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letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, somehow we think that when you have read this story you will be shocked, we certainly were.

shocked cat

Inside Timeshare heard from its first US timeshare member seeking advice one year ago. Like today, it was a Hispanic family. We in Spain feel like first cousins to American Hispanics, so are particularly affected when we hear one of our own might be faced with the possibility of foreclosure.

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

When the resort says no, a family may have no choice but to consider foreclosure. There is no one company to blame. Deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale has been talked about since timeshare began. The industry has had its ups and downs, but the emergence of the “right to use” point programs seem to have escalated timeshare complaints and lawsuits from both sides of the fence. There has been a flurry of developer lawsuits against exit, transfer or claims companies targeting members desperate for help, as well as lawsuits against lawyers practicing questionable business practices. Legitimate law firms are not immune.  Several Attorneys General in America have been investigating various timeshare companies.

Caught in the middle is the timeshare member, like the Vargas family. Hoping to warn the general public as well as existing timeshare members, to the danger of buying something that cannot be sold, Deneise Vargas shares her story.

How easily a Vacation Plan can result in Foreclosure

Hispanic

By Deneice Vargas

September 29, 2017

woman 1

I had hoped Diamond Resorts would help us. A hospitality agent had told me to supply medical documentation about my husband’s medical condition, so I thought they had listened and responded in a positive way. I then learned the person I had spoken with had quit. The person who replaced her said they would not help us because Louis got Bell’s palsy a week before we signed the timeshare contract. Bell’s palsy is not the flu! Symptoms include muscle weakness, drooling and an inability to make facial expressions. Just because a person has not been diagnosed, does not mean they are not suffering from a disease.

In dollar terms, this is what we are facing:

  • Current Loan Balance: $93,671 financed at 13.5%
  • Paid already: $76,627
  • Current Maintenance Fee: $6,948
  • We have accumulated 67,500 vacation points

Why buy so many timeshare points?

We purchased a timeshare at Polo Towers in Las Vegas and at Palm Canyon. We were never told maintenance fees would go up each year. With the loans and the maintenance fees, we have used all our savings.

At the Las Vegas sales presentation, the sales manager threatened to have our first sales agent from Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, Tim, fired because it was not legal, per them, for Tim to hold a price for us. The manager got on my phone, speaking to Tim, chewing him out. I was so upset I started to cry. I was confused and did not know what to do. We signed that contract so Tim would not be fired. They opened and charged a Diamond Barclaycard because I did not have enough money. Another $3135 was charged to two different Visa cards. Last July we had to refinance our house to pay off the credit cards.

We went to Las Vegas twice in 2015.  They told us we had to attend an informational meeting about Apollo Global Management because Apollo had purchased Diamond. They said it was not a sales presentation. They lied because they again tried to sell us more points. We were told we should buy more points because we could use points to pay maintenance fees and buy plane tickets and other things. We were not told Platinum members can only use points to pay maintenance fees at four cents a point or that a vacation point is only worth pennies per point if used to buy plane tickets.

In 2016 we went again to Palm Canyon Palm Springs. Tim introduced us to Dan Vendl. Dan explained the benefits of being trial Platinum. I hesitated because the money was going. Dan said there was a company we could refinance with that had a better rate than Diamond, so our payment would be less. That was not true.

We were told “We are real estate agents. You can write off the interest paid and closing costs on these contracts because it is like real estate.” They said the proof was because they have real estate licenses. They are licensed real estate agents, but what they told us was not true. Our accountant said we were not allowed to take any deductions. We were told we had to buy that day so we could not talk to our accountant.

Anytime we check in, they harass us to do another update.  In Las Vegas while checking in, the woman wanted to follow me to the parking garage to get Louie to change his mind even though I had told her NO. She said she needed for us to participate so she would get credit.

We have cancelled other Diamond contracts after signing. One reason was our 16 year old granddaughter was dying of brain cancer.  My son had already lost his wife to cancer and we were helping him.

Now Las Vegas Polo Towers has been calling again. Binni Thomas and his Supervisor Melvin say we need to upgrade to 50,000 points to become permanent Platinum members.  Again, we are told we should never have been given a $3.30 price per point. He said the points are now selling for $8.70 each and that is what we should pay.

I told him No!

operators

Social Media helps. At least we know we are not alone. If you or someone you know does not know where to turn for timeshare help, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help Advocacy Group as members work to help other members find the next step.

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

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

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

Now that you have read this story, do you not agree that things must change?

This type of selling must not be allowed to continue, whether it is in the US, Europe or anywhere else in the world. At least In Spain the law is on the side of the consumer, Spain now has some of the strongest laws relating to timeshare in the world. It is through the efforts of law firms such as Canarian Legal Alliance that have brought this about.

The rest of the world take note, have a good weekend.

friday cat

foreclosure

Timeshare Foreclosure

In yesterday’s article “Start the Week”, we had a look at the resale market in Europe, or the lack of it. We highlighted one resale company Fab Timeshare Resales, who specialise in Marriott resale. The prices advertised on their website started at a paltry 1000€ or $1,180 for a timeshare which starts at 17,000€ or $21,000 according to the Marriott website.

Today Irene Parker looks at the growing problem in the US of foreclosure and defaults, which may just be partly due to the lack of the resale or secondary market, but first a little more news from Europe.

here we go again

Last week in Friday’s Letter from America, we published the news released by Canarian Legal Alliance on their 60th Supreme Court ruling. Yesterday they announced another, which is now 61!

In this ruling it is yet again the Tenerife company Silverpoint, which bring rulings from Spain’s Highest Court against them to 22. The judges in this instance ruled the contract null and void with the return of over £43,000 plus legal fees and legal interest. We are still waiting for the actual infractions of the law to be released, but going by past judgements it will more than likely be the duration of the contract being more than 50 years.

alert

On the “scam” front, mindtimeshare have again highlighted another rather clever little ploy coming out of the Costa del Sol. This company is called Joint Returns Legal Consultants, who have apparently been appointed by the High Court to inform consumers that a case has gone through and the court is now holding money to be returned.

Obviously as with all these “scams”, there is a “TAX” to be paid and the “gentleman” on the phone going by the name Peter Sanchez, send emails confirming the story with letter headings from “Agencia Tributaria”. All this along with confirmation from the BBVA (Bank) and a Notary it all seems very plausible.

Telephone numbers:

Tel.: +34 632844887. Fax: 0872 113 1069

Email jointreturns@gmail.com

This really does go to show some of the lengths these people will go just to get your money, we have said this before and we will continue to issue the same warning.

THE COURTS DO NOT APPOINT PRIVATE COMPANIES TO INFORM CONSUMERS THAT MONEY IS BEING HELD. THERE ARE NO CASES AT COURT UNLESS YOU HAVE INSTIGATED THEM YOURSELF. DO NOT PAY ANY MONEY ESPECIALLY BY BANK TRANSFER TO AN INDIVIDUAL.

Now for today’s main article from Irene.

Timeshare Foreclosure

Is it survivable?

graph

By Irene Parker

September 26 2017

Inside Timeshare received five more complaints over the weekend. This makes over 150 timeshare complaints received. The rise in timeshare default rates reported by bond rating agencies and the lawsuits that have ensued as timeshare developers try to stop the flow of “Cease and desist” letters prove we are not imagining a crisis.

  1. Would you buy a house you could not sell?
  2. Would you buy a boat or car you could not sell?
  3. Would you pay $25,000 to over $500,000 to join a country club you can’t quit?

According to Bankrate

Avoid developer financing

Lenders won’t mortgage a time share because they haven’t been successful in resales or in their valuation, says Patricia Hayhurst, mortgage consultant for Capital Bank in Coral Gables, Florida. “They are considered high-risk lending.”

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/loans/timeshare-loans-primer.aspx

Our own Lisa Ann Schreier was quoted in the article.

“Most (consumers) I hear from are using the developer’s financing as they are unaware of any other alternatives,” says Lisa Ann Schreier, founder of the consumer consulting company Timeshare Insights in Clermont, Florida. “If a consumer can obtain a personal loan (elsewhere) for the time share, the interest rate can be significantly lower as typical developer financing runs 15% to 19%.”

The problem is this is how sales are made. “When you get home, get a home equity loan,” is a common suggestion as it gets the developer off the hook once the buyer realizes they cannot afford the timeshare. Rather than sign off on a high interest rate loan on the spot, demand that you have time to check with your bank or credit union to find out if such statements are true and if you qualify.

Financial journalist Robert Shaw in his 2016 Seeking Alpha article, “Does timeshare need a millennial act to attract new buyers?” questions the industry’s over reliance on upgrading or up-selling existing buyers.

Since an existing owner is familiar and already pleased with the product, sales to existing owners are typically much easier to close. It is hard to visualize an existing owner who is totally dissatisfied with their current ownership sitting through a 90-minute sales tour.

sales pitch

Based on the accounts heard by those reaching out to Inside Timeshare, the reason the upgrade is easy to close, is because of deception on the front end of the timeshare sales, offering buy-back and resale programs that do not exist, or ways to offset maintenance fees to those already financially burdened that do not exist.

Mr. Shaw also feels timeshare is no longer sold as an investment. Yes it is. Buy now because the price is going to double refers to the retail price, not the resale price, yet over and over we hear this repeated as the reason the member purchased additional points. Not one member who has contacted Inside Timeshare realized their contract was perpetual and there was no secondary market.

Timeshare is definitely not a real estate investment and apart from the occasional overzealous sales associate, timeshare companies long ago stopped pitching it as such an investment. Yet, its lack of being a real estate investment may make it less attractive to newer, younger buyers who are wanting value and the ability to sell it when they no longer want or need it.

https://seekingalpha.com/article/3991819-timeshare-need-new-act-attract-millennial-buyers

At least Mr. Shaw questions the concerns expressed by timeshare insiders. Most financial news services merely want to justify the buy on the stock price.

The Foreclosure process is gruesome. There will be threatening calls and the hit on your credit score. We are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice, but the Nolo article about timeshare foreclosure is one of the best articles I’ve read on the subject. Many have tried to resolve issues with their resort, but the oral representation clause reigns.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/options-avoid-timeshare-foreclosure.html

A good number of those reporting back to us that their resort will not cancel their loan, despite alleged deception on the front end of the sale, has led to many indicating they will not be paying their 2018 maintenance fees. They have no choice because they cannot afford the timeshare. Do not respond to the ads appearing when we publish our articles asking for upfront money to get you out of your timeshare.

I question how the industry can survive. Almost all of the members contacting us have children and grandchildren. Although there is a bit of a role reversal with several parents telling us, “We haven’t told our kids about this”, many have, and those children and grandchildren want nothing to do with the timeshare product once they learn their parents were deceived into buying it.

Please continue to report your grievances. In the book The Burglary by former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger, describing the break-in at the FBI office in late 1970 that led to the exposure of J Edgar Hoover’s illegal surveillance tactics, led by a Haverford College physics professor at the Media, PA FBI office.  Gloria Steinem wrote as a testimonial:

“Ordinary people have the courage and community to defeat the most powerful and punitive of institutions.”

Timeshare today is broken. When sales agents can lie and laugh about it, at the expense of the young and the old, financially devastated by their vacation plan, something is very wrong. Lawmakers, heavily influenced by the industry, don’t seem to care because timeshare buyers don’t typically buy a timeshare in the state they live in. Attorneys General try to protect the public, but the settlements achieved are mere speed bumps in extraordinary revenue streams.

Add your voice to the growing number of timeshare members who have had enough. Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you have had enough of the hamster wheel called timeshare sales if deceit has been used to sell the product, foreclosure to retrieve it, and resale at full price to continue the never ending process.

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

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

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

green advocacy

 

So there we have it, no resale or secondary market equals foreclosure, what a state of affairs.

In Europe we are seeing the proliferation of the bogus claims companies, these are playing on the desperation of those who want out but are unable to do so. It may be the resorts or developers will not allow them out, it may be they are unable to sell due to no market, it used to be bogus resale companies that took owners for thousands, how times have changed or have they?

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker asks the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, What about us? Ms Bondi seems to have a reputation for backing big business rather than the consumer, but more of that in Irene’s article. As usual we begin with what is happening in Europe.

CLA Logo

Some news which was breaking yesterday has now been confirmed, Canarian Legal Alliance issued a press release informing us of the latest Supreme Court victories.

Legal history has now been made with CLA achieving their 60th victory in Spain’s highest court, we say legal history as this is unprecedented. No other law firm has ever managed to get this number of cases through the Supreme Court. This is a fantastic achievement since their first victory in March 2015, in the past two and a half years they have not only made history but have also made law.

Their latest victories have been against Silverpoint, in sentence number 59, the court ordered the return of over 65,000€ plus the payment of First Instance legal fees and legal interest. The client’s contract was also declared null & void, which now makes them timeshare free with no more ongoing maintenance fees.

With sentence number 60, the same court ruled that the contract be declared null & void, ordering Silverpoint to return over 92,000€ plus Appeal Instance legal fees and legal interest. This now makes a total of 21 judgments from the Supreme Court against Silverpoint alone.

Then the following day, the Judge at the High Court Number 3 in Tenerife, followed the Supreme Court rulings declaring another client’s contract with Silverpoint null & void. The judge also ordered the return of over 11,000€ plus legal interest.

Not only must the clients be celebrating, but I will wager there was some celebrating going on in the Lawyer’s office!

amador-galeca-300x191

Following the publication of yesterday’s article on the new fake law firm Amador Galeca Abogados, we received an email from a reader who has already been taken in by them. Unfortunately they have already paid the Procurator a fee, but at least it was not a large sum, yet something prompted them to start checking the internet for information before they paid them next amounts.

As we said yesterday it would only be a matter of time before we found out the new name of the Procurator and the bank account they are using, here it is:

Procurator: Graham Ingum Gorrin

Address: C/ Layanva, Edif Colmenas, Oficina 2223, 38003, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Bank: Deutsche Bank Sociedad Anonima Espa, C.P.A. BCN, Ronda General Mitre 72-74 Barcelona.

IBAN: ES3900190172854010033761

As for the address of the procurator, searching on google and google maps it does not exist, so any post sent there will obviously never be delivered.

This reader has also supplied some new and interesting information, Amador Galeca informed them that the directors of their timeshare had pleaded guilty in court and that all their assets had been seized, not bad, it seems that all the directors according to this group of fake law firms plead guilty!

The amount paid was for a relinquishment through the Spanish courts, which needed to be done first before they could go to court for compensation. The strange thing is, once again it seems that the jurisdiction of the Spanish Courts now extends beyond the borders of Spain and encompasses timeshare in the UK!

These readers have been lucky, they have not lost a huge amount, they have also informed their bank who is going to issue an alert to all other banks.

This does prove the point, never believe what you are told, especially when it comes to timeshare,

IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD, STOP THINK AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

homework

Now on with Irene’s article.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi – What about Us?

Irma Iniki and Timeshare

most people

By Irene Parker

Friday September 22 2017

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi expressed her outrage over price gouging during hurricane Irma. While her dismay is understandable and commendable, why has there been so little effort expended to come to the aid of Florida timeshare buyers alleging they were deceived into buying a timeshare? Nationwide there have been lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations too numerous to mention.

Ms. Bondi has been quick to investigate timeshare resale scams.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit against a company she accuses of violating Florida’s Timeshare Resale Accountability Act.

Florida has a specific law covering timeshare resales because it has so many of the properties, whose owners are often desperate to unload them.

In this latest case, Bondi sued Prime Resorts International, based in central Florida. She accuses the company of making telephone calls to timeshare owners all over the country, telling them they have a buyer for their timeshare. She says the company also claimed to be able to guarantee the deal would close.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/florida-sues-another-timeshare-reseller-031116.html

The Berkley Group

Sources tell us Ms. Bondi is investigating The Berkley Group. The Berkley Group owns Vacation Village Resorts. With a BBB rating of F, looking into this company is a start, but acting on only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014 seems underperforming at best.

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/vacation-village-resorts-in-fort-lauderdale-fl-4003645/reviews-and-complaints

Ms. Bondi opened this resale investigation after receiving 85 complaints.

The attorney general opened her investigation after she said her office got more than 85 complaints, claiming to have lost more than $110,000. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the company, consumer restitution, and a civil penalty of $10,000 per violation.

Inside Timeshare has received 144 timeshare complaints of which 130 allege they were deceived on the front end of the sale. The dollar amount in question concerns well over one million dollars. The 14 not alleging deceit say they seek relinquishment because they say they cannot afford the annually increasing maintenance fees. ARDA and the industry continue to ignore deception exists, and with lawmakers turning a deaf ear, the court of public opinion seems the only avenue open for families reporting how they have been financially devastated by their timeshare plan.

follow money

Timeshare revenue in Florida is a lot of dollars to tamper with.

As the state’s No. 1 industry, tourism is crucial to Florida’s economy – generating 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing more than one million Floridians. In 2011, tourism was responsible for welcoming 86.5 million visitors to Florida and generated $67.2 billion in direct economic impact.

http://www.flgov.com/governor-scott-applauds-floridas-tourism-marketing-2/

The industry will be quick to respond that there are nine million who own timeshares. What difference does a couple hundred families make? It makes a world of difference to the families affected who have contacted Inside Timeshare.

Recently, the Finn Law Group took issue with the lack of disclosure provided to timeshare buyers. If feeling deceived, after spending $5,000 to over $500,000 on a vacation plan, families are shocked to learn their timeshare has no secondary market and the contract is perpetual. Contracts are deceptive in that they often state points can be sold. Buyers are not informed about the lack of buyers should they need to sell.

LARGO, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–An administrative petition has been filed against Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation alleging that the agency’s approval of a request by timeshare developers to make statutorily mandated public offering statements available by providing an online address at the closing rather the furnishing hard copies violates Florida law.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170905006015/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Petition-Florida-Agency

Ms. Bondi appeared on Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi’s Property Man Show in 2016 explaining how the Florida Attorney General’s office worked with ARDA and the Department of Justice to shut down timeshare resale or release scams. Mr. Massi encouraged timeshare members to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association if they need to sell their timeshare. When I contacted LTRBA about selling our Diamond timeshare points, I was informed by several LTRBA members they know of no licensed LTRBA broker who will even accept a listing for our points due to secondary market restrictions.

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

Inside Timeshare has also started hearing from Bluegreen members. One member is Lela Renea, a Bluegreen member and a detective. Lela Renea says she was deceived into buying a timeshare. If a Florida detective, allegedly reports being a victim of deceptive sales, what chance does the average timeshare buyer on the street have?

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

When I wrote an article for TheStreet, Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service, challenging what is in my opinion gestapo like tactics demanding Diamond members stay vacationed, Diamond demanded a rebuttal, stating they understood life’s changes could render their product a liability so they were introducing a program called Transitions that would allow qualified members in good standing a way out. That was June of 2016, yet the company has yet to introduce the program. “Qualified” is the key word. Most members contacting Inside Timeshare have loans, and many allege they succumbed to high interest rate loans and credit cards after hours long aggressive sales presentations. A timeshare must be unencumbered to be eligible for any voluntary surrender program.

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

“Is Apollo Returning to its Junk Roots?” is the article Diamond found objectionable. Most remember the subprime mortgage crisis, but a decade earlier was the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond scandal that sent Michael Milken to jail for securities fraud. DBL founder and banker Leon Black filed bankruptcy on DBL only to reform and rebrand as Apollo Global Management, purchasing Diamond Resorts in 2016. If DBL liked junk bonds, which had some value, timeshare points that have no value the moment the contract is signed, should a buyer need to sell, must seem attractive.

Hurricanes and Timeshare

hurricane

One of the top complaints Inside Timeshare has received concerns upsells by timeshare sales agents on the US mainland selling against timeshare agents in Hawaii. This would be normal competition were it not for the fact the dueling agents work for the same company. Buyers tell us sales agents on the mainland side tell existing members they should not have purchased a Hawaii timeshare because of damages from hurricane Iniki that struck Hawaii on Kauai in 1992. They are encouraged to buy more points and transfer to US mainland points, despite Florida resorts included in their purchase. Obviously, Florida is at risk for hurricanes.

pam bondi 1      Ms. Bondi, please listen to us. The Arizona Attorney General has received over 900 timeshare complaints about Diamond Resorts:

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

Wyndham former timeshare sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million by a jury concerning overly aggressive and predatory timeshare techniques:

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

Eric Schneiderman’s $6.5 million settlement with The Manhattan Club:

http://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club/

In addition to member families,Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare has heard from eight current and former timeshare sales agents alarmed at the escalation in predatory sales. The following comment made by a former experienced sales agent mirrors the others.

“I watched every day, agents selling DRI for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them for doing it.  The maintenance fees statement about buying more and using that to pay your maintenance fees was a practice that was encouraged, but be careful.  Some of the agents, who still work at DRI, would sell the program for $98k when it was only in the 50k range.  One of the guests came back to cancel but the agent said no worries, “I have it packed 40k but I’ll give then 15 off and still make a killing!”   This made me sick because these particular guests were in their late 70′ early 80’s.  I asked the agent if he had a conscience and he just laughed…if you can get them to pay more you’re a hero!!  They have the money!!

Deception actually goes back further than that.  We were told to pack the price for a trade in and imply that it was what they got back for their TS… we sold it for the regular price….they got nothing for their TS!”

(Charles Thomas, editors note: we have published on many occasions on the “stack and drop” tactic. This has been used for many years and we have seen it throughout Europe. It is used as a tool for upgrading or poaching other companies members. The consumer then believes they have had value for their other purchase).

It is our hope Diamond Resorts will listen and respond, along with Wyndham, Bluegreen and others, to improve timeshare sales today after the rise of “right to use” programs. In my opinion, such programs leave wide berth for misrepresentation and deceit.

The following are self-help Facebook pages representing over 1000 timeshare member families:

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

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

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

A few of the 144 families who have contacted Inside Timeshare:

Marsha, Ann and Marjorie

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-18/

Bonita Hill

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-review-clarity/

Eron Grant ARDA’s Code of Ethics

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Irina Allen

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer June 30, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-australia-no-read-correctly/

Alan Callner

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

Detective Lela Renea

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

David Franks Chapter 4

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

Karen Garello Secret Shopper June 22, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Romeo and Lily

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-9/

Dr. Jeffries

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-7/

Angela Johnson

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

Neina Orrillo

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

Barclaycard and Member stories May 17 2917

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

Marjorie Menacker

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

Eron Grant May 12, 2017

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

Barclays Bank Charles May 11, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-finance-barclays-hot-water-high-court/

Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017

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

A Filipino Family April 13, 2017

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

Laurie Sabbagh March 17, 2017 Clarity Review

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

A Military Family March 6, 2017

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

The Hurleys January 25, 2017

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

Irina Allen January 13, 2017

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

Kathie Old December 6, 2016

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

Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award December 5, 2017

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

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles November 7, 2017

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

Sylvia Saldana and the Barclaycard October 25, 2016

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

Hug Your Haters! By author Jay Baer on the importance of Social Media

http://insidetimeshare.com/customer-service-message/

need you

Will anyone listen? Author Jay Baer is to be keynote speaker at the upcoming October Interval International Shared Ownership Investment Conference, attended by developers and private equity firms. In Hug Your Haters, Mr. Baer strongly urges companies to listen. Members are hopeful, but doubtful, developers will listen to him.

Thank you Irene and those that proof read your article and gave advice, timeshare is a crazy world, which is such a shame as it is a great idea, with many who have enjoyed it for many years. There are some very good developers and resorts, but the reputation of the industry is being spoilt by a few.

Have a great weekend.

weekend-picard

         

 

hand up

The Tuesday Slot: Giving You a Helping Hand

For many people it can be a daunting task to prepare a complaint against a large company, how is it written, who do you file it with? These are all questions that need to be answered.

In Europe the matter of making a complaint against a timeshare company has actually become easier, especially in Spain, where the laws are on the side of the consumer. But trying to deal with a company that has for the most part tied you up in contracts and legal jargon, has resulted in many complaints by consumers just being put aside with the feeling what is the point?

In today’s article Irene shows how to write the complaint and who to file it with, the most important point is don’t let it get you down there is always help out there. So on with the advice.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

complaints

By Irene Parker

September 12, 2017

After Inside Timeshare received 135 US timeshare complaints (as of September 8, 2017), this guide evolved to use as a blueprint to file a complaint. Previously, we published an article called “The 3Rs or F of Timeshare” because no one should have to own anything in perpetuity if they can no longer use or afford the product.

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

  1. Name (s) and age of member
  2. Phone Number
  3. State of Residence
  4. Number of points owned per contract
  5. Member Number
  6. Loan Number  
  7. Current Maintenance Fees
  8. Total purchase price per contract
  9. Location purchased
  10. Sales agent and sales agent ID Number if available
  11. Original Loan Amount, Loan Number and stated interest rate
  12. Current Loan Balance
  13. What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment?
  14. Why? Is it due to Deception, Health, Age or Financial Burden?

If your investment is $40,000 or less and you owned and used your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment.

Availability:  Dissatisfied in general with availability complaints will go unheeded.

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint. Begin with when you first became involved with the company and proceed chronologically. Keep your history brief up to the point when things began to go wrong.

The most common complaint is bait and switch. If you feel you were deceived list the reasons why.

who what

How Advocacy Works

Email Inside Timeshare your complaint if you would like to talk to someone about your concerns. Before you begin, raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? It is important to present your information factually and without opinion.

Consider becoming a volunteer report writer if you have reporting experience.

If you have questions, email Irene Parker – ireneparker377@gmail.com

Cell – 270-303-7572 EST – Feel free to call any day of the week between 1 to 5:00 PM EST or if you are unable to prepare your own report.

We are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice. We have researched regulatory agencies and are here to direct consumers to the appropriate regulatory agencies. Agencies are listed below. We have also developed media relationships and will continue to work with broadcast and print media to alert the general public as to what questions to ask before buying a timeshare. Life events, like a hurricane, can change your life in an instant or a day. If your timeshare provides no secondary market, it can make a member feel a hostage to their vacation plan. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

After you complete your complaint email it to the appropriate resort department. Expect to be denied. Typically your resort reviewer will restate your concerns, conduct an investigation and report back that the sales agent (s) denied your claims. It’s a negotiation so if denied, file a rebuttal.

deneid

If you feel you are a victim of deceit and bait and switch, send us a copy of your complaint. An Advocate will file your complaint on your behalf with the firm’s public relations office and ARDA, the timeshare lobby, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics which can be found on ARDA’s website. We do not recommend owners make the voluntary opt in or opt out contribution on your maintenance fee invoice for ARDA ROC (Resort Owners Coalition). ARDA is basically a PAC that lobbies for the industry when the issue is one that is at odds with members. We will also include NTOA National Timeshare Owners Association and the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card. By having the Advocate file on your behalf, we can track complaints, documenting a pattern of criminal behavior.

Mark your email urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. It may take up to 30 days to hear back from the resort. Resend in three weeks if you have not heard back. If you feel you were a victim of deceit and bait and switch, give the resort a week to respond before filing regulatory complaints.

The member will report back to us with a positive or negative outcome. Due to the required non-disclosure or mutual release form, terms and conditions will not be discussed. Just report a positive outcome or resolution.

If your resort denies your claim begin filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies beginning with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract, where you live and where your resort is domiciled. It can take a month or more to hear back from an AG but once your complaint has been accepted, debt collectors are not allowed to call. You can find any Attorney General by searching the state and Attorney General.

office of ag

If there was an unauthorized credit card charge or you feel you were deceived into signing off on a loan, you should file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage) and select the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card. One common complaint is that the buyer was told they could get a lower interest rate from a bank or credit union. File with the CFPB only if there is a loan outstanding or a credit card was used.

You should file a complaint with the state Real Estate Division in the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against a sales agent. The Advocate can help you if you don’t know the agent ID number. Timeshare sales agents are real estate licensed in most states.

File with the Better Business Bureau, although the company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints.

The definition of Financial Institution Fraud under the FBI’s definition of White Collar Crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. The FBI assigns Financial Institution Fraud the highest priority. You can read about White Collar Crime on the FBI website, but complaints are filed at IC3.gov. This is somewhat confusing because IC stands for Internet Crime and people think it has to be internet related. IC3.gov is just the name of the portal.

fbi

 

Most important, consider reaching out to local or national media. Reporters look for content and are surprisingly easy to reach. Write an article about your experience. The more people who come forward, the more the public is made aware of pitfalls before engaging in a timeshare sales presentation.

Our “Chicken Soup for Timeshare’s Soul” Inside Timeshare article is linked at the end of this article explaining what to expect or not expect when you file with a regulatory or law enforcement agency.

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • Attorneys General where you signed, where you live and where the resort is domiciled. Search (state name) Attorney General for contact information. Most AG complaints can be filed online.
  • The Real Estate Division of the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against the agent. “Right-to- use” membership programs are not defined as real estate, but the agent is typically a licensed real estate agent.
  • The FBI under the IC3.gov portal if deceit or bait and switch.
  • ARDA if you feel ARDA’s code of ethics has been violated.
  • The media – the court of public opinion is often the only court available. Inside Timeshare, published in Spain, publishes timeshare articles online focusing primarily on the need for reform and oversight.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option selecting the bank that issued the travel credit card or financed your loan.
  • The Federal Trade Commission – due to lack of secondary market
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Lawmakers – The problem is the timeshare buyer typically does not buy in their state of residence which is why lawmakers don’t seem to take timeshare seriously. Still, any effort to contact lawmakers is encouraged.

If this sounds like a work, it is, but you can file with some, all, or none of the agencies. We feel “Action and Advocacy” is the way to change questionable timeshare business practices. Change requires volumes of complaints.

What to expect from regulatory agencies

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Life without timeshare through “The 3Rs or F of Timeshare”

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

If you are granted a positive outcome, you may not say or write anything disparaging about the resort, but there is no harm in staying involved. Reach out to others when you stay at resorts. Create a business card type flyer.

Who We Are and Why We Do This

working others

The timeshare industry is wealthy and powerful, able to influence politicians and Attorneys General. Timeshare owners typically are struggling with maintenance fees, unorganized and alone. Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever.

There are a number of timeshare members and non-timeshare member advocates working behind the scenes to assist in the complaint process. If all else fails, we will refer to an attorney if the member can afford one. If you are forced into foreclosure, but have an otherwise unblemished credit report, you can write to the credit reporting agencies in an effort to explain why you were deceived and why you were not able to resolve your dispute.

After retiring from Edward Jones working as an Investment Representative, I worked three years as a CASA supervisor, writing and editing court reports for Family Court on behalf of foster children. I find two commonalities between children of abuse, neglect or dependency and deceptive timeshare sales.

  • The abnormal becomes the normal. After hearing 136 complaints (as of September 5), I fear deception is endorsed and encouraged by some timeshare companies. I have interviewed nine current and former timeshare sales agents and managers. They call it “pitching heat” or “No Heat, No Eat”. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest. We hear primarily from buyers seeking assistance when victimized by unscrupulous agents.
  • Victims are silenced and isolated via non-disclosure agreements. Non-disclosure is appropriate in the case of a settlement, but when a family receives nothing after an alleged bait and switch, after spending $5,000 to $500,000 or more on a vacation plan, not allowing the victim to say anything disparaging about the company seems harsh. Many of the families we have worked with are financially devastated.

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. My husband and I owned three timeshares for 25 years with no problems or complaints. After we attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation in 2015, I began researching the industry, writing articles and assisting timeshare victims. I am not compensated by anyone. Our Advocacy Group is composed of volunteers. We hope there will come a day our Advocacy Group is not needed.

Self Help Groups

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

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

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

September 12, 2017 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy Group™  

Although this article is aimed at our American cousins, the principle of how it is written will be the same for Europe. If you believe your complaint is valid, don’t give up, that’s what they want you to do, be persistent, be strong and seek help, it is out there.

In Europe the EU has set up many consumer agencies, most EU countries have consumer rights groups and Consumer Affairs offices. In the UK there are several that you could use, one which has been very good in the past is the Trading Standards Office, these are set up by local councils and have a lot of clout. They have also been instrumental in having some rather shady companies closed down.

Then there is legal action, employing a law firm to take your case to court, in Spain over the past few years this has been very successful. Law 42/98 and the updated version Law 4/12, is based on the EU Timeshare Directives, which were put into place to protect consumers and regulate the industry. Spain now has the strongest timeshare regulations in Europe, these along with other civil consumer laws protect consumers from unfair practices and contracts. These have been strengthened over the past couple of years with around 57 rulings from the Supreme Court, Spain’s highest court, which has removed any doubt about their interpretation.

It now remains for other EU countries to do the same, so no matter where you purchase, the same protection is available. We may even just see a change in the industry for the better.

If you require any further information about this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Inside Timeshare also wants your stories,

good, bad or downright ugly,

so if you have something you would like to share or think will help others,

then

hear from you

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome back to Friday’s Letter from America, last week we did change it to Australia to welcome our Aussie contributor Justin Morgan with his first article, which happened to coincide with Irene Parker’s first anniversary. Today we hear from our first Bluegreen owner, who also happens to be a detective in law enforcement, so this proves that all are vulnerable to the smooth talking sales staff.

Irene reported just as we were about to publishing today’s article, that four Diamond Members have been able to resolve their vacation issues this past week. Members tell us they appreciate having a human instead of a department to talk to. Previously members complained of continually having to start over with seemingly endless departments.

We hope other timeshare developers follow suit as timeshare complaints are widespread.

Now we have a look at what is happening in the European world of timeshare.

The National Police in Spain have busted a major scam being run from the Costa del Sol, they raided several premises and homes in the Velez Malaga – Torre del Mar area. Around 40 were detained, they included a husband and wife, son and daughter-in-law, along with it is reported two lawyers. The detained are mainly British, who have run several businesses in the area over a number of years, these targeted mainly British timeshare owners.

Police raid

The scams involved timeshare resales, holiday packages and discount clubs, this has over the years netted millions of pounds, with the police recovering around 100,000€ in cash, expensive watches, jewels and several high end cars.

It is believed the companies, which are well known by Inside Timeshare and other similar sites, are, Halfmoon Holdings, Excalibur Sales & Marketing, Blue Chip and Rosedale Marketing. The only problem is, when one of these raids takes place and they are put out of business, there are many others ready and waiting to fill the gap. No doubt, we will see a series of companies offering to help victims get their money back, for an upfront fee obviously. So readers beware!

Follow the links to read the stories in the UK tabloids.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3952419/dozens-arrested-over-timeshare-scam-that-saw-500-brits-conned-out-of-life-savings-in-multi-million-pound-costa-del-sol-racket/?utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SprnklrSUNOrganic&UTMX=Editorial%3ATheSun%3ATwImageandlink%3AStatement%3ANews

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/costa-del-sol-cops-uncover-10745713

On the legal front, it looks like those lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have been busy this week, with several announcements of cases won.

We started the week with a judgement from Tenerife against Resort Properties / Silverpoint followed on Tuesday with news that the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas GC, awarding a client who purchased at Anfi, over 59,000€ with their contract being declared null & void. Once again the court ruled that the contract was longer than the stipulated period of 50 years.

On Wednesday, the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife, again found against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, in this case the judge ruled the contract was missing information which is required by law, the period again was longer than the 50 years allowed, plus deposits were taken within the 14 day cooling off period.

The British client will now receive over £14,000 plus legal interest and has had their contract declared null and void.

On Thursday there were two announcements the first from Tenerife, the Chayofa Golf & Tennis Academy, was ruled against by the Court of First Instance, the contracts signed under the company United Sales 1997 Ltd were declared null & void. Again the infringements were the perpetuity contract and the illegal taking of deposits, the client will now receive over £9,000 plus legal interest.

Malaga Court

The second was from the High Court in Malaga, Club la Costa was found guilty with the contract being declared null & void. One of the main aspects of this case is the company is a UK registered Limited one, Club La Costa Leisure Ltd, which was probably an attempt to bypass Spanish law. As we have seen in the past, some companies have used this along with the clause that “this agreement and contract is subject to UK law and the jurisdiction of UK courts”, but it is evident now that this does not wash, if the timeshare was sold and the contract was signed on Spanish territory, then clearly Spanish law will apply.

Now on with our US Article.

A Bluegreen Member Responds to Timeshare Advocacy Group™

A detective shares her Bluegreen Timeshare experience

Complaint queue

By Irene Parker

Friday July 7, 2017

Typically our Inside Timeshare readers don’t contact us to report positive timeshare experiences so our email inbox often looks like the cartoon above. Today we hear from a Bluegreen member who found promises made did not meet what was purchased. Not as familiar with Bluegreen we checked internet sites and determined Bluegreen is a company that could use a customer satisfaction evaluation.  

Bluegreen members can join a member sponsored discussion Facebook consisting of 770 Bluegreen members. More and more timeshare members are launching sites where members can advise other members.

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is an umbrella organization consisting of volunteers stretching from the EU to the US and beyond including contributors from the Philippines and Australia. A few complaints have little or no effect, but a volume of complaints, especially directed against individual sales agents, can paint a pattern of deception.

A complaint process has evolved over the past year. Working through resort representatives, volunteer Advocates assist other members as we work through the “3 Rs or F of Timeshare” – Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always serve your best interest. I have not been able to get the $7 donation removed from my account.   
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. Given the CFPB’s diminished capacity, file with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby efforts. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to stop venting and act. This is one example of a military family that was able to resolve their dispute through Timeshare Advocacy Group™ http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/ and a hat’s off this 4th of July week to all those who serve in the military.
  • Last on the list is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation. Tennessee, Colorado, New York and Arizona are four states where Attorneys General have opened timeshare investigations       

law enforcement

Our Bluegreen member complainant works in law enforcement. Lela Renea is a detective appalled that, even though she works in law enforcement, alleges she became the prey.   

Lela purchased 6000 Bluegreen points in Las Vegas March 2015 for $8,200. Lela alleges she was a victim of deceit and bait and switch for the following reasons:

  1. Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  2. Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  3. Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  4. Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  5. Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  6. Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  7. Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

Lela has sent Bluegreen a demand letter requesting a refund. She will be filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies if her demands are not met. Lela will become an Advocate.

Lela’s friend and co-buyer contacted Pinnacle Vacation to do a transfer but Lela is worried Pinnacle may be a scam.

https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/bluegreen-vacation-club-c4809.html

lawsuit

The following lawsuit was filed against Bluegreen but was dismissed October 2016. It voices many of Lela’s complaints. Again, the problem is the oral representation clause that timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group has frequently described as “a license to lie”.

The BlueGreen Vacations Timeshare Sales Tactics Class Action Lawsuit is Kyle Miles, et al. v. BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-00937, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The plaintiffs are represented by Todd M. Friedman and Adrian R. Bacon of Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman PC.

BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc. has been hit with a class action lawsuit that accuses the timeshare company of using “hard sell” tactics and misinformation to convince consumers to enter into timeshare contracts.

During the timeshare presentation, the plaintiffs were reportedly informed that, if they were not satisfied with the timeshare contracts BlueGreen was selling, BlueGreen would buy back the contracts.

According to the timeshare class action lawsuit, BlueGreen also misled the presentation attendees by representing that the timeshare contract’s maintenance fees would not increase, when in reality, the maintenance fees increase on an annual basis.

However, the plaintiffs allege that the terms that were actually contained in the timeshare contract are different than the terms promised during the timeshare presentation.

They also claim that they were pressured to open two BlueGreen credit cards and to put the entire $5,000 down payment on the cards.

advo

Our local Florida news station today reported vacation rentals, as opposed to hotel bookings, have increased from 50% in 2014 to 70% in 2016. Our readers continually express disappointment and dismay over what they describe as an escalation in deception and overly aggressive timeshare selling. These are mostly members who were happy with their timeshare until deception set in. We want timeshare to be a healthy and robust industry. If the developers and lobby organizations don’t heed the damage being done by sales agents “pitching heat”, one wonders how the industry can survive in the millennial’s world.

Inside Timeshare thanks Lela for coming forward. We look forward to a new collaborator as a lot of what we do requires the skills of a detective. It did not take long to explain the basis of an IC3.gov complaint to Lela.

So there we have it, another week over in the timeshare world, with some good news for many and the start of a judicial nightmare for others. Inside Timeshare thanks all those who sent in the information which helps to form our articles, again thanks to Irene for editing the US contributions, together we are making a difference.

weekend

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

Welcome to this week’s Letter From America, from Irene Parker, as usual in her own style she explains what is happening across the Great Lake, but first a look at the week’s news in Europe.

Inside Timeshare is receiving many questions about the Anfi SGM and the vote to change the constitution, it seems to be causing a lot of confusion. No one seems clear as to what it is all about, so in a nutshell here it is.

Voting on Resolution 1

To establish occupancy periods for a maximum of 50 years duration, with an option to extend for further recurring occupancy periods of 50 years.

This will bring the contracts in line with the 50 year rule established in Spanish timeshare law, but it allows you to extend voluntarily to another 50 years.

Voting on Resolution 2

To limit the duration of the Timeshare Scheme to a maximum of 50 years.

The same as resolution 1 without the option to extend to another 50 years.

Voting on Resolution 3

Total change of Timeshare Scheme to adapt to Spanish Act 4/2012.

This adapts the contract to  “Rotational Enjoyment Rights” Anfi explains it thus:

“Every current holder of a membership certificate shall be allocated a number of rotational enjoyment rights, equal to the number of membership certificates they currently hold and which will entitle them to enjoy the same week of use as they currently hold”.

It will not make any difference unless you accept the new contract and sign them, it will however affect any new sales and those contracts.

As usual it is framed to confuse, why is it that anything to do with timeshare is made complicated, confusing and difficult for mere mortals to understand. Well, quite simply that is how they sold it to you in the first place!

The courts in the Canary Islands have been busy again this week, with many cases against timeshare companies being heard. Some of these sentences have yet to be announced, but as usual, we think we all know the outcome!

It has also just been announced that another ex-Anfi owner who won their case some time ago, has now received into their bank account the awarded amount. Their contract was declared null & void and now they can enjoy the 15,531€ as well as being timeshare free.

We have also been inundated with enquiries into several “claims” companies, all offering claims on a no win no fee basis. Then comes the crunch, they want several thousand pounds upfront! Obviously this is to relinquish the timeshare then the claim will be pursued, this claim is more than likely to be under the Credit Consumer Act 1974, Section 75. Which as we have stated before will not get paid out as the purchase was more than likely over the 6 year limit, (limitations act) or the fact that they will say you have received the goods and services as you have used the timeshare.

Again it pays to be cautious, so on with our Letter from America.

A Tina Timeshare Pinocchio Tale

Told by a Wyndham owner, possibly foreclosed by now, Mr. Patrick

pinocchio

By Irene Parker

June 9, 2017

Wyndham member Gene Patrick was one of several Wyndham owners to go to the trouble of making a YouTube about his timeshare trouble, continuing on with our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” series.

Comments ranged from “this is the most boring video I’ve ever watched” to “this is the most informative video I’ve ever watched.”

Mr. Patrick is a videographer. I side with the latter, although the video is long at 45 minutes. Mr. Patrick is also an effective storyteller, but for those who would rather read a short article than watch the video, here are the seven lies (allegations) he described. He seemed to lose count after three, but I believe I found seven. Mr. Patrick did provide a disclaimer stating these were his opinions or allegations, a word I have come to detest in that, even if only half the highly educated and professional people asking Inside Timeshare for assistance with their timeshare troubles are telling the truth, Timeshare has a problem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q218fyTmYpc

The back and forth comments among the 244 respondents sound familiar. Timeshare Facebooks that maintain a quota of happy vs angry members, admonish the angry members as irresponsible suckers that should have known better. Lawmakers and timeshare developers seem to agree with those hurling insults.

A Timeshare Tale

bloke

Gene and Melissa Patrick used his mom’s RCI points to stay at a Wyndham Resort. He was told he had to attend a member update or he would be charged $77 for a gift. He should have stopped right there, but like so many of our readers, he continued on.

We will call the sales agent Tina Timeshare as the sales agent in the video is like so many others we have reported on. As we always say, we know there are those trying to work fairly and honestly in timeshare, but the proportion of bad apples seems to be higher than even the proverbial used car salesman. Watch the video, but give it a chance. It seems boring in the beginning but the plot becomes more interesting as it thickens. For now, we will just itemize the allegations mentioned.

#1 A timeshare is tax deductible

This is a gray area, so we will defer to RedWeek and TimeSharing Today. Tax laws change, so a date would have been helpful. Apparently, in Mr. Patrick’s case, his timeshare was not tax deductible.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/articles/timeshare-tax-deductions

#2 Jim Cramer of Mad Money said Wyndham is a good investment.

Yes, Jim Cramer has been known to tout timeshare stocks, but that is not the same as saying buying a timeshare is a good idea. Mr. Patrick learned that the television clip he was shown was about Wyndham stock. Fifteen insiders made over $600,000 million on the Apollo buyout of Diamond, but that doesn’t mean buying the timeshare is a good idea. Mr. Patrick feels timeshare stock investors make money at the expense of so many who are duped into buying a timeshare.

One of our readers reported that he was shown a clip of the Ellen DeGeneres show at his Mystic Dunes presentation and told Ellen bought “hundreds of thousands” of Diamond points. Inside Timeshare is following up with Ellen on that one.

This is a good time to slip in the article I wrote for Jim Cramer’s investment news service, TheStreet, about timeshare contracts. At least Cramer allows opposing views.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13653117/1/the-timeshare-industry-has-improved-its-reputation-but-still-faces-scrutiny.html

Tina advised Mr. Patrick that he had to promise not to sell the membership to someone for a higher price than what he had to pay. It was at this point Mr. Patrick began to lose track of the lies. “The pace of the deceit was so fast I could not keep up,” he lamented.

#3 Wyndham has a buy-back program

Mr. Patrick said his job had just been cut to 32 hours from 40 and he was unsure about his employment stability. “Not to worry Mr. Patrick! Wyndham has a buy-back program,” Tina assured him.

#4 The 90 minutes presentation was heading into its eighth hour

My favorite is #5

#5 God wants you to buy a Wyndham timeshare! He wants you to enjoy life.

Mr. Patrick might have been confused at this point because Tina probably meant “God wants me to enjoy life.”

#6 Your credit is Golden!!!

Melissa raises an eyebrow. “Our credit is golden?  Our credit score is less than 650. Our credit is not golden.” Mr. Patrick might have been confused here as well, because 650 is no problem whatsoever for a timeshare purchase so in that sense, his credit was golden, at least for the sales agent.

#7 is a sin of omission. Maintenance fees go up.

It wasn’t until the eighth or ninth hours, with pens in hand, were the Patricks told about maintenance fees and at that point they were about to collapse from exhaustion it seemed. The kids were getting a little tired too.

the end

That’s the end of our article, but we don’t know the end of the story. We do know that after Mr. Patrick lost his job he learned the hard way Wyndham did not have a buy-back program.

Which side are you on?

Like timeshare sales agent Chuck used to tell us on our timeshare Facebook, we’re all irresponsible suckers and should have known better. Lawmakers, timeshare developers and some Attorneys General seem to be on Chuck’s side.

ARDA says nine million own timeshares and 83% are happy with them. That leaves 1,530,000 not happy with most complaining about being sold by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. I’m on the side that thinks timeshare needs greater disclosure.

Diamond Resorts agrees too as they have launched a CLARITY™ program that, if followed, and that’s a big if, does provide accurate statements about their program. Inside Timeshare has heard stories reporting when CLARITY™ has worked and when it hasn’t.

The consumer is not off the hook here. I don’t blame the buyer for not reading word for word an 81 page contract, but the CLARITY™ forms ARE easy to read and are written in English rather than legalese. Items in bold are in bold on the form. I would have bolded what I have underlined. There are 20 items to be initialed on the legal size single sheet including:

I have reviewed the chart of Maintenance Fees for past years. I understand annual increases are normal.

The purchase of additional points will not decrease my maintenance fees.

Diamond does not offer a buy-back program and makes no representation regarding tax deductions, refinancing opportunities, or that there will be a secondary market for the sale of Points. Points do not typically appreciate in value.

I many not engage in any commercial rental activity to rent out Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public and understand that my membership may be suspended or terminated if I do.

My membership is perpetual and may transfer by gift, or intestate succession upon my death. However, the transferee is not obligated to accept the transfer.

Redeeming points for reimbursement of travel services does not provide the best monetary value for my Points and is typically not lower in cost than spending cash for the same arrangements.

Non-Platinum Loyalty members cannot redeem Points for Maintenance Fees. Only Platinum Loyalty members may use Points to pay part of their annual Maintenance Fees, but that is not the highest and best use of Points. There is a $100 transaction fee and the redemption value per Point is currently $0.04 per Point and a maximum of 50,000 points can be redeemed.  

That about covers what Inside Timeshare has heard from readers asking Inside Timeshare for assistance with their Diamond complaints. I fell for two of the above.

So the moral of this story is not “Don’t buy a Timeshare” but “Timeshare Buyer Beware” and talk to a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare to compare the cost of buying resale or from the developer and the benefits or lack of benefits for doing so. Some may specialize in one resort or another like David Cortese of Magical Realty who specializes in Marriott Vacation Club, or Judi Kozlowski of RE/MAX who likes Hilton Grand Vacations, feeling Hilton has the most consumer friendly secondary market.

Contact Inside Timeshare or our member sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook to join the discussion.

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

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

There we have it, another week over and time to enjoy the weekend, breakout the BBQ’s, open a few tinnies or some vino and as our Aussie cousins say “Stick another shrimp on the barbie”!

Have a great weekend and as we always say before engaging with any company that either contacts you or you contact with anything to do with timeshare, it pays to do your homework!

stop press 1

Just as we were getting ready to hit the publish button this latest news has just come across The Great Lake from Irene Allen.

Lawsuit: Diamond Resorts ‘Harasses’ Timeshare Owners

 

https://www.classaction.org/news/lawsuit-diamond-resorts-harasses-timeshare-owners

It tells of a huge class action filed on 10 May 2017, so it looks like Diamond are being hit on both side of the lake!

 

weekend02

 

week review

The Friday Post: A Look at the Past Week.

It’s Friday, the end of another week in the murky world of timeshare, and what a week it’s been.

The RDO and TATOC announce that Silverpoint has withdrawn their membership from these two organisations, with Silverpoint announcing they will no longer be selling timeshare. One can only speculate as to the reasons behind this, but it does look like they may just be looking to develop another product which circumvents the timeshare laws. Rumour has it, this may be a “leisure credits” type of product.

There is also a lot of speculation as to a probable name change to the company, again this might just be to deflect any further litigation. After all Silverpoint did try and argue that they were not Resort Properties at one point, but the courts threw this out stating they are one and the same entity.

Inside Timeshare also announced in a previous article the sell off at Beverly Hills Heights, with owners being moved to other apartments or to Hollywood Mirage. We saw this at Beverly Hills Club a couple of years ago when this resort was sold off. It is now used as a hotel. Palm Beach Club owners also had the same thing happen, when the top 3 floors were sold. Again they were moved to other apartments or resorts.

Silverpoint’s woes do not just stop there. This week alone, the Canarian law firm, Canarian Legal Alliance announced 6, yes 6 court judgements against Silverpoint. All of these were delivered by the Court of First Instance in Arona, they all followed the 50+ Supreme Court rulings.

All the contracts were declared “Null & Void” with over £120,000 awarded to the clients, including legal interest and legal fees. This is quite a staggering amount to have to pay out in just one week, with many many more in the pipeline. It makes you wonder how long Silverpoint can hold out with these figures being awarded against them by the courts. So they may just need to come up with a new product pretty damn quick!

Again this week we have had new information passed to us about the Litigious Abogados family, these “law firms” are hitting many timeshare owners with false promises of cases against their timeshare resorts / companies being lodged at court. One which we highlighted this week was a gentleman who had a narrow escape, luckily he found previous articles and never paid them.

The new “firm” Abel Garcia Abogados, told him his case had been lodged with the court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on 4 March, the case was due to be heard on 25 April. Under 2 months to get the case heard, this is astronomical, even CLA take around 2 years and they are the most experienced in this field.

The only problem is he did not own anything, the “club” he purchased and the marketing company selling it, were dissolved many years ago so no longer exist. They were also UK based and the sales were conducted in the UK, so how could a Spanish court have jurisdiction?

These “law firms” have a very sophisticated operation, all the documents look genuine to those who do not ever see the real thing. The story is also very plausible, then coupled with the high amounts being “awarded” by the court, along with copies of the cheque waiting to be sent to the lucky client, it is easy to see how people can be taken in.

Irene Parker, our US colleague, has also been busy, getting ready for her “starring role” in the Fox News programme Property Man with Bob Massi. Today’s article from the US is an update on Timeshare Advocacy Groups.

This is becoming a very big project, attracting more and more owners to the various facebook groups, it is also stimulating a lot of dialogue with the industry. Could it be the industry is now starting to realise that without you the owners / members, there would be no industry?

Well thats enough of that, on with Irene’s Friday piece.

Update on Timeshare Advocacy Groups

cartoon

Irene Parker

April 6, 2017

Our consumer advocates have heard an earful, so we are encouraging those who feel they have been victims of deception or fraud, review ARDA’s code of ethics and email ARDA ROC to express your concerns.

The biggest complaint our Advocacy Group members have expressed is lack of a secondary market.  ARDA ROC needs to know when there is no secondary market for a timeshare, at least not through any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

If you are looking for information on selling your timeshare, please note that ARDA-ROC is not a resale organization, however we can point you in the right direction. Visit

http://www.ardaroc.org/tips-to-exit-your-timeshare.aspx

for more information on the timeshare resale process as well as a link to resale companies who are members of ARDA.

Ethics Code of the American Resort Development Association adopted by the Board of Directors April 7, 2014

  1. Conduct.  All  Member Activities with customers, clients, other Members, business or community partners, regulators, legislators or government agencies shall be honest, legal, ethical, and in accord with standards of fair business dealings, professionalism, integrity, dignity and propriety. Members shall not denigrate the Vacation Property business, but instead shall use their good faith efforts to promote the Vacation Property business.

woman phone

Timeshare narrative can get confusing fast, especially when there are multiple contracts that span several years. To make it easier for the resort and for our members, here is a blueprint members can follow.

How to File a Complaint

Name

Phone Number

State of Residence

Number of points currently owned

Current Maintenance Fees

Original Loan Amount and stated interest rate

Current Balance

Resort where purchased and sales agent’s name

If you are claiming deception or fraud, list how you feel you were deceived.

Deception 1

Deception 2, Etc.

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment? If your investment is $20,000 or less and you owned your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment.

Are you sure you know how to use points and the program correctly?

Why do you want relinquishment?

Is it due to Deception, Health, or Financial Burden?

Availability – There are many who are happy with availability but there are those who have been oversold on availability. For example, we were told to buy more points because NYC properties were being added. Because these are affiliated properties, like in San Francisco as well, they are never discounted and never have 59 days or fewer rates. On average, year round, it costs $5000 to $10000 in maintenance fee equivalent dollars what could be booked online in New York for $2500 to $3500 for a week. Great Wolfe Lodge is similar.

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

Remove numbers from your testimony. It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint.

ALWAYS include the name of the sales agent (s). Refer to your contract if you don’t know.  Provide the sales agent’s ID number if you can.

How Advocacy Works

Email your sworn testimony. Raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Start writing.

Send to intake volunteer who will review, edit and return to you.

Position open: Volunteer report writer. No experience necessary.

An email will be sent to the resort, public relations and you.

Owner or member takes it from there unless there are questions or concerns along the way. Owner or member will report back with positive or negative outcome. Due to the mutual release, terms and conditions will not be discussed. If negative, complaints to be filed with:

Attorneys General where you signed, where you live and Nevada.

Our Advocacy Group

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

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

It’s a lot of work but it is the only way to change business practices is through an organized lobby effort targeting legislators and regulatory agencies that may be sympathetic to owners or members, and media outreach targeting the general public.

What to expect from regulatory agencies:

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Send us your comments or articles! New voices are needed.

need you

So there we have it, the end to another week, but as we say, timeshare never sleeps more news will break over the weekend so watch this space for next week’s articles.

Have a good weekend and enjoy yourselves.

weekend cat

week review

End of the Week Review.

We started this week with Irene’s article on Consumer Protection Week in the US, we end with another.

While in Europe and especially Spain, we have seen more news coming from the Supreme Court. At the start of the week it was announced that Silverpoint formerly Resort Properties, have been ordered to pay back 169,000€. This was announced in the Spanish newspaper El Diario (see link), the Spanish press have been very fast to publicise these rulings, which have gone virtually unnoticed in the UK press.

http://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Varapalo-Supremo-timesharing-comercializado-Canarias_0_619088490.html

In another case, the Supreme Court ruled against the same company for infringements of the timeshare laws for a German client. In this particular case the court again stated that the client was a consumer not an investor as Silverpoint had claimed. The client’s contract was declared null and void and awarded over 30,000€.

These cases have been brought by the Canarian law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, who so far since the first Supreme Court ruling 2 years ago, have secured over 3 million euros for their clients, with over 1.2 million euros already in the accounts of the clients.

CLA Logo

To celebrate the 2nd birthday of the first ruling, the Norwegian lady who made legal history visited the lawyers who fought her case. Mrs Tove Grimsbo, had an epic battle which lasted several years, her case was highlighted extensively in the Scandinavian press, but through the perseverance of her lawyers she eventually won through.

 

http://insidetimeshare.com/meredith-pritchard-new-exit-claims-company/

So on to Irene Parker’s End of Consumer Protection Week article.
End of Consumer Protection Week March 5 – 11

By Irene Parker

satisfied

Consumer Protection Week ends today. Here are some tips on purchasing and owning a timeshare. Timeshare is a good product for some but it does not work for everyone.

“Buyer Beware!”  The psychological methods used by some timeshare companies and agents are designed to wear the consumer down – difficult to overcome even by the strongest individual. “My personal opinion, working as a sales agent for Diamond Resorts and Hyatt, convinced me that greed and making the sale at any cost is the corporate culture. I saw manipulation, threats, deceit and fraud used to make sales. When you have a good product, these methods are not necessary to make the sale,” reported one former timeshare sales agent.

Do your homework. Few will buy a house or car without some comparison shopping. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to compare developer versus secondary market prices and benefit or lack of benefits when buying a “used” timeshare.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Ask yourself if the “FREE GIFT” is really worth signing a perpetual contract, accompanied by perpetual maintenance fees, in a same day sale, with little or no secondary market.  Most timeshare companies do not offer buy-back programs and voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed.

If you are a timeshare owner who feels you were lied to or deceived in your timeshare purchase, and if resolution is not achieved after contacting your resort:

File a complaint with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract, where you live, and where the resort is domiciled.

http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php

File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage).

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

In some states the standard of fraud is as simple as dealing honestly and fairly. In such states, if you were lied to, the contract is fraudulent.

We should begin now planning for Consumer Protection Week 2018. Consumer Protection Week should provide a benchmark as we set goals today that can be measured next year. Goals that can determine where and how timeshare business practices have improved.

As Irene said, do your homework, anything to do with timeshare is a minefield, from first purchase, to resale companies and then to all the so-called legal and claims companies that are now proliferating, especially in Europe following the rulings made by the Spanish Supreme Court.

There are so many companies jumping on that particular band wagon, some are very sophisticated operations, such as Litigious Abogados (see link for the last article, or search Litigious Abogados in the search box for all articles).

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-plot-gets-thicker/

Another facebook group has also got off to a flying start (see link below), it is a closed group but welcomes new members. It is a forum for dialogue and debate, taking a different approach to many of these groups that use social media, by encouraging opposing views. They have even welcomed a Diamond sales agent, who has even agreed with some of the owners views on sales practices. This is what is needed if timeshare is to change.

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

So there we have it, thank you to Irene and all the contributors in the US, also to the readers who have supplied information on some of the companies we have researched. It is your information that is helping others to negotiate this murky world of timeshare. Have a good weekend.

friday-again

chickensoup

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

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

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

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

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

Non timeshare organisations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

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

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

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

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

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

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

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

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

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

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

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

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

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

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

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

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

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Business Bureau BBB

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

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

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

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

Summary and Conclusion

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

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

success

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

GET INVOLVED!

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

advocacy

Timeshare Advocacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Timeshare Advocacy Works

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

 Retired Canadian Army Family’s Diamond Resorts Advocacy Experience.

By Irene Parker January 24, 2017

Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry and Roxanne Hurley recently retired from the Canadian army.

Hurley

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

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

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

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

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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

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

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

Timeshare Needs a CASA,  

CASA

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

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

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

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

A Proposal for our Attorneys General

Appointed Special Advocate for Timeshare Owners (™)

Here to help

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roxanne Hurley

Irina Allen (featured in last week’s article)

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

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

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

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

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

A lot is happening in Timeshare.

get-involved

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

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

 

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