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letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday, so time for another Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a look today’s major news in Europe.

El Diario a prominent Spanish daily newspaper published the following article today (see link for full story).

The article reports on the current legal actions against Anfi and tells of the 1.35 million Euros they have had to repay to consumers, in the execution of around fifty judgements. It also goes on to say that there are over 395 live cases at court with a value of over 27 million Euros, with over 100 having had decisions in favour of the consumers. Some of these are firm decisions with the sentences yet to be executed, others are awaiting confirmation.

With even the Spanish press publishing articles such this, it does make the claim by Anfi that they have not lost or the Supreme Court has got it wrong rather flimsy!

In fact on Tuesday yet another sentence was announced by the Court of First Instance against Anfi, again the clients contract was declared null and void with the judge ordering Anfi to return over £20,000 plus legal interest

(if using google. Right click on the article for a translation to English)

http://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-condenas-negocio-timesharing_0_739477033.html

The same article has also been published in Canarias7, one of the major Canary Islands Newspapers.

https://www.canarias7.es/economia/turismo/anfi-paga-ya-1-35-millones-por-condenas-YK3590405

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

 

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare Revisited (first published in three parts)

Timeshare Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund, Foreclosure

Magnify

By Irene Parker

February 16, 2018

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare, but rising maintenance fees, high interest rate loans and higher interest rate developer issued credit cards can spell financial disaster, especially when an individual or family is hit with an unexpected life crisis. Not one of the more than 300 Inside Timeshare readers who have contacted us realized the perpetual nature of the timeshare contract (in the US), or that their timeshare had little or no secondary market. It is not uncommon for a family to have spent $100,000 or more on a timeshare.

There is rarely a need to pay anyone, or any firm, money to get you out of your timeshare. Special circumstances, like being in the middle of buying a house, may result in a referral to one of the law firms we know and trust, if the timeshare company refuses to help the individual or family.   

Our “How to File a Complaint” form explains a process that takes time, determination and effort, but when it works, it costs nothing. We say when, because we don’t win them all. No one does, not even lawyers. “We can guarantee you release!” boasts the exit timeshare ad. We have had reports of people paying scammers large sums of money for a guaranteed release, only to learn the guarantee came about because of foreclosure or non-payment.

Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/file-timeshare-complaint-revised/

The goal:  Convert from angry, desperate, overwhelmed and confused into empowered. Timeshare Advocacy Group™   has 44 core advocates and 10 technical support advocates to help you. All of our Advocates are unpaid.

The First R: Relinquishment

dont like

Some timeshare companies offer voluntary surrender programs, but relinquishments are not guaranteed and there cannot be an outstanding loan or delinquent maintenance fees. It is difficult to determine how many surrenders requests are granted, compared to the number of surrenders requested.

There is nothing wrong with deeding back a timeshare if you have used and enjoyed the timeshare for several years. However, if you find out just days or weeks after purchase that you bought a timeshare not matching what you were promised, walking away from even $5,000 doesn’t seem right.

Before relinquishing, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare can be listed with one of their 64 members. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

LTRBA members charge nothing up front, so they don’t waste your time or money by listing a timeshare that, in all likelihood, will never sell.

The Second R:

refund

A refund is not easy to come by, but in cases of serious and obvious fraud; a refund can be achieved.  Inside Timeshare has heard from so many members alleging fraud, we can sometimes guess the name of the repeat offender sales agent before we are told. The fact that some of the same agents are committing the same “fraud for profit” over a period of years is telling.

The complaint process begins with a petition to the resort. Anticipate a knee jerk “you signed a contract’ reaction. Next, begins the filing of regulatory and law enforcement agency complaints. This is where our advocates are ready to assist because just figuring out online forms can be daunting. Check our complaint form for the list of appropriate agencies to contact.

Eron Grant has become our resident ARDA Code of Ethics analyst. In all likelihood, timeshare members are not even aware they are collectively giving $5 million a year to ARDA ROC. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association and ROC Resort Owners Coalition. The money comes through “voluntary” opt-in or opts-out donations. This $3 to $10 amount, which varies depending on the resort, appears on all maintenance fee invoices purchased in the U.S. if the developer is an ARDA member.

Despite our advocates and members forwarding a volume of complaints to ARDA, questioning ARDA’s Code of Ethics, there has been no response. Inside Timeshare has learned two of the worst alleged offenders each give $1 million a year to ARDA ROC, surely a disincentive to enforcement.   

Here’s Eron’s article: Why Does ARDA Have a Code of Ethics?

red dress

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.  http://www.arda.org/ethics/

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

Litigation can take years and often the amount of money at stake doesn’t justify the time and expense litigation requires. Some developers have a class action ban, forcing arbitration. There are many critics of arbitration, including 19 Attorneys General like Minnesota AG Lori Swanson, as reported by Chris Parker.  

“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….”

“Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—when not outright rigging the system—and details of misconduct are kept private,” writes Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

Timeshare buyers should check immediately after signing a contract to see if they can opt out of the arbitration clause. Probably only a lawyer would think to do so.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

Timeshare developers know the industry is virtually unregulated and that they are protected by the oral representation clause. However, as we have stated in several previous articles, according to the FBI and attorneys we spoke with, it is not legal for a company to hide behind the fine print, providing sales agents the means to say anything they can come up with to sell points.      

The most common deceit and bait and switch complaints

  • The agent said I could sell my points.
  • The agent said my points were an investment, so easily sold, at a profit.
  • I can turn in points to pay maintenance fees but no such program exists
  • The value of airline and other travel awards is zilch. A common complaint is being told you can use a credit card to offset or pay maintenance fees in their entirety, when a member would have to charge $200,000 to pay an annual $2,000 maintenance fee.
  • The interest rate is 18%. They said I could get better financing but I can’t.

The Third R

resolved

It doesn’t happen very often, but there is the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using timeshare points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We have often booked two weeks in Sedona or Orlando for less than it would cost booking online using our points.

One amusing complaint was a buyer whose complaint was that they bought a trial program, but they were promised a lifetime membership. I explained, in the case of the timeshare company they bought into, the last thing they wanted was a lifetime membership. I encouraged them to become a Secret Shopper since they were not locked into perpetual maintenance fees.

 foreclosure  Foreclosure

This is the least pleasant outcome, but foreclosure is not the end of the world. Timeshare Advocacy Group has a foreclosure support group, with members offering each other tips on how to withstand the grueling up to 180 days or more of collection calls. Calls are relentless and members have reported many violations of debt collection consumer protection laws.  

We’re working on a document for those who experience foreclosure to provide to credit rating agencies or lenders, detailing the patterns of complaints listed on Better Business Bureau reports, Attorneys General Settlements, and Assurances of Discontinuance and lawsuits. There will be a hit to your credit score of course, but if you feel you are a victim of fraudulent timeshare sales practices, provide the rating agencies or your lenders with the reason why you refused to pay off a timeshare loan or credit card. Lenders are human. Many will take this into consideration.

I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some questions about the foreclosure process for an article we published previously. Mike’s answers are worth repeating. Some common questions:

Will the timeshare company try to ruin my credit for non- payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike Finn: Generally no credit reporting on maintenance fees, yes they do on “mortgage” payments. Most timeshare property owner associations, which are separate non-profit entities, do not report non-payment of maintenance fees largely because they don’t maintain subscriber contracts with the credit reporting agencies. However, once referred to collection, those agencies do maintain subscriber relationships and that’s where the issue becomes relevant.

Can or will members be taken to court for non-payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike: Can yes, will, maybe not so much

Do they place liens for non-payment of loans?

Mike: Yes in the sense that they do pursue foreclosures, yes for maintenance fees as well.

Do they place the lien just on the timeshare? In other words, does the lien apply just to the timeshare, or does the lien apply to a member’s primary residence as well?

Mike: The word ‘lien’ can be utilized in more than one way. In the timeshare world it typically means the security interest filed against the timeshare itself by virtue of nonpayment of maintenance fees. Only the timeshare interest itself is impacted by that kind of lien, not the owner’s property beyond the timeshare. A mortgage lien on the timeshare caused by non-payment of the initial purchase price can, under certain circumstances, become a judgment which could be satisfied by going after the defaulting party’s personal assets. This very rarely happens, but it has happened, so we can never, say never.

Is it advisable to just stop paying fees without the aid of an attorney?

Mike: It really does depend on your ability to endure collection calls, letters threats, and a foreclosure on your credit report is quite damning, it will make refinancing or new residential purchases an issue for about 5 years. Rarely will they sue for deficiency balance.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/can-a-timeshare-hurt-my-credit-score

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/learning-center/page-12

Remember, “I can’t afford it,” is not a valid reason to cancel a loan for a timeshare any more than it is a reason to be able to cancel your home mortgage loan. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and ask them to cancel your home mortgage because, “I can’t afford it.”

Our Advocates, bringing experience and expertise from all walks of life, are here to evaluate and work together to help you put your timeshare in the rear view mirror, if that is your goal.

Our mission

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/

Let’s keep working together to improve the industry.

fix prob

That’s it for another week, remember if you require any information about any article published or any company that contacts you, Contact Inside Timeshare and we will get the information for you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to another Tuesday Slot with Irene, this weeks article is the first of a series which will cover some useful tips on how and who to file a complaint with, but as usual a quick look at Europe.

beware

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published an article about Worldwide Timeshares Unlimited based in Lowestoft Suffolk, with the website

https://www.timeshares-unlimited.com/

Registered to the “infamous” Antoni “Toni” Muldoon.

On the website they show 4 logo’s, RDO, RCI, Expectations Holidays and Canarian Legal Alliance, according to the website they claim to work closely with CLA, even having “cut & paste” copies directly from the CLA news section.

Inside Timeshare has had confirmation from the RDO, Expectations Holidays and Canarian Legal Alliance that they have no knowledge or ties with the said company or website. RCI have also been informed, but as yet no reply has been received, but it is safe to assume that they have not given any permission for their logo to be used.

This just goes to show that you cannot believe what you see or read on the internet, just because a website shows a logo or states they work closely with a company or organisation that it is true. Always do your homework, check any company fully before engaging in business, check that their claims to work with or are affiliated with others is genuine.

It would also appear that Anfi is once again on the offensive, this time they have been sending out emails to UK members regarding a recent BBC TV program Rip Off Britain. In this program they travelled to Tenerife to investigate a “fake” law firm, one that Inside Timeshare has been investigating and reporting about for the past 2 years.

Although this is laudable, it is the tone of the email that is the problem, rather than actually naming the “fake” law firm, it has been left open and vague, giving the impression that all law firms dealing with timeshare claims are not genuine.

It is obvious from past emails from the CEO José Luis Trujillo, that the aim is to discredit the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. These lawyers have been instrumental in securing 84 Supreme Court rulings against various timeshare companies, with 39 against Anfi alone.

On the point of the “fake” law firm in Tenerife, Inside Timeshare was asked to provide CLA with any evidence it possessed, to augment their own, as some of their clients had been contacted by this Tenerife outfit. Our evidence along with that from CLA was then handed to the Guardia Civil along with a denuncia, this is now under investigation.

It has also been a little quiet at the courts so far with only one sentence being reported, once again Anfi are the culprits.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared another Anfi members contract null and void, ordering that over 55,000€ which also includes a double deposit be returned to the client, the court also awarded legal interest.

It does make you wonder who is telling the truth, Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to decide based on the evidence presented.

truth meter

Now on with this weeks article from Irene Parker.

Timeshare Tips

Due to an Escalation in Volume and Criminal Nature of Complaints

White collar

By Irene Parker

January 28, 2018

IT Timeshare Tips #1

Inside Timeshare has received an astonishing number of reader complaints. Since January 1, 38 timeshare members have contacted us. Since we began counting late 2016, 291 complaints. The majority voice allegations that clearly meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime, Financial Institution Fraud.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/mortgage-fraud

Timeshare members should only contact the FBI if the allegations are of a serious nature. For example, “They promised me a cruise, but when I went to book it, it cost $1,000” is not a serious enough allegation. A free cruise that turns out not to be free is a frequent complaint, but would be best reported to the Better Business Bureau in the form or a complaint or a review.

Here is an example of a complaint that has been reported to the FBI and to BBB:

We were sold vacation points fraudulently by XXX sales agent SXXX MXXX Jan 2017 at GBO Resort. We went to a sales presentation. We met with sales agent S M, and told him our biggest complaint was the maintenance fees. Mr. M told us if we bought 3000 more points, to get to 5000 points, we would become Highest Loyalty Level members and we would be able to sell back points to pay maintenance fees at $.50 per point.

Criminal Complaint #1: The Highest Loyalty Level requires 50,000 points

Criminal Complaint #2: There is no program to sell back points to pay maintenance fees

He said, “You do this at the end of the year”

Criminal Complaint #3: By telling the victim to wait until the end of the year, and by not allowing access to the booking site until after the contract rescission period, the agent and/or company can dodge the rescission period.

He said this would be enough to pay all our maintenance fees.

This was what really sold us on the program.

Mr. M also said beginning in January of 2018 there would be a “cash out” option where XXX Timeshare Company would offer to buy our timeshare if we were not happy, we would probably take a loss, but we would be free and clear.

Criminal Complaint #4: There is no buy-back program

Thank you for using the Better Business Bureau’s Online Complaint System.

busted

As this is an active complaint, we will not publish the name of the timeshare member, the timeshare company, or the sales agent, to give the company a chance to make this victim whole again.

Most importantly, do not respond to anyone who private messages you, calls or emails offering to help you get out of your timeshare. Contact Inside Timeshare or your Facebook admin if you are contacted. Teams have been established to gather information to make a determination as to whether the company is legit. Most are not.

There is no federal enforcement other than timeshare advocacy groups. State enforcement is spotty at best. Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these U S advocacy groups we know not to be industry influenced.

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/

Thank you to Irene and all those who proofread and edit the drafts, this article should prove to be very helpful to many of our US readers.

If you require any information about this or any article published, or just need help to decide who to trust and how to check them out, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember to do your homework and stay safe.

calm homework

tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

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

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

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

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Proposed Committees and Support Groups

Volunt

January 23, 2018

By Irene Parker

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

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

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

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

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

Wyndham

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

Government Action

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

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

 

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

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

Pattern of Complaints

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

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

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

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

Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report

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

Diamond Resorts:

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

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

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

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

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F

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

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

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

So where do we go from here?

TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan

January 21, 2018

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

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

Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed Teams

44 Core Advocates

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

Reporting: Irene (4 members)

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

State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)

Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)

Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)

Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)

Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)

Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)

California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)

Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Advocacy team

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

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

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

 

tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this weeks Tuesday Slot we welcome a new contributor Karen Krokosh, but first a quick look at what has been happening in Europe especially in the courts.

The year has certainly not started well for the timeshare industry, the first week of January has seen the Supreme Court in Madrid rule on 6 occasions against Silverpoint from Tenerife.

This court has declared these six contract null and void as they were over the 50 year period allowed by law, what is known as perpetuity, they also contained the points or floating weeks systems.

tribunal-supremo

The court also reaffirmed the position of the taking of any payment within the given cooling off period, even if taken by a third party as prohibited. This cooling off period was introduced to protect consumers and allow them to decide whether they wished to continue with the purchase, as these are usually made as decisions on the day.

The total amount the court has awarded in these cases is a staggering 321,274€ with legal fees and legal interest.

In another case against Silverpoint, the High Court in Tenerife has ordered the return of over £31,000 plus legal fees and legal interest to a British client. Again the contract was declared null and void as it contained the points or floating weeks system.

In the Court of First Instance at Maspalomas, another British client has been awarded over £19,000 plus legal fees and legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void. In this case the contract was sold by Anfi and was for a duration of over 50 years, which is not allowed under the Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98.

All these cases have been brought on behalf of client by the law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, so contrary to what the timeshare industry is is saying, this law firm is doing what it says and winning on behalf of their clients.

As they say the proof is in the pudding!

On with this weeks Tuesday Slot.

Sell My Timeshare Now,

A Timeshare Listing Service for Buyers or Sellers

Diamond Member Karen Krokosh Issues a Warning

face1

By Inside Timeshare Contributor Karen Krokosh

Comments about SMTN follow Karen’s article

January 9, 2017

I responded to a Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) solicitation. Not only did the company over promise the ability to sell Diamond’s non-deeded U.S. Collection points, they told me they could help me recoup expenses by renting my points. DRI does not allow renting through a third party site. As a resource for timeshare members, SMTN should abide by Diamond’s official rental policy by not accepting rental listings. Here is the current DRI rule:

2.5.1 A Member is not prohibited from periodically renting the Accommodation reserved for the Use Period or the reserved Other Redemption Opportunity pursuant to these Club Rules.

However, the use of Points to reserve Accommodations or Other Redemption Opportunities for commercial purposes or for any other purpose other than the personal use of the Member or the Member’s family and guests is prohibited. Use by a Member of public advertising or an online website to seek renters shall be deemed a prohibited commercial use.

Members who are primary developers of Club Resorts (that is, members of the Diamond Resorts International group of companies) and providers of Other Redemption Opportunities are specifically exempted from this restriction, and are entitled to use their reserved Accommodations and reserved Other Redemption Opportunities for promotional, rental, or other commercial purposes.

Diamond is not the only timeshare with little or no resale value. While some timeshares like Disney, Hilton and Marriott can be sold, it has been widely reported Diamond’s non-deeded points are especially difficult to sell. I contacted a few members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Not one would accept a DRI listing, feeling the restrictions the company places on the use of secondary points are too severe.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

SMTN agent Sandra Van Lanen suggested a list price of $12,000 for 3,000 points. We paid about $12,000, so in no way was that price realistic as I dropped my price from $12,000 to $7,500, $5,000 and $1,000 with no offers. What was SMTN’s response? They said, “It takes time.” There are about 15,000 Diamond Resorts members on a variety of Facebooks and websites and I’ve learned many of them would be willing to give away their Diamond points. I would have been laughed off these sites posting these ludicrous amounts. I am committed to exposing this company and others that are taking advantage of those already burdened by loan payments and maintenance fees.

Here’s what I paid SMTN:

The original “Advertising and Marketing” product was priced at $1,798. I was given a discounted referral of $1,498 USD, but paid initially a deposit of $699, agreeing to pay the remaining balance of $799 when the timeshare sells. Since that is never in almost all Diamond cases, I decided to cancel the lifetime listing. When you cancel, SMTN has the right to bill you for the remaining balance.

promotion

I have also learned many of the listing and resale companies are staffed by former timeshare executives and sales agents. Some are legitimately trying to help those desperate to get out of their timeshare, but others prey on the desperate. This is a Department of Justice report about timeshare resale and release scams:

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

Many timeshare buyers report they were sold a timeshare by deceit. I looked up the definition of racketeering. While timeshare exit plans are not violent crime against property, I see a similarity. The sales agents who sold us the problem are now the ones coming around to “help” us. “A common example of a racket would be if a group of people cut the tires of cars on a specific street, and then that same group, or one in concert with the one cutting tires offered ‘protection’ to the owners of the cars for a price. This fits the definition of a racket because without the organization’s slashing of tires in the first place, the demand for ‘protection’ would be low or non-existent.”

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/racketeering.asp

I have been trying to get rid of this timeshare for years. I was so relieved to find the member sponsored Diamond Resorts Advocacy Owners Facebook where I learned that Diamond has launched a new program called Transitions and from what Inside Timeshare told me, I am eligible! I am hopeful, waiting to hear back.

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

Comments about Sell My Timeshare Now by Irene Parker

After Friday’s article about the importance of Better Business Bureau ratings, I checked the SMTN BBB rating. My red flag was raised when I learned Karen paid up front money to list her Diamond points. Accepting upfront money to sell your timeshare is illegal in Florida, but it seems companies can work around the law by calling it an ad or subscription fee, or a market analysis.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-31/

SMTN has been sold twice since 2010. Scott Roberts is the owner of Vacation Innovations and SMTN is a wholly owned subsidiary of V.I.

The BBB has assigned SMTN a D rating. I called SMTN and talked to Mike. The first question I asked Mike is, “Can I rent my DRI points through SMTN?” Mike said renting DRI points is no problem. When I informed him DRI does not allow the renting of points through a third party site like SMTN, Mike said he would have someone from legal call me. We did not hear back. Irina Allen is one DRI member who had her Diamond account suspended, accused of renting points on RedWeek.

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

This is what BBB notes on SMTN, providing a good example of how the Better Business Bureau can assist consumers by providing important information.

According to BBB files this company has a pattern of complaints that centers around the company’s advertising claims. Complainants allege they are guaranteed a time frame in which their timeshare will sell. Many consumers allege the company makes a promise that their timeshare will sell quickly. The company responds to the complaints and reiterates the company policy which reads the company does not guarantee when a timeshare will sell.

On March 23, 2016 BBB reviewed the complaints on file and determined the pattern described above has not been eliminated. BBB sent a letter to the company requesting cooperation in responding to and eliminating the pattern of complaints.

BBB received a response from Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) who addressed concerns raised. SMTN has introduced a video that consumers are encouraged to view that clearly outlines their services. In their business model explanation SMTN says that: “…SMTN never promises buyers are waiting; does not request wire transfers, greendot moneypak payment or purchase of prepaid credit cards; does stand behind the services it promises and always strives to deliver excellent service to all of its clients”… Additionally, SMTN hired a law firm to review the complaints and details surrounding each one. This review of these recordings has shown that the communications between SMTN and individual consumers (when they are available) has been shown to differ. SMTN has also instituted training for salespeople. They are to only make promises that are consistent with the guarantees and promises made by the company in writing. SMTN is recording calls made by their sales people to confirm the training is being followed. SMTN now has a policy for their salespeople who consistently fail to comply with the training which results in their dismissal from the company. Finally, they informed BBB that they will be further training their customer care employees to offer to help earlier in the process and be sure to make certain the consumer is satisfied with the resolution.

On December 5, 2017 representatives of SMTN met with the BBB to update us on improvements they are making to their organization. They have taken steps toward improving customer service by hiring a new Customer Service Manager. They have put in place an “audit group” that will contact consumers on the day they sign the contract with SMTN and then again 90 days out as a way to ensure customer satisfaction. It is anticipated that by proactively working with their customers, the number of complaints will be reduced substantially. BBB will work closely with SMTN to follow their progress and to continue to address any complaints that may come in.

Consumers are, once again, requested to contact SMTN prior to filing a complaint with BBB at 1-877-815-4227.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC

D

Customer Review Rating:

35%

62%

[12] Positive Reviews

[1] Neutral Reviews

[21] Negative Reviews

[34] Total Customer Reviews

[107] Total Customer Complaints

Composite Score:

Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC has received 1.93 out of 5 stars based on 34 Customer Reviews and a BBB Rating of D.

This content is provided by the business and may contain advertising. BBB does not review or endorse this content.

https://www.bbb.org/concord/business-reviews/timeshare-resale-and-rental-marketing/sell-my-timeshare-now-in-portsmouth-nh-92008632/Alerts-and-Actions

According to a post found on RedWeek, published on the internet, SMTN does seem to charge a considerable upfront fee. A member had asked whether they should buy timeshare points through SMTN.

Good question. Here is the straight scoop:

ken1193

1 month ago

Sometimes you will find a timeshare of interest on the SMTN site which may be available at a price acceptable to you. HOWEVER, you will have NO say or ANY choice regarding the “closing” entity. Closing costs through SMTN are quite excessive — multiple times the cost of customary and usual closing costs. You have no option to conduct a SMTN transaction “in person”, but that is the case in most any resale timeshare transaction, so SMTN is not unique in that regard. It would frankly be both highly unusual and entirely unnecessary to conduct a resale timeshare transaction “in person”. Objective, third party “closers” who have no association with either buyer or seller (not an available option via SMTN, unfortunately) look out for the interests of BOTH buyer and seller, holding all funds in escrow until closing if necessary. This obviously eliminates any need for any travel or physical presence by either the buyer or the seller just to “close” on a resale transaction.

With SMTN, you essentially have to determine ALL of the collective costs as a buyer and then ask yourself if that bottom line figure is acceptable to YOU to acquire that particular timeshare listing, despite the exorbitant closing costs. Far more often than not, the answer will be NO, but there are (relatively rare) exceptions. In all fairness, in the performance of your due diligence you really have to look at the big picture and ask yourself if the TOTAL expenditure involved justifies acquisition of that particular timeshare for YOU. You obviously first need to accurately determine the bottom line total figure before you can possibly make that fully informed evaluation and personal decision.

SMTN of course has nothing whatsoever to do with maintenance fees, regardless of the resort involved. Maintenance fees are determined only by individual resorts — and they are engraved in stone. That said, I would certainly want to verify the accuracy of any figures SMTN indicates as maintenance fees. This is very easily done by contacting the resort directly for confirmation of any figures claimed by SMTN in their listings.

Last edit by ken1193 on Nov 28, 2017 05:27 AM.

https://www.redweek.com/forums/messages?thread_id=14010;page=last

Keep calm Homework

Thank you to Karen for her advice! We look forward to hearing more from Karen as our first new Inside Timeshare contributor of 2018.  Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these member sponsored U.S. timeshare groups if you need help with a timeshare. It can save you money.

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/

If you require any information regarding this article or any other published on Inside Timeshare, please use the comments or contact form and we will get back to you. If you are considering using the services of any company and are unsure of how to check them we will also be pleased to help.

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Friday’s Letter from America of 2018, we may be only 5 days into the New Year, but the Supreme Court has just made another ruling against Silverpoint.

Another client of Canarian Legal Alliance has had their contract with Silverpoint declared null and void, with the return of over £11,000 plus legal fees and interest. This now makes the number of rulings from the Supreme Court made by CLA to an astonishing 83!

Once again it is that time when maintenance bills start to drop onto the door mat, for many this is a difficult time, especially for the elderly who can no longer afford to pay the ever increasing bills.

For one elderly lady which Inside Timeshare has been highlighting for some time it has happened again. This is the case of Mrs B, as you will remember, MacDonald Resorts refuse to acknowledge that she no longer owns her timeshare at Dona Lola in Spain.

Mrs B and her sister, who are now in their late 80’s, employed the services of a company to be rid of their timeshares around 3 years ago. This company “sold” the timeshares and transferred them to another person, this was duly notarised by a notary in Spain. The Lanzarote timeshare has caused no problem, but MacDonald’s refuse to accept the transfer.

Mrs B has now received another demand for over £3000 for maintenance, obviously this will end up being sent to a debt collection agency which will incur even more fees.

It must also be remembered that they had not used the timeshare for over 10 years, yet still paid the maintenance until the transfer. Both are virtually housebound and cannot afford to pay these extortionate amounts.

Tony Hetherington has published several articles about MacDonald Resorts and their chasing of maintenance fees, even after the death of the owners or severe illness.

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-2698355/TONY-HETHERGINGTON-Even-death-not-rid-timeshare.html

MacDonald Resorts is one of the worst offenders in the timeshare industry for this type of behaviour, it is companies like this that have given timeshare the reputation it has. Greed it seems is the order of the day.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Hope for Beleaguered Timeshare Members!

Start with the Better Business Bureau

By Irene Parker

January 5, 2018

The Nightmare on Timeshare Street article scheduled for today has been cancelled because the resort listened and responded to the member. We don’t yet know the outcome, but at least the member has not been dismissed or ignored. The customer is not the enemy. The enemy is the timeshare sales agent that “pitches heat” making outrageous claims to sell points, knowing they are protected by the oral representation clause and that there is no federal enforcement.

If you have a complaint about your timeshare, first and foremost, contact your resort. It’s surprising how many who contact us have not tried to resolve their issue with the timeshare company before contacting an attorney or an exit company. It is the opinion of Inside Timeshare, in most cases, a member can accomplish what an attorney or an exit company can accomplish by following our complaint form. We are here to answer any questions for free.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint: Revised

In the U.S. it’s best to begin with the Better Business Bureau, although the BBB 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.

A BBB complaint is the easiest to file and can serve as your blueprint as you work your way down the list of appropriate agencies. File a complaint only if you feel you were a victim of deceit and bait and switch. “I can’t afford this” or “there is never any availability” or “you can always book cheaper online” are not specific enough complaints.

We compare the Better Business Bureau ratings among five major vacation point sellers. First, an explanation of the rating process from the BBB website:

The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues. BBB ratings are based on information in BBB files with respect to the following factors:

Business’s complaint history with BBB.

The BBB rating takes into account the following information with respect to closed complaints that relate to a business’s marketplace activities:

  • Number of complaints filed with BBB against the business.
  • The size of the business.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business appropriately responded to them.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB’s opinion the business resolved the complaints in a timely manner to the customer’s satisfaction.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business made a good faith effort to resolve complaints, even if the customer was not satisfied with the resolution.
  • If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business failed to resolve the underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints.
  • The age of resolved complaints. Older resolved complaints have less of an impact on the rating than newer complaints.

⦁ Type of business.

⦁ Time in business.

⦁ Transparent Business Practices

⦁ Failure to honor commitments to BBB.

⦁ Licensing and government actions known to BBB.

⦁ Advertising issues known to BBB.

From Best to Worst based on Stars

BBB Accreditation: If a business has been accredited by the BBB, it means BBB has determined that the business meets accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB accredited businesses pay a fee for accreditation review and monitoring for continued compliance.

https://www.bbb.org/council/for-businesses/about-bbb-accreditation/

Disney Vacation Club, Marriott Vacation Worldwide, Diamond Resorts International, Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited, Wyndham Vacation Ownership

                                                                     # of stars      # of Complaints       # of reviews +      –   neutral

A+ Disney Vacation Club                            5/5                             9                          1        1                   0      0

No Government Action No Pattern of Complaints

Accredited since 1991, in business since 1990

 

A+ Marriot Vacation Worldwide          3.68/5               123                                  11        0                   11     0

No Government Action No Pattern of Complaints

Not accredited, in business since 1994

 

A- Diamond Resorts International       3.27/5          1,115                                   89       2                  86      1

Government Action noted

Not accredited, in business since 1996

 

C+ Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited       2.47/5           781                                108         9                 95      4

Pattern of Complaints

Not accredited, in business since 1966

 

C+ Wyndham Vacation Ownership      2.39/5         2,085                             96             4                 92      0

Government Action noted and a Pattern of Complaints

Not accredited, in business since 1994    

Next week: The Consumer Protection Agency – What’s left?

A survey of all timeshare appropriate regulatory agencies:

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

Always Remember:

U.S. Self-Help member sponsored groups we believe not to be industry influenced:

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/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have questions about this or any other article published, we are here to give you the best advice possible.

 

complaints penguin

How to File a Timeshare Complaint: Revised

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Revised December 15, 2017

Start with the FBI if a victim of a “bait and switch”

fbilogo

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received 238 US timeshare complaints (135 since our last complaint form revision 9/17). An escalation in the criminal nature of allegations, especially, voiced by nine active duty and retired military, led us to the FBI. If your timeshare experience has met the FBI’s definition of white collar crime, financial institution fraud, the FBI’s appropriate guidelines are described below. I followed their recommendations after speaking with two FBI intake workers and two FBI agents over the past year. According to the FBI website,

White-collar crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial—to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage.

These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three).

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

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

Mortgage fraud (which is the option timeshare buyers fall under) is a subcategory of financial institution fraud known as “fraud for profit”:

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

“The 3Rs or F of Timeshare” allowing the beleaguered timeshare member to put a bad decision in the rear view mirror are:

  • Resolution
  • Relinquishment
  • Refund
  • Foreclosure

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

The most common complaint:

  • The agent said I could sell my points

The backend of timeshare fraud has been widely reported, but there has been little attention paid to the front end. This US Department of Justice timeshare scam report details the extent of the fraudulent resale industry. Many of our Advocates feel the front of the timeshare sale contains a comparable level of criminal activity, based on 223 of our 238 complainants alleging they were victimized in a way that meets the FBI definition of financial institution fraud.  

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract or for the contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card (if one was used)

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment?

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.

Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded, as will a request based on not being able to afford the timeshare. The FBI complaint should be filed only if there are credible allegations of deceit and bait and switch.

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 allegation is bait and switch. If you feel you were deceived, list the reasons why.

How Advocacy Works

Email Inside Timeshare your complaint if you would like to talk with 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 or inflammatory language.

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

If you have questions about this form, email Irene Parker

ireneparker377@gmail.com

Cell – 270-303-7572 EST Feel free to call any day of the week from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST or email to schedule a call. All calls and emails are returned within 24/48 hours. If you do not receive a response to your email, please call.   

Our advocates 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 and law enforcement agencies 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, such as 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 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, produce your initials and signatures, point out the oral representation clause or inform you, “If something was important to you, you should have asked for it to be put in the contract.”  They may conduct an investigation and report back that the sales agent(s) denied your claims. File a rebuttal if you disagree.

Depending on the nature of your complaint, especially complaints directed against an agent with multiple complaints on file, an Advocate may 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. ARDA’s Code of Ethics can be found on ARDA’s website. We do not recommend owners make the voluntary opt in or opt out ARDA ROC 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 inform NTOA (National Timeshare Owners Association) and the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card through the Consumer Protection Bureau online complaint form. By having the Advocate file on your behalf, we can track complaints, documenting patterns of criminal behavior.

Mark your email to the resort 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. 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.

Once the resort denies your claim begin filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies beginning with the FBI if you feel you meet the definition of white-collar crime. There are three ways to report to the FBI. We recommend calling the nearest field office after filing with IC3.gov. Filing online will help you organize your thoughts.

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

You can find the nearest field office from this website.

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

The FBI assigns Financial Institution Fraud the highest priority.

The next step is to file a complaint 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 name and Attorney General.

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.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/

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.

Most importantly, 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

  • The FBI at IC3.gov portal, if you feel you were deceived by a bait and switch, and then contact your nearest FBI field office to file an oral tip.
  • Attorneys General where you signed, where you live and where the resort is domiciled. 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.
  • 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 lot of 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/

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 by referring timeshare members to Inside Timeshare.

Who We Are and Why We Do This

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 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.

  1. The abnormal becomes the normal. After hearing 238 complaints, we fear deception is endorsed and encouraged by some timeshare companies. I have interviewed twelve current and former timeshare sales agents and managers. I’m told making false claims is called “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. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney because of their scarcity of complaints.
  2. Victims are silenced and isolated via non-disclosure agreements and arbitration. Encourage those considering the purchase of a timeshare to opt out of arbitration. This must be done normally within thirty days of signing the contract. 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. We receive many calls about this clause.  

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 seek to provide 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/

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

get involved

December 15, 2017 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy Group™

 

alone

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this week’s Tuesday slot Irene Parker looks at another military family who have fallen foul of deceptive sales practices. As usual Irene sent a draft of the article to Bluegreen for comment, at the eleventh hour, Bluegreen responded.

They have offered to cancel the loan, so fair play to them, Inside Timeshare thanks Bluegreen for taking note. The article has been changed in light of this, but is being published as a warning to other consumers to be aware and do their due diligence. Irene will also be writing a follow up article on Bluegreen’s response to the BBB.

Another Military Family Wages War against Timeshare

Will Bluegreen Honor those whose sacrifice is so great?

Terry and Linda Carter

soldier

By Irene Parker

December 12

Terry Carter served his country in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was discharged for medical reasons. Burdened with caregiving, Linda Carter reached out to Inside Timeshare for help. The family alleges they were sold a Bluegreen timeshare by deceit and a “bait and switch” told the timeshare would be easy to sell for a profit.

After filing a Better Business Bureau complaint, Linda was informed December 11, 2017, their loan would be cancelled, but they would not receive a refund. One reason listed was because they had used their points. What does use of the points you had been paying for, have to do with being told you bought the timeshare on the promise that the points would be easy to sell? This is one of the most common complaints voiced by our readers.

The oral representation clause included in all timeshare contracts states: “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” This translates to “Never believe anything a timeshare sales agent says.” The family tells their story hoping to warn others to think twice before buying any product that can’t be sold, or if sold, brings only pennies on the dollar.  

Linda was initially upset because she thought a loan cancellation would only stop the phone calls, but the hit on their credit would prevent them from obtaining a loan through the VA to buy a house. The representative ended their conversation saying she would love to help them book a vacation though! Linda was astonished. Terry has been diagnosed with blood cancer common among vets living near a burn pit.

I told Linda about the class action lawsuit Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group initiated that resulted in over 11,000 Bluegreen members getting foreclosed changed to “charged off” on their credit report.   

“Several developers are using a similar trust based hybrid product like Marriott’s. I think Bluegreen may have initiated it originally, but don’t hold me to that. Yes, the products are very similar. I felt Bluegreen was intentionally hurting their defaulted owners with their credit reporting as ‘foreclosures’, when I knew this was incorrect for the same reason as the allegations in the Marriott lawsuit, namely that the interest the ‘owner’ ends up with is personalty, not real estate. You cannot accurately call a personalty repossession a ‘foreclosure’ as there’s no legal procedure to ‘foreclose’ on personalty, according to UCC codes. My efforts to get Bluegreen to change were ignored; hence our litigation which resulted in at least 11,000 individuals getting foreclosures redacted from their credit reports. However, in our preparation, at the last minute, we researched the Florida timeshare act and realized Florida had anticipated our move! The statute was modified to define the Bluegreen timeshare plan as “real estate”. It was like legislating a duck into a goose,” as Mike explained in our Marriott article about the racketeering lawsuit filed against Marriott Vacation Club alleging Marriott charges closing costs and other fees associated with real estate, when the product is a right to use product, like a gym membership.

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-vs-vacation-home

A lifetime is a long time to bet nothing will happen to make the timeshare unaffordable. Inside Timeshare has heard from 237 angry and desperate timeshare buyers of which 222 allege they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch. Almost all allege they were told their points would be easy to sell.

Terry’s story

After 9/11 Terry volunteered to go to Iraq. He was close to retirement so he felt it was the last thing he would be able to do for his country. After he got in country, he again volunteered with six other guys to be on a team deployed to Basra where the British had a FOB.

A forward operating base (FOB) is any secured forward military position, commonly a military base, used to support tactical operations. (Wikipedia)

Terry was the lead man for the C-RAM program.

C-RAM: Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar, abbreviated C-RAM or Counter-RAM, is a set of systems used to detect and/or destroy incoming artillery, rockets and mortar rounds in the air before they hit their ground targets, or simply provide early warning. (Wikipedia)

He and his guys would monitor incoming fire. Basra was one of those places where they were the only Americans so it was hard to get medicine and supplies. Terry and the guys lived in tents next to burn pits where the British burned anything that could be burned. He received a letter stating that he lived next to the pits.

Then there was Afghan. Terry was there for eighteen months until he was sent home after a diagnosis of blood cancer. He also served twenty years in the National Guard. Terry is 55 years old.

I really don’t know what else to say – he lived army ‘til he couldn’t anymore.

thankyou

Terry and Linda

There are two more words to say.

Linda and Terry’s complaint sent to Bluegreen November 16, 2017

We were told in Gatlinburg at a group presentation that Bluegreen points were an investment and could be sold for a profit. My husband was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2014. We can no longer afford the timeshare and now know the agent lied about being able to sell Bluegreen points. We are not concerned that we cannot make a profit as the agent claimed, but have learned Bluegreen points are virtually worthless should a member need to sell. Bluegreen agents should not sell points based on the points being an investment. There were several in the room who heard this claim as it was made in the group presentation and in our individual meeting. Also, Cammie said all we had to do is when we got back home was go to our bank as we wouldn’t have a problem getting a lower interest rate. This was not true. Banks will not finance timeshare. Please help us.

Linda Carter

Thank you to Linda and Terry for sharing their story. Our advocates feel that until deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the timeshare sale is acknowledged and addressed, nothing will change.  

Business etiquette advice for customer service representatives (Article link not included as the article had “We Buy Timeshares” ads all over it)  

  1. Return calls promptly. Respond to messages as soon as possible, especially if the issue is time-sensitive. If the phone message relates to a complex issue that will take time to assess, have the courtesy to touch base with the person, acknowledge receipt of the call and let them know you are working on gathering the specific information. When possible, provide a timeline for when you will get back to the caller. For example, “I received your message inquiring about when our next shipment will be available. I have several phone calls in to our distributors, and I anticipate hearing back from them at the first of the week.”

customerphone

Inside Timeshare does return phone calls and emails promptly. Contact Inside timeshare or a member supported self-help group if you have a timeshare concern or would like to share your story.

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

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

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

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

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

 

If you have any comments about this or any other article published, or you are looking for help and advice on any timeshare related matter, contact Inside Timeshare. We are here to give you the truth and the best advice possible.

  

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Fridayyyyyyyy! So welcome to another Friday’s Letter from America, Irene once again looks at Customer Service, this time with a positive outcome. But as usual a quick round up on timeshare news in Europe.

One of our long standing readers has sent in the following information, it concerns a long running dispute many owners have been having at Club Jardines del Puerto in Puerto Banus. Costafield Management have pulled the plug on the club 3 years early. It will close on 31 December 2017, after this no members will have any right to occupy.

It looks as though FNTC will be selling off the properties, they will also have to comply with the constitution which demands a 50/50 split between members and the developer.

Our reader also asks this question, How can a small thriving club in the centre of one of the most popular prestigious resorts in Europe become “financially unsustainable”?

More on this as we get the news.

The same reader also asked if we knew anything about MRL (MacDonald Resorts Ltd) taking owners to court for alleged unpaid maintenances fees in Manchester. At present we have found no reference to this in the press, although it must be said that cases of this nature do not tend to be publicised. But knowing the reputation of MacDonald Resorts, we would not be surprised in the least.

Further to the article about Anfi, yesterday saw 2 new sentences from the courts against Anfi.

At the Court of First Instance No 2 in Maspalomas, the judge declared the Anfi contract null and void. He also ordered the return of over 32,000€ plus legal interest.

The second sentence from the Court of First Instance No 1 in Maspalomas, also declared the contract null and void with the return of over 19,000€ plus legal interest.

So contrary to what Anfi say, the courts are finding against them, invoking the Supreme Court rulings, of which there are now 77, 32 against Anfi.

On the story of Los Claveles, there are now some very interesting comments being posted. These are measured and put forward opposing arguments in a sensible manner. Inside Timeshare welcomes these, but will not tolerate abuse or accusations against named people, especially ones of a criminal nature. Inside Timeshare has given a neutral forum for this debate, in the hope that an agreement can be reached. It is up to you the members to come to this agreement.

Now for this weeks Article from Irene Parker.

Grandview at Las Vegas – a Vacation Village Resort

A Positive Customer Service Outcome

cust serv

By Irene Parker

December 8, 2017

Was this a customer service representative showing compassion towards a former Marine, or a willingness on the part of Grandview at Las Vegas to support their customer over their own sales agent? Either way, it was a first for me in the way Grandview handled a timeshare owner alleging they were victimized by deceit and “bait and switch”, which may allow this timeshare buyer to put a wrong decision in the rear view mirror. Grandview is part of Vacation Village/Eldorado Corporation owned by The Berkley Group.

Jeff Diehl contacted Inside Timeshare asking for advice concerning his two bedroom unit at Grandview in Las Vegas purchased January 2017, alleging he was fraudulently sold by a sales agent making exaggerated claims. What was unusual about Jeff’s report is the specificity. Many complain saying they were told they can rent their unit or points for income, but Jeff knew the name of the sales agent, Marylou G, the specific amount promised – $2,000 to $2,500 per week for his fixed week and for eight more weeks using their equivalent 80,000 points. Jeff had told Marylou this was the only way the family could afford the week. After researching on TUG, there was no evidence to support a rental price of $2000 to $2,500 per week.

Rather than leave it at what Jeff had been told about renting, I advised Jeff to do a little research by checking TUG Timeshare Users Group to find out what a Grandview week would bring in rental income. Jeff found only one rental ad for $525 that had been listed since March 26, 2017, with no response.

After Jeff wrote out his complaint, I called the number listed on Grandview’s Better Business Bureau’s report and spoke to a Grandview representative. At this point, I am usually told the resort cannot talk to me so I was surprised the agent asked if I had a loan number and a phone number for the owner. I did. When I explained all of the above to the representative, she said she would call Jeff. I emailed Jeff and told him the name of the representative who said she would call. What usually happens next is one or two weeks of being ignored passes, prompting Better Business Bureau and other regulatory filings.

wow

A first! The representative called Jeff the next day informing him his loan would be cancelled.

As I mentioned, Jeff is a former Marine. He is also disabled. The specific data Jeff provided made it difficult to deny the sales agent told him something that was not true. This would not have prevented any timeshare resort from pointing to the oral representation clause found in the fine print of a volume of documents that allows a sales agent to say anything under the sun to close a deal. To soften the blow, some are told, “If something was important to you, you should have had it added to the contract,” perpetuating the hamster wheel called recycled inventory, as described by one former timeshare sales agent.

Jeff should not have to proceed to the next step which would have involved filing complaints with any or all of the following:

Jeff had initially included predatory lending in his complaint saying,

“Just a quick note to say that the reason I included predatory lending in my complaint, is that the definition of this type of lending says, that when a lender makes a loan to a consumer who cannot afford the loan, in order to benefit themselves, but harms the consumer in the process, this is predatory lending. So, I believe you misunderstood why I included the 17.9 % loan rate.”

I informed Jeff that all timeshare sales agents sell timeshare in this fashion so making this part of his complaint was meaningless.

Jeff also is demanding monies paid be refunded as he alleges the timeshare was sold by deceit, violation of trust, and “bait and switch” meeting the FBI’s definition of White Collar Crime Financial Institution Fraud. At the time of publication, Jeff had not yet heard if his monies paid would be returned, as he would have to contact the corporate office, which Jeff plans to do.  

Before we place Vacation Village up there with Inside Timeshare’s favorite timeshare, Disney, more due diligence is required.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F. Two sources tell us The Berkley Group is being investigated by the Florida Attorney General’s office. According to Berkley’s LinkedIn page, “The Berkley Group is a private timeshare resort development firm owned by more than 2,000 company employees. Under its Vacation Village Resorts and Affiliates brand, The Berkley Group has generated a worldwide owner base that exceeds 500,000 families.”

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

Grandview at Las Vegas, owned by Eldorado/Vacation Village has a BBB rating of B, so maybe this resort is trying to improve its customer service.

https://www.bbb.org/southern-nevada/business-reviews/resorts/grandview-at-las-vegas-in-las-vegas-nv-66863/reviews-and-complaints

Remember: BBB ratings are not a guarantee of a business’s reliability or performance.  BBB recommends that consumers consider a business’s BBB rating in addition to all other available information about the business.

https://www.bbb.org/council/overview-of-bbb-grade/

Inside Timeshare has heard from 227 timeshare member readers, of which 212 allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. If you need help or just the support of others in your situation, here are some member sponsored self-help groups:

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

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

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

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

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

roundabout

Thank you Irene, at least this is one family that has had a positive outcome.

On Tuesday we will publish another article from Irene, this is titled:

Another Military Family Wages War against Timeshare

Will Bluegreen Honor those whose sacrifice is so great?

This is a short but hard hitting article, it shows the disgusting lengths sales agent will go just to “close a deal”. For those who are ex-serviceman or those who support them, you will find this article will make your blood boil.

That’s it for this week, if you have any comment about this or any other article published, Inside Timeshare invites you to send it in.

If you need help with any timeshare matter, or just need to know which firms you can trust, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

friday dog

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Another week over and another Friday’s Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a very quick look at two cases announced this week.

Silverpoint have once again been on the receiving end of another Supreme Court verdict. They have declared the client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £43,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

In this verdict the court stated that the contract lacked specific information required by law, such as a specific apartment number, date and location. It is quite clear that the Supreme Court has on more than one occasion clarified the law.

In another case heard at the Court of First Instance in Palma de Mallorca, Altres Vacances have been ordered to repay the client over 58,000€  plus legal fees and interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

This court has followed the Supreme Court rulings on the length of the contract, the law is very clear on this point, the contract must be no longer than 50 years. They must also contain specific information as required by law.

abogados-ag-250

Once again, we have to warn about the “fake” law firms operating out of Tenerife, part of the Litigious Abogados family, another reader has been in contact with the new firm Abogados AG, with Armando González Areca named as the main “lawyer”.

They state that following a “groundbreaking ruling on “Tuesday 19 March 2015” (very precise date), against Diamond Resorts International SL, one of the the directors, once again Andrew Cooper, has pleaded guilty to the indictment of the Spanish Civil Code. They also state that the High Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife have declared 28 of their clients contracts null and void, seizing all the personal assets of Mr Cooper in Spain and the Canary islands.

Now according to this “law firm” they will be lodging the case against Diamond Resorts International Sl and Mr Andrew Cooper on the 7th November 2017, this will heard on Tuesday 21st November, very quick indeed, they must be very well in with the judges!

In the case of our reader, they no longer own any timeshare with Diamond, they got rid of that years ago, so there is no basis for any claim. Beware the claims that you have a case, if you no longer own you don’t, even if you do own you may not have a valid claim. Before engaging with any company that states you do have a claim, check and check again.

See the full letter below, pdf.

Abogados AG

So now on with this week’s letter.

Another Bluegreen Member Alleges a “Bait and Switch”

Sometimes Called “Pitching Heat”

cross fingers

By Irene Parker

November 3  

Back in July, Inside Timeshare published an article by Lela Renea, a detective who alleged she was deceived by a Bluegreen timeshare sales agent. Camyell Pratt, another Bluegreen purchaser, alleges she and her husband were also deceived.

The FBI definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud, is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Inside Timeshare has received 179 complaints from readers, of which 164 allege they were victims of a timeshare bait and switch. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

Lela Renea is a detective. Camyell understands bad debt. She assists in collecting back taxes for a Virginia County government office and understands the repercussions when someone does not pay what they owe. But what if the contract agreed to was purchased under conditions of fraud?

In timeshare, that doesn’t matter thanks to the clause that appears in every timeshare contract – “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” In other words, any complaint that begins with “The salesman says” can be conveniently dismissed.

Bluegreen is certainly not the only timeshare company Inside Timeshare has reported on concerning questionable sales tactics by some agents:

A jury awarded Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent, $20 million. Ms. Williams described TAFT days – tell them any blank thing on slow sales days.

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

Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against The Manhattan Club. Of note, The Manhattan Club admitted wrongdoing, unusual in corporate America.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a $6.5 million settlement with the owners and operators of the Manhattan Club, a timeshare in Midtown Manhattan, over the sponsor’s repeated false promises to potential and current share owners.

The settlement is the largest in recent history for the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau. Under the terms of the settlement, the operators of the Manhattan Club, acknowledge that they repeatedly misled shareowners about the club’s reservation process, their ability to sell back their shares, and the details of the club’s state-approved offering plan.

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

Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Missouri Attorneys General took action against other timeshare companies.

As we’ve said before, the abnormal becomes normal, whether it be predatory timeshare sales or sex abuse in the Catholic Church or Hollywood. Victims are messengers to be beheaded or silenced and isolated through non-disclosure clauses. To my knowledge, except for The Manhattan Club, timeshare developers have not even acknowledged deceit on the front of the timeshare sale, despite thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits too numerous to mention.

Current and former timeshare sales agents and managers are also speaking out. As one manager explained:

I watched every day, agents selling for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them.  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 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!   It 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!

Some companies are trying to do the right thing. Bluegreen has been listening and taking appropriate action in some cases. Diamond Resorts has opened a Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department that pledges to help members from day one and has launched a program called CLARITY which promotes accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

Instead of beheading the customer’s, legitimate attorneys, volunteer advocates and journalists, why won’t the timeshare developer not identify and drain the swamp of predatory sales agents? After receiving 179 complaints from our readers, at times we can guess the agent by the con.         

cartoon fraud

Camyel and Jayson Pratt

Camyell and her husband Jayson endured an eight hour Bluegreen timeshare sales presentation at Harbor Light in South Carolina. They were promised:

4000 points plus 6000 points plus two RCI weeks

Availability to a variety of resorts

What was delivered?

For 4000 points, according to one of our Advocates, also a Bluegreen member, the member can book a studio in winter on the wrong side of the weather report.

After filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Bluegreen did offer to credit Camyell the additional 6000 points promised. Camyell declined, deciding she did not want to have anything to do with a company that would resort to such tactics. Nevertheless, Bluegreen credited the family 6000 points anyway.

Camyell said they were given no paperwork after they signed the contract, told the contract needed to be processed. They were given a booklet about Bluegreen and the timeshare exchange company RCI.

Let’s see how Camyell’s complaint compares to Lela Renea:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  • Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  • Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  • Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  • Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

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

Timeshare members have had enough. Timeshare has been employing tactics former timeshare sales agents call “Pitching Heat” or “No Heat No Eat” for too long.

Like so many of our readers have complained, Camyell was not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract rescission period. When she did finally gain access, she was informed she was not within the booking window and did not have enough points to book the stay she desired and says she had been promised.

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 be targeting your best interest.    
  • 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. 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 dollars. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to act.
  • File a complaint with 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.  

chat

If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help Facebooks:

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

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

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

 

There we have it, Friday is here, the weekend is about to begin, have fun and don’t forget, do your homework before you deal with any company. If you are in any doubt, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

friday cat

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

 

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