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Costa del Sol

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

Police raid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malaga Court

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

Now on with our US Article.

A Bluegreen Member Responds to Timeshare Advocacy Group™

A detective shares her Bluegreen Timeshare experience

Complaint queue

By Irene Parker

Friday July 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

law enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

advo

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

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

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

weekend

 

flags

OPC´s in Europe and the USA.

Today’s article begins with a recent press release from the Arizona Attorney General, it then goes on with an article on OPC´s or Off Premises Canvassers. We begin with how they are regulated in most of Europe, then Irene´s article, where she has interviewed an Ex- Diamond OPC.

arizona-ag-seal

Arizona Attorney General Brnovich Announces $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts – Forewarned by a Diamond OPC

For Immediate Release: December 23, 2016
Contact: Ryan.Anderson@azag.gov

Attorney General Brnovich Announces $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts
Settlement Agreement Resolves Allegations of Consumer Fraud Act Violations

Follow the link for the press release.

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

Diamond’s Response

The following response is from Maya Pogoda, DRI Public Relations Spokesperson

By Irene Parker

Diamond Resorts seeks to put its members first and provide the best customer experience possible and already has – and had – policies, procedures, training and a quality assurance program in place to provide a positive sales experience.  Nevertheless, anytime a member believes we fall short of that goal, we take that concern seriously and try to remedy the situation and do better going forward.

As part of our continual effort to improve, we have been working on a new national program that we will be rolling out later this month. This program, called Diamond Clarity, goes beyond the requirements of the AOD and includes policies and procedures that will create greater transparency for the consumer and accountability for sales agents and quality assurance officers nationwide.  Diamond Clarity will enhance our policies and procedures and improve the overall customer experience when purchasing vacation ownership.”

According to the Assurance of Discontinuance agreement,

“The provisions of this Assurance shall be limited to Diamond’s Business with Consumers at Sales Centers in Arizona and with Arizona-domiciled Consumers who attend Sales Presentations with Diamond outside of Arizona.” 

However, certain provisions regarding sales presentation should be applied throughout the organization and the industry like:

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

The latter has been described by timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group as “a license to lie”. Even this one change would radically improve the seedy side of timeshare. Read the document for complete terms. 

The Guys on the Street.

opc

In Europe the OPC´s or Off Premises Canvasser are in most cases subject to certain controls, the extent of this depends on the country.

On the Canary Islands the OPC must be badged and licenced, working from booths set up with the resort name for which they are working. According to the authorities they are not allowed to wander more than a few meters away from that booth and any attempt to coerce people who have made it obvious they are not interested, can be viewed as harassment. There can be some severe penalties from fines and the removal of the badge and licence.

On mainland Spain many do not adhere to the regulations and on many occasions you can see them dodging the Local Police. The Costa del Sol is particularly bad for the heavy handed approach and over the years there have been many complaints.

 

Malta has recently instituted some very strict regulations regarding OPC´s, this has resulted from the huge number of complaints made to the Malta Tourist Authority. Many of the comments made by people on holiday regarding the continual harassment from the street touts, have included that they love the island but would never return because of them.

The MTA has seen the damage that this is doing to the tourist industry and decided to act, this is not surprising as tourism accounts for a very large part of their economy.

They have instituted licences and are planning to outsource security patrols to police the timeshare touts. In a very clever move the MTA is requiring the timeshare companies to pay a 3000€ bond for each one they employ, allowing them to work in a regulated way. In the event of any breach of the regulations, rather than have the trouble of going through the courts, the companies will be fined direct from the bond. They will then have to make this up immediately. In another move, for very serious breaches, large fines will be given with licences removed and the culprits deported.

https://www.captchasolutions.com/article/89668/malta—tackling-the-timeshare-reps/

Back to Spain, many of the OPC´s are not directly employed by the resorts sales and marketing team, but work for a marketing company contracted by the resort. In this way the resort can deny any responsibility for the actions and pitch of the OPC. Diamond is one company who does not directly employ OPC´s and have done so for many years.

The tactics used to get you into the resort for a presentation are the same wherever you go, the lure of prizes and the promise that it will only last a short while. It has also been known for the OPC to pay the “UP” 50€ to attend the presentation as the pay per couple can be very good, in most cases around 150€ with a bonus if they actually purchase.

As you will see from the following, there is little difference between Europe and the U.S. in respect to the “scratch card touts”.

By Irene Parker, January 5, 2017

puzzle-pieces-and-people
Timeshare is a puzzle built by relationships between consumers, timeshare developers, timeshare sales agent and solicitors known as “scratch card” agents or OPCs. One OPC recently contacted Inside Timeshare concerned he might be leading people into – a Timeshare Trap.

The timeshare sale begins as a circle that starts with the prospects strolling down the street and a person greeting them with a bright smile and good news! We don’t often think about the important role the OPC plays at the beginning of the cycle that will end with happy vacations or a desperate attempt to get out of something the consumer did not understand due to high pressure, deception, lack of due diligence and vacation brain.

animated-questWho and what is an OPC

OPC stands for “Off Premises Contact” and here’s what they do and how they do it. It’s not an easy job, but it can be fun and exciting.

According to Simple Sales and Marketing Solution:

http://www.simplesalesandmarketing.com/2008/02/opcs-you-either-love-them-or-hate-them_12.html

Keep Reading

fake law

Using a Genuine Companies Name.

As we have warned before there are many companies out there purporting to be legal entities. Some of these will also use names the same or similar to reputable firms in the UK, one such law firm that this has happened to is Access Legal. This is the trading name of Shoosmiths LLP, a genuine law firm that appears to specialise in medical cases.

 

Around three years ago Inside Timeshare contacted this company to verify if they were the same as the Access Legal Services contacting timeshare owners. The answer at the time was they were not. Again Inside Timeshare has been in contact with them and again verified they do not work on timeshare or timeshare related products.

 

It would appear that either the original Access Legal Services supposedly registered in Gibralter but with offices on the Costa del Sol have reappeared or another group is using the name. At present no information about them has been found, although looking at the old research they were linked to several entities which have been the subject of various enquiries and newspaper articles and are still in existence. Until the information is proven these other companies will not be named, when this becomes clear we will publish the results.

bogus law

There is a good reason for companies using the name of someone else, when you the consumer checks on the internet, most likely the first name to come on the search will be the genuine company. Most people will see this as proof they are talking to a genuine company, most will not make any other checks. It is all designed to fool the general public. As we have stated before checking a company’s validity further is more than just checking their website.

 

If you have had any contact recently from a company such as this and want any help in checking them Inside Timeshare is here to help and guide you through this minefield.

weekend