Continuing the litany of unhappy Diamond owners:

Monarch Website of angry owners owning fixed weeks could not gain access after converting to points, resulting in a class action lawsuit.

http://www.monarchowner.com/p/our-story.html

Poipu Angry Owner website:  Assessments resulting in a class action lawsuit.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Point-of-Poipu-Angry-Owners/148027451960608

Thousands of complaints have been voiced on Redweek, BBB and other internet complaint sites. Just yesterday a Redweek member reached out to me. I sadly informed her she made my list of top two percent timeshare horror stories. The subject of Diamond timeshare sales agent Rick Casper of Polo Towers Las Vegas will be the subject of my next article

Of course, people can always contact me directly.

Irene Card

RedWeek continues to allow me to post.  I was asked to provide a link to the article that caused me to be banned. Controversy generated by an article is a writer’s best friend.

My Facebook page has no quota on happy/angry comments. I deny I am 100% negative on Diamond. We still enjoy Diamond Resorts and find good value at times. I am encouraged by the meaningful conversations I have had with diplomat and PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

I find relatively few complaints on the internet about Hyatt, Hilton or Disney.

Back to the Clarity Press Release:

“It will increase transparency”

Keep Reading

  • 1
  • 2