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Arizona Consumer Fraud Act

The Tuesday Slot with Irene: Lawsuit Filed Against Diamond Resorts

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker, as this is breaking news and an important story,  we go straight into her article and will catch up with Europe in Wednesdays publication.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Diamond Resorts

This action alleges Defendant’s sold unregistered securities in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 that requires that any securities sold in the United States be registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission

Factual Allegations of False Representations

(i) DRI points appreciate in value

(ii) DRI points can be readily sold

(iii) DRI points are a hedge against inflation

(iv) DRI points constitute an appreciating asset that DRI members can pass along to heirs.

By Irene Parker

February 13, 2018

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts. It’s not easy to make your way through a 43 page complaint, so after I digested it, I cut and pasted the complaint so I can understand it.

Inside Timeshare has received 292 Diamond Resorts complaints, 48 since the first of the year. Diamond has implemented a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to address member concerns, and has implemented a CLARITY™ program designed to promote “transparency, accountability, and respect for the customer.” Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued Diamond an Assurance of Discontinuance in 2017 after his office received hundreds of complaints from Diamond members accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The company did not admit wrongdoing.

To follow the progress of the case, Diamond members or industry observers are encouraged to join our member sponsored Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook established February 17, 2017.

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

Case 2:18-cv-00247 filed February 9, 2018 in United States District Court, District of Nevada

Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP

Albright, Stoddard Warnick & Albright

Plaintiffs:  Joseph M Dropp, Mary E Dropp, Robert Levine, Susan Levine, and Kaarina Pakka, Individually and on Behalf of All others similarly situated

v.

Diamond Resorts International, Inc.;

Diamond Resorts Holdings, LLC;

Diamond Resorts Corporation;

Diamond Resorts International Club, Inc., a/k/a “THE Club” Operating Company

Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, LLC;

Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Members Association

Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Development, LLC

Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Members Association

Apollo Management VIII, L.P.,

Apollo Global Management, LLC

Michael Flaskey

Kenneth Siegel

Excerpts from the complaint:

The lawsuit alleges almost none of the Class members are aware that they have purchased an unregistered security under the Security Act of 1933.

  1. The arbitration clause does not apply

The entire Agreement – including the arbitration clause – is void and unenforceable under federal securities law. 10

Class Action Allegations

Common questions of law and fact include, without limitation, the following:

  1. Whether the points in a U.S. Collection Members Association, the Hawaii Collection and/or THE Club constitute securities under the Securities Act;
  2. Whether DRI violated the registration provision of the Securities Act;
  3. Whether a common practice of DRI employees and/or agents to potential investors was to make representations that “points” are investments that will appreciate in value due to the efforts of DRI as set forth herein; and
  4. The nature of relief that may be granted to Plaintiffs and the Class under the Securities Act.

Similarly situated persons:

All persons who purchased “points in THE Club and membership in a Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Members Association or in the Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Members Association on or after three years prior to date filing of this complaint. Excluded from the Class are Defendants and any of their affiliate’s current and former employees, officers and directors.

  1. A “Pricing History and Location Growth for DRI” shows how the DRI points have increased and will increase in value over time.  A recent version states that between January 26, 2013 and January 1, 2017, DRI points in the U.S. Collection:  “15% Price per point increase in less than three years” with an “average” increase of 25%. Finally, the document states that points purchased “today” at $8.61 per point will be “worth” $10.76 per point in one year, and $13.45 in two years.

 

9. The Securities Act, passed in response to the stock market crash of 1929, was caused in part by issuers selling stock or other investments based on false representations, without disclosure of material information, and/or without and continuing reporting obligations.

10. Defendants are selling purchasers investment contracts, and hence securities, even if they are not explicitly described as such and even though the written contracts contradict in part the promises of the sales pitch.

Lead Plaintiffs

The Dropp Plaintiffs, New York residents, were initially owners of an unrelated timeshare purchased in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Kill Devil, North Carolina, through Gold Key Resort, subsequently acquired by Diamond Resorts on or about August 4, 2016. At an “update meeting” the Dropps were told that failure to purchase DRI points would render the Dropp’s existing timeshare membership useless or worthless.  The Dropp’s purchased points:  

8,500 U.S. Collection points purchased for $25,710 in Virginia August 6, 2016

A few hours after this purchase, they received a phone call from DRI insisting they were required to schedule an “orientation” with DRI that would take place in Las Vegas.

50,000 additional U.S. Collection points purchased for $140,000 in Las Vegas November 9, 2016

According to the complaint, a DRI salesperson took Plaintiffs to a private office, and made, inter alia (among other things), the following representations if they purchased DRI points:

  • He described DRI points as an investment.
  • He stated the Dropps would own an interest in real property.
  • He said that these additional points in DRI, plus the 8,500 points already owned, would be worth approximately $700,000 of “equity.”
  • He said that the value of the points would increase over time due to the improvements and updates that DRI continuously made to their properties.
  • He indicated that the points (and the “properties”) should be added to the the Dropp’s wills and could be bequeathed to their children and grandchildren.
  • He stated that the points could be sold for a profit in the future.
  • He informed the Dropps that they could use their DRI credit card for purchases and earn (wholly separate) points, which could be applied to their maintenance fees. Contrary to the DRI salesperson’s representations, in no way do purchases made on the DRI credit card offset or absolve the Dropp’s obligation to pay their annual maintenance fees.  

The Levine Plaintiffs, California residents

The Levines had acquired 35,000 US Collection points by 2016.

Purchased 35,000 Hawaii Collection points for $84,650 in Kona, Hawaii October 25, 2016

A DRI sales agent represented to the Levine Plaintiffs that:

  • They should convert all of Susan Levine’s points in the U.S. Collection to the Hawaii Collection because points in the Hawaii Collection would appreciate faster than points in the U.S. Collection due to the fact that there is limited real estate in Hawaii, causing real estate values to continue to rise.
  • Their points could be passed down to heirs and heirs could sell points at a profit.
  • They would have to purchase more points to convert their U.S. Collection points to Hawaii Collection points.
  • If they purchased points in the Hawaii Collection immediately, they would purchase at a “low price” because the price per point was steadily increasing.

Purchased 25,000 U.S. Collection points for $71,250 in Miami May 11, 2017

A DRI sales agent represented to them:

  • Points in the U.S. Collection are actually more valuable than points in the Hawaii Collection because the U.S. Collection requires the payment of lower maintenance fees.
  • Points purchased in the U.S. Collection are steadily increasing in value and could be sold at a profit in the future.
  • However, in order to convert their points in the Hawaii Collection to points in the U.S. Collection, they would need to purchase additional points in the U.S. Collection.

Purchased 50,000 U.S. Collection points for $144,000 in Las Vegas at Polo Towers July 11, 2017

A DRI sales agent represented to them:

  • DRI was implementing a new “Legacy Program” designed to operate as an estate planning device beginning January 2018. Through the Legacy Program, DRI itself would sell up to 20,000 of the Levine’s points at a price of $8.79 per point, generating a total sale price of $176,000, minus an estimated escrow fee. The profit would be passed along to the Levines, and they would not have to do anything other than contact DRI to commence the selling of points. However, in order to participate in the Legacy Program, the Levines would have to purchase 50,000 additional appoints in the U.S. Collection.
  • If the Levines or their heirs wished to sell all of their points in the future, DRI would “handle” the sale and sell the points at a price of $8.79 per point for a total amount of $1,230,000 minus closing costs.
  • Additionally, if the Levines purchased 50,000 additional points in the U.S. Collections that day, they could covert up to 80,000 of the DRI points to a credit on this Diamond credit card and could use that credit to pay their annual maintenance fees.
  • Again, the Levines were told that prices per point in the U.S. Collection were constantly increasing and they had to purchase points that day in order to reap the benefits of this investment.

When the Levines attempted to sell points, they were informed that no such program existed, and that DRI would not make any attempts to sell points.  In addition, no program existed by which the Levines could convert some of their points to a credit card and sue that credit to pay their maintenance fees.

The Pakka Plaintiff, original Sunterra owners, converted to 30,000 U.S. Collection points.  

Purchased 50,000 Hawaii points for $175,356 in Maui on November 16, 2016

A DRI salesperson represented to Plaintiff Pakka that:

  • DRI points were an “investment” that would increase in value over time. Plaintiff Pakka was provided with a “Pricing History and Location Growth for Diamond Resorts International” document which projects how much value the points will gain over time.
  • The value of her points “can only go up.”
  • She would have “no problem” selling her points.
  1. Diamond is in the business of selling “points”, which are marketed to prospective purchasers as an investment which will appreciate in value and can be easily resold. Diamond sells points to new point purchasers, as well as existing owners, in person, at sales centers in several Diamond resorts throughout the United States.
  2. Prior to the 60 to 90 minutes sales presentation, no contract or other official DRI document describing the terms of the point investment is provided to the prospective purchasers until the time of closing.
  3. Vacation counselors’ sales presentation exceed 90 minutes and often last five to six hours in length or longer. Moreover, DRI tells prospective purchasers that they will forfeit their benefits if they leave the sales presentation before the respective sales people agree that the presentation is over. Prospective purchaser are not permitted to take any contract, information sheets, Purchase and Security Agreements, Credit Sales Contracts, notes, or other written materials with them off premises prior to closing, nor are prospective purchasers given time to consult with their own advisors, attorney, or any other person during the sales presentation.
  4. DRI pitches its points as an investment that will appreciate in value due to continuing improvements made by Diamond in the quality and number of its resort and hotel properties, the general appreciation of real estate in the future and the managerial skill that DRI provides in operating the properties. The unwitting targets are told that by purchasing points “now” the purchasers will receive a discounted purchase price that is only available on the day of the sales presentation; they are investing in their future; their points will increase in value; they can use points to pay annual maintenance fees, they can bequeath the points to their heirs as an inheritance and they can sell their points – at a profit – at any time. Thus, these points are actually investment contracts and therefore securities, under the United States securities laws.
  5. Once the purchasers agrees to purchase points, they are individually shepherded to a sales center “quality control” person, whose job it is to obtain the purchaser’s signature on a lengthy, densely worded sales contract (the PSA) and to instruct the purchaser to initial numerous items on a lengthy information sheet. (Often the initials are generated electronically by the sales people for the purchasers’ “convenience”).  The closing documents contradict parts of what the prospective purchasers are told and/or shown during the sales presentations.
  6. Points can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the purchases are often financed by DRI at credit card interest rates. Maintenance fees have risen at a rate far higher and faster than ordinary inflation despite the economies of scale that DRI has in place to manage its properties.  Existing point purchasers are often induced to purchase additional points in order to reach “preferred” thresholds. DRI tells these point purchaser or members that if they buy more points, the DRI member will no longer be required to pay “maintenance” fees. By way of example, DRI investors are told that by becoming platinum members (50,000 point owners) the investors may redeem their points at the rate of 30 cents each to pay for maintenance fees. Since maintenance fees are currently approximately 18 cents each, the DRI investor is told that he or she can actually profit “off the spread” by purchasing more points. However, when DRI investors try to redeem points, they discover that there is no such program in place.
  7. Sales pitches regarding the investment value of the points are false. DRI points do not increase in value, there is no viable secondary market for them, and DRI severely restricts the resale of points. Moreover, DRI contracts or PSA last in perpetuity.

The amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, excluding interest and costs.

Business Model

VOI Vacation Ownership Interest Points

DRI does not refer to itself as a timeshare company

Nevada law protects timeshare owners of traditional timeshare that were fixed weeks, by prohibiting timeshare companies from selling more than 365 use-days in any particular property in any particular year.

  1. Investor-members purchasing points in Nevada are provided a form stating that the DRI salesperson is licensed real estate agent who has a fiduciary duty to disclose all facts material to the transaction, DRI points are in no way tied to the value of any real estate.
  2. The Convoluted Relationship between DRI, the Club, and the U.S. and Hawaii Collections
  3. The investor-member has no direct ownership interest in any real property. The real property is owned by or held by the trust, for the benefit of a Home Owners Association, in which the investor is a member solely by virtue of his or her ownership of points.
  4. DRI controls the votes electing the boards of directors for each Association. The board of every Association has hired DRI to provide management services for the Association – services for which DRI receives substantial fees.

III Points have no Intrinsic Value

IV The Onerous, Ongoing Cost of DRI Points and its Relationship to DRI’s Business Model

  1. DRI collects a property “management fee” of 10-15% per year of the costs of operating any resort in a Diamond Collection.
  2. Between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2015, DRI financed 74.5% of all its Membership sales. According to the restated financial statements, in the DRI 10k, DRI sold $624,283,000 of vacation interests in 2015.
  3. DRI relies upon a $100 million loan sale facility with Quorum Federal Credit Union.  “In the past, we have sold or securitized a substantial portion of the consumer loans we originated from our consumers.”4
  4. Unlike an interest rate for a home mortgage, affordability measures like debt to income ratios do not apply.
  5. In 2015 DRI sent IRS Form 1098 to investors setting forth the amount of mortgage interest (which is generally deductible) paid in a particular year.

IV The High-Pressure Sales Process

  1. 61 sales centers around the world, with a full in-house sales and marketing team at 49 locations, including Polo Towers.
  2. “Mini Vacation” packages lure prospective investors. If the target fails to attend the sales presentation, or leaves before the presentation has completed, the individual is told that he or she is responsible for paying the cost of the entire package.
  3. Points are being sold to them at a discount, so that they will have “equity” because they own interests that are worth more than the purchase price.

B DRI Salespeople State that there is a market for points, and DRI will help investor-members find buyers for their points.  

  1. DRI salespeople represent that they will help an investor-member sell their points which contradicts THE Club “Legal Documents” which state that “THE Club Operating Company has no obligation to assist a Member with the resale, lease or rental of his or her Qualifying Interest.”
  2. Timeshare Exit companies advise investor-members to simply stop making payments on their maintenance fees and/or loan. DRI then terminates the membership, recaptures the points (as recycled inventory) and then resells to new purchasers. The net result is that the purchasers lose their entire investment.

V Terms of the DRI Purchase and Security Agreements

A. The Member-Investor’s Right to Rescind the Agreement is Illusory

Click on the PDF file below to see the full document:

Complaint (JT Demanded) 2 9 18 A Filed #1

This is certainly a major story and Irene will be keeping us posted on any further news and developments.

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene, as you will see from her article this week there is certainly a lot going on across the Great Lake. For our US readers there is some very interesting information, it would seem that Inside Timeshare is certainly making an impact on timeshare consumers in the US.

On the European front, yesterday’s article regarding Anfi members complaints regarding availability, the article had a plethora of hits and likes on the associated Facebook page within the first hour. It also seems as though this topic hit home with our US readers as there were many from across the pond.

Yesterday we also had the first court ruling of the week, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Puerto Calma, declaring the contract null and void. The client in this case will be returned 16,000€ which is the purchase price, along with 3,600€ as double the deposit paid within the mandatory cooling off period. The court also awarded legal interest.

We will be keeping an eye on any latest rulings that come in and report them here, but now on with this weeks article by Irene Parker.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Proposed Committees and Support Groups

Volunt

January 23, 2018

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare is approaching 300 timeshare reader responses, responding to members asking for assistance with their timeshare concerns since we began counting late 2016. There is a need to scale up Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as we now have 44 core advocates dedicated to improving the timeshare sales process by working together as teams. We hope timeshare developers will acknowledge there are problems and work with us, to not only stop predatory backend “get you out of your timeshare” scams, but address the problem on the front end of the sale as well. Numerous calls to the FBI have been made, and they have encouraged timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, to contact their local FBI Field Office public access line to file orally, in addition to filing online at IC3.gov.

Diamond Resorts has taken the lead by launching a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department dedicated to helping timeshare members from day one if a member has any concerns about their membership or their purchase. They have also introduced CLARITY, a program designed to enhance accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

Inside Timeshare has received complaints directed against four major timeshare companies. If timeshare developers and ARDA would take the time to read the following Better Business Bureau notations of “Government Action” and “Pattern of Complaints”, it is unreasonable to keep the blinders on by claiming there are no problems with the secondary market because sales centers are forever sales centers, and members should not expect value back for their timeshare because it is a “right to use” program. That would be fine were it not for the perpetual contract, often sold by false promises made by sales agents who know there is little chance of enforcement, as there is no federal enforcement, and state Attorneys General are limited in scope.

BBB warnings for Wyndham, Diamond Resorts, Bluegreen, and Vacation Village

Wyndham

Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.

Government Action

The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.

Wisconsin – May 27, 2015 Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. entered into a Consent Judgment with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (Case No. 15CX5). The Consent Judgment to settle allegations that Wyndham engaged in the following acts or practices in the State of Wisconsin:

 

  1. Delivering a timeshare disclosure statement that fails to include all statements required by Wisconsin Statute Sec. in a format that can be immediately read and retained by the purchaser.
  2. Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
  3. Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
  4. Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
  5. Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
  6. Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
  7. Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
  8. Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
  9. Failing to inform the individual of the prize that has been awarded him or her, and then giving the individual the prize or another selected item, before beginning a sales presentation.

Wyndham consented to the Stipulation and Consent Judgment to facilitate a settlement and avoid the additional expense, delay and uncertainty of litigation. Wyndham does not admit that it has violated any laws of the state of Wisconsin.

Pattern of Complaints

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent was awarded $20 million by a jury alleging predatory practices.

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

Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties canceling vacation packages booked through Bluegreen Corporation. Consumers claim, although Bluegreen Corporation has a cancel within 30 days policy, their requests for refunds for canceled trips are denied. Other consumers feel they are victims of deceptive sales practices. Consumers claim resorts are never available when they contact Bluegreen Corporation. While yet other consumers claim the “free” vacation Bluegreen Corporation offers is not free and involve fees they were not made aware of.

Diamond Resorts:

On December 23, 2016, the Arizona Attorney General announced that the State of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with Diamond Resorts. The Assurance of Discontinuance requires the company to pay the State of Arizona a total of $800,000, of which $650,000 is for consumer restitution and $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs. The assurance also includes a Relinquishment Remedy Program, which requires the company to allow qualifying consumers to return their timeshares with no further obligations.

Many of the hundreds of complaints received by the State of Arizona claim the company used deceptive sales practices and made numerous oral misrepresentations during their presentations. Some of the misrepresentations regard:

  • Annual increases in maintenance fees;
  • Membership resale and buy-back programs;
  • Timeshare membership resale market;
  • Ability to rent timeshare vacations; and
  • Discounts on other travel needs.

The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company employees’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F

BBB files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practices issues. Specifically, several complainants have alleged that information provided during sales presentations does not match the terms and conditions in the written contracts that they are asked to enter if they agree to make a purchase following a timeshare presentation.

On March 23, 2017 BBB sent correspondence to Village Resorts requesting their voluntary cooperation in providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.

As of May 12, 2017 BBB has not received a response from Village Resorts BBB will continue to monitor the complaints for Village Resorts and update the review as needed

So where do we go from here?

TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan

January 21, 2018

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

We are grateful to our Inside Timeshare readers and timeshare members who have reported their allegations of predatory and criminal timeshare sales and marketing. Due to the volume of timeshare complaints received, there is a need for Timeshare Advocacy Groups™ to restructure, as we are experiencing normal and expected growing pains.  

Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:

  1. Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
  2. Change timeshare developer practices to allow those alleging they were defrauded to be made whole again, by not hiding behind the fine print, but to listen and learn. The enemy is not your customer. The enemy is your predatory sales agent.
  3. Reach out to military Facebook pages and websites to warn members of the military and law enforcement, due to the alarming number of complaints from law enforcement officers and all branches of the armed forces, alleging they were white-collar crime victims.  One Marine lost his air unit command and three are worried about losing their security clearance.

Anthony and Ashley Davis recorded their predatory sales presentation, which has been provided to law enforcement and regulatory authorities. This is our January 13, 2018 interview with Anthony and Ashley.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI    

Timeshare Advocacy Group needs sub committees or teams that work independently, coordinating with a central committee. Listed below are nine proposed teams and team leaders, based on their expertise and past willingness to serve.

Please let us know if you are willing to be become involved. Those alleging they have been victimized include doctors, lawyers, professors, law enforcement, the military, even a member who worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison, and many others.    

Proposed Teams

44 Core Advocates

Our Core Advocates are members or former members of Wyndham, Hyatt, Bluegreen, Diamond, Vacation Village  

Reporting: Irene (4 members)

Media/Social Media: Gay Hart-Brewer (22)

State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)

Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)

Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)

Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)

Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)

Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)

California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)

Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Advocacy team

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member supported, not industry influenced, Facebook or website.

Thank you Irene and all those who helped in this article, especially the legals who ensure that they are legally accurate.

If you require any further information on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

 

Money Vs Morals

A Fraudulent Timeshare Sale can pose a National Security Threat

One Marine sacrifices, not only his money and his security clearance, but also his air unit command, as a result of believing a timeshare sales agent.

Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, former Marine Corp pilot and investment banking and capital market underwriter, was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm.   

http://www.navy.mil/navybio_ldr.asp?id=1001

NNSA

December 27, 2017

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare received an alarming response in response to last week’s article about Samuel Melendez. Mr. Melendez spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, working with soldiers and colleges to teach them chemical, biological and nuclear defense. A Diamond Platinum member, he alleges he and his wife Delores were up-sold by deceit and bait and switch by Diamond Resorts top selling sales agent Rick Casper at DRI’s Polo Towers resort.

Inside Timeshare has been informed one Marine lost more than his money and security clearance. He lost his air unit command, as a consequence of believing a timeshare sales agent. He was forced into foreclosure which jeopardized his security clearance. We will not name the Marine who lost his air unit command, or the timeshare company, because Inside Timeshare has received reports directed against four timeshare companies offering members of our armed forces deals like the ability to rent for a profit, the ability to easily sell vacation points, or buy vacation points at a special military discount price that does not exist. Fifteen active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel allege they were sold by deceit.

Marine

Former Marine Jeff Diehl describes how his Vacation Village sales agent over promised the income that could be generated from renting his week.

Jeff Diehl

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-30/

Jeff expressed outrage after hearing a fellow Marine lost his command post due to predatory timeshare sales. He sees such tactics as a threat to our national security. “It would be easy for anyone, seeking to do our country harm, to get hired to sell vacation points in an effort to remove an armed service member from their command post,” said Jeff. Jeff is encouraging service members to write to the Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer and Commandant of the Marines Robert B. Neller, as well as other directors of our armed forces.

I fear Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer, a former top venture capitalist, may have conflicting feelings about how Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo Global Management, achieve their sales target. Apollo is the third largest private equity company. Secretary of the Navy Spencer is a former Marine Corp pilot and a former investment banking and capital market underwriter. He was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm. Mr. Spencer was sworn in August, 2017. Apollo manages Diamond as a fund of funds.  

Our fifteen Timeshare Advocacy Group™ military and law enforcement members have mobilized as a unit of armed forces to put an end to timeshare’s predatory sales and marketing targeting the military. Jeff, a retired Marine and disabled, is the unit commander. All fifteen allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. Four are worried about losing their security clearance. Four are disabled.

https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2017/11/242nd-marine-corps-birthday-message-commandant-marine-corps

Given dismal regulatory enforcement, we fear the only court open to any timeshare buyer alleging deceit is the court of public opinion, so in addition to 15 members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines, alleging they were victimized by Vacation Village, Bluegreen, Wyndham and Diamond timeshare sales agents, four members of our media outreach committee will assist our military in an effort to reach mainstream media.

Diamond Resorts is offering free passes to the military and to first responders for their upcoming invitational golf tournament to be held in Orlando January 12 – 14. Model and golf pro Blair O’Neal is featured.  

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/12/military-first-responders-to-receive-complimentary-tickets-to-third-annual-diamond-resorts-invitational/

USN

Navy computer technicians Amanda and George Jones are also worried about their Navy security clearances. Amanda and George say they were told by two Diamond sales agents, at two different locations, there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. Banks will not finance timeshares. They too could be forced into foreclosure and lose their security clearance, unable to afford the 18% timeshare loan interest rate.

Amanda and George Jones were featured in last week’s article. Mary Bowling, former #2 top selling Diamond Resorts sales agent, describes in a lawsuit, how the deceptive “price freeze” works.

Amanda and George Jones

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Here is the “price freeze” script

Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court Page 10 of complaint

#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.

#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.

#48 the sales agent has customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.

#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.

#50 (In bold) because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.

#51 (In bold) the price given is the real price planned from the outset.

#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today

#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!

#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”

George and Amanda Jones “step in”

We went to an orientation in Orlando presented by DRI sales agent Jonathan Pineda at DRI’s Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017. (This is the second complaint Inside Timeshare has received from our readers directed against Mr. Pineda) We ended up purchasing an additional 4000 points for $15,732. Our loan balance $13,271.16 is financed at 18.6794%. Jonathan (like our first Virginia DRI sale agent), said both loans could be refinanced and combined by companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. He said we would have to wait until we made our first payment (long after the contract rescission period). When we asked for a company name, Jonathan said we could google it.  

We were told we were buying our second purchase in Orlando at a price point that was almost unheard of and was not being offered to any new Diamond customers right now. “I can’t believe your first sales agent didn’t tell you about this price from the first purchase!” Jonathan said.  If we did not buy that day we would lose out and would go from $2.85 per point to $10 from that day on. He said not to go to any future promotional events because it would change our price point. Jonathan said parents had died and the children did not want the points so DRI was reselling at this low price.

Jonathan also said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points.

USArmy

Samuel Melendez, Army veteran

http://insidetimeshare.com/nightmares-timeshare-street/

Mr. Melendez is the eighth Rick Casper Platinum DRI member to reach out to Inside Timeshare, and the only complainant not to have been resolved. The Melendez complaint was dismissed. Mr. Melendez said he received an email from their DRI Consumer Advocate hospitality agent, with the family’s initials on their contract, confirming the oral representation clause.

Platinum members are Diamond’s most loyal customers. They are unsuspecting because they have dealt with the company for years without major complaints until their encounter with Rick Casper or others with questionable business practices.

We’re not sure if Rick Casper is still with DRI. Like Elvis, some members report Rick Casper and Wadji Kassas (another name frequently mentioned) are no longer with the company, while others tell us Casper and Kassas are still working at DRI. I can imagine them holed up in a special Platinum bunker.

Inside Timeshare also published the story of army veteran Terry Carter, diagnosed with blood cancer. Terry lived next to a burn pit in Iraqi. Bluegreen offered this family a loan cancellation but no refund. Terry says he will not give up without a fight. Sold in a group presentation, promised the ability to sell their timeshare at a profit should they need to sell, the family is demanding a 50% refund. Bluegreen’s defense is the family used the timeshare for 19 days since making their first purchase in 2013. They stopped making loan payments in July.

Terry Carter http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-2/

One of the worst upsell stories was reported to Inside Timeshare by Karen Vartan, another disabled vet. She was contacted by DRI marketing in San Diego. As a Platinum member for more than five years, Karen was hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Mystic Dune Sales Team in Arlington, Virginia. Karen says she was told if she purchased 25,000 additional DRI points, added to her exiting 57,000 points she would have 82,000. But if purchased today only, double points – 165,000 – allowing Karen to be able to pay her maintenance fees with points left over to travel. The program does not exist. Diamond’s response was again to provide Karen with her initials on her contract acknowledging that Karen “did not rely on any oral representation to make her purchase.”

Canada is also represented in our military victim report  

Canada

Roxanne and Terry Hurley

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

Inside Timeshare directed Roxanne and Terry Hurley to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department over a year ago after the family reported they lost their entire life savings to DRI. Chalk it up to a bad decision, but having served in the Canadian army their entire career, they have nothing left. DRI did provide some help. We are not lawyers, so are not privy to the terms, but the family thought it would be alright, not violating the non-disclosure agreement, to admit they are still DRI members. Roxanne’s mom’s condition has worsened since she reached out to us. With no secondary market, their savings wiped out, their dream vacation future turned into a financial tragedy.

homeland

Law Enforcement is also at risk

Lela Renea is a Florida detective trying to work with Bluegreen to resolve her complaint.  Inside Timeshare, back in July, published Detective Renea’s article describing how she feels she was a victim of a Bluegreen bait and switch. We will not use the word “alleged” because if anyone knows they were baited and switched, it’s a detective.  

Detective Renea  http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Scotty Black, MS Criminal Justice, also works in law enforcement. Inside Timeshare will publish Scotty’s battle with Diamond Resorts in an upcoming article. Detective Renea and Scotty could also lose their security clearances if forced into foreclosure.

There are others who have moved on. We will not republish their articles or mention their names, as they have signed a mutual release agreement, agreeing not to say anything bad about Diamond Resorts.

When will this industry wake up? Never, I fear if there is not some federal enforcement. Members cannot even file a complaint effectively with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the timeshare company finances the loan because, as not the actual lender, there is no drop down CFPB menu choice to select a timeshare company. Only banks are listed.

monay v morals

According to FBI agents I spoke with, and several attorneys, hiding behind the oral representation clause is not legal but continues as a hamster wheel because there is no federal timeshare enforcement. In our opinion, state enforcement is, in some states, influenced by powerful lobby dollars. With so little enforcement, unscrupulous sales agents have little to fear. Lie to make the sale, force the member into foreclosure, take back the points, resell for full value to the next consumer.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has dismissed all Diamond Resorts complaints, submitted by members who contacted Inside Timeshare, despite Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issuing an against DRI accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The AZ AG office received, according to a source, 400 complaints, and an additional 500 complaints after the press release.

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

We do not dispute there are many timeshare members, having not yet experienced a life crisis, who use and enjoy their vacation points. We know there are honest timeshare companies, like Disney Vacation Club, and honest timeshare sales agents, but it would take another lengthy article to list the lawsuits that have evolved, like the Wyndham whistleblower Trish Williams $20 million jury award describing TAFT days – tell them any blank think on slow sales days.

At least timeshare members, those who find Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below, are not silenced and isolated.

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

help

          

 

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

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

November 10

By Marsha Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sad

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

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

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

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

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

act now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Tuesday Review: Clarity

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

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

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

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

Now on with today’s article.

Diamond Resort’s CLARITY™ Program

Battles the Oral Representation Clause

clarity

By Bonita Hill  

August 8,2017  

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

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

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

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

IV Assurances

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

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

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

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

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

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Marjorie Menacker

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

conference

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

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

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

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

fair trade

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

Hello all, thanks for your interest in our services.

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

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

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

Mike Finn

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

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

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

 

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

 

$1billion Law Suit against Diamond Resorts International!

Spain has been at the forefront of enforcing timeshare laws in Europe, so far the Supreme Court has made 42 judgements in favour of the consumer, these are now part of law and all courts must abide by them.

It has cost the industry millions of euros in payouts with many more in the pipeline. All this because for years they have ignored the laws put into place in 1999, which are there to protect the consumer.

But this now pales into insignificance with the latest lawsuit in America.

In a class action filed in Las Vegas, Diamond are being sued for $1billion. Yes, that is correct a whopping $1billion!

Irene Parker has sent in this report on what this lawsuit is all about.  According to this document a trial by jury has been demanded, along with the law firm leading the action who have a very good reputation, it has the hallmarks of a long and fierce battle.

According to our sources this lawsuit is not just for those in the US, but it could possibly be left open for Europeans who purchased in the US to join the action, especially any purchaser who was 60 years or over when signing. We are waiting confirmation of this as there may just be statute of limitations in place.

But this could be good news for many.

Billion Dollar Lawsuit Filed against Diamond Resorts International

Law Firm: Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

Case No. 2:17-CV-00248

Filed in Las Vegas Federal District Court

By Irene Parker:  February 1, 2017

Lawsuit

 The law firm of Stoddard Warnick & Albright filed a billion dollar lawsuit against Diamond Resorts International January 29, 2017. The lawsuit alleges Diamond Resorts (DRI) ensnared thousands of elderly consumers in its deceptive and fraudulent scheme to sell points-based timeshare memberships.

According to the complaint, which was filed on behalf of lead plaintiffs Ilona and Lester Harding, along with thousands of other elderly consumers, buyers typically spent tens of thousands of dollars or more for upfront Membership fees and upsold Membership levels. Memberships were accompanied by hefty annual assessments that continue in perpetuity.

Several plaintiffs were named in the lawsuit. Among those named:

Of particular note to Diamond Resort Owners is the absence of any “collection” except the US collection. Other Diamond Resort collections not named in the lawsuit include Hawaii, Premier Vacation Club, California and Monarch Grand Vacations Collections.

Former CEO David Palmer served as President and/or Director (and sometimes as both) for at least six of the Defendant entities; Jared Finkelstein serves as Secretary and/or Director (and often both) for at least six of the Defendant entities; and Lilian Luu serves as Treasurer and/or Director (and sometimes both) for at least six of the Defendant entities.

The law firm Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright is one of the oldest law firms in Nevada, in existence for 40 years. According to the firm’s website, they have represented clients in many high profile and complex bench and jury trials in Southern Nevada, in both state and federal court, representing contractors, lenders, and owners on large commercial projects. The firm successfully defended a general contractor in a bench trial, which lasted intermittently for well over a year, arising out of the construction of a major Strip hotel. At the time, it was the longest bench trial in Clark County history. Included among the firm’s numerous institutional clients are American Express, Wells Fargo and Hard Rock Café International.

According to the complaint, the lawsuit alleges the elderly were targeted because of their vulnerability and time available to travel. Elderly is defined as anyone 60 years or older at the time of purchase. The elderly were induced to purchase vacation memberships in a same day sale without being advised as to the lack of a secondary market by intentional design. Memberships were accompanied by, at times, dramatically escalating maintenance fees.

Inside Timeshare has written numerous articles supporting such claims.

cartoon IreneCartoon Charles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Mr. Ralph Marbles, an elderly buyer diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase, but denied a surrender until the television reporter contacted the company. Mr. Marbles’ maintenance fees increased from $200 a year to $684.

While Diamond Resorts boasts that 70% of sales come from existing owners, there are thousands of complaints filed by existing owners, as detailed in previous Inside Timeshare articles. In addition, existing owners are often encouraged to purchase additional points as a way to reduce maintenance fees through a non-existent buy-back program and are not told points are worth only pennies on the dollar when used to pay maintenance fees. The Saldana and Olds families are cases in point.

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

I have intervened on behalf of several families whose financial lives and retirement savings were decimated by their Diamond Resorts vacation plan. The Hurleys are a retired Canadian army family currently working with Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy in the hope of saving 40 years of retirement savings representing their entire life savings.

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

As a result of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800000 settlement and “Assurance of Discontinuance”, Diamond is rolling out a new Clarity (™) program that seeks to address deceptive and fraudulent business practices that the Arizona Attorney General alleges violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

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

It’s not all doom and gloom though!

fourmen

I have recruited, well drafted, several of those I have helped to pay it forward by becoming Appointed Special Timeshare Advocates (™) as a bridge between their vacation nightmare and resolution. We are working with the newly formed Diamond employed Consumer Advocates. Already, we have achieved positive outcomes, or at least provided straight answers, for what an owner can and cannot expect.

Not resolved are the plight of high volume owners whose accounts have been suspended or issued a “cease and desist”. For years these owners were encouraged to buy upwards of 100000 to 200000 vacation points in order to be able to rent out enough points to cover maintenance fees. In recent years points have sold from $2 to $4 per point. Changing rules and regulations and acknowledgement forms signed in an upsell have eliminated rights contained in their original contracts. Irina tells of her vacation nightmare:

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

That about covers the first 20 pages of the 55 page complaint. There’s only so much vacation burden a writer and reader can handle at once.

“Diamond Resorts is still looking into the facts surrounding the lawsuit; therefore, it has no comment at this time,” according to DRI Public Relations spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you’ve had a positive or negative vacation experience you would like to share.

Would love to hear from you!   telephoneman

 

So there we have it, a huge battle is about to take place in the world of timeshare. This is one story we will be keeping a very close watch on, although it may be some time before the trial actually takes place. The wheels of justice are slow to turn.

NEWS JUST IN!!!

CLA Logo

Canarian Legal Alliance has just informed Inside Timeshare of yet another Supreme Court judgement, this is against Silverpoint / Resort Properties. That makes 5, yes 5 rulings in against this company in under 2 weeks.

The British client has been awarded over £62,000 including legal fees and legal interest. We believe this ruling covers lack of information in the contract, perpetuity and once again the client is recognised as a consumer not an investor.

If you have any questions regarding any article published or about any company you may not be sure about, contact Inside Timeshare and we will be please help.

 

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

Timeshare Advocacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Timeshare Advocacy Works

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

 Retired Canadian Army Family’s Diamond Resorts Advocacy Experience.

By Irene Parker January 24, 2017

Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry and Roxanne Hurley recently retired from the Canadian army.

Hurley

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

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

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

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

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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

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

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

Timeshare Needs a CASA,  

CASA

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

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

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

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

A Proposal for our Attorneys General

Appointed Special Advocate for Timeshare Owners (™)

Here to help

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roxanne Hurley

Irina Allen (featured in last week’s article)

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

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

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

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

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

A lot is happening in Timeshare.

get-involved

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

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

 

More Timeshare News from Across The Atlantic.

Following on from our previous article from Irene Parker about the Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond, Irene has given her analysis of it.

One of the most contentious issues they have in the US is the perpetuity contract, this becomes part of the owner’s estate, thereby the children and then grand children etc, inherite the timeshare and with it the ongoing maintenance / management fees. Spain banned this concept in the timeshare Law 42/98, which came into force on 5 January 1999.

Any timeshare sold in Spanish territories since that date is limited to a maximum of 50 years, the reasoning behind this is quite clear. The powers that be believe that it is inherently unfair for the children of owners to be saddled with a contract and debt which they have not freely entered into.

There are other countries within Europe who have had this enshrined in their laws for years. Madeira, an Autonomous archipelago which is part of Portugal, situated in the Atlantic southwest of Portugal and 400 Km north of the Canary Islands, has never allowed perpetuity contracts. They have alway limited them to no more than 50 years, this was very popular with owners as they knew exactly when they would no longer be liable for the annual charges.

Malta, situated in the  Mediterranean 80 Km south of Sicily, also limited the length of the contract to 30 years. Speaking with many of those owners who purchased in the 1980´s, they are now elderly, some getting to the stage where they no longer travel, Their contracts are now ending or have ended, they also know they are not leaving a continuing debt for their children.

It just remains to be seen if other countries in Europe follow suit, ending the controversy of perpetuity contracts. Now to Irene´s article.

Spain has ended perpetual contracts and now Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations. Together we are changing the timeshare world.

An Analysis of the Arizona Attorney General’s Diamond Resorts $800,000 Settlement and One Reason Why It’s About Time

By Irene Parker

January 13, 2017

woman shoe

Irina Allen is a Diamond Resorts owner who was encouraged, over time, to buy 139,000 Diamond points.  The sales agent encouraged her to buy such a large amount of points in order to be able to rent to cover her maintenance fees.

Diamond has now changed their rental policy. Owners can only rent to friends or family. Owners are prohibited from using sites like RedWeek, VRBO or EBay, commonly used to rent vacation weeks and points.

Timeshare contracts are a developer based contract, according to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. “It basically states the timeshare company can change just about anything for any reason at any time.”

This new Diamond policy preventing renters from renting outside of friends and family may not sound significant in a new rule book, but for families, advised by sales agents to buy a high volume of points, it proves a disaster. Rising maintenance fees exacerbate the problem.

Owners told me earlier member guides stated travel agents could be used to rent points and the language in one signed contract states: “some or all Points can be rented outside of the immediate family.”

High Volume Diamond owners feel they are being targeted. If unable to pay maintenance fees without renting, they could be forced to surrender their points or foreclose. Surrenders are not guaranteed. When that happens, the timeshare company takes back the “inventory” and resells for full value.

Renting for the purpose of covering maintenance fees is still being proposed as a sales strategy, according to posts on our closed member based Diamond Resorts Facebook page. According to the post below, one Diamond timeshare sales agent did not get the memo:

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

“We attended a sales presentation at Kaanapali Beach Club and were encouraged to buy points to rent. The agent said his wife is renting out their units and made a profit last year.”

I contacted the owner who posted the above contract. She was able to provide:

The agent’s name, James Ziskend;

Date – January 5, 2017;

Location – Kaanapali Beach Club Maui

She posted the comment asking if anyone thought this was a good idea.

One owner was astounded the agent tried to sell them more points to rent AFTER the family had been issued a “Cease and Desist”. He said they could not launch a website, but renting on sites like RedWeek would be allowed. “Mega-renters” are high volume owners who do use websites to rent points for commercial purposes.

But back to Irina Business woman

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