So that is the end of the first month of this year and what a month it has been, if this one is anything to go by then we are going to be in for a busy year. So let’s have a quick look at some of the main events.
Yesterday RCI thanked Inside Timeshare for reporting the use of their logo, they confirmed that it is being used illegally and their legal department had been informed. Today when checking the website the RDO and Expectations Holidays logo’s had been removed, unfortunately the Canarian Legal Alliance logo and copied news section are still showing. CLA have been informed.
This particular “lawyer” was part of the Litigious Abogados setup, which is one of those Inside Timeshare provided evidence to CLA for their denuncia to the Guardia Civil in February 2017, (see link to CLA website to view a copy of the denuncia):
The sad thing is the program is too late to highlight this as the website has already gone and been replaced with many new names, the latest was published here on 8 January, Abogados Canarias, with the main “lawyer” named as one Manuel Cilavoz Varintos. I would say that their research team has a lot to learn or is the program just there for entertainment purposes?
Since the start of this year the US articles many written by Irene parker, has resulted in 38 complaints received by Inside Timeshare and dealt with by our US team (all volunteers). Since we began actually counting the number of complaints received at the end of 2016, the US team led by Irene has dealt with 291 complaints. Again what does the rest of the year hold in store?
Also at the beginning of the month we reported that Trading Standards had raided several offices of the Mark Rowe owned companies which include Sellmytimeshare.tvABC Lawyers and his Monster Credits enterprise. We have now been informed that South West Police are contacting clients of his various companies, so it certainly looks like a major criminal investigation is taking place.
Another article published this month was Spanish Timeshare Laws Simply Explained. This was in response to many enquiries from timeshare owners who had been contacted by various firms stating they had a claim, or their timeshare company was being taken to court and they could join in the case. The main point of the article was unless your timeshare was purchased in Spain you will not have any claim, it also pointed out that even if you did purchase in Spain your particular contract may be legal and therefore there is no claim.
Inside Timeshare also welcomed Lisa Ann Schreier with her first article. Lisa is a well known figure in the US, she is also the author of the book Timeshare for Dummies, we look forward to more contributions in the future.
These are just some of the stories published this month, we end with news just in from Canarian Legal Alliance.
It looks like they have had a tremendous start to the year as they announced that they have received favourable judgements in 14 cases against these resorts:
These cases have been heard in various courts around Spain, ranging from First Instance, High Courts and Supreme Court. The latest being a Supreme Court ruling against Palm Oasis making the total figure for rulings from Spain’s highest court to 86!
The total amount awarded by the courts in these cases is staggering 267,224.25€ so there are some very happy ex-timeshare owners.
Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who have contributed to all the articles this month and all the readers who have supplied some of the information which has helped in the research.
Again if you have any questions about any of the articles published or need any help in determining if the company you may be thinking of doing business with is legit, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
According to their website, the firm was founded on Monday 2 July 1990, by Manuel Cilavoz Varintos, which is again the same precise date as all the others. Which is not surprising as the websites are identical apart from the name of the law firm, the lawyers names, emails and address, even the logo is very similar to previous ones.
This address is genuine, but according to google street view the plaques on the wall for the two lawyers offices situated there do not show these names. So once again could the actual law firms located there know that their address is being used?
They show 2 telephone numbers, the freephone number which is UK, but through the internet can be answered anywhere in the world. The other looks like a Santa Cruz de Tenerife premium rate number.
The procedure is the same as all the other “fake firms” which have been highlighted in the past, your timeshare company is being taken to court, usually within the next few weeks, you can be part of this case, but a fee will need to be paid to the Procurador.
Within weeks of this being paid you will receive a document stating that the director (could it be one of the old names or possibly a new one), pleaded guilty and the court has awarded you a substantial amount. You may also receive a copy of the court cheque with your name on it and the amount. But again to release this money taxes will need to be paid, usually around 21% of the awarded amount.
Once this has been paid, if the old scam is running the same, you will receive an envelope posted from Tenerife airport, this will have a copy of the court document awarding you the money. The problem is the envelope will be open and the cheque missing.
As in the previous scams, another company will be in touch stating they have been appointed by the court to investigate the missing cheque and get the money back from the bank. Just wondering if the cheque has been cashed by that gang of Romanians again?
Obviously, this new company will also want paying before they can work on retrieving the money for you.
Remember, unless you have instructed a law firm of lawyer to start proceedings on your behalf, you will not have a case in court. Also cases do not get heard that quickly, most will take around 14 months to actually get to court.
There is also the point of taxes to be paid on the awarded amounts, this is not true, there are no taxes to be paid. As for the Romanian gang cashing the cheques, courts do not issue cheques, we wait to see if they are still using the bank Banesto, which has not existed since 2012!
We will keep you posted as new information comes in.
All the addresses that the various incarnations of this company has used are for other legitimate law firms or Council Offices. Obviously when a search is done on the internet such as Google Earth, they show up as genuine addresses.
It must also be noted that Canarian Legal Alliance has made denuncias to the Police on this matter as several of their own clients have been taken in by them. Much of the information they have supplied to the authorities has been from the research Inside Timeshare has provided. This matter is subject to an ongoing investigation and is being taken seriously by the Guardia Civil.
Search Litigious Abogados in the search box for all articles relating to this. If you have been contacted by this or any other “law firm” and want to know if they are genuine, contact Inside Timeshare, we will check them for you and point you in the right direction.
Stay safe, do your homework and double check any company that contacts you with a wonderful story that your timeshare company is about to be taken to court.
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.
Welcome to the first Tuesday Slot with Irene of December, this week Irene gives an update on an article from October, but first some important news from Europe.
Last week Inside Timeshare had some unconfirmed news on a raid in Tenerife, which we did not publish, this was against the offices of Mark Rowe’s enterprise there. This week news came out of raids at his businesses in the UK By Trading Standards, so this could just verify the Tenerife news.
This raid follows an investigation by the “Scambuster Team” of Trading Standards, offices of around 22 Mark Rowe companies were searched, employees questioned and documents removed for further investigation and as evidence if any criminal charges are brought.
It looks like we will have to wait until the new year before we know the outcome, this follows the news last month of another enterprise EZE Group, where the directors and owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates of “Aggressive” sales tactics and “Coercion” with their product “EZE Credits”. They are to appear at Crown Court on 15 December, whether they will be sentenced then or just remanded on bail until the New Year remains to be seen.
In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARSTIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program. “Consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits,” announced TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel.
The limited deed/limited fun program is geared toward fixed week resorts, but the same strategy could be implemented by major timeshare point sellers, solving the problem a timeshare owner faces when life changes and now they own a vacation product they don’t want, they can’t afford, and can’t sell. TARS could eventually neutralize resale and listing scams. Scam revenue would turn into new buyer revenue which would be a win-win for everyone except the scammers.
Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 223 readers (176 when the October 26 article was published). Members sometimes describe catastrophic financial distress when denied a release.
I asked Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberté Management Group of Companies and Chairman of TARS to provide an example of how the limited deed works. “The TARs program offers the member an option to purchase a limited term deed for five or ten years. The term will be the decision of the Associations, but we would not recommend any term less than three years. We feel the five year plan best suits the Association and the owners. The design is to utilize the units’ maintenance fee costs with an increase annually to make the tax repercussions better for the Association – a major savings, but each unit in each resort would be different,” Dennis explained.
The example Dennis provided was for a Voyager unit with an annual Maintenance fee of $510. A five year limited deed could be purchased for $6,000. The now former perpetual deed owner becomes a limited deed owner. At the end of five years the term is up and the unit reverts back to the HOA.
At this point skeptics raise their eyebrows. Wait! A $510 annual maintenance fee turns into $1,200 a year or $171 a night for a seven night stay? The Liberté website offers a one bedroom gulf view for $1,053 a week. So the limited deed would cost the member $735 ($1,200 – $1,053 = $147 x 5 years).
One timeshare insider suspects it’s a crafty upfront scam. I know Dennis and Martin Kandel so I have no concerns there. Another insider I contacted voiced a concern about what would happen if TARS went out of business. Liberté has been in business 35 years managing seven fixed week resorts and brokers resales and rentals as well. Liberté is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.
Dennis received a great congratulation from one timeshare advocacy organization, told this can be a huge positive change for the industry. Dennis also spoke with Robert Follisat the Florida Attorney General’s office who also saw the program as a solution to many problems.
When I called Voyager, I spoke with M J Hassall, also with Liberté, who expressed great enthusiasm. “Every owner is unique so we provide a one on one presentation. One obstacle is convincing owners this is not just another ruse to get them to buy more weeks. This really is important information they need to know about. We have presented the plan to about 15 members with about 50 percent in favor of the program,” explained M J.
“In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an a la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. One of the partners is Let’s Go N Travel,”M J added.
This led me to Let’s Go N Travel which will be the subject of January’s monthly TARS update. I spoke with Chip Langdon at Let’s Go N Travel. Chip described Let’s Go as a Vacation Club boasting 450,000 members. More on how this fits in with TARS later.
TARS provides a new way to address old problems (www.tarserv.com) in an effort to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program. This would seem a concept owners need to wrap their heads around, as they may not have yet thought about an exit or even if they need one.
Thank you to all at TARS for their help as we learn more about this evolving program. As a former deeded fixed week owner, I can see spending the extra money on something I enjoyed for 30 years, paying an extra $735 spread out over five years to be done with it without the hassle of dodging scams or waiting for an over supplied product to sell. As with any product, if it meets the needs of the consumer, it will sell itself. Timeshare does not sell itself. It is product that has to be “sold” and often requires six to eight hours of brow beating, “pitching heat” and deceit, according to 220 of our readers. We hope, working with developers, such tactics will diminish. We know there are good timeshare sales agents out there selling the product the way it should be sold. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney for their scarce complaint record.
Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to follow along as TARS progresses. I still need to call my favorite fixed week timeshare people at Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.
At least this provides a positive topic members and developers can agree on – the need for an honest timeshare exit to shut off the scam valve.
Irene will be keeping us updated on a monthly basis on TARS Limited Term Deed Program, could it be that there is some honesty in this industry called timeshare? Only time will tell.
Other news coming in from the US is the link up between ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) and Europe’s RDO (Resorts Development Association). It has been rumoured for sometime that the RDO is what you might call “strapped for cash”, well they have this year lost one of their major members, Silverpoint. Could this link up be the saviour of them?
Kwikchex has also laid out the scope of its new mission, running the “Timeshare Helpline”, on behalf of the RDO, which replaces the disgraced and bankrupt TATOC. As we know TATOC was supposed to be an independent body representing timeshare owners through their committees, but under the leadership of Harry Taylor, they did the bidding of their benefactors. These benefactors were the industry and RDO members.
So the question is if the new helpline is run by Kwikchex and the Timeshare Task Force, paid for by the RDO, how can it be independent and on the side of the consumer?
Have Trading Standards and other Authorities been taken in by them, the same way as Citizens Advice Bureau were taken in by TATOC?
Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to draw your own conclusions.
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.”
Consumer Protection in Europe is governed by the EU Commission, each country within the EU also has their own consumer protection laws in their own legislation. Much of this comes from directives laid down by the EU Commission, the same way as the EU Directives on Timeshare.
Each year it focuses on different themes from buying a car to the quality of goods and customer care. The main focus is to educate the public on their rights, how to deal with complaints and who to turn to for help.
There are also many other avenues where consumers can receive help and advice, one of the most notable is “Which”, they have for many years published a magazine giving advice on various goods and highlighting major recalls. They produce many other publications free of charge including very simple guides on using computers, lap tops etc.
The Citizens Advice Bureau is also another well known place for help and guidance. Most towns have one and they will cover many areas of concern from benefits, problems with employers to financial problems. They tend to be run mainly by volunteers, but have experts such as lawyers and financial advisors on call.
In the field of timeshare there is a great lack of real advice, it is unfortunate that the 2 main organisations that give consumer advice will send consumers to TATOC. As we have highlighted in the past, this organisation is funded by the industry and is virtually run by them. Take a complaint about your resort, you will be told to contact them, as they will not intervene. Not a very good way of giving advice, sending a complaint to the ones that are the cause of the complaint.
In the Article by Irene Parker today, she highlights servicemen who have fallen foul of the high pressure selling tactics. In the UK several years ago there was a company that was preying on servicemen and their families, they set up a vacation club or what we know as a discount members club. It cost upwards of £6000 to join, with many servicemen taking up the offer.
As with many of these clubs the servicemen did not get what they paid for, with the so-called discounts being far more expensive than what was available on the highstreet. Many complaints went to the MOD, and this company has not been heard from since. Luckily many of those who paid did so on their credit cards and were able to retrieve the payment from the card provider using the Credit Consumer Act.
It is a very sorry state, when servicemen who put their lives on the line in defence of their country are treated in such a way. The most annoying aspect of the above example was many of the sales reps were themselves ex-servicemen, using this as a tool to gain trust.
Inside Timeshare hopes the following article will be of help to those caught foul some of these unscrupulous tactics.
What questions should people ask before buying a Timeshare? Should you make a $20,000 or more decision the same day without comparison shopping? Should you believe a word a sales agent says? Should you finance your vacation plan?
Timeshare Tip – Take your eye off the finger pointing to the low monthly payment, raise your head and ask, “At what Interest Rate?”
It’s surprising how many we talk to who did not know the interest rate they were paying until they started paying. I was two hours into our sales presentation, mesmerized by the numbers, before I thought to ask.
Today we use the example of a family who failed to ask these questions and are now devastated by a vacation plan that has turned into a nightmare. I use Diamond Resorts as an example, but they should not be singled out. I am a Diamond member so in contact with other members. Many Timeshare companies have complaints.
We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but in one week I heard from four military families. One is a Veteran, one family has a son in the military, and two are on active duty. We’re hearing a lot in the US press these days about how Veterans have not been treated fairly so a story about a Navy family is timely.
As the family has been referred to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, and an outcome is yet to be determined, we will call this couple William and Mary. This newly formed Diamond Advocacy Department has reached out to many of our Facebook members helping owners resolve issues and better learn how to use DRI vacation Points.
William and Mary feel they have been victims of fraud or “bait and switch”. They are requesting a full refund. Let’s weigh in on whether this case meets this simple definition of fraud: Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
William, age 47 is on active duty with the Navy, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia. An able bodied seaman, William is waiting on orders to be shipped overseas. Mary, age 43, works for the Department of Agriculture. They have two children ages thirteen and eight.The summer of 2015 William and Mary booked a week at a Diamond Resort in Virginia by renting through RedWeek. They accepted an offer to attend a sales presentation. Mary does not remember the name of the sales agent (Vacation Counselor) in Virginia, but remembers he was a former Secret Service agent. The family purchased 15000 vacation Points for $63,232 or $4.22 per point. The current balance, financed at 14%, is approximately $43,395.
“Our original 50 minute presentation ended up to be 5 hours. We were told by the Virginia supervisor, a lady with a British accent, that we would have no problem getting a lower interest rate financed outside of Diamond since William was in the service. All we would have to do is supply the lender with “duty orders” and it would go down to 1.5% as long as he was overseas,” Mary reported. The family later learned banks will not finance Timeshares, so that option was not available.
Anxious to try out their new vacation plan, the family booked a trip to stay at a Diamond Resort in Orlando. Now an existing owner, they were encouraged to attend an “owner’s update” which is always accompanied by an offer to buy more Points. The promised 55 minute update lasted three hours.
Orlando Sales Agent Joaquin told the family that since they now lived in Florida, they would be required to transfer the Points they purchased in Virginia to Florida.
The agent might have been alluding to a “Collection” as Diamond has a US, Hawaii, California and a few other Collections. There is no Florida Collection, but the family paid $4,898 as a down payment to transfer and buy more Points.
“Joaquin promised to help resell our Points if we needed to. When we realized we could not afford the loan, I made a few calls and emailed Joaquin for assistance, but I was just ignored altogether,” reported Mary.
William was transferred to California. A Diamond Sampler package is ordinarily sold as a trial package, but on another trip to Orlando, the couple purchased a Sampler from Joaquin hoping William could stay at Diamond Resorts in California while stationed there. A loan of $1,100 financed by Diamond at 12.99% was obtained, but ultimately the three purchases were consolidated into one loan.
In William and Mary’s own words, here is why they feel they were misled:
“During the sales pitch we were told information that we discovered later was not true.”
We were told the Timeshare is tax deductible and that we could later sell for a profit.
We were told we could rent the Timeshare for additional income or help offset the Maintenance fees.
We were told we would be able to refinance at a lower interest rate with any financial institution.
We were told the sales agent would act on our behalf as a personal representative and help rent out our Timeshare.
We were told that this Timeshare was an INVESTMENT!
By now, the family realized they had made a mistake and were deep in debt. December of 2016, while living in Jacksonville, FL the family was called and invited to a dinner of owners to discuss their account and give insight to how better to use Points. (Note: Buyers of Points don’t “own” anything as it is a right-to-use program similar to a country club)
William and Mary informed the Diamond caller they wanted to opt-out and were told a representative would be there to help start the process. However, when they went to the dinner, it turned out to be another high pressure sales tactic to get them to buy more Points with Apollo.
As of July 13, Diamond’s top executives and directors beneficially owned almost 23 million shares in the form of options and company stock. If the transaction is completed, a filing stated, those 15 people “would be entitled to receive an aggregate amount of $624,131,129 in cash. The bulk of that will go to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Diamond’s founder, and Mr. Palmer, the chief executive. Mr. Cloobeck would be entitled to $384 million and Mr. Palmer would receive $173 million.
William and Mary told their hosts that they had a life change and could no longer afford their Maintenance fees or loan payments and wanted to relinquish their ownership (membership) per the buy- back program that they said they had. At the meeting the account representative said Diamond did not have this program.
“Jose, the Supervisor, recommended we buy more Points as that would lower our Maintenance fees by taking back the Sampler. We were also financing the Sampler, so he said they could keep my monthly payment the same. After we left the presentation I reached out a few times to our original sales agent only to be told he no longer worked there. After we purchased the Sampler, we got called about 2 or 3 times a month by different account managers. At this point I could not even tell you the person’s name, but that was the last contact,” said Windy.
Where does the family go from here?
“William has had a major loss in pay and we can’t afford the loan payments.”
Part II will provide a flow chart of options the family is facing.
Diamond is fond of boasting about how 70% of sales are sold to existing owners. William and Mary’s story is not unusual. I have reported our own personal Diamond story so many times, I dare not tell it again, but I have also heard from dozens of families telling the same story told over and over – existing Diamond owners told their Maintenance fees and availability issues would be resolved by buying more Points.
Again, Diamond is not alone. Based on my research, I have opinions on which Timeshare companies are the three worst offenders and which are the best, based on a census of online complaints, but that topic is for a future discussion.
“Diamond Clarity is not limited to just one state. It’s a national program that includes four new operational initiatives. One of these initiatives is recording quality assurance sessions subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training. The company has invested in technology to ensure that these recordings can be archived and searchable. Recording sales presentations would not meet these objectives and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity program,” according to DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.
Maya and I have had several healthy and interesting discussions about Clarity. I am concerned about the QA recording. In my opinion, I feel it will only strengthen Diamond’s position in court. As you can see from this article, the worn down member or prospect merely nods during the QA session checklist and none of the oral representations would be in that recording. I have learned recording without the other person’s knowledge is legal in Arizona as long as it is not wiretapping by phone.
At least Members are having discussions with Diamond. I think it might be a first and I thank Maya and the staff of Consumer Advocacy for their involvement and support. Inside Timeshare wants to get it right!
Official DRI Response has just been received:
“The options for any timeshare member or owner struggling to keep up with loan payments financed at 12% to 19% and rising maintenance fees are:
Surrender, Resolution, Foreclosure, Refund
A Diamond representative spoke to the family today to gather facts”.
Inside Timeshare will walk with this family along the road to timeshare recovery.
An upcoming article will take a look at the four options, the likelihood of each option, the process of foreclosure and its impact on credit reporting comparing and contrasting European and American processes.
Some resorts have the option of resale. The seller would be fortunate to recover 10% of the initial amount invested, but at least owners with this option are not solely at the mercy of the timeshare company.
Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contributed to Irene’s article, without your help we would not be able to highlight the problem or bring about much needed change.
On another note, news just in but not verified 100%, it would appear that Diamond Resorts Europe has now closed all sales decks which were run on a franchise basis. From reports this morning the only sales decks open and trading in Europe are those run and owned by Diamond.
With what has happened in the past few months with Diamond selling off their last concern in Mallorca, the question being posed now is are they getting ready for a major sell off?
When the news comes in we will be reporting it here, so stay tuned.