Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, the last one for January, hard to believe that the first month of the year is almost over.
We started the week with a report about disgruntled members being unable to book weeks they want, even 10 months in advance, despite just having paid the maintenance / management fees for 2018!
In this case the culprit is Anfi, but we have also heard from other “points and floating week” members that they also have trouble booking, Diamond owners from both side of the Great Lake are having the same problem. Well we all know what the reason is, more members than weeks available.
Sticking with Diamond for a moment, they are in the process of sending a letter out to their members, (just like Anfi has) regarding making claims against them for illegal contracts. In their letter however they point to a website to get information on companies that their members have had contact with. This is timeshare business check, an arm of Kiwkchex alon with Timeshare Taskforce and financed by the RDO and the industry in place of mindtimeshare and the enforcement program.
This company is directed by Chris Emmins, who is what can only be described as a serial failed director. (See the link below). This company purports to be a leading investigation and verification service which provides “accurate” information about online businesses. They contact businesses and ask questions, these businesses have no legal obligation to respond, as Kwikchex and timeshare business check have no legal mandate to demand any answers.
Obviously if a business fails to respond an inference is then made on the website which is negative, especially if the business in not a member of the RDO! We leave it for you to decide how accurate they are.
This then brings us on to Thursday’s article, regarding “Trade Bodies”, although it started with a little bit of a “mickey take”, it was however a very serious article with information timeshare consumers need to know. Timeshare is built on deceit, just think of what you were told when on the presentation, being bamboozled for several hours with promises which in the end never materialised. So is it any wonder the industry is still trying to pull the wool over your eyes?
No one is disputing there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. It’s true those that do are not the timeshare members that contact us. However, the number of timeshare complaints Inside Timeshare has received is alarming and the nature of most allegations criminal. Of the 32 complaints received as of January 25, six would be eligible to be a Nightmare on Timeshare Street article.
On a positive note, those working in law enforcement, especially those who have timeshare complaints, have been helpful. One member of the military was able to record their fraudulent sales presentation. This past Tuesday’s article described nine Timeshare Advocacy Group™ teams and those teams have been hard at work.
One of the teams is working on technological support, as I am technologically challenged, and the other is our timeshare exit scams team that has been in overdrive as they learned two out of five “let us get you out of your timeshare” entities reported this week exhibit criminal tendencies. Two others are suspect, but the team could find no concrete evidence of criminality.
32 Reader Complaints received
Complaints #1, #3, #10, #12, #15, and #20 were against the same sales center. This makes 40 complaints received against the sales center,
Five are active duty military, retired or served in the military,
Four are disabled,
Three are in, or were, in law enforcement,
#6 is the fourth member to direct a complaint against the same sales agent.
#1, #2, #3, #6, #10, and #11 meet the criteria for Nightmares on Timeshare Street.
Due to the increasing number of complaints, we request you schedule a call at either: 1, 2, 3, or 4 PM EST rather than just call between the hours of 1 to 4 EST if you have questions about our complaint form.
The Cliff Notes version of the complaint process.
Write out your complaint and send to the timeshare company.
If you are denied, write a rebuttal and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau if you feel services provided were not as described, or have a complaint about sales and marketing practices.
File complaints with the Attorneys General of the state where you live, where you signed, and the headquarter state of the timeshare company.
Although weakened, complaints can still be filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
If you feel you meet the definition of white-collar crime defined as “deceit concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”, file with the FBI orally by calling your local field office through the FBI public access line, and with IC3.gov online. “They promised me a cruise but it cost $1000” is not enough of a crime to report to the FBI. Any of our Nightmares on Timeshare Street members would qualify. Scroll through those articles for examples.
File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent, if you complaint is directed against an individual agent.
Thank you to our 46 core advocates (two more have been added since we published Tuesday) as we stick together and work together to be made whole again. Too many families contacting us are financially devastated, some taken advantage of because of their disability, as in the case of parents caring for a three year old diagnosed with cerebral palsy, on a feeding tube, a little guy that earned the privilege to be a case study at Stanford.
There is no federal enforcement, state enforcement is spotty, and so the hamster wheel of recycled inventory, as one former sales agent describes it, rolls on. Sometimes it does feel hopeless, but like #metoo, also silenced and isolated by non-disclosure agreements, we will fight around it and we will not stop. Thank you to the members of the armed forces and law enforcement who have my back.
Charles Thomas, also a veteran, over a beer with one of our readers, said Irene sounds angry. While the soon to reach 300 complaints I have heard doesn’t seem to bother customer service representatives, our advocates and I are astonished at the frequency and level of deceit. Repeat offenders continue to flourish. Pay the fine and move on. I haven’t been quite the same since I learned of a Marine who lost not only his security clearance, but his air unit command as the result of a timeshare foreclosure due to his allegations of fraud.
As always, contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member sponsored US support group, if you have a question or concern about your timeshare.
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.
Thank you Irene for that report, it is actually quite staggering that we are only at the start of the year and yet there have been that many complaints received. It certainly prove a point that the industry does need a major shake up.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your timeshare or need information on any company that you may intend doing business with, Inside Timeshare is here to help.
Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.
Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.
Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.
While we are on the subject of Silverpoint, It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare. Hence the product Keys Concierge, which does not appear to fall into the realms of timeshare laws.
This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?
Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.
Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.
February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s“Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.
Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the Anfi “Tauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.
This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.
Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.
Another story we have been following is that of Los Clavelesin Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.
There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.
In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.
This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.
After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!
There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.
But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.
On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.
There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.
Now for the year from a US perspective.
What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what
I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016
Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.
Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.
Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.
We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.
April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.
This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.
I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.
Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates
Timeshare Lawsuits 2017
By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016
Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:
The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:
Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.
Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?
WestgateUpdate 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegelwas seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.
“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.
The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneidermanmanaged to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.
Back in 2016
Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.
“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point. The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed. But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016
Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.
“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.”Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.
Diamond Resorts Update:A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.
A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:
Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
I don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,
People are listening!
Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:
⦁ A legitimate secondary market
⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling
⦁ Less predatory lending
Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.
So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.
Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.
Well, well, well, the news for consumers just keeps getting better, TESS announced on their website yesterday, Wed 3 May, that Harry Taylor’s crusading enterprise TATOC is finished.
They are now being placed into administration, as TESS put it “TATOC is bankrupt, insolvent and unable or unwilling to pay its debts if and when due”.
Inside Timeshare published the photograph of Harry Taylor receiving a cheque of $30,000 from ARDA, this was ostensibly for their helpline, as it was said they were helping owners of American Timeshare. This information was supplied by our US readers before it was announced publicly by TATOC.
We also know that recently TATOC has been losing support from its long standing industry allies, namely the RDO and Silverpoint. These are the ones we know about, how many more have been fleeing the nest or reducing their membership contributions, without us knowing about it.
Along with TATOC, there was Alberto Garcia, another “Timeshare Consumer Champion”, again funded by the industry, primarily by the RDO. He was made head of the “Enforcement Programme”, (very Hollywood), along with his website mindtimeshare, he waged a war against any company or individual that threatened the industry.
He may have highlighted the most dubious of enterprises, but he made it his mission to destroy by any means possible, not only the downright dirty, but also those companies that were genuine, including respected and practicing lawyers and law firms.
This culminated in his fabrication of evidence to destroy the Arguineguin law firm CLA, even to presenting statements to the National Police that these lawyers were part of a “Criminal Gang”. He alleged that they were extracting money from people for court cases they could never win, yet still took them on.
All this has been proven to be false, the law firm is thriving and beating the industry on behalf of consumers from the lower courts right up to the Supreme Court.
TATOC have duped organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau into believing they were on the side of timeshare consumers, so they advised people with timeshare problems to go to TATOC. What did TATOC do? Send them back to the timeshare company they had the problem with.
A very good example of the way Harry Taylor and TATOC have behaved is their unwavering support of MacDonald Resorts, (even the RDO has had nothing to do with them since 2005). Harry Taylor extolled and fully supported MacDonald’smoved to take away from all fixed week owners their weeks and moving them into a points system. He even went on to say it was in the best interests of owners, regardless of the fact that fixed week owners had more rights than points club members. This effectively transferred ownership of the resort from the members to MacDonald’s. There is an ongoing legal battle by these owners against MacDonald Resorts.
Another example which Inside Timeshare has been highlighting and fighting for almost a year, is the case of our Mrs B. She went to TATOC because MacDonald Resorts did not accept that she had legally transferred her Doña Lola week to another person using the services of another firm. She has been and still is being chased by MacDonald’s through a debt collecting agency for maintenance arrears, (aged 87). TATOC told her to speak to MacDonald’s and even directed her to Alberto Garcia to report the firm she had dealt with as “bogus”, all because they were not RDO or TATOC affiliated. The case is still going.
Harry Taylor has lost credibility, reputation and now his little empire, this can only be good for the owners, unfortunately, unconfirmed news from our contacts across the pond is not very promising. It is reported that the one and only, serial failed director Chris Emmins of Kwikchex, Timeshare Business Check and the RDO’sTimeshare Taskforce, (replacing the enforcement programme, still trying to sound hollywood or pseudo legal), is set to take over the resurrected and saved TATOC, (if that does happen).
We have said it before and we will say it again, the only way timeshare owners can be represented properly is to have their own association which is not funded or controlled by the industry. The only problem is the industry is very good at sending in the infiltrators.
So there we have it, great news for some but devastating news for others, as the news comes in we shall be reporting it here. So watch this space!
Since we went to press the NTOA are very surprised at this news, here is their response: “The NTOA has worked with TATOC in identifying a number of rogue resale and secondary market companies over the past several years. To that end, our staff has shared intelligence and best practices for consumers or foreign purchasers of timeshare intervals. We have always considered TATOC a partner in the war on resale fraud.”
As we reported in our article of 16 March 2016, Alberto Garcia had attacked many firms with false allegations, all at the behest of the RDO in its bid to discredit any company who was not a member of that organisation.
During his time working as “The Enforcer” (sounds like something from a hollywood film) this ex-police inspector falsified allegations and used his connections to discredit, have arrested and destroy innocent people. All under the guise of protecting the consumers of the timeshare industry, an industry that itself is doing nothing for the consumer apart from causing many financial burdens and stress.
This can be seen in the number of cases being won against RDO members in all the courts in Spain. The Supreme Court itself has made 46 rulings against these RDO members, yet nothing is said or done to change what the industry is doing. In fact the RDO backs up the claims from the likes of Silverpoint and Anfi that the laws are wrong and that these eminent judges are wrong in their interpretation of the law.
The RDO´s enforcement programme has been discredited, mindtimeshare has been discredited, Alberto Garcia has vanished (not that anyone had ever seen him, with this the only photo found).
Another name that tries to imply it is a “legal law enforcement entity”. This time it is being coordinated by Kwikchex, a company owned by Chris Emmins, which claims to be a “Worldwide Reputational Management” company, which is only around 6 years old.
Mr Emmins, has a very long history as a director, having resigned fro 4 directorships, and held 17 appointments at 17 companies which have all been dissolved. It is also alleged that these dissolved companies have left a debt of over £500,000 to creditors. Not a very auspicious record! (see link to previous article)
It is also believed that Chris Emmins was the only tender for the contract to run the new “Timeshare Task Force”.
Again, it is designed to fool the public into believing that only the RDO can be believed, that when Kwikchex does its so-called verification process, it is doing so as a legal right. Any company not subjecting themselves to their questioning will receive negative comments on the KwikchexTimeshare Business Check website. No company is legally obliged to answer their questions, there is no legal reason why they should, let alone have to join the RDO in order to conduct business.
Ask yourself the question, why would, say a law firm engaged in suing the timeshare industry want to join the industry trade body?
Why would they pay the organisation the membership fees to be accredited as “legitimate”, when it is those members who are flouting the timeshare laws?
These are questions for you the reader to decide the answer.
We also recently published the article on 6 February “The battle Lines have been Drawn”, we reported about the problems of TATOC and Harry Taylor. Since then we have received information of a major falling out between TATOC and the RDO, with RDO members withdrawing membership or reducing their contributions. In another twist to this story, it has been reported from the US that the American Resorts Development Association (ARDA) President and CEO Howard Nusbaum, will be speaking at the March Conference. We have also been told that this organisation will be contributing substantial funds to TATOC, apparently much to the consternation of the RDO.