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Diamond Points

More Timeshare News from Across The Atlantic.

Following on from our previous article from Irene Parker about the Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond, Irene has given her analysis of it.

One of the most contentious issues they have in the US is the perpetuity contract, this becomes part of the owner’s estate, thereby the children and then grand children etc, inherite the timeshare and with it the ongoing maintenance / management fees. Spain banned this concept in the timeshare Law 42/98, which came into force on 5 January 1999.

Any timeshare sold in Spanish territories since that date is limited to a maximum of 50 years, the reasoning behind this is quite clear. The powers that be believe that it is inherently unfair for the children of owners to be saddled with a contract and debt which they have not freely entered into.

There are other countries within Europe who have had this enshrined in their laws for years. Madeira, an Autonomous archipelago which is part of Portugal, situated in the Atlantic southwest of Portugal and 400 Km north of the Canary Islands, has never allowed perpetuity contracts. They have alway limited them to no more than 50 years, this was very popular with owners as they knew exactly when they would no longer be liable for the annual charges.

Malta, situated in the  Mediterranean 80 Km south of Sicily, also limited the length of the contract to 30 years. Speaking with many of those owners who purchased in the 1980´s, they are now elderly, some getting to the stage where they no longer travel, Their contracts are now ending or have ended, they also know they are not leaving a continuing debt for their children.

It just remains to be seen if other countries in Europe follow suit, ending the controversy of perpetuity contracts. Now to Irene´s article.

Spain has ended perpetual contracts and now Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations. Together we are changing the timeshare world.

An Analysis of the Arizona Attorney General’s Diamond Resorts $800,000 Settlement and One Reason Why It’s About Time

By Irene Parker

January 13, 2017

woman shoe

Irina Allen is a Diamond Resorts owner who was encouraged, over time, to buy 139,000 Diamond points.  The sales agent encouraged her to buy such a large amount of points in order to be able to rent to cover her maintenance fees.

Diamond has now changed their rental policy. Owners can only rent to friends or family. Owners are prohibited from using sites like RedWeek, VRBO or EBay, commonly used to rent vacation weeks and points.

Timeshare contracts are a developer based contract, according to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. “It basically states the timeshare company can change just about anything for any reason at any time.”

This new Diamond policy preventing renters from renting outside of friends and family may not sound significant in a new rule book, but for families, advised by sales agents to buy a high volume of points, it proves a disaster. Rising maintenance fees exacerbate the problem.

Owners told me earlier member guides stated travel agents could be used to rent points and the language in one signed contract states: “some or all Points can be rented outside of the immediate family.”

High Volume Diamond owners feel they are being targeted. If unable to pay maintenance fees without renting, they could be forced to surrender their points or foreclose. Surrenders are not guaranteed. When that happens, the timeshare company takes back the “inventory” and resells for full value.

Renting for the purpose of covering maintenance fees is still being proposed as a sales strategy, according to posts on our closed member based Diamond Resorts Facebook page. According to the post below, one Diamond timeshare sales agent did not get the memo:

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

“We attended a sales presentation at Kaanapali Beach Club and were encouraged to buy points to rent. The agent said his wife is renting out their units and made a profit last year.”

I contacted the owner who posted the above contract. She was able to provide:

The agent’s name, James Ziskend;

Date – January 5, 2017;

Location – Kaanapali Beach Club Maui

She posted the comment asking if anyone thought this was a good idea.

One owner was astounded the agent tried to sell them more points to rent AFTER the family had been issued a “Cease and Desist”. He said they could not launch a website, but renting on sites like RedWeek would be allowed. “Mega-renters” are high volume owners who do use websites to rent points for commercial purposes.

But back to Irina Business woman

Keep Reading

Another US Attorney General Exposes Deceptive Tactics.

Timeshare is not having a good time right now, in Europe and especially Spain the industry is reeling from very costly litigation. This is costing resorts and developers a fortune in returning money for purchases made which have gone against the laws put in place to protect consumers.

In the United States the industry is also under fire, most recently a former sales agent has been awarded $20 million for unfair dismissal by Wyndham. She had been branded a “troublemaker” after she complained about unfair and dubious sales tactics being employed.

We have also seen the NY Attorney General close down the sales operation at The Manhattan Club, due to allegedly fraudulent sales practices involving a “bait and switch” scheme. Manhattan Club buyers learned there was a lack of availability for those who purchased memberships, while the general public could easily book online. A court battle that began in 2014 continues today.

The following article by Irene Parker explains the most recent news coming in from across the Great Lake.

Colorado Attorney General Scores a Goal for Timeshare Reform

By Irene Parker

December 12, 2016

keep-calm

All timeshare owners and buyers want is honesty and a fair price for their timeshare, along with reasonable maintenance fees and a legitimate secondary market. Now a third US Attorney General scores a goal for timeshare reform by exposing deceptive timeshare business practices.


There is something flawed if a product cannot be sold, if it is not sold same day. Even car shoppers are allowed to think about it, and many timeshare purchases cost as much or more than a luxury car. There are first day pricing incentives and consumers are told they cannot buy in the future.


According to Highlands Resorts’ sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in the lawsuit, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”


http://www.businessden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/5B3AF6808EF5C.pdf


Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman has sued Highlands Resorts at Christie Lodge in Avon, Colorado for deceptive trade practices in Denver County Court. The state is also suing sales manager Greg Penrod and twelve other defendants. Several were outbound telemarketers.


Sedona Pines Resort in Arizona was also named in the lawsuit. I spoke to a former Diamond sales agent. Diamond agents cannot disclose any company policies or procedures due to a “CNDA” sales agent agreement they are required to sign. It stands for “confidential non-disclosure agreement” discouraging Whistleblowers. Not all agents are dishonest, so the sales agent who realizes something very wrong and harmful is being done to consumers, wants to tell their story.

In this case, the former sales agent said Diamond Resort owners, desperate to be released from rising maintenance fees, went to presentations at nearby resorts hoping for alternatives. Some Pines brokers would inflate the price of the Pines program to make Diamond owners think they were getting something for their Diamond points or weeks as a trade-in. A dollar amount would be added onto the purchase price as a “trade-in” if the consumer purchased a Sedona Pines program.

The Colorado lawsuit provided an example of fake pricing. “A fake price sheet itemized costs totaling $25,224, which included $6,995 in RCI upgrade points. If the buyer purchased today, Highlands promised to pay the $6,995.  However, Highland did not pay the $6,995. They only paid $179 in RCI dues instead of the $6,995 for RCI points.”


Amy DiPierro is a reporter for BusinessDen. She writes:


According to the state, “Highlands Resorts and its owner, Telluride resident Todd Herrick, “intentionally deceived, misled, and financially injured consumers” using high pressure selling tactics. Highlands Resorts is one of a larger group of timeshare companies controlled by a resort called Sedona Pines in Arizona. On its website, Highlands Resorts says it operates one resort in Durango and two resorts in Arizona.   


The state, which is represented by the office of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, is seeking payments of $325,000 from those four defendants and a permanent injunction that would stop them from, among other things, advertising timeshares without displaying fees and conditions. A spokesperson did not respond to a message seeking comment.

http://www.businessden.com/2016/12/07/ag-sues-timeshare-firm-for-deceptive-tactics/


Similar deceptive and misleading sales and marketing tactics are outlined in other lawsuits. Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt sales agents filed a class action Whistleblower lawsuit against Hyatt timeshare. Candace is seeking Hyatt owners who feel they have been deceived by misleading and deceptive tactics.


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


A jury awarded former Wyndham timeshare sales agent Trish Williams a $20 million Whistleblower award. Wyndham issued a statement saying the tactics used are not representative of their company policy, according to the NY Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=1


The Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III recovered $3 million for Festiva timeshare victims.  


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


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the second year of a Westgate timeshare investigation.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-probe-westgate-resorts-tactics-20160318-story.html

It’s getting harder to believe these practices are not representative of timeshare.

 

whos-next  Who’s Next?

 

 


Part II of this article will examine the fourteen defendants charged with violating the “Do Not Call” list to offer vacation incentives they proclaim are valued at $1,900. The lawsuit claims these certificates cost the developer $40.

I personally received a call from Fort Lauderdale yesterday. When I mentioned I was on the DNC list, he apologized and proceeded with his pitch. This is outbound telemarketing, so there is no way to contact the person or company that called.

We’re up to three Attorney Generals who have sued the timeshare companies. Timeshare developers figure in the cost of owner lawsuits as part of their annual budget. They do not figure in the cost of an Attorney General suing the company.

In the case of Christie Lodge, the resort is open but the sales program is not operational.

get-involved

So the question that must be asked is when will the industry wake up and change how it operates, not just in the USA, but in Europe and the rest of the world?

Inside Timeshare once again thanks Irene for her contribution, without her efforts we would not be able to bring you the news from across the water, bringing consumers together in a cause that affects all timeshare owners. Honesty, integrity and fairness are the elements that are missing in this industry, it must be said that not all are guilty of this, there are some who do work by these principles, but it is those who don´t that give it a bad name and reputation.

If you have any questions or comment about this or any other article published, use the comment section to send us a message. If you have a story or information that you would like to share, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you.

  weekend

Call for Change in the US Timeshare Industry

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

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

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

Enjoy the article, it is certainly an eye opener.

FTC = Federal Trade Commission

FBI = Federal Bureau of Investigation

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

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare

December 5, 2016

burglar

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

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

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

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

The Olds Family did open a Barclaycard.

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

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

Keep Reading

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles.

Irene Parker, has once again sent in an article with references to what in the US are important talking points. In this piece Irene gives her own experiences of a timeshare presentation, she also highlights  the plight of an 81 year old doing battle with Westgate, this was even highlighted in the UK press by the Daily Mail. (see link daily mail)

We have once before mentioned the owner and wife of Westgate and the house they are building, which defies all imagination. This has also been featured on television and was called “The Queen of Versailles”. (Link below)

European link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipYpHC1rxoY

US Link (copy and paste into browser)

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4668383262001/?#sp=show-clips

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3691048/Florida-widow-81-topples-timeshare-resort-planned-Queen-Versailles-husband-bringing-24m-project-halt-begin-building-condo-refused-payout.html

The Peasant of Venice is what Irene calls herself in relation to Jackie Siegel, she is a tireless campaigner for the rights of owners and a prolific writer come researcher, contributing many articles,comments and information to Inside Timeshare. Hope you enjoy the first of her Peasant of Venice articles.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles

By Irene Parker

November 6, 2016

I have been longing for a reason to write an article with this title. I wanted to explain how I went from being a 25 plus year timeshare owner without a complaint, question or post; to being the other half of an international timeshare investigative journalism team.

This link pictures the home of an 81 year old protestor refusing to sell her home to Westgate timeshare. As mentioned in the story, the home was featured in the Disney promotion for the movie Up. Please pay no attention to the transfer agent advertisement. The lack of a secondary market breeds predators.  

http://www.mysuncoast.com/news/state/orlando-woman-refuses-to-sell-home-to-timeshare-giant/article_2d420330-a27d-11e6-8b4e-8b161951edfc.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

This next link features the flip side of the story – Westgate owners, Jackie and David Siegel’s 90,000 square foot home featuring 30 bathrooms and a 20 car garage.  

http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

Westgate timeshare is a fixed week timeshare predominantly in Florida. Like most timeshares, Westgate timeshares have little or no resale value.  

I asked licensed timeshare resale broker Judi Kozlowski how Westgate’s secondary market stacks up. “Westgate has destroyed the resale market for Westgate owners. When a resale broker sells a Westgate unit, the Broker is entitled to 100% of their commission.  In the fine print of Westgate’s documents it states that Florida Ranchlands Real Estate gets 50% of the Brokers commission.  No other Developer does that. Few licensed real estate brokers will list Westgate properties.” LIKE MOST TIMESHARES, Westgate has little or no secondary market.

Westgate also changes the rules,” Judi added, “If you buy a Westgate property on the resale market, and you purchased after a certain date and your reservation window was one year, they condensed it to 60 days. If you buy a Westgate on the resale market and you wanted to exchange your unit within your home resort, you would normally pay a $139 exchange fee but if you bought resale you would pay the $139.00 plus $500.00.”

But back to the peasant and the Queen:

peasantqueen

Keep Reading

Diamond Resorts Sell Garden Lago Interest.

Just recently it was announced that Diamond had sold its interest in the Garden Lago Resort, Alcudia Mallorca. The new management company that has taken over is the ONA Group, who also run the former Sunterra / Diamond resort Cala de Mar in Cala Egos and also the Cala Pi resort in Llucmajor.

logo_Onagrup

Diamond did not own the resort, they were purely the management company charged with operating it. This is the same for all the resorts that come under the Diamond Brand. Many of the original owners at Garden Lago purchased fixed weeks, then were converted to the points system under Sunterra and then Diamond. Under this system they are members of Diamond Resorts International and have no rights at Garden Lago.

 

So what does this mean for members?

 

While Diamond ran the resort, members had the right to use with full member benefits that Diamond offered. Now the only way to stay at this resort as a Diamond points member is to use the exchange programme, either through Interval International or RCI. Unfortunately this will not include the full Diamond member benefits.

 

For one family this has come as a rather big blow, their story was posted on Tripadvisor just recently. They state that they had been on holiday in Mallorca and attended a presentation at Garden Lago, and liked what they saw, they then purchased the Discover Diamond Package.

 

After visiting the resort on several occasions, they decided to purchase the full Diamond Points system, as they told the sales staff, it was on the basis that they only wanted to use Garden lago. They were not interested in other resorts that Diamond had to offer, Mallorca held some special holiday memories for them, and as stated before they loved the resort itself.

dri logo

Now that Diamond no longer has a presence on Mallorca and especially at Garden Lago, they believe that their contract with Diamond has been altered significantly. Unfortunately, this is the problem with the points system, members do not have any rights at the resort in which they made the purchase. So, the only way their points membership will get them the full benefits, is to use another resort managed by Diamond.

 

This is one example of why the Spanish Supreme Court declared the points system illegal, the other is that it is subject to availability, your holiday at a particular resort is not guaranteed.

 

For this family it will also now incur considerable expense, when it was managed by Diamond they would use the Diamond booking system. Now they will need to pay Interval International or RCI membership, including the exchange fees.

 

As reported elsewhere, Diamond have had a fall in their net income of around 28%, normally Diamond are buyers, it may be this fall that has prompted the sale. Could this be just the first, are there more planned? Are Diamond offloading some of their European Collection and is it linked with the acquisition by Apollo?

 

These questions may not be answered yet, but time will tell. As the news comes in Inside Timeshare will bring it to you.

 

If you have any questions about this or any timeshare matter, contact Inside Timeshare for free and impartial advice.