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The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, today we welcome yet another new contributor Mike Yelton, edited as always by our very own Irene Parker. This article will also be of interest to our readers in Europe, as many have been victims of similar tactics, so we are asking our readers, both members and hopefully developers, to weigh in on the discussion questions posted throughout Mr. Yelton’s article.  

The deception that prompts the presentation, as happened to Mike and Joyce Yelton,  is often the reason why the ultimate end is the timeshare exit company when the developer will not address these issues.  

If the developer would clean up the sales process, the back end of the timeshare exit problem would go away, or at least be reduced. Until the developer owns up to their being a part of the problem, the angry and desperate timeshare owner is here to stay..

Is Freewheeling Credit Card Lending Here Again!?

The Over Reliance on Credit Card Lending

Our Stormy Point Village, Summerwinds Experience

By Mike Yelton, Army and Air Force Vietnam Veteran

May 22, 2018  

Introduction by Irene Parker

Was this Elder Fraud?  

Was this Credit Card Fraud?

Was this an Unfair and Deceptive trade practice?

Was Summerwinds resolution to the Yelton’s offer fair?

Inside Timeshare has been receiving an increase in complaints about timeshare credit cards opened onsite and credit card charges made without authorization. This is exactly what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau worked so hard to put a halt to when Wells Fargo agents opened credit card accounts without the cardholder’s knowledge. Undeterred, Wells Fargo moved on to a $1 billion penalty announced April 20, 2018. This penalty was levied due in part to interest rate-lock promises. Mike and Joyce Yelton’s timeshare upgrade experience is somewhat similar, although they were promised a rate lowering.   

Another Wells Fargo Settlement

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau) announced a settlement with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in a coordinated action with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). As described in the consent order, the Bureau found that Wells Fargo violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) in the way it administered a mandatory insurance program related to its auto loans. The Bureau also found that Wells Fargo violated the CFPA in how it charged certain borrowers for mortgage interest rate-lock extensions. Under the terms of the consent orders, Wells Fargo will remediate harmed consumers and undertake certain activities related to its risk management and compliance management. The Bureau assessed a $1 billion penalty against the bank and credited the $500 million penalty collected by the OCC toward the satisfaction of its fine.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/bureau-consumer-financial-protection-announces-settlement-wells-fargo-auto-loan-administration-and-mortgage-practices/

Here’s what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Yelton. I have interspersed discussion questions hoping our readers will offer their input in our comment section. We encourage responses from the industry in addition to reader responses. We hope meaningful dialogue will help bridge the gap between the angry timeshare member and the timeshare provider.         

By Mike Yelton

My wife Joyce and I, both 79 years of age, bought a Stormy Point Village timeshare in Branson, Missouri in 2015 and upgraded in 2016. We enjoyed our stays there and had no major complaints until December 2017 when we attended what they said was a ‘mandatory update meeting’. We were told that if we did not attend we would lose our benefits. At that meeting we feel we were deceived and lied to. We may be older, but we are not stupid.

Discussion Question 1

Do you think it is fair for a timeshare member, who has made a prior purchase of a deeded week, be required to attend an update, threatened with the risk of losing their benefits if they did not attend? The Yelton’s would not have become angry owners had they not attended the meeting and we would not be writing this article.    

At this mandatory update, the salespeople presented what they described as a “change in need” or an exchange in benefits. We were led to believe it was not an upgrade. They said they could lower the interest on our loan if we opened a new lower interest rate credit card.

Discussion Question 2 & 3

Do you think this was more an attempt to open credit card accounts and sell an upgrade, rather than actually addressing the customer’s needs?

Was the “change in need” enough of a reason to tell the Yelton’s they would lose their benefits if they did not attend?

Due to our health we cannot travel far from home. We don’t live far from Branson. We were told if we wanted to limit our use to just Branson, two weeks could be broken down into four parts. We signed the papers, but later we found out we had purchased an upgrade which we did not want or could afford.

We felt we had become a victim of the unauthorized opening of credit card accounts and unauthorized charges made. We were not aware the cards had been opened or that an amount had been charged. We didn’t know the cards had been opened until not one, but two Bank of America credit cards showed up in the mail! We had agreed to one card being opened because they said it would be at a lower interest. It was never mentioned the card was being opened for the purpose of buying an upgrade. The cards have been canceled as Bank of America agreed they were opened without our knowledge.

Discussion Question 4

Was it deceptive to tell the Yelton’s the card was being opened to lower their interest rate if charges were made to make a purchase? What could have been done so that the Yelton’s would have been aware the card was being charged to purchase a timeshare product? From members young and old, we are hearing about credit cards opened and charged, and even loans taken out when the member was not aware. It seems the first thing a sales agent does is to run the card to determine the credit limit and then back into the maximum point purchase.  

To our utter dismay we learned that the sales agent charged $7,000 on a card opened in my name and $4,000 on a card opened in Joyce’s name! The salesperson told us we could charge up to $11,000 on the card but he NEVER said he was actually charging that amount of money or that he was opening two cards. He just charged it without even asking! We both were there. He told us we would get a check in the mail, which we should sign and send in, in an envelope that would be included with the check. We have no idea what the check was about, but no check ever arrived.

Discussion Question 5

Should the sales agent have explained to the Yelton’s why they would receive a check in the mail? This question was asked to encourage timeshare buyers to challenge vague statements like this. For example, Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from members purchasing additional points because they say they were told “You can pay your maintenance fees by charging purchases on the new credit card.” The problem is – the consumer typically does not ask the next question: What is the actual value? If 1% is credited, a family would have to charge $100,000 in one year to pay a $1,000 maintenance fee bill.    

We expected Summerwind to cancel the deceptive upgrade. We sent a letter of complaint to Summerwinds which they ignored. We then filed a complaint with the BBB which did get a response. Summerwinds asked us to take down the complaint so we could discuss the issue without a third party. They offered us a cancellation on the upgrade but not a full cancellation of our timeshare, which would have required the prior outstanding loan be cancelled.   

Discussion Question 6

Do you think the offer Summerwinds proposed was fair?

We will allow the cancellation of the last upgrade.

The debt prior to this purchase is still your responsibility.

We will start the first year of use for 2019 on the new contract. We will give you one free week in a 2 bedroom unit for use in 2018.

We will refund the amounts placed on the cards and any payments made to the lender since the time of your upgrade.

They never apologized for opening the second card or charging the credit cards without our knowledge. We had some good times at Summerwinds, but because of this experience, we have lost all faith in Summerwinds. We dread checking in.

Discussion Question 7

Should Summerwinds have apologized for the mistakes? Lawyers will be quick to respond….but not so fast. Hug your Haters author Jay Baer, obtained this answer from attorney and litigator Michael Laskey of Davis and Gilbert law firm in New York City.    

“In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’”

Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=hug+your+haters

So there you have it. Mr. Yelton has produced lots of food for thought. This is the YouTube Mr. and Mrs. Yelton produced. https://youtu.be/a1XCF479oa8

We hope you will express your thoughts on our comment section.

Summerwinds Resorts Services, LLC has a BBB rating of F

https://www.bbb.org/stlouis/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/summerwinds-resort-services-llc-in-branson-mo-29040/reviews-and-complaints

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from all branches of the military as well as law enforcement. We have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, a nonprofit that seeks justice for veterans, Active Duty military and government workers. We encourage those who have been assisted by our efforts to make a donation to this worthy organization. https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

I have never served my country, but I am honored to serve those who have by providing the means to let their voices be heard. Thank you to Mike for joining Inside Timeshare as a contributor and for your service to our country.

Additional self-help groups that can aid in your due diligence:

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

In Europe we have not yet seen this use of credit cards, but we are familiar with finance being arranged by the sales staff, the main provider of theses loan agreements is Barclays Partner Finance. We have many readers who have informed us that they told the sales staff they could not afford the timeshare as they were only on pensions.

Yet after many hours of high pressure sales tactics they eventually agreed to finance being provided, the unfortunate thing is the usual due diligence checks such as income versus outgoings reports have never been done. Eventually this has ended in severe financial hardship.

It has also been the case that many of these loans have been brokered by unauthorised and unlicensed staff and companies. Yet the banking industry still allows these agreements to take place, putting yet more people in financial crisis.

If you have any comments or questions on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

 

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

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

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

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

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

Non timeshare organisations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

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

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

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

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

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

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

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

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

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

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

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

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

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

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

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

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

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Business Bureau BBB

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

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

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

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

Summary and Conclusion

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

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

success

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

GET INVOLVED!

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags