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CFPB

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The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Richard Cordray

Timeshare Developers and ARDA vs the Timeshare Consumer

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ALEC – What’s a Corporate Bill Mill?

Part I – The Manhattan Club

Part II – Marriott and Florida legislation Tuesday, November 28

By Irene Parker

November 21

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an agency that overreached or a necessary protection for consumers?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Director Richard Cordray recently announced his resignation. Timeshare members not familiar with the CFPB may remember 3.4 million Wells Fargo customers receiving restitution from unauthorized credit card accounts being opened that allowed Wells Fargo representatives to meet incentive targets. CFPB conducted that investigation.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/15/richard-cordray-resigns-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-24493/

Timeshare today seems as polarized as Democrats vs the GOP. Given the corporate driven political climate in Washington DC, it is unlikely Cordray’s replacement will bolster the agency’s power or recourse for timeshare consumers.

Timeshare members have not benefitted from the CFPB like the Wells Fargo victims. The opening of an unauthorized credit card is annoying, but probably not financially devastating. The majority of our 209 Inside Timeshare readers, reaching out to us for advice, are often financially devastated by their decision to purchase a timeshare or continuing to own one. The perpetual contract, accompanied by rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market can spell disaster, especially if sold by deceit.

Still, timeshare members appreciate the CFPB’s interest in hearing timeshare complaints. The CFPB did initiate a Westgate timeshare investigation that lasted two years, only to be dropped after the 2016 presidential election. Call me suspicious, but seeing Westgate owner David Siegel pictured left of Mr. Trump on the stump during the campaign, while the Trump organization simultaneously launched a timeshare in Scotland, seems beyond coincidental.

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Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s name was mentioned in the Politico article linked above as a possible Cordray replacement. Given Florida’s current legislative and timeshare enforcement climate, timeshare members have little to cheer should a former or current Florida elected official be named director. In our opinion, Ms. Bondi has done little to address deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale. As Inside Timeshare previously reported, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints received from April 2014 to April 2016.

In contrast, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club members, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich $800,000 for Diamond Resort members, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III $3 million for Festiva members, and other smaller settlements by Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri Attorneys General.

Despite AG settlements that seem mere financial speed bumps in the life of a timeshare corporation, timeshare members are hopeful our grassroots efforts to educate lawmakers will someday bear fruit.

The Manhattan Club investigation was one member vs developer battle over lack of availability and other concerns that led to the $6.5 million settlement. TMC owners were banned from the timeshare industry as part of the agreement. While the settlement was hailed as a significant accomplishment, Douglas Wasser, an attorney involved with the investigation is not so sure:

The $6.5 million was set aside for the benefit of “hundreds of purchasers” as a restitution fund.  But The Manhattan Club has upwards of 14,700 unit owners.  So, the pool of Manhattan Club owners entitled to a purchase refund may be a very small one.

The forced divestiture by the current sponsor of control over the Manhattan Club could be a lift for the entire community. Given the lack of confidence in the current reservation system and the many complaints that the reservation system was heavily tilted to benefit the sponsor, this seems like a significant positive to the Manhattan Club community.  It may restore confidence, perhaps drive up market value of the units and allow those who want to leave to do so, and bring in new and willing participants.   

Will it be uplifting for all timeshare members?

Inside Timeshare and other advocates expect little improvement given the polarity that exists between member advocacy groups and ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. I have personally forwarded close to 100 complaints to ARDA, prepared by members alleging timeshare sales agents violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics, which have been ignored.

The two resorts which seem to have the highest volume of complaints each give ARDA ROC, the supposed owner’s arm of ARDA, $1million dollars a year through “voluntary” opt out donations. It took until November to have my $7 removed. When I contacted my resort to have the donation removed, it was instead moved to another account and reported as a delinquency on that account. When members ask what ARDA ROC is, members are told it is a nonprofit that helps members. However, ARDA seemed to be on the side of TMC developers.

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The picture above shows two ARDA attorneys observing a TMC meeting and taking notes. The notes may have later turned into an amicus brief written by a high ranking executive member and attorney for ARDA attempting to defend TMC.  In the brief, Robb Webb described the company’s practices as “routine industry transactions” and, according to one source, drafted some TMC original documents.

Our readers would agree false promises and shady sales tactics are often routine industry practices or transactions, but members are alarmed ARDA defended such practices. In the settlement, the Manhattan Club defendants acknowledged that they misled buyers about availability and the ability to sell back the timeshare.

“The owners of the Manhattan Club lured thousands of timeshare buyers with false promises and shady sales tactics that violated New York law,” Schneiderman said.

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

What’s a corporate bill mill and does such an entity play a role in timeshare?

On Friday in Part II we will examine how politics played a role in the Marriott racketeering case, as lawyers involved with the case suspect. It’s been reported backdoor politics contributed to a bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott that, in effect, rendered the Marriott case non-meritorious.

Unsure of the allegations, I researched lobby efforts and their influence on legislation and the possibility of timeshare participating in an ALEC type endeavor. Georgia Senator Nan Orrock described ALEC as “a corporate bill mill.” ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to Senator Orrock, ALEC is an organization that gets money from lobbyists and gives the money to legislatures and it is considered charity. Three lawmakers, mentioned in this video, received $22,000 in “scholarships” from ALEC, considered an educational charity. The YouTube is disturbing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNA0-GBuunc

The timeshare PAC ARDA also has a charitable educational organization called AIF ARDA International Fund. I don’t know enough about AIF to parallel it to ARDA, but the legislative action in the Marriott case seems similar.

http://www.arda.org/foundation/

Open Secrets list ARDA’s contributions to political candidates:  

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

So where do we go from here and why can’t we all just get along? Has greed so permeated timeshare and American politics that a working relationship between timeshare members and developers or between the rich and the not rich, is as unlikely as Bernie Sanders and President Trump coming to terms over health care?

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Fortunately, the court of public opinion is still open as long as the first amendment stands while timeshare members keep coming forward filing regulatory complaints and reaching out to the media if they feel they have been harmed. Someday, somewhere, someone will listen. Until then, we build our case brick by brick.

If you or someone you know needs help with a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help advocacy Facebook.

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/

Thank you Irene, as usual you explain things in a way that is easily understood, we look forward to Part II next week.

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Start the Week

Welcome to another new week in the world of timeshare, tomorrow Irene Parker has prepared an article following the news that Richard Cordray has stepped down from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Part I is about the Manhattan Club, She begins with what the CFPB has done, including the investigation into Westgate, which was conveniently dropped after two years. But more on that tomorrow.

tribunal supremo

In Friday’s Letter from America, we began with the usual roundup from Europe, with the latest court cases. At the end of the day the news came in, too late for publishing, of yet another Supreme Court ruling being issued from Madrid.

In this case, Silverpoint have been ordered to return over £61,000 plus legal fees and interest to another client. The contract was also declared null and void, at present we do not have the full details of the sentence, but it would appear that the contract breached the timeshare law on several points.

As usual the main point will be the length of the contract, the law states that contract must be no longer than 50 years in duration, so the perpetuity contracts sold by Silverpoint contravene this. Once again the Supreme Court has made its point.

los claveles logo

On the story of Los Claveles in Tenerife, Inside Timeshare has received some comments from other members who do not appear to be in agreement with the Committee. They are either neutral or feel that Wimpen has acted in good faith.

Well, there are always two sides to any story or dispute, not all will agree, Inside Timeshare is happy to publish opposing views. We will also be looking into this and preparing a full article in due course.

In the meantime there is a link below which will start the ball rolling in bringing another side to the story and hopefully a little balance.

Inside Timeshare does try to get other views, quite often other parties do not respond, many emails are sent but no reply is ever received. Telephone calls are terminated, usually with you are through to the wrong department or even we don’t know anything about that. So thank you to those who did send in information.

http://www.losclaveles-alt.eu

 

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You have any comments or views on any article published, send them in using the contact form, we will either post them in the comments section or include them in any article.

Want to know if a company is genuine, once again contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

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The Tuesday Slot: Arbitration

Today we feature excerpts from  Chris Parker, a writer from City Pages and his article called The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection

Continuing on yesterdays topic of “Bogus” claims companies and “Fake” law firms, Mindtimeshare  has also highlighted another company, European Liquidations.

Again this company uses the @consultants.com email address, which as we have said previously it is just a free email provider just like gmail and yahoo.

europeanliquidationsltd@consultant.com

The telephone numbers provided are:

0203 384 3999 and Fax – 0872 751 6998

Unfortunately, Mindtimeshare has very little information and we have been unable trace any company with this name at company house. But it is important to inform readers of all companies that crop up along with telephone numbers and their email address, after all to be forewarned is to be forearmed!

As this article was being prepared Canarian Legal Alliance issued another court ruling, this was from the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas against Palm Oasis (Tasolan). In this judgement the court ordered the return of over 15,000€ plus all maintenance fees and legal interest, the contract was also declared null and void.

The court ruled that the contract infringed Law 42/98 in that it was for a period exceeding 50 years, Contract to be valid must be for a period of between 3 and 50 years, this should also be specified in the contract and explained to the client before the contract is signed. It is clear the Supreme Court rulings are having a severe impact on all contracts that do not follow the stipulated laws.

Now on with today’s article.

Part I – Questions a Timeshare Buyer Never Asks

Does this timeshare contract contain an arbitration clause?

arbitration

By Irene Parker

Part II – Class Action Lawsuits – Misunderstood by Timeshare Members

Friday’s Letter from America

Tuesday October 24

Excerpts from “The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection”

By Chris Parker

“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

“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….” “Though arbitration may sound preferable to the expense and anguish of court, it hands a major advantage to companies. The costs savings aren’t much: Arbitrators usually charge $300-$400 per hour minimum, and some bill into the thousands of dollars. But arbitration clauses typically bar the consumer from joining class-action suits. The strategy has emboldened fraud on a massive scale.” “In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ruled that arbitration clauses can’t bar consumers from joining class-action suits. The GOP Congress intends to repeal the rule.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told the Wall Street Journal that such clauses are “a windfall for the companies, in terms of how you settle their cheating.”

“Even when someone does challenge them, arbitration rulings are usually private, with no appeals and little documentation. Like a tree falling in a vast forest, Wells Fargo’s customers didn’t hear the millions of other victims, and the press remained none the wiser.”

“With consumer protection increasingly whittled away by keen lobbyists and cunning corporate lawyers, the idea was to build an agency whose sole mission was protecting consumers.”

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“During its brief life, the bureau has established itself as the only Washington agency more responsive to consumers than to lobbyists. Since 2011, it’s handled 1.2 million complaints, returning over $12 billion to consumers.”

The CFPB and Timeshares

By Irene Parker

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has also been the first line of defense for timeshare buyers alleging they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch. Given the staggering number of reports of deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the timeshare sale, if the CFPB is regulated out of existence, widely predicted, many timeshare members feel the only court that will be left available to them is the court of public opinion, warning unsuspecting consumers as to the minefield of ways the evolution of right to use timeshare points has opened the doors for unscrupulous timeshare sales.

Our standard disclosure is that not all timeshare sales agents are deceptive and not all timeshare companies are predatory.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

I asked ever assessable timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group which timeshare developers have an arbitration clause. Diamond Resorts is the only major developer that I’m aware of that has the arbitration clause,” explains Mike. I spoke with other attorneys who say the same.

Banks and other lenders can pick arbitrators. As Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson expressed –

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“We heard from arbitrators that were blackballed and essentially told, ‘You’re not going to be an arbitrator anymore because you’re ruling for the consumer,’” she says. “That’s one of the problems with arbitration. The court system is paid by the taxpayers. Judges are neutral and their funding comes from the public.” City Pages “The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection”

A common comment on complaint sites and from 170 Inside Timeshare readers reaching out to us for assistance is, “Let’s get a class action going!?” Timeshare members typically confuse the term and substance of a class action. We’re all used to class action ads on television say, for example, a medical device failure. The difference with timeshare is that damages are not uniform, which is necessary for a class action. Some lawyers may call a lawsuit a class action on behalf of only one or two plaintiff class representatives but they are more like individual lawsuits. Real Class Actions involve hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs. More later,

Part II – Class Action Lawsuits – Misunderstood by Timeshare Members

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group this Friday’s Letter from America

Why will timeshare developers not acknowledge the flawed business model?

Out of 170 complaints received, 155 of our readers allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. The contract is perpetual, accompanied by rising maintenance fees. With some of the more gestapo orientated companies, the member cannot sell or give back their timeshare. The problem is magnified when the buyers succumbed to high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards.

We believe Social Media and media outreach is the tortoise chasing the hare. Timeshare default rates are rising and original buyers (like me) are not getting any younger. Inside Timeshare continues to be there for members and advocacy Facebook pages and websites are on the rise – helping members through the 3Rs or F of Timeshare – resolution, when possibly the member just did not understand how to use the program, refund, relinquishment or foreclosure. In America, there is no debtors’ prison, except in the case of refusing to pay child support.

We ask timeshare developers – What would happen to the primary residential home market if home buyers could not sell their property?

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Self-help Facebooks

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and Chris, also a big thank you to Tammy for proof reading and editing these articles.

As always if you have any comments or would like to share your experiences, Inside Timeshare welcomes them, contact us through our contact page.

If you need help or advice on any timeshare matter do get in touch and we will point you in the right direction. Remember before engaging with any company do your due diligence and your homework, it will save you a lot of bother in the end.

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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.

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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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Monday, The Start to Another Week.

We finished last week with the announcement of 6 sentences from the courts against Anfi, we start this week with news just in from our contact in Madrid. We also start this week with an article from Irina Allen, who has featured before. But first the Judgement.

The Supreme Court has made yet another ruling against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this ruling the court has awarded a british client a substantial amount, reportedly around £32,000. At the moment we are not sure what the ruling was comprised of, but going by previous ones it will probably be for the perpetuity contract. When the sentence document becomes available we will publish it here.

So we wonder what is in store for the rest of the week, now on to Irina’s article.

Diamond Resorts Suspended my Account worth over $500,000

For posting one RedWeek rental ad as my sales agent advised

ethics

By Irina Allen

July 17, 2017

Inside Timeshare first published my Diamond Resorts story January 2017 after Diamond suspended my 139,000 points, falsely accusing me of renting points for commercial purposes.

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

I was expected to make monthly mortgage payments of $2400 a month and pay $29,000 in maintenance fees during the one year suspension. Diamond is able to rent my points for promotional purposes during the suspension period.

Ironically, I replaced the points I had promised to friends and family by renting points on RedWeek. I also lost thousands of dollars on airfares that had already been booked as my account was suspended without warning. I am not the only member hurt by Diamond’s change in rental policy.

I was accused of opening an Airbnb account. I have never had an Airbnb account, but Diamond Resorts told me they were not required to provide any proof despite my common last name. My attorneys are working with Airbnb to prove I never had an Airbnb account. I have given Airbnb permission to share my story with their international news community.

I don’t want to get bogged down in details so suffice to estimate I paid $5 per point for my vacation points and with closing costs the figure is closer to $6 per point. According to our Facebook posts, a Diamond point sells for about $4 a point so I also feel I overpaid. At 139,000 points we are talking about a serious amount of money – over $500,000.

After contacting an attorney and filing complaints with the FTC, CFPB, AGs and the Real Estate Departments of AZ, HI, NV and CA, I found our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Facebook. At least this provided some support as all the regulatory agencies ignored my complaint.

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

Alarmed that others could be victimized, I became an administrator for Timeshare Advocacy Group ™, hoping timeshare owners and members from other timeshare companies will reach out to us when facing problems or have concerns about their timeshare membership. I have learned Diamond Resorts is not the only timeshare company exhibiting what I feel is predatory behavior.

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

It is unfathomable any corporation could exhibit such blatant disregard for a customer. My situation is very bizarre. In addition to a suspension, I experienced a 17% increase in maintenance fees while the actual increase was only 6%. I only found out about this by reading a post on our Advocacy Facebook page. Diamond automatically corrected their “error” (only for 2017) after receiving correspondence from my attorneys.

Many do not even believe me. I am grateful to Senior Correspondent Jeff Weir of RedWeek for the two hours he spent interviewing me, even though he initially decided not to publish our interview. After Inside Timeshare sent a draft of this article to RedWeek, Mr. Weir requested a copy from my editor Irene Parker indicating he would publish our interview.

One can find hundreds of Diamond rental ads on several commercial websites. I do not know why I was targeted for placing one ad without providing any evidence of commercial use. I am a professional. I bought Diamond points to share with my friends, family and clients.

Here is the current Diamond 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.

Here are a few of the Diamond rental ads on the RedWeek online website. Not only are there hundreds of ads, but many of them are for prices greatly above maintenance fees and could therefore be considered “for profit”.

Timeshare Rentals – Timeshares for Rent By Owner | RedWeek

https://www.redweek.com/timeshare-rentals

Diamond Resorts International

Kaanapali Beach Club

Lahaina, Hawaii

stars 51 reviews

255 rentals available

$132 – $500 /night

12 resales available

$600 – $15,000

Daytona Beach Regency

Daytona Beach, Florida

stars 7 reviews

I don’t expect Ebay, VRBO or other non-informational platforms to post a warning. However, RedWeek is an informational resource for vacation timeshare members and owners. I feel RedWeek should post a warning that Diamond Resorts does not allow rentals given the consequences can spell financial disaster.

Diamond’s policy is clear. Either there is a rental policy or there is not a policy. With the consequences of violating the policy so severe, why does RedWeek not post a warning? More importantly, why does Diamond not allow members, many struggling to pay maintenance fees, to post rental ads on RedWeek?

“RedWeek advises members to check with the resort before renting,” stated Gary Prado, spokesperson for RedWeek.

Why would anyone check with Diamond Resorts before renting, especially those who had been renting for years, and why would anyone check if there are hundreds, if not thousands, of rental ads all over the internet?

I opened a RedWeek account on the advice of a Diamond Hawaii sales agent and attempted to rent some points. I had not even heard of RedWeek until the sales agent recommended the site based on her personal experience. She said many Diamond employees rent on RedWeek to offset maintenance fees. I was never paid for the RedWeek rental so I gave up the idea of renting.

I am one of 18 Platinum members who have contacted Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ alleging deceptive and bait and switch up-sells. Like the others, I accumulated 139,000 Diamond vacation points due to aggressive selling. I agreed to take over 42,000 Diamond points from the secondary market on one condition – I do not have to buy any additional points. As the Diamond agents promised, “due to my Platinum status, owning at the time 75,000 points, I would be allowed, as a onetime courtesy, to transfer contracts without being required to purchase additional points.” In 2013 this was a common practice.

Diamond refused to honor their promise after the transfer. I was told I had to buy 23,000 points in order to use the transferred points without the secondary market restrictions. I could not use the points due to layers of restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points. Diamond is the only major timeshare that cannot be listed with any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association as the members feel Diamond’s secondary market restriction are more onerous than Diamond’s major competitors.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

group

Speaking with other families affected by the sudden change in Diamond’s rental policy, I asked:

  1. Are you not allowed to rent or has DRI just made it more difficult?

They have made it very difficult because we can’t advertise.  They also tried to ban us from using upgrades for rental weeks (making it harder to rent for more than cost) and they also started charging a fee to add guests.

Diamond maintains that they have the right to change the rules.

This is the crux of the matter. Would you buy a timeshare if you knew the timeshare developer could change the rules pretty much at any time for any reason?

Diamond stands to make a huge financial gain by forcing owners who relied on rental strategies into foreclosure. This is financially devastating for families because they are required to pay maintenance fees they can no longer afford for the high volume of points these members own. Diamond then “takes back” the points and resells for full value.

muscle

If you or someone you know has a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups.

Bit of a horrendous story, doing only what she was advised, how many times have we heard this type of thing from sales agents? You believe them because you trust them, they sound so genuine, then bingo! You are the one to be made out to be in the wrong. So thanks Irina for that little insight, we look forward to your next article.

Timeshare needs to change, it is not the product most of us thought we were purchasing, the truth is hidden, is any wonder that timeshare has a bad name and reputation?

If you would like to share any of your experiences contact Inside Timeshare and we will work with you.

Have you been contacted or thinking about contacting a company about your timeshare, but don’t know if they are genuine? Then send us an email or comment and we will point you in the right direction, remember it is better to spend time checking than even longer regretting!

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

Police raid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malaga Court

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

Now on with our US Article.

A Bluegreen Member Responds to Timeshare Advocacy Group™

A detective shares her Bluegreen Timeshare experience

Complaint queue

By Irene Parker

Friday July 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

law enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

advo

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

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

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

weekend

 

across-the-pond

The Friday Letter from America

Back in January, Inside Timeshare published Irene Parker’s article Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump, This was at the time of the now President Trump’s inauguration. In the introduction, we broke the news to our US readers of the plans  Mr Trump had going through planning in Scotland, for a second golf course and the increase in the number of timeshare apartments.

This apparently came as a big surprise to our American readers, it would seem they had no idea that he was also involved in “timeshare”.

Below are three links to two major UK daily newspapers, the last link is around 9 months old, but shows the opposition that Mr, now President Trump faced from local people. In this particular article is the story of a quarryman who refused to sell his home to Trump, who described him as a “disgrace” for not wanting to sell him his “pigsty of a home”. I don’t know about you, but in the UK and especially in Scotland that type of remark about someone’s home is a total insult.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-organization-golf-links-resort-scotland-aberdeen-conflict-interest-a7534596.html

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/22/planners-reject-donald-trump-revised-plans-scottish-golf-resort#img-1

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/23/donald-trump-faces-wall-of-opposition-as-he-returns-to-scotland

Now to Irene’s article.

What is ARDA-ROC Doing Today? An Analysis

By Irene Parker – March 24, 2017

torch

After reading the March article “What is ARDA-ROC doing today?”

http://resorttrades.com/what-is-arda-roc-doing-today/

It seems a good time to revisit my $7 “voluntary” donation to ARDA-ROC. The word voluntary has a nice ring to it so for years when paying our maintenance fees, if I was asked if I would like to make the voluntary donation to ARDA-ROC, I said, “Sure.” Since then I have learned too much to ever answer in the affirmative again, unless proven wrong.

According to Lisa Ann Schreier, the ARDA board only lists one timeshare owner. Of the 23 board members, included are Frank Goeckel, Diamond Resorts, recently departed with a $2 million handshake and Franz Hanning, departed after the Trish Williams $20 million Wyndham Whistleblower verdict with a $3.4 million handshake.

http://www.ardaroc.org/roc/about/default.aspx?id=1354

Of the $816,068 ARDA made in political contributions, 74% went to Republicans and 26% to democrats. This breakdown was also provided by Lisa Ann Schreier:

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

Like it or not, timeshare is all about politics. President Trump, or his family, is going into the timeshare business. Pictured to the left of President Elect Trump is long-standing friend David Siegel, owner of Westgate timeshare. Given the current political climate it would not surprise me if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau halted their investigation of Westgate. The CFPB was spearheaded by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. That’s the organization that helped the Wells Fargo victims.

trump
David Siegel seated to the left of Donald Trump

As Charles Thomas of Inside Timeshare previously reported,

“Well it is actually quite simple for those in Scotland, back in 2008 there were some very heated debates over Mr Trump’s plan to build an 18 hole golf course and resort in Balmedie Aberdeenshire. This met with considerable resistance from the local people, but eventually Trump won through.

The original plan was to build a 450-room hotel, a second golf course, 500 luxury homes and 900 timeshare apartments along with a second 18 hole golf course. In a recent article in The Guardian newspaper these plans now intend to double the number of homes and timeshare apartments”

Whether you are or were for or against now President Trump, it is clear he is on the side of the timeshare developer which has become a battlefield pitting owners against developers.

Now to our main attraction:

What is ARD-ROC doing today?

A breakdown for soundbite reading and request for more information:

In a perfect world the only thing ARDA-ROC would be doing today would be writing checks, sitting back and relaxing. But, it’s not a perfect world and so a typical day for Chairman Ken McKelvey goes something like this:

ken McKelvey
Ken McKelvey

It is a Thursday and McKelvey started his day discussing a new wrinkle in the South Carolina transfer legislation that ARDA-ROC has been proposing.

I believe this is South Carolina House Bill 3647 tightening the language of timeshare transfers. In our last article we reported how the nature of the perpetual contract, rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market spells a disaster for aging original owners if denied a voluntary surrender.

That was followed by a conference call regarding the proposed United States Virgin Islands timeshare fee.

This does sound like a benefit for owners because an extra $300 slapped onto an exchange seems exorbitant.

The day before was loaded with details regarding a Saint Maarten Parliament Timeshare Ordinance and its potential impact on consumers.I know nothing about the Saint Maarteen Parliament Timeshare Ordinance but it sounds ominous.

Along with a final draft of legislature in Florida regarding the sunset clause to help legacy properties gain reasonable voting requirements to extend into the timeshare agreements into the future. Whew.

This is Florida House Bill 818 concerning a reset to continue beyond the sunset provision.

And he’s just a volunteer who is happy it is not Monday.

The ongoing operations of ARDA-ROC is both reactive and proactive; on one hand they react to any proposed legislature, dealing with real estate or tourism proposed laws that have any tentacles that could possibly affect timeshare and on the other hand they write and lobby for legislature that could help timeshare owners.

This lobby effort sparked outrage among owner advocates. Did my $7 go to this effort?

“The bills (House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 932) have been sponsored by two politicians from Central Florida — deep in the heart of time-share country: Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

Both politicians have received money from time-share interests — an industry that showers cash on Florida politicians and committees, including $300,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $150,000 to the Democrats,” reported Scott Maxwell for the Orlando Sentinel.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-florida-timeshare-tactics-scott-maxwell-20150411-column.html

Throughout the year, ARDA-ROC has lobbyists on retainer in up to 25 states, and territories, and who according to McKelvey “we HOPE the only thing we ever hear from them is an invoice.”

These lobbyists monitor and pick through every piece of proposed legislature with a fine tooth comb, seeking things that are rarely specifically spelled out to say timeshare, but could be interpreted to have grand impact on it.

This from Advocate Michael Kosor:

The “fine tune comb” can be seen in the Nevada State Bill 195 that would have allowed an Association Board to terminate its management contract (the most important and costly agreement a board oversees), issued to them by the developer, without obtaining a majority owner vote – an impossible effort. ARDA-ROC identified the change and successfully lobbied to have it removed.  This was clearly an owner friendly provision the industry did not support.  Lobbyists (of ARDA and ARDA ROC, they use the terms loosely and interchangeably) suggested (vaguely and without discussion despite being an absurd assertion) the original language was “intended to protect timeshare owners” and should not be changed.

Keep Reading

chickensoup

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

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

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

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

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

Non timeshare organisations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

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

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

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

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

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

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

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

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

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

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

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

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

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

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

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

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

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The Timeshare Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Business Bureau BBB

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

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

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

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

Summary and Conclusion

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

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

success

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

GET INVOLVED!

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

complaints

Call for Change in the US Timeshare Industry

Continuing with our US timeshare theme, Irene Parker today highlights some of the problems that beset consumers in the USA, she asks the question who do consumers go to when they have a problem or complaint?

In this article she tells the story of an elderly couple Kathie and Wes Olds, who are Diamond Platinum members, 50,000 points, the concerns they raise about the constant upgrades and how they were encouraged to open a Diamond ResortsBarclaycard”. By using this card for purchases they could earn a 1.5% cashback award that could be used towards maintenance fees. As they found out later, it was not going to be that easy.

Irene also explains how the Olds, were told they could use their points towards the $8,200 a year maintenance fees at $0.50 a point, only problem is to be eligible they would need to purchase more points. As Irene put it previously the Olds were now part of the “Continuous Money Making Machine”.

Enjoy the article, it is certainly an eye opener.

FTC = Federal Trade Commission

FBI = Federal Bureau of Investigation

Is the FTC or FBI an avenue for Change for Diamond and other Timeshare Owners Devastated by Little or no Secondary Market?

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare

December 5, 2016

burglar

Timeshare today has been reduced to high pressure, often hours long sales presentations demanding prospects sign a perpetual contract today or lose incentives and perks that will be gone forever. The contract language often includes, “Heirs, successor trustees and personal representatives bound by the contract obligations.” Throw in the limited or nonexistent secondary market and you have a recipe for disaster.

Inside Timeshare previously told the story of the Saldana family. The family has since surrendered their Diamond contracts due to rising maintenance fees. Remaining is a $33,000 home equity loan. With legal help, they quite possibly could have been released from a timeshare loan. Timeshare buyers are often encouraged to obtain a home equity loan due to timeshare’s 14% to 18% loan interest rate. This conveniently lets the timeshare developer off the hook when the owner can no longer afford the rising fees.

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

The Saldana family was encouraged to open a Diamond ResortsBarclaycard” to become a Diamond platinum member so that they could charge their maintenance fees. A Diamond “point” historically costs $2 to $4 a point, but if used for maintenance fees, is worth only a few pennies on the dollar. They declined.

The Olds Family did open a Barclaycard.

Kathie and Wes Olds, ages 68 and 69, acquired enough Diamond points to become Platinum members. Like the Saldana family, the maintenance fees have become cost prohibitive. The Olds family own 50,000 Diamond points.

At their last Diamond “Owner’s Update” at Mystic Dunes in Orlando, Wes and Kathie expressed their concern over rising maintenance fees. The sales agent said they were in luck. Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm that purchased Diamond in a $2.2 billion buyout this past September, said effective February 2017 owners could “cash in” their points for $.50 a point and use them to pay maintenance fees, but they would need to buy another 10,000 points for $37,000. The sales agent suggested a home equity loan. Remember, we said points historically have sold for $2 to $4 a point.

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europe-usa

Irene Parker: Barclay Card and Timeshare in the USA.

Back in July Inside Timeshare published the article about Shawbrook Bank setting aside around £9 million, to cover defaults in loans issued by timeshare sales staff. It announced that the bank had not carried out its due diligence in accepting these finance agreements.

The article also highlighted the ongoing high court action brought against Barclay Partner Finance for loans issued for timeshare. These were for the so called “investment” packs being sold by Resort Properties / Silverpoint. Many of the agreements were given without the normal checks being carried out in respect of the clients income or the ability to repay the loans, with many of the applications being falsified in order to get it passed.

Another aspect of the article showed the same thing happening in the USA, with people who did not qualify for normal finance, being passed to a Credit Union. In this case the company was Quorum Federal Credit Union, which would then sign them up as members. These loans accounted for around $40 million for Diamond sales.

It has now been highlighted that sales staff in the US are issuing credit cards, again it is Barclays who are in the picture. Irene Parker, sent the following article.

Barclay card by Irene Parker 10/24/16

barclay-card

There is nothing wrong with travel reward credit cards, but when consumers on vacation get locked into timeshare presentations that can last for hours; credit card lending can turn predatory.

Several banks have come under fire for overzealous sales practices. Wells Fargo and Barclays Bank through Barclays Partner Finance, along with other U.K. banks, have come under regulatory scrutiny and been the subject of lawsuits for a host of reasons, including predatory lending through the use of timeshare developer-sponsored credit cards.

Shawbrook Bank in the U.K. has admitted that it didn’t do its due diligence when approving the finance for vacation ownership products. One of its biggest partners is Diamond Resorts International, a timeshare company that has come under fire for its aggressive sales practices.

Diamond offers a Diamond Resorts Barclaycard Master Card with a 0% promotional six month APR if used for a Diamond Vacation Ownership Interest down payment, along with Diamond Resorts International reward points for other purchases. After that, it is a variable APR of 15.24%, 19.24% or 22.24% depending on creditworthiness.

Diamond Resorts International’s primary business segments are hospitality and management services and vacation ownership interest, or vacation points sales, and financing.

It is the financing component that often makes people with vacation brain sign a contract on impulse for perpetuity, not even having used the vacation service at the time of purchase. The decision is often based on how well the buyer likes the resort if they aren’t an existing owner. In other words, they may not use the booking program until the next vacation.

As an example, Arthur Saldana, 55, and his wife Sylvia, 49, have been Diamond Resort International owners for several years. They owned a deeded week at the Sunterra London Bridge Resort in Havasu, Ariz., for about 10 years prior to Diamond Resorts International acquiring Sunterra in 2007.

The couple was persuaded to give up a deeded week, one that came with a deed that has a limited secondary market, in exchange for timeshare points that are non-deeded with no secondary market. During a series of five sales presentations over a five-year period, the Saldanas accumulated 30,000 Diamond Resorts International points that elevated them to gold status in 2013.

Sylvia Saldana said that she and her husband signed many contracts, and they thought they were actually helping their children. “We thought that after we paid off the Diamond mortgage our four children would only have to pay maintenance fees,” she said.

But maintenance fees increased to the point where they could no longer afford to own their points. The family soon found that they had to charge maintenance fees to their credit card in order to pay them.

The Saldanas had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high Diamond Resorts International loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%.

Worse, the children, now almost grown, say that they have no interest in timeshares.

At their last stay at a Diamond Resorts International resort in August 2015, Sylvia Saldana said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve platinum level, which is 50,000 points (Remember they owned 30,000 points).

The sales agent explained that by being platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees, Sylvia Saldana said.

At the time of the 2015 presentation, Diamond Resorts International’s FAQ indicated that as of that year, only platinum members could exchange points for a monetary credit toward the cost of their annual maintenance fees for their collection membership and points and/or dues for the club.

A Diamond Resorts International representative who gave her name as Pamela — these reps aren’t allowed by the company to provide their last names — confirmed that “only platinum members can use their points to pay maintenance fees. Any member can open a Barclaycard to pay fees.”

When we purchased our Diamond Resorts International contract, we were told that the practice of using points to pay maintenance fees isn’t encouraged due to the point value being reduced to pennies on the dollar if used to pay maintenance fees.

The sales agent aggressively tried to persuade the family to open a Diamond Resorts International credit card to pay for the additional points, despite the fact that they couldn’t afford the fees, Sylvia Saldana said.

Arthur Saldana became so angry, he left the presentation.

Fortunately, the couple realized that the credit card wasn’t a prudent solution to their problem.

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