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The Tuesday Slot with Irene

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.

trading standards

Among those raided were ABC Lawyers, Glenmore Consultants, Monster Rewards, Jive Hippo (replacement for Monster Credits) and apparently the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association). The raid in Tenerife would most likely have been Hollywood Marketing SLU.

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.

Now on with the article from Irene Parker.

TARS – Timeshare Advisory and Resolution Services

An Honest Timeshare Exit Program – Who knew?

TARS Limited Term Deed Program – A Monthly Update

case

By Irene Parker

December 5, 2017

In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARS TIMESHARE 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.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-24/

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.

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

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.   

All Seasons Vacation Resort in Madeira Beach and the Voyager Beach Club Treasure Island are the first to launch a TARS program. TARS had just signed up their first sale when we first talked to Dennis and he said other owners told him they would be glad to sign up when they returned home.

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 Follis at 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.  

https://www.facebook.com/4life4less/

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.

 Liberté

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.  

http://resorttrades.com/timeshare-advisory-and-resolution-services-llc-tars-and-the-liberte-management-group-join-to-expand-services-for-legacy-resorts-and-owners/

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.

Remember

“Non enim videtur”

“Not all is as it seems”

out of business

TATOC: Is The End Now Upon Them!

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.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, RRP President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor

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.

This is another of the self proclaimed TIMESHARE CONSUMER CHAMPIONS falling by the way side and being totally discredited.

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.

Alberto-garcia-2
A Rare Photo of Alberto Garcia

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’s moved 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.

tatoc logo    mcdonaldsresortlogo

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’s Timeshare 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).

task force
The Timeshare Taskforce

 

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.” 

TATOC “The Butcher of Consumer Rights”-is in Administration

 

consumer protection week

Consumer Protection Week USA

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.

In the UK, the Trading Standards Institute has an annual National Consumer Week, this has been running since 1989. It is a consumer education campaign run by the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP) and is usually at the end of November to the beginning of December.

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.

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/index_en.htm

https://www.tradingstandards.uk/practitioners/events/national-consumer-week
Consumer Protection Week March 5 -11

Who needs protecting? The elderly, the ill, the divorced, the unemployed, the Army and the Navy

man cash

By Irene Parker – March 6, 2017

Consumer Protection Week in the US is sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). More than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations will participate in the 19th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held March 5-11, 2017. NCPW is a nationally coordinated campaign to inform Americans of their consumer rights while providing them access to free consumer-related resources.

Do Timeshare consumers need protecting? One need only review the 15 page Department of Justice report on Timeshare scams to answer with an unequivocal “Yes!”

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

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.”

  1. We were told the Timeshare is tax deductible and that we could later sell for a profit.
  2. We were told we could rent the Timeshare for additional income or help offset the Maintenance fees.
  3. We were told we would be able to refinance at a lower interest rate with any financial institution.
  4. We were told the sales agent would act on our behalf as a personal representative and help rent out our Timeshare.
  5. 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.

(Note: Apollo Global Management acquired Diamond in an all cash $2.2 billion deal September of 2016, as reported by Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times prior to the acquisition.)

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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/business/accounting-error-may-not-derail-a-deal-but-ex-director-bails-early-anyway.html

Back to William and Mary:

navy

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?

which way

“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.

Our Arizona Attorney General Assurance of Discontinuance article provides a blueprint for honesty and contains several items from William and Mary’s fraud checklist. Let us know if you think this family meets the definition of fraud.

Diamond has implemented a Clarity program in Arizona in response to the AOD.

http://insidetimeshare.com/arizona-attorney-generals-assurance-discontinuance/

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.

http://wilcoxlegal.com/bugging-and-tape-recording-conversations-in-arizona-is-it-legal/

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!

Coffe time

stop pressOfficial 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.