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Diamond

The Changing Face of Timeshare Scams Pt 2

Over the years we have seen various changes in the scams surrounding timeshare, from the development of resorts in the beginning then the resale scam to the latest of the fake law firms. Once the timeshare is purchased then the never ending problem of who to trust emerges. Today we have a brief look at how these scams have changed, the only thing that ties them together is they want your hard earned cash.

The first scams to take place in what should have been a good product was the off-plan purchase. In the early days when timeshare resorts were proliferating, those on holiday were lured to the presentation deck or showrooms to be sold “The Dream”. These “UP’s” or “Unit Prospects” as you are known, were usually picked up off the street by the OPC’s or the touts with the scratch cards, every single person given these cards would win the Star Prize. Then taken to the deck to claim it and sit with a “rep” for the presentation.

They would be shown architects plans and artistic impressions of what the resort would look like, what facilities it would have and the standard of the apartments. Usually photos of existing resorts would be shown to enhance the quality that you would expect. It was also sold as an investment, you were buying into property or real estate, which would go up in value. In essence you were buying a share in your very own holiday home.

A proposed date for completion would be given and then the hard sell kicked in, for just a small deposit you can secure the week and apartment of your choice, if you could not afford the full price a payment plan or finance could be arranged. After all it would be some time before you would be able to use the resort as it still had to be built.

Unfortunately, many of these resorts were never actually completed or even started, what you purchased was a hole in the ground and “The Dream”. Many of these sales took place in destinations such as Portugal, Spain and its Islands. This did give these countries a very bad reputation.

It must also be remembered that these schemes tended to be run by criminals who needed to launder their ill gotten gains from criminal activities in their own countries. That was the start of the word “Timeshare” becoming synonymous with scams.

Once timeshare was established, the resale scam began to appear, many of these were based on the Costa del Sol which had many timeshare resorts. Call centers were set up, usually in apartments and hidden, remember there was no internet at that time, so making checks was virtually impossible.

The caller would introduce themselves and ask if you still owned the timeshare, once this was established the question of have you thought about selling, as the prices of timeshares was increasing. After all the purchaser did think they owned property!

After establishing what the owner had paid and what they owned, the agent calling would come up with a wonderful story of how they had sold recently for almost double the original purchase price. Once the owner had been hooked with the greed factor, then the agent would be needing a payment to list the property for sale. That would be the last you heard from them or your money.

The next move in the resale scam was the guaranteed buyer, or the corporate buyer, these tended to be the Discount Members Holiday Clubs, such as Designer Way Vacation Club and Club Class Concierge.

These originally worked in 2 ways, the pick up off the street or cold line, the call center targeting timeshare owners through lists. The cold line didn’t generally target owners, but once at the presentation they would establish that you did own timeshare.

With the telephone targeting of timeshare owners, they would be told that there was a buyer who was looking for timeshares, usually a corporate buyer. Once you agreed that you would be interested in selling they would invite you to their offices in Spain with free accommodation, to attend a meeting.

Once at the meeting the corporate buyer turned out to be a sales agent for the holiday club, they would take the timeshare off your hands but to do so you had to purchase membership into the club. You would get a discount for the timeshare and in many cases what was known as Cashback, which was another con in itself.

It the turned out that the discounts promised never materialised, the excuse was always the same, sorry not available on those dates. It also turned out that in many cases several year down the line the timeshare company started for non- payment of maintenance fees. The timeshare had not been disposed of as promised.

Thankfully the main culprits have been closed down, but there are still some about, resale scams still exist, but from what we have seen they are mainly targeting French and Belgian owners and are based in Marrakech.

We now move on to the claims sector which has really started to take off since the first Supreme Court rulings against timeshare companies.

Some of these are very sophisticated frauds, such as those of the Tenerife based family of fake law firms which we have dubbed the Litigious Abogados Family. Their method is very well put together, they even have some excellent fake court and procurator documents.

First they contact the owner, (in some cases the timeshare is no longer owned), with the story that the timeshare company is about to be taken to court and you can be in on the case. You are likely to receive thousands in compensation, but you do have to pay a fee to the procurator. Once paid, give it a couple of weeks and you are then notified that the director pleaded guilty and you have been awarded a substantial amount. Unfortunately there is a tax to be paid, which is 20% of the awarded amount, to back this up the unsuspecting timeshare owner is sent fake court documents showing the sentence and a photocopy of the cheque they will receive. Yes you guessed it there was no trial and you have just lost thousands.

Another ploy is the so-called firms calling themselves lawyers or claims companies, the pitch is simple, you have a claim which they will do on a no win no fee basis, great no legal fees upfront. There is one snag though, you need to cancel the contract first, but guess what they can do the relinquishment for you. All you have to do is pay upwards of £5000 and you will be out, then they will start the claim for you.

In some cases these companies have also used the “bait and switch” tactic to sell their own product, “Leisure Credits” (think Monster Credits) which is a discount club (very similar to the holiday club), again not worth the paper the contract is written on.

What we have seen with these particular schemes from many of our readers is simple, they have never received any money for the claim and they are now being chase for around 3 years of back maintenance. Their contract have never been relinquished.

We have seen this with one company that has gone out of business, RSB Legal. They operated for about 3 years so must have taken hundreds of people for tens of thousands of pounds. It must also be said that the UK authorities such as Trading Standards as well as the police are investigating many companies.

Yes, for the poor timeshare owner it is a very perilous world, a veritable minefield where thousands are lost on an almost daily basis, with very little hope of ever recovering what has been paid.

There are some genuine law firms and claims companies, these will not tell you that you have a claim if you don’t, it is not in their interest to take on cases which are not valid. As for relinquishments, many resorts will not deal with third parties, Ona Group, MGM Petchey, MacDonald Resorts, Diamond, Club la Costa and many more, they will only deal direct with the member. Then in most case the fee they charge is usually far less than what you would pay these other companies.

It now remains to be seen what form the next phase of scams will take, these crooks will always find an angle, after all they do want your money!

So the moral of this tale is doing your due diligence and plenty of homework, if you don’t know where to start, then use our contact page. We are here to give you free advice and point you in the right direction.

Marriott Admit Losing in Spanish Courts

On 7 July, Market Exclusive published an article reporting on the financial statements issued by Marriott. (See link at the end). After the preamble they began by announcing they had identified Fraudulently Induced Electronic Payment Disbursements”, which resulted in $9.9 million resulting from unauthorized third-party access to their email system. They duly notified law enforcement and relevant financial institutions, commencing an investigation.

They have managed to recover $3,2 million, but are hopeful they will recover the rest. Now this is just a start in their report.

They have also acknowledged they are recording pre-tax litigation expenses of $16.3 million, these are to settle in principle, two actions in their North American business with the Petrick action and an owners action brought by those with fractional interests at the The Ritz-Carlton Club, Lake Tahoe. It will also include actions by owners of Marriott timeshare interests in Spain.

The litigation on their Spanish business is a result of the laws Spain has brought in to protect consumers, this law known as Ley 42/98, was enacted in January 1999 and invalidated many timeshare contracts sold after that date.

Marriott, as many other timeshare operators believed, that by filing a deed of adaptation they would be able to continue as before, but they were sadly wrong. It took many years and court battles to get to the stage Spain is at now, the strongest timeshare laws in Europe.

Marriott Marbella

So what makes these contracts illegal?

Many timeshare operators continued to sell perpetuity contracts, when the law stipulates they should be of a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years. They also continued to sell the floating weeks and points systems, which gives the purchaser no actual rights apart from the right to use subject to availability. With the fractional ownership, the Supreme Court clearly regarded this as timeshare, as usage was dependent on a points system being allocated. Fractional was designed to “replace” timeshare with the promise of “purchasing shares and investing” in a real estate property, but again in Europe timeshare should never be sold as an investment.

We have seen over the past few years many other companies falling foul of this legislation, Anfi, Palm Oasis, Holiday Club / Puerto Calma and the Diamond run resort Cala Blanca in Gran Canaria, Silverpoint in Tenerife and a host of others all over Spain. Marriott is just the latest to be hit by timeshare owners becoming aware of the laws and finding they now have a way out of the never ending cycle of upgrades and maintenance payments.

Marriott, have also conceded that this litigation is going to cause them to incur considerable and “material and litigation” costs, along with the settlements and judgement costs. They have also admitted that it will have a severe effect on their results in the European sector and will have repercussions on their business and financial condition.

The one thing Marriott along with others in the industry are still saying, is they all disagree with these rulings, that the law as interpreted by the 126 rulings of the Supreme Court are wrong, they are seeking to introduce legislation “that will implement a more balanced approach”. More balance, or do they mean going back to when they believed they could not be touched and did exactly as they wanted.

Although they do go on to say the following “The timeshare laws, regulations and policies in Spain may continue to change or be subject to different interpretations in the future, including in ways that could negatively impact our business”. Negatively impact their business, well they only have themselves to blame, had they sold within the regulations, they wouldn’t have to worry about negative impact!

On this point of Marriott and others in the industry lobbying for a change in the law, this has now been set by the Supreme Court, the only way that the law can be changed now is for the Spanish parliament to pass new ones. This is very unlikely to happen, even if it were to happen, then we would end up with many years of court cases and appeals to the Supreme Court to clarify any new laws.

At present the law firm which is responsible for the clarification of the law with now 127 rulings from the Supreme Court, Canarian Legal Alliance, has many cases upcoming against Marriott. These cases are only now just starting to take place, CLA have at least 2 cases already presented at court with around 30 in the final stages of presenting to court. They are also looking into new clients cases, all these contracts are in perpetuity and use the point system, so this figure is surely set to rise.

On the point of the Supreme Court rulings, Canarian Legal Alliance began seeking clarification from the Supreme Court well over 7 years ago, they eventually received their first victory against Anfi in March 2015. This case involved the Norwegian client Mrs Tove Grimsbo, it was a long drawn out case, but the precedent had been set. Within weeks of this first ruling, many more followed, setting in stone the laws that for many years had been interpreted differently depending on the court and the judge presiding.

It will be interesting to see whether Marriott go the same way as Anfi, Silverpoint and others in constantly appealing against any rulings made against them, or will they just payout and cut their losses?

Only time will tell, we will certainly be keeping an eye on these cases.

Link to the original article:

https://marketexclusive.com/marriott-vacations-worldwide-corporation-nysevac-files-an-8-k-other-events-4/2018/07/amp/

Links to previous Inside Timeshare articles on Marriott:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-parker-marriott-racketeering-lawsuit/

http://insidetimeshare.com/starting-the-week/

If you need any further information on this subject, whether it be a Marriott, Anfi, Silverpoint or any other timeshare, then use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

Have you been contacted by a company that tells you that you have a claim, and want to know if it is genuine and they are a legitimate company? Then contact Inside Timeshare for the facts.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome a new contributor Diane Creiger, with her article Elder Advocates, but first a quick update on the article published yesterday regarding Anfi Tauro Beach.

After publishing it became apparent that this news was still breaking in the Spanish press, with the publishing of more information regarding the demolition of the shacks and the company employed by Anfi to carry this out. Canarias Seminal published

“UN COMANDO DE BOXEADORES PENINSULARES VIAJA A GRAN CANARIA PARA DERRIBAR CHABOLAS (VÍDEO)”

(A COMMAND OF PENINSULAR BOXERS TRAVELS TO GRAN CANARIA TO DEMOLISH SHANTIES (VIDEO))

http://canarias-semanal.org/not/23270/un-comando-de-boxeadores-peninsulares-viaja-a-gran-canaria-para-derribar-chabolas-video-/

This follows from the El Diario article “Violento derribo de chabolas en Tauro”

(Violent felling of shanties in Tauro)

https://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/sociedad/Violento-derribo-chabolas-Tauro_2_794790515.html

With following photo posted on facebook:

(These are the sicarios and godosjediondos of the business  DESOKUPA traids by Santana Cazorla and the government of the Canary Islands from Spain to curb the Canaries with their corrupt laws of eviction and appropriate the public domain ¡¡¡Espabilate Canario that you eat the jediondo godo!!!) (Apologies for the translations)

I just wonder how all the members at Anfi feel that their “club” is a party to this type of behaviour?

Now on with today’s article.

“They told us if we did not give up our deeded timeshare, our children would be sued and their credit would be ruined. I recorded the presentation.”

A frequent timeshare member complaint, reported by our readers, concerns faulty estate planning advice given to members concerned about passing on a timeshare liability to their children and heirs. Members say they are told their children will be responsible for the timeshare unless they give up their deeded timeshare and buy timeshare points. Timeshare members should receive estate planning advice from their estate planning lawyer, not from timeshare sales agents. Irene Parker  

By Diane Creiger

July 24, 2018

I am writing to let seniors know how financially devastating a timeshare decision can be. I am 74 years old and my husband Tom is 77. We bought Diamond points only because we were repeatedly told our heirs would be responsible for maintenance fees if we did not give up our deeded timeshare. We have learned this was not true. We were given false estate planning advice.

In Branson, June of 2014, our sales agent Kimberly told us three times, “Your children will have to take this timeshare whether they want it or not.” I had asked what would happen if our children could not pay the maintenance fees. Kimberly said our children would be sued and their credit ruined. I recorded this in-person presentation in Missouri on June 18, 2014. In Missouri one party recording is allowed. Kimberly was very threatening.

On the recording, DRI sales agent Kimberly states, “The HOA companies want their maintenance fees and they say this will go to your kids whether they want it or not.” I asked, “what if they can’t pay it?” Kimberly replied, “Then the HOA has the right to sue your children and ruin their credit. If you have a deed, which you own, that’s what we are looking at here today. That’s the difference between Diamond and what you have.” She repeated, “If your kids don’t want this, they still have to pay the maintenance fees on it, regardless. This will be willed to them whether or not they want it. Your kids do not have a choice.” That sounded pretty threatening to us.

We did not buy then, but worried about the liability we would pass on to our children, we purchased 4,000 vacation points later in Florida, only for this reason. The Florida sales agent told us the same thing.

I learned this was in no way true in our situation, but now made worse because we used a credit card to charge the purchase. This debt could complicate our estate settlement. In other words, we had no estate problem, UNTIL we gave up our deed. With a credit card liability, the settlement of our estate could be jeopardized by this outstanding debt.

I reached out to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy, Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey, Diamond’s PR Firm Prosek, Barclays President’s office, the National Timeshare Owners Association, the Better Business Bureau, the Florida Attorney General’s timeshare division, the Florida Attorney General’s Senior vs Crime Project, and AARP. The Senior Sleuths never responded. There seems to be no timeshare enforcement. We feel trapped. Everyone responds, “You signed a contract.”

After numerous attempts to resolve our dispute, I received an unusual call from a Mr. Edward Florez. Mr. Florez stated his department was recently set up, and his job recently created, because Apollo Global Management wanted their customers to have the best customer service available and that is why they created his office. Mr. Florez said he had been a police officer for 20 years. He said he wanted to help me. I was informed our account is now a corporate account and we are to deal only with him. Mr. Florez allowed me to record our call, which is a first. He was very explicit that we should not go to any more timeshare updates, unless we wanted some particular gift. He said there was no reason for us to experience so much pressure.

I told Mr. Florez that six different salesperson had told us about the problems our heirs would experience inheriting the deeded timeshare we owned before Diamond acquired our resort. Mr. Florez agreed this was not correct. He said that there may have been a few sales people who needed to be brought up to their (Apollo’s) level of customer service.

I asked Mr. Florez why our maintenance fees had increased $500. He said this was an “impact” fee that occurs when a deeded owner gives up their deed. I said that would mean our maintenance fees should not go up because of this being a one time fee. He laughed and said “I will never say that.”

I then became a little forceful and told him I was thinking about writing some articles, and writing letters to AARP, DoJ, and Consumer Affairs. I told him that the senior community needed to be warned and the Department of Justice needs to look into the timeshare industry. There was a lot of stuttering on the other end of the line.

Diamond’s CLARITY program is about Diamond members receiving clear, concise, accountable, transparent information. We received the opposite of accountable and transparent information.

As a last resort, I reached out to Apollo Global Management. After contacting Apollo, I received a call from Diamond corporate within an hour. I was encouraged, only to be told no one will talk to me anymore. I was informed I must send my complaint snail mail to Diamond’s corporate office from now on. I feel like I have been sent to the Principal’s office.

We feel our Diamond Orlando sales agent Randy used deceptive tactics to coerce us into giving up our deeded timeshare by telling us the following:

  1.  Randy said if we did not give up our ILX (Arizona) deeded timeshare our heirs would be responsible for maintenance fees. We had heard sales agents at five prior sales presentations make this same claim.
  2. Randy told us that once we had completed and paid for our Diamond purchase we could walk away from Diamond at any time with no repercussions. No misunderstanding here. I asked this question pointedly.
  3. Randy said our current maintenance fees were much too high. He said our maintenance fees may not go up if we converted to points. Randy explained that this was because our deeded week was in a small pool. He said points are in a much larger pool which serves to dilute the fees. After we converted to points our maintenance fees went from $2,000 to $2,500.
  4. When I asked Randy about the $500 increase in maintenance fees, he just said we could deduct the fees on our income taxes. When I told him the IRS doesn’t allow maintenance fees to be deduction, he replied, “Well, many people do it.”   
  5. After signing a few papers, we were directed to the office of a DRI QA agent. She had us sign numerous documents electronically which we could not entirely read. We signed in a master block, and then were told to tap the blank blocks. One of the blank blocks stated that Diamond could not raise our maintenance fees more than 25% per year. We could not read this until we reviewed the hard copy after we returned home. We would never have signed a document that allows maintenance fees to be raised by 25%.
  6. The initials on the documents are not mine. My initials are DMC, but the contract shows DMN.
  7. When we told Randy and the QA agent that we were electronically inept, they suggested we attend a training class on the use of the Notepad. We received a letter stating we were to attend a “New Member Orientation” at Cancun Resort in Las Vegas. We incurred the expense of the airfare to Las Vegas, in addition to other expenses. When we showed up for our orientation we were told there was no such thing as a New Member Orientation. We were furious. All they did was try to sell us more points.  

We have not used any of the Diamond points we purchased. We have asked Diamond to return our $16,000 that we paid for 4,000 points. We are even willing to forfeit our ILX deed for which we paid $19,000 to get out of this nightmare.

When Diamond calls us, they record the call, but when I ask if I can record the call, I have repeatedly been told no. This is very intimidating, especially to seniors who feel they have been victimized. They say it is against company policy.

I had the opportunity to sit on a federal grand jury from January of 1999 until June of 2000. I understand the patience and determination it takes to get to the bottom of a situation and to seek justice. I will not give up. I have learned we are one of many seniors who bought Diamond points and were told if we didn’t give up our deeded timeshare our heirs would be responsible for maintenance fees.  I have joined our Diamond member sponsored Facebook.  

In my complaint I included:

If the decedent left a will and named you as a beneficiary and you decline the bequest, most states treat the event the same as if you had predeceased him. The executor must probate the will as if you had died and were no longer available to accept your inheritance. Your bequest will then revert back to the estate. info.legalzoom.com/happens-someone-refuses-accept-inheritance-21217.html

We also had a terrible experience in Sedona at Los Abrigados. They put us in a handicap unit, which we didn’t need. The room was dirty with the contents of a broken colostomy bag that had dripped 15 feet across the carpet. We took pictures. They would not accommodate us with other lodging. We had our children and grandchildren with us. All they did was put rugs or runners over the carpet until the next day when they cleaned the carpet. They only refunded our points after we complained.

Florida’s Seniors vs Crime project, Senior Sleuths never responded.

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-8/

Thank you to Diane for sharing her experience and becoming our own Senior Timeshare Sleuth, volunteering her time to assist other seniors who feel they have been victimized by timeshare sales agents. We look forward to future articles.

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

https://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/elderwatch/report-fraud/

Thank you Diane, we hope to read many more from you, but I am sure that this will hit home to many of our readers.

Tomorrow we will be publishing the article about Marriott and their report to shareholders, which also highlights the fact that they are facing a plethora of lawsuits in Spain with a substantial amount set aside to cover the costs of this.

If you have any questions or comments on any this or any other article published, or just need information on a company that has contacted you, then use our contact page and we will get back to you.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker asks a very important question, What is a Defamatory Statement? This is in fact a very appropriate article considering Irene and Inside Timeshare have been accused of making them in respect of some of our readers “experience” stories. Inside Timeshare asks this question, how can a statement be defamatory if it is someone sharing an experience they have had with a particular company?

We started the week with an article highlighting two new companies that are what can only be described as dubious, the first was Davies & Howell Associates Ltd, with a registered address in London. They claim to have over 40 years of timeshare experience and can extricate owners from their timeshare, along with gaining them compensation.

The other is Ashton Group, apparently based in Nottingham, they have been cold calling timeshare owners with the same type of story. They apparently have a legal representative going by the name of Sir Drummond McFadzean!

So far no company record or website has been found about them, which is never a good sign.

On Tuesday, Irene published the 2nd quarter report from the The Timeshare Advocacy Group™, considering it is only halfway through the year, the number of pleas for help is huge. Thank you to all the advocates who work so hard to help these readers.

Another dubious setup was reported on Wednesday, this concerns a company called Positive Outcome – Contractual Specialists, with the names Lance Steer and Joanne Johnson. It turns out from information received that Lance Steer is in fact one Lance Oakley, a former Diamond sales agent who also worked for EZE Group. Again they claim to be able to get you out of your contract and claim compensation.

Now on with our letter from America.

What is a Defamatory Statement?  

When to File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Irene Parker

July 13, 2018

The above cartoon was not selected to play partisan politics. It was selected because it is thought provoking. Clearly the elephant is a Democrat and is feeling defamed. Does that mean he or she was defamed? For EU readers who may not be familiar with our political symbols, the Republican Party portrays the elephant as their mascot.  

Inside Timeshare always considers defamation. Our stance is that truth is not defamatory. The reports received from 496 timeshare members describe deceptive and unfair trade practices. A pattern of complaints creates compelling and compounding evidence, even without hard evidence like a recorded conversation. If timeshare companies and some state regulators are over relying on the oral representation clause, the public needs to be aware that they should not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. Are our readers’ allegations defamatory?   

Definition of defamation in law (from Webster’s Dictionary)

The act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person

Following is an excerpt from a New York Times article. I have edited out the names because we are exploring the topic of defamation, not singling out any one timeshare company. Are the following statements defamatory?

New York Times economics specialist devoted a long article…. One timeshare owner told the journalist: “The Company is much more ambitious, aggressive and downright nasty in their sales presentations compared to other companies. This Company just has an amazing reputation of being tough on people.”

A 77-year-old California woman said a 5-hour hard sell left her “shaking.” The Company gave her a voided receipt for a $4,840 charge on her credit card: “The representatives had been so certain that she would agree to the offer that they had charged her card for the down payment – even though she had not given approval,” the Times reported.

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints and published many articles submitted by timeshare members who say they were not aware a credit card had been opened or that they had been charged for the purchase of a timeshare product.

Unlike Wells Fargo victims, the timeshare buyer complaining of the unauthorized opening of a credit card, or unauthorized charges, often could not file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB has lost influence since the roll-back of the Dodd Frank Act, but even before the agency’s demise, timeshare buyers could not easily file a CFPB complaint because the timeshare company serviced the loan. A lender must be selected from a dropdown menu. Timeshare companies are not an option. When the member selected the bank that issued the credit card, the bank would respond that they did not actually sell the timeshare points or fill out the application for a credit card. End of story.  

The response from the company to the article:

The CEO said he had “belligerently zero tolerance” for any of his sales representatives who “goes off script.”  

In my opinion, some companies could care less if their sales agent “goes off script” unless the buyer happens to work for the media or holds a smoking guy, like a recording of a fraudulent transaction. Two of our readers who worked for the media resolved their dispute in one day. According to FBI agents our readers have contacted, or attorneys I checked with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” is in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission’s Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act.

In order to determine whether an act or practice is “unfair,” the FDIC will consider whether the practice “causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which cannot be reasonably avoided by consumers themselves and are not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.” (5)

To correct deceptive trade practices, the FDIC will take action against representations, omissions, or practices that are likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances, and are likely to cause such consumers harm. The FDIC will focus on material misrepresentations or omissions, that is, those that affect choices made by consumers because such misrepresentations are most likely to cause consumers financial harm. 6

https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/compliance/manual/7/vii-1.1.pdf

Almost all members reporting are highly professional, educated people, alleging they were a victim of unfair and deceptive trade practices. All but a handful were angry, desperate, overwhelmed, and confused until empowered with straight answers about how to report and rectify their timeshare nightmare. A few were just tired of aggressive attempts to sell them more points. They just wanted out.  

More on Defamation

http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/what-defamatory-statement

A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or trade. Statements that are merely offensive are not defamatory (e.g., a statement that Bill smells badly would not be sufficient (and would likely be an opinion anyway)). Courts generally examine the full context of a statement’s publication when making this determination.

In rare cases, a plaintiff can be “libel-proof”, meaning he or she has a reputation so tarnished that it couldn’t be brought any lower, even by the publication of false statements of fact.

Defamatory statements that disparage a company’s goods or services are called trade libel. Trade libel protects property rights, not reputations. While you can’t damage a company’s “reputation,” you can damage the company by disparaging its goods or services.

Because a statement must be false to be defamatory, a statement of opinion cannot form the basis of a defamation claim because it cannot be proven true or false. For example, the statement that Bill is a short-tempered jerk is clearly a statement of opinion because it cannot be proven to be true or false. Again, courts will look at the context of the statement as well as its substance to determine whether it is opinion or a factual assertion. Adding the words “in my opinion” generally will not be sufficient to transform a factual statement to a protected opinion. For example, there is no legal difference between the following two statements, both of which could be defamatory if false:

“John stole $100 from the corner store last week.”

“In my opinion, John stole $100 from the corner store last week.”

For more information on the difference between statements of fact and opinion, see the section on Opinion and Fair Comment Privileges.

Defamation Per Se  

Some statements of fact are so egregious that they will always be considered defamatory. Such statements are typically referred to as defamation “per se.” These types of statements are assumed to harm the plaintiff’s reputation, without further need to prove that harm. Statements are defamatory per se where they falsely impute to the plaintiff one or more of the following things:

  • a criminal offense;
  • a loathsome disease;
  • matter incompatible with his business, trade, profession, or office; or
  • serious sexual misconduct.

It is important to remember that truth is an absolute defense to defamation, including per se defamation. If the statement is true, it cannot be defamatory. For more information see the section on Substantial Truth.

Emily Doskow, attorney

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/defamation-law-made-simple-29718.html

  1. A defamatory statement must be false — otherwise it’s not considered damaging. Even terribly mean or disparaging things are not defamatory if the shoe fits. Most opinions don’t count as defamation because they can’t be proved to be objectively false. For instance, when a reviewer says, “That was the worst book I’ve read all year,” she’s not defaming the author, because the statement can’t be proven to be false.
  2. The statement must be “injurious.” Since the whole point of defamation law is to take care of injuries to reputation, those suing for defamation must show how their reputations were hurt by the false statement — for example, the person lost work; was shunned by neighbors, friends, or family members; or was harassed by the press. Someone who already had a terrible reputation most likely won’t collect much in a defamation suit.

Scotty Black is a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocate. The FBI definition of white-collar crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Scotty has an MS in Criminal Justice and works in law enforcement. A few months ago Scotty sent me the criminal code that stated that someone aware that a crime may have been committed must report the alleged crime because it is a crime not to report a crime. When timeshare members report actions that meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime, FBI agents have advised us that we should direct those members to file a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov and with the FTC.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Related article: Timeshare Advocacy Group™

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-11/

That’s it for this week, we shall be busy watching the World Cup Finals this weekend, unfortunately England didn’t make it to this years final, that is between France and Belgium.

Have a good weekend and join us next week for more information and more stories on the world of timeshare.

Midweek Roundup and Another Dodgy Looking Setup

Important Update: Another reader has identified Lance Steer as one Lance Oakley, an ex-Diamond Sales Rep and also of ex-EZE Group.

Another name has come to the attention of Inside Time share from a worried reader:

Positive Outcome – Contractual Specialists

With the address:

Rural Innovation Center, 10 Street Avenue, Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, CV8 2RG

Which is a serviced office rental center where meeting and conference rooms can be hired by the hour.

They use the telephone number:  02476 960 735 which is a coventry code, when this number was called Inside Timeshare was told we had the wrong number. We have susquently found that the telephone number belongs to Coventry Creative, Advertising and Graphic Design , Rover Road, Coventry, CV1 3HT which is Coventry market, a completely different area.

The contacts are: LANCE STEER & JOANNE JOHNSON with the email address:

[email protected]

So far no company with this name has come up on any internet search, using the email address does not link to any website and no information about Lance Steer or Joanne Johnson appear on any search.

So what has concerned our reader?

Very simple, they have paid by bank transfer for a relinquishment of their Diamond membership, yet are still getting demands for maintenance arrears. So it looks like yet again money is paid and the relinquishment is not done.

According to the emails our reader has received, Lance says he has been helping timeshare owners for over 5 years, funny how we have not heard of him before. The other strange fact is that in his emails he goes on to say why he has not been in touch with his clients, listing his illnesses, bereavements and severely disabled Father. Even getting an assistant Joanne, to email clients and explain all his personal problems. (see PDF at the end). Not the sort of information one would normally give. (Looking for sympathy comes to mind).

His emails also go on at length about Spanish Supreme Court rulings, how he has studied many case files and come to the conclusion that all these contracts are illegal. (Which is not surprising considering he sold many of them).

In order to give credibility he mentions Canarian Legal Alliance and places links to their website, even including screenshots attached to his emails. All the details he puts in these emails look as though they have come directly from the CLA website, even using the same phrases.

Another part of his emails go on to tell the clients that Diamond and other timeshare companies have no right to chase for maintenance arrears, or that Daniels Silverman the debt recovery company has no right to chase the debt.

Unfortunately, all this information has convinced our reader to pay for a service which Lance cannot provide, after all we have stated on many occasions in these pages that Diamond, Club la Costa and many other timeshare companies and resorts will not deal with third parties for cancellation of contracts. They will only work with the members directly.

So just from the lack of information on the internet and the lengthy explanations on his illness and private life, plus the fact that Canarian Legal Alliance have never heard of Lance, does get the alarms bells ringing.

Sticking with Canarian Legal Alliance, this week they have announced the following:

Their lawyers have secured another 242,391.46€ on behalf of 6 clients, on the receiving end of this is Anfi Del Mar. These funds have been paid directly to the court of San Bartelomé de Tirajana in Maspalomas. The clients are: 2 from the United Kingdom, 2 from Norway and 2 from Germany.

This comes from the procedure put into place by CLA with a team of their senior lawyers Eva Guitierrez and Judith Diaz Pascual and Cristina Batista, enforcing provisional execution of sentence within 40 days of the judgement being issued. This means that once the judgement is issued the timeshare company must lodge the awarded amount with the court voluntarily or it will be enforced.

There is also another form of securing the funds which has just been enforced by the Court of First Instance No 4 in Maspalomas, which has placed an “Embargo” on Anfi accounts in respect of funds which are due to a German client. These embargoes allow the court to directly take the funds from those accounts and place them in the courts account ready to be paid out to the client.

These moves by CLA have been placed to ensure that funds due to clients are secured, even if the offending timeshare company is appealing. It also stops the timeshare companies from delaying the payouts, which has been the case in the past, now the clients know that their money is secure.

That’s it for today, if you have had any dealings with any company or individual such as Lance Steer, use our contact page and get in touch, we would love to hear from you. You can also contact Inside Timeshare if you require any information relating to your timeshare or any company that has contacted you.

Click below to read the two emails.

Lance Emails

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Sheila Brust gives us an update to her previous article “Pencil Pitch”, again edited by Irene Parker.

It would seem that Darth Vader has sent in his Imperial Stormtroopers and Inside Timeshare is under attack from the dark side, no problem, the force of the good is with us. Keep your stories coming, the truth will always prevail!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

An Update to Sheilah Brust’s Pencil Pitch

The Florida Timeshare Division told us,

“You have no Proof” and we were not allowed a rebuttal

Why is this not proof?

July 6, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Many potential timeshare buyers have watched timeshare sales agents scribble timeshare promises on a piece of paper. Buyers are not allowed to keep a copy of the “Pencil Pitch” but Sheilah Brust managed to walk out with hers.

Sheilah listened to her pencil pitch in Daytona presented by Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie. She filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) and was told the following,

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  Based on our review, it did not appear that the information provided to you by the sales agents were false and misleading. Lack of clarity could be an issue but that in itself cannot be considered a violation. We are not surely, if the sales agent had voluntarily provided the hand-written notes or you had kept them on your own.  If there are discrepancies between the notes and what was actually received in terms of points, we will address that issue.

By Sheilah Brust

My husband Thomas and I have been Diamond timeshare members since Diamond acquired our resort. Our original timeshare was purchased in 1994. Things were fine until we fell for the Pencil Pitch.   

On February, 4, 2017, we attended an update meeting at Diamond’s Daytona resort The Cove. We wanted to attend the update because Diamond had been sold to Apollo Global Management. We are Platinum Diamond members so already had more points than we needed, but wanted to hear about the changes.

Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie said that he had just returned from training in Orlando and had learned about a new program that would allow us double point usage. We patiently followed Brad’s presentation. He wrote the numbers upside down. I remarked at how he could he do that. He said practice.

We feel Diamond must not understand the Pencil Pitch or they would cancel this purchase. I have learned Diamond retained the law firm Duane Morris to write a letter implying our article was defamatory. I have submitted this article as our rebuttal. We understand the figures we were presented. We were not confused. I have an accounting background. I wrote down everything Brad Leslie said.

Here’s the pitch. We hope you post a comment expressing your interpretation.  

The actual Pencil Pitch is three pages long. Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 additional points instead of 25,000 points pictured above because we said no to 25,000 points. The numbers below reflect 65,000 points instead of 75,000.  For those not familiar with the point system, a Diamond timeshare points sells for around $4 a point.

Timeshare members incur annual maintenance fees. For Platinum members the annual maintenance fee is $.15 per point, or $8,631 for the 50,000 points we owned before the purchase of 15,000 additional points.

From the original illustration above, to offset maintenance fees, on the right side of sheet, Brad said and wrote:

  • Own 75,000 points
  • Ability to get (Double Usage) 150,000 points – 50,000 points is what would be left for travel
  • 100,000 points would be available for point redemption @ 10 per point through a Travel Reimbursement program. Brad told us to book hotels, etc., and then cancel the reservations. We would receive a reimbursement check back for $10,000. The 50,000 points tendered would not be credited back. Brad said we would be reimbursed via check in about 30 days or 72 hours if via a reloadable debit Visa card. Without the double points, this program is of no value. If we used all our 50,000 points for redemption at $.10 a point, we would receive a reimbursement check for $5,000 that would only pay $5,000 towards a $8,631 maintenance fee bill with no points left for travel.

Brad said we could use the reimbursement check to pay maintenance fees but he said he could not tell us that. He said, “It’s your money!”

Brad said we paid $8,631 in maintenance fees for 50,000 points in 2017.  Following Brad’s logic, we could eliminate $8,000 of the increased $11,252 maintenance fee (due to the purchase of 15,000 additional points), by taking advantage of this new program.

65,000 own                 $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given              2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

80,000 left                 $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

Brad said Diamond was working on a new member page for the new program that would have a split screen and that we would be able to see our newly acquired 15,000 points in the background. He said the 65,000 points “given” (Brad’s word) would also appear on a “split screen” on our member account page.

When I asked about the maintenance fees on the new 15,000 points, Brad said, “If you don’t use them you don’t pay maintenance fees on them. They will be kept in the background. If you want to use them then you will pay maintenance fees.”

I specifically asked Brad, “So if I had all 130,000 points reimbursed, they could all be redeemed for a check? Brad said, “Yes.”

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED.     

We met with Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad said Diamond was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. He said DRI was working on the split screen. He said now we would need to generate the reimbursement checks by participating in the Travel Reimbursement program. I was familiar with this program and had used it before. This was a benefit we already had as Platinum members, but only beneficial if we were to lose points. We feel Brad adulterated the Travel Reimbursement program, incorporating it into his February Pencil Pitch.  

Brad’s reply to our complaint submitted to the Florida DBPR was that 15,000 points in the background was for a Dream Vacation. He said I was confused! Dream vacation points were not in any background account. They were added to our account February 17, 2017 so these could not have been the points in question. Brad sent us a $2,621 check to reimburse us the maintenance fees on the newly purchased 15,000 points. If it wasn’t for the NEW 15,000 points, we never would have gotten a $2,621 reimbursement check for the maintenance fees. Diamond representative Brandi said sales agents are allowed to reimburse members for their first year’s maintenance fees. Dream Vacation points don’t have maintenance fees.

Of course Brad was selling a double point program. He wrote down 130,000 and called the 65,000 points “given” points. I had told him that this program better be right because we are retired and living on fixed incomes and that we had NO extra money if he was not telling us the truth.  His answer was that he hoped to rebuild our trust in Diamond. We had told him we had been duped previously, told we had to buy 4000 points to prevent our heirs from being stuck with Diamond points.

Diamond’s response to us was that the information as presented was confusing, but not illegal. This is the CLARITY promise Diamond launched in response to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an Assurance of Discontinuance.  

The CLARITY Promise: With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a DRI Hospitality agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

Summary

As a result of this upsell and lack of clarity, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and $26,000 Barclay Card balance.

Brad charged on two Barclay Cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. He had us fill out a credit card application to see if we qualified for the new program. He returned and said, “Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned we had been charged these amounts. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.  

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service taking advantage of 65,000 bonus points. You can book a lot of vacations with 50,000 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,000. You can stay a week for roughly 2500 to 5000 points. At an estimated 4000 points per week, about 12 weeks.       

What CLARITY?

According to the Federal Trade Commission Section 5

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

 

  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.

 

 

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

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/jun/17/whconsider-when-buying-time-share-vacatispot/472994/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help with a timeshare concern or would like to share your experience.   

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Sheila for your candid story, it just amazes us that this type of sales practice still goes on, yet the companies involved deny all responsibility for their sales agents actions. In Europe timeshare is very much on the decline, partly due to the antics in the past of unscrupulous sales reps, not all I hasten to add, I do know many who abhor the deceitful practices and are genuine in their approach to selling the product. They believe that telling the truth sells the product.

We have said this on many occasions, timeshare was and could be a good product, it may not suit everyone but sold properly and truthfully will only strengthen it and give it a future.

So we say to all timeshare companies, get your house in order, reign in your sales agents / reps, stop these types of sleazy sales presentations, take control or you will lose a product that could work.

News has just come in from Canarian Legal Alliance of this weeks court cases, on the receiving end are Anfi in Gran Canaria once known as the flagship of timeshare resorts in Europe and Silverpoint in Tenerife.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, has had NINE sentences passed against them this week. The clients will receive back all their money and have had their contracts declared null and void.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint, who are well known on these pages has lost another case in the Court of First Instance in Arona. Again the court ordered the return of all money and the contract declared null and void.

In total these 10 cases will cost these timeshare resorts over 325,112€ plus legal interest and in most cases the return of the client’s initial legal fees.

So the week ends with another “Black Cloud” hanging over the timeshare industry. Will they ever learn?

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, if you would like to share these with the rest of the timeshare world, then use our contact page and get in touch.

So that is all for this week, join us on Monday for more news and views of the timeshare world, have a great, enjoyable and safe weekend.

Starting the Week

Welcome to our first article for July, we start this week with some news from the Courts in the UK.

On Tuesday 19 June at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Upper Tribunal, Tax and Chancery Division, sat on hearing brought by the Financial Conduct Authority and Barclays Partner Finance. Presiding over the case was Judge Timothy Herrington.

The case centers around a petition to the FCA by Barclays Partner Finance to issue a validation order for finance agreements made between April 2012 and April 2014 for loan agreements involving timeshare sales in Malta.

It transpired that the company which brokered the finance agreements, Azure Resort Services Limited, were not authorised or licenced by Barclay Partner Finance. They approached the FCA to have these validated and claimed that no consumer detriment had been caused by this.

The FCA did issue a validation order on the evidence it had from Barclay Partner Finance, they then received many complaints from many of those affected, this numbered around 1,444 clients.

On investigation it was found that consumer detriment may well have been caused with the new evidence coming to light. But the FCA felt it did not have the authority to reverse the validation orders and the case went before the Tribunal to have the validation orders reversed.

Canarian Legal Alliance along with other law firms representing clients had representatives in court. In the case of the CLA client, the loan agreements was for the purchase of multiple timeshare weeks. These were upgrades to original purchases in the “investment” packs being sold by Azure Resorts, which is the Malta arm of Silverpoint in Tenerife.

These multiple weeks were sold with a promise that a resale program would be put into place, then after two years they would be sold and the “investors” would be able pay off the loans with the money they would make on the sales.

As we know this ploy has been going on for years in Tenerife by Resort Properties / Silverpoint, which are subject to many cases going before the Tenerife Courts and the Supreme Court in Madrid. These sales have never taken place.

The CLA client was given a loan of over £20,000 to finance the purchase, they were misled into believing that the weeks would be sold and the loan agreement would be only for a two year duration. In fact the agreement was for a 15 year repayment term.

It is also known that the clients who were 75 at the time of signing had the loan approved within days of signing. At no time were they asked for any proof of income versus outgoings reports. These clients also signed the purchase agreements and the loan application forms after more than 5 hours of intense high pressure sales. They also felt they had no choice but to make these purchases so as not to lose out on money previously “invested” for weeks which had not been sold. The excuse they were given was what they had previously purchased were not selling as they were not the type of weeks and apartments which people wanted to buy.

The Judge presiding over the case then adjourned the hearing for deliberation, a verdict is yet to be announced.

If the validation order is reversed by the court, then this leave Barclays Partner Finance in a very difficult position, the upshot is if these agreements are not validated then Barclays Partner Finance cannot pursue the borrowers if they decide not to continue the payments. The lawyer for BPF assured the Court that until the judgement, BPF would not enforce the agreements for those who have defaulted.

This also leaves many other questions regarding finance agreements for timeshares, how many more have been made by unauthorised licenced brokers?

It also poses the question of ability to afford the repayments, especially when these agreements have been approved within days of signing, how many have been granted the loans without showing any proof of income versus outgoings reports?

Shawbrook Bank acknowledged this back in 2016, which we reported in an article in July that year, the CEO also resigned over this matter. (see links below)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/06/28/shawbrook-banks-shares-plunge-on-9m-hit-from-dodgy-lending/

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-3663651/Shares-Shawbrook-drop-challenger-bank-reveals-loan-irregularities-cost-9m-finance-chief-quits.html

Now for some news from the Spanish Courts last week.

The Supreme Court in Madrid issued two more rulings against the timeshare industry, number 123 and 124. These once again involved Silverpoint SL in Tenerife, they also lost in two cases in the Courts of First Instance held in Tenerife.  

In cases held at the Courts of First Instance in Maspalomas, Anfi were on the receiving end, with contracts being declared null and void and being ordered to repay the clients their purchase price back.

Diamond were also on the receiving end of a Court of First Instance ruling, again the contract was declared illegal and therefore null and void.

With these 7 cases the timeshare industry has been ordered to repay over 160,000€ and in most case legal fees and legal interest.

The lawyers involved in all these cases are the lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance.

If you have any comments or questions regarding this or any other article use our contact page and get in touch.

Been contacted by a company or found one on the internet and you are not sure about them, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Monday, Lets Start the Week

On Friday we published our usual Letter from America, this particular article was by Irene and was the story of two elderly Diamond members, the Liebmann’s and the Brust’s. As usual Irene sent well in advance a draft of the Article to several entities including Diamond for comments.

In fact this is always done for our US articles, in some cases the timeshare company has responded very quickly to the article and contacted the member directly with a solution. In these cases the article has been pulled at the last minute and another replacing it.

After last Friday’s article Irene received a letter from Diamonds external law firm. In this they state that the article contains “false and defamatory” material.

Inside Timeshare begs to differ, the article is the Liebmann’s and Brust’s story and they wanted it publicised as they felt they had nowhere else to turn. Inside Timeshare was pleased to do this, as that is what this publication is all about. To give the timeshare owning community a voice and a place where they can find the facts and the truth.

For Diamond to send in their well paid corporate lawyers or as I prefer to call them corporate “velociraptors” (swift seizer in latin), to me shows they really do not care what is going on at their sales presentations.

We constantly hear the words “Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say”, or “you signed the contract”.

This is a message to Diamond, if you do care about your members then why on earth do you not reign in the excesses of the verbal misrepresentations of your agents?

It is not rocket science, they are selling your product, they are your employees, it is your reputation that is being constantly tarnished, as we have seen in the many complaints and stories we have published.

These are not made up, these are facts as presented by those making the complaints to not only Inside Timeshare but to other entities as well. We at Inside Timeshare do believe that timeshare was and still could be a good product, it is the way it is sold that is the problem. In Spain these excessive sales practices have been curbed, the laws have been set and many companies are now losing millions in the courts for their past transgression.

The ball is now firmly in your court, it is time for you as a company to acknowledge these practices and act to have them removed.

To finish our Monday start we look at news from the Spanish courts of cases last week.

In the Courts of First Instance in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, there were SEVEN sentences passed against Anfi del Mar, once again the rulings of the Supreme Court took precedence, floating weeks, perpetuity contracts and the taking of deposits on the day. All contracts were declared null and void.

On the point of the Supreme Court, Canarian Legal Alliance announced their latest victory, bringing the total to a massive 120 rulings from Spain’s highest court. This particular case once again involve the Tenerife company Silverpoint, with the contracts being declare null and void.

In just these cases the clients will be receiving  over 311,000€ plus legal interest and in most cases their legal fees as well.

A very expensive time for timeshare at the end of last week.

If you have any comments or questions on any article published, then use our contact page, Inside Timeshare is here to give you a voice and to inform all timeshare owners of the truth.

We also apologise for the shortness of today’s article but other events took control and we were late in getting the article published.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today we highlight two families who have been up-sold by Diamond, Gad and Noreen Liebmann who are staging a protest outside Diamond’s Daytona Beach Resort and Sheilah and Thomas Brust. These stories are another in the series of  “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, but first a quick roundup from Europe.

It has been reported that yet another “Relinquishment and Claims” company is in liquidation, Standon Mortimer Associates. This company is one in a long line that informed clients that they could lodge a “no win no fee” claim against their timeshare, the only thing was to do this they had to “relinquish” their membership first. Obviously this was a great cost.

Once the membership was canceled then they would put in a claim, usually under section 75, which as we have said before is not likely to pay out. The whole scam was to get your money for the cancellation, which in many cases was never actually done.

If you have paid this company to carry out any work regarding your timeshare and it has not been done, contact the liquidators below:

Name of Company: STANDON MORTIMER ASSOCIATES LTD

Company Number: 10437622

Nature of Business: Timeshare Relinquishment

Type of Liquidation: Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation

Registered office: C/o Kingsland Business Recovery, 14 Derby Road, Stapleford, Nottingham, NG9 7AA

Liquidator’s name and address: Tauseef Ahmed Rashid, Kingsland Business Recovery 14 Derby Road, Stapleford, Nottingham NG9 7AA

Office Holder Number: 9718.

Date of Appointment: 18 April 2018

By whom Appointed: Creditors

Further information on Silverpoint or is it Signallia Marketing has just come in, apparently a representative from Signallia is knocking on the doors of guests at Hollywood Mirage and arranging appointments with none other that Aspirantco SL. We will be publishing the story of this meeting next week.

There are this week a couple more happy ex-timeshare owners, the first is an ex-Anfi member, who this week had over 53,000€ paid into his bank account after his recent court case where his contract was declared null and void.

This does fly in the face of the Anfi management denying that anyone is getting paid, according to Canarian Legal Alliance, Anfi have actually paid out 2 million euros.

In another case a German client who purchased his Anfi del Mar timeshare for 14,000€ had his contract declared null and void, with thcourt awarding him over 23,000€ plus legal interest. This is a result of Anfi taking a deposit within the cooling off period which is forbidden, so the court awarded double the amount taken.

Now on with our Friday letter.

A Report from Two Diamond Resort Platinum Members Up-Sold by the Same Daytona Sales Agent

Sheilah Brust warns: Keep The Pencil Pitch

Gad and Noreen Liebmann: Up-sold into financial disaster

There is no such thing as the “Ability to get (Double Usage)”

Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 points actually purchased instead of 25,000, so 65,000 points illustrated instead of the 75,000 first proposed

65,000 own                $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given                2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

 50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

 80,000 left                  $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

The CLARITY™ Promise handed out before sales presentations:

With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response to Sheilah Brust:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a “hospitality” agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

By Irene Parker

June 8, 2018

Gad and Noreen Liebmann were up-sold by the same Daytona Regency sales agent as Sheilah Brust. Gad and Noreen have been protesting outside the Daytona Regency by holding up signs an hour or two every day except Sunday for over three months. They will take a few months off to go up north, but plan to resume their protest in September.

In preparation for this article, I felt it was important to get a feel for what it was like to hold up a sign. As we walked to Daytona Regency from our cars, Gad and Noreen dropped off food for a homeless man. Gad told us, “One of the homeless was offered $20 to ‘get rid of them’ and on another day one of the salesmen brought some water and wanted to “thank us” for picketing. He claimed that our presence increased their sales. He also told us that we could have more effect by working as greeters at Walmart to help pay our dues.”  

My husband and I weren’t sure what to expect. We arrived about 11:00 AM, Friday June 1. We were greeted by the security guard. He could not have been nicer. He seems to serve as a sort of diplomatic liaison between Gad and Noreen and the staff at Daytona Regency. He patiently listened to me relate some of the more serious allegations timeshare members have reported to Inside Timeshare, 208 since January 1. He said he has not purchased Diamond points.          

Inside Timeshare has heard from a total of 32 Diamond Platinum members, alleging they were up-sold by deceitful sale tactics or are disappointed in their Platinum membership. Of the 32 Platinum members, 29 members reported they were told they would be able to sell points, or pay for maintenance fees, if they purchased more timeshare points; utilizing programs members say did not exist. Thirteen of the 32 Platinum members say they have resolved their dispute. Eleven were up-sold by the same Diamond sales agent.

Pictured from left: Noreen, Irene, Tyler and Don

The sign my husband Don is holding reads,

Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.”

This was told to Diamond member Joshua Parker (no relation) by a Diamond VP on a call Diamond recorded. Josh says he was told points are an investment and would be easy to sell. When Josh and Nichole learned they were expecting twins and could no longer afford the timeshare, they learned there is virtually no secondary market for Diamond points. Josh is a 90% disabled Army veteran. He served in Iraqi. They are in the foreclosure process.

John Collick, a decorated 100% disabled Marine veteran, was told he needed to buy Diamond points because Diamond was acquiring his timeshare, The Colonies. This turned out not be true.

Josh and John were both told, Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.” That would be okay, except Diamond hands out to consumers before a presentation their CLARITY™ promise, launched after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued the company an Assurance of Discontinuance.

Amanda and George Jones are both active duty Navy. They recently received their foreclosure letter. Both fear losing their Security Clearance. They say they were told by Diamond sales agents in Virginia and Florida their 18% loan would be easy to refinance, “Just Google it.” http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Today, June 6, 2018, another Navy couple contacted Inside Timeshare. They too could lose their security clearance as they are Navy logistics.   

Sheilah and Thomas Brust’s “Double Point Promise” complaint

Sheilah says she and her husband Thomas were promised double point usage if they upgraded by buying 15,000 additional points. Already Platinum members with 50,000 points, they had enough points to meet their travel needs.

Sheilah and Thomas met with Brad Leslie on February 4, 2017.  Mr. Leslie said there were big updates due to Apollo changes. Brad said he had just learned about the double points program in Orlando while in training. Another Florida DRI sales agent pitched a double points program to a Navy veteran. Her complaint has been resolved:

We were hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Sales Team from Mystic Dunes. They said we had been invited to the workshop as a way to thank us for having been Platinum members for over five years. Mystic Dunes sales agent A M explained details of a program only available to five plus year Platinum members. A M said if I purchased an additional 25,000 DRI points, I could take advantage of a special offer and never have to pay maintenance fees. He illustrated on paper how the program worked.   

57,500 points I owned prior to the workshop

25,000

82,500 x 2 (double points) = 165,000

Back to Sheilah’s “Pencil Pitch”

Brad Leslie said that over ten years our maintenance fees would be $86,310. According to Brad, we would have 65,000 points after buying 15,000 more points but DRI would give us 65,000 more – so we would have effectively 130,000 annual points. Of the 65,000 original points, we would use 50,000 and the purchase of an additional 15,000 points would allow us the extra bonus 65,000 points. Brad said we would receive via check or reloadable debit card $8,000 from the redemption of 80,000 points at $.10 through a travel reimbursement program that could be used to pay maintenance fees. If we redeemed 80,000 from the 130,000, we would be left with 50,000 points to travel.     

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED. Now it seems more likely he wanted to drive us into foreclosure to be able to start over with his next victim.  

As a result of this up-sell, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We also have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and the $26,000 Barclay card charges.

Brad charged on two Barclay cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. After he opened the cards, Brad said,Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned what happened as we were unaware the amounts had been charged. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.

We saw Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad told us in February we would be sent a debit card that would be reloadable for the maintenance fee reimbursement program. Brad informed us in May that DRI was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. Brad had said the double points (65,000) would appear on a split screen on our dashboard. He said DRI was still working on the split screen. This program only made sense if we received the additional 65,000 points. I wrote down everything Brad said. I have an accounting background.   

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service, but this was of very poor value and only made sense because of the extra bonus 65000 points. You can book a lot of vacations with 54,259 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,425.90.

Brad assured us he would be here for us and hoped he could restore our trust in Diamond. We had explained how we had been duped into buying 4000 more points in California so our heirs would not be saddled with Diamond points.

Diamond has refused to help Sheilah, but she is encouraged by a call from her Florida Timeshare Division reviewer supporting her claim.

Gad and Noreen’s debacle

Gad and Noreen own 96,000 Diamond points, only because they bought an additional 25,000 points to take advantage of benefits they now know they already had. Gad and Noreen are both Army veterans. Noreen served as an Army officer in the nursing corps. Gad, also an Army veteran, worked for IBM and VISA, at times stationed overseas. The Liebmanns have nine children, not counting children they fostered. According to Gad,  

For over 20 years we enjoyed using our Diamond points. We had purchased eight Diamond contracts over the years and had been happy until Daytona sales agent Brad Leslie sold us 25,000 points November 22, 2017, we allege by fraud.  Brad told us that if we purchased 25,000 additional points for $70,000 we would get additional benefits. He showed us how using these benefits, we might not have to pay more maintenance fees if we used the same amount of vacation time. What Brad Leslie neglected to tell us was that we were already eligible for these benefits. He knew this. He also claimed that we could recover the cost of the additional points after 10 years. This was also false. Brad said that we would be even on the $70,000 within ten years if we only booked through Value Getaways.

A call to Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey got a response from a lady who offered to allow us to give back some of our points, lowering the dues but not eliminating the latest purchase.  In other words, give back points we already paid for, requiring us to pay the company $70,000 after being sold points to take advantage of a program we already had. We may be older, but we’re not stupid.

We have used all of our 2018 points for redemption reimbursement and with the over $700 monthly mortgage payments, we can no longer use Diamond points for vacations. Since we can’t afford to travel because of this debacle, we thought we should warn others by holding up our signs. I feel America is in a moral crisis when CEOs feel no concern when people complain directly to them of questionable business practices. My heart is heavy since the DRI salesman Brad Leslie professed to be a Christian, as I am.

Gad and Noreen protesting outside Daytona Regency

Thank you to Gad and Noreen and Sheilah and Thomas for joining our advocacy efforts. I reached out to Diamond for comment, but they did not respond. We were hoping they could explain Sheilah’s pencil pitch.  

Many timeshare members feel there is little to no timeshare enforcement in Florida. According to several members, Florida dismisses complaints, backing up the developer by also falling back on the oral representation clause. Florida receives about $70 billion a year in tourist revenue.

From the Florida Attorney General’s Timeshare Division DBPR

Timeshare developers are required to provide full and meaningful disclosures to purchasers in the documents they are required to deliver to them including the public offering statement, sales contract, and all supplemental documents at the point of sale.  A document called “Acknowledgment of Representations” or “Purchaser’s Understanding” or a similar document provides the disclosures which each purchaser initials and signs at the time of purchase and it contains all the relevant information about the timeshare product.  A developer heavily relies on these documents to refute any claims by a purchaser regarding the alleged misrepresentations. Therefore, in light of these written documents, it is very difficult to prove the allegations raised in the complaint.  

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

  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.

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

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, join us next week for more readers stories and their experiences in the world that we call “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.

We will also be publishing more information on those companies that keep springing up promising the earth and delivering nothing, so remember if you are called and are not sure if the company is genuine, do not do anything until you have done your homework, double check and check again.

If in doubt contact Inside Timeshare and we will show you where to look.

Have a great weekend.

Friday’s Letter from America

In this weeks Letter from America we welcome another new contributor, Robin Law, with a “Buyer Beware Warning” about Bluegreen. This is a story that is not unfamiliar with us at Inside Timeshare, the only difference is the name of the developer.

But first we issue a warning about another company that is cold calling owners in Europe, we have been informed by a UK resident and Diamond member who received a call from this company, Claim Your Claim.

In the call our reader was informed that since Apollo had taken over Diamond, there were only four resorts that they could go to in the whole of Europe!

Now that is very strange, according to the Diamond website they have many more than that, I can personally name at least a dozen.

Our reader was also informed about how they were mis-sold their timeshare and had a valid claim, which this company could help and retrieve their money back! Sounds great, until you start to look at this company.

Their website https://claimyourclaim.com shows no company registration or any other details apart from the address and telephone number on the contact page:

Calle San Francisco Javier, 22d, 38001 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain (which is an aprtment block).

Tel: 0845 621 3233

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Calle+San+Francisco+Javier,+22,+38001+Santa+Cruz+de+Tenerife/@28.4709569,-16.2494615,3a,60y,45.65h,109.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9YYai_iGjgQcg65WwTBsNg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0xc41cb7e58580589:0x9e73f0cfdf824dfe!8m2!3d28.4709875!4d-16.2493926

The Home page gives very little information apart from they are “Specialists” in “Claiming your Claim”, “Peace of Mind” and “Customer Care”.

In the Services section they have four categories, Financial Management, which tells about claiming, Holidays, showing three hotels at rather high prices, Deals, which are low cost resorts and Other Services such as airline tickets, car hire and places to visit.

The About Us section is rather interesting, they state Claim Your Claim work alongside a company formed in 2003 as a subsidiary of an Anglo/Polish Travel Agency based in Krakow Poland. They “boast” 7 offices in the Canary Islands, with their main operation based in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Under the heading Our Clients they give the following statement:

Claim your Claim and its associated companies are proud to announce as of 31.12.2017 their customer base exceeded the 70,000 mark, 86% of all their bookings made between 01.01.2013 – 31.12.2017 were for holidays to the Canary Islands, 89% of these were to Tenerife.

Well nothing there about “Claims”, just a load of figures for “Holidays”.

They also give the “Locations” of their offices:

Krakow, Poland, Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Mogan, Gran Canaria, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Tazacorte, La Palma.

They also show several “Client Reviews”, this is just one of them, copied and pasted direct from their website:

John Burton

South Sheilds

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017

Thank You

Excellent job Claim Your Claim just received the £20,642 This happened within 60 days as promised from meeting consultant to money paid into our account.

Very well done and many thanks

Not bad is it, from seeing the consultant to getting back over £20,000 all in “60 DAYS”, miracle workers or what!

The only other problem is the website was only registered on 18 January 2018, yet all the client reviews are dated well before that date. So can you actually believe these reviews?

The owner of the website is also hidden by privacy protection, so this along with no company registration numbers, either Spanish, UK or Polish, leaves us in no doubt that this outfit are not what they say they are. A typical “SCAM!”

Now for this weeks Letter from America

A Bluegreen Timeshare Buyer Beware Warning

By Robin Law

May 4, 2018

I believe the timeshare industry has been riddled with deceit, commonplace since before Social Media, but Social Media now allows those who feel they have been defrauded to share experiences. We believe what happened to us, purchasing Bluegreen vacation points, meets the FBI definition of white collar crime, “deceit concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” We check all of the above.

We live and bought in Florida where regulators seem to be in partnership with the timeshare industry, dismissing timeshare buyers who feel they have been preyed upon with, “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” The NY, TN, MO, AZ, and CO Attorneys General have launched timeshare investigations that resulted in settlements.  

We will file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s office, but according to Social Media reports, the Florida AG will respond in support of the timeshare developer. Below is the response from the Florida Timeshare Division to one timeshare owner.

Timeshare developers are required to provide full and meaningful disclosures to purchasers in the documents they are required to deliver to them including the public offering statement, sales contract, and all supplemental documents at the point of sale.  A document called “Acknowledgment of Representations” or “Purchaser’s Understanding” or a similar document provides the disclosures which each purchaser initials and signs at the time of purchase and it contains all the relevant information about the timeshare product.  A developer heavily relies on these documents to refute any claims by a purchaser regarding the alleged misrepresentations.  Therefore, in light of these written documents, it is very difficult to prove the allegations raised in the complaint.  

We have reached out to Inside Timeshare and will reach out to other Florida media outlets because the public needs to be warned, to not to believe anything a timeshare sales agent says. Florida probably sells more timeshare products than any other state, yet seems to offer the least enforcement. The last Florida investigation I could find was a Bluegreen investigation in 2012

http://www.myfloridalegal.com/EC_Edoc.nsf/0/1702C8F78E74E8B285257B0B005747D2/$file/Bluegreen+Corp.pdf

Before I share our Bluegreen experience, I found the following results for Bluegreen as reported by Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau. Clearly, we are not alone in our grievance. Bluegreen seems to never admit a problem with sales agent deception, yet there are a flood of complaints to be found on the internet. In comparison, there are few Disney Vacation Club complaints.

Bluegreen Consumer Affairs Score 1 ½ stars out of 5

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/bluegreen.html

Better Business Bureau Rating C+

129 customer review

12 Positive

4 Neutral

113 Negative

807 Complaints

2.48 out of 5 Stars based on reviews

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/vacation-clubs/bluegreen-vacations-unlimited-in-boca-raton-fl-8195/reviews-and-complaints

4/18/18 a recent Better Business Bureau complaint

This company offers falsehoods and half-truths. We have sunk thousands of dollars into this company, and are repeatedly told that nothing is available at the places or times that we want to utilize our points at one of their resorts. However, if you use Travelocity.com, or other vacation booking websites, the places they claim are not available, are available. We have been told we could sell back our deed at any time. When we contacted the company to do just that, because we are tired for paying for something that is never available, we were told that is not an option. We have been told we can use our points to pay for maintenance fees. When we tried to do that, we were told there is a minimum point requirement to do that, and we did not have enough. We have had nothing but problems and lies from this company. They continue to try and solicit you to purchase more points, yet fail to meet simple requests. In over two years, and thousands of dollars invested, we have been able to use our points one time, and it wasn’t even where we wanted to. We had to settle for what was “available.” The room we had was in a horrible spot (at the back of the resort, with a view of other buildings and parking lots, and noise and filth from construction), and when I asked to move to a different room, was told no other rooms were available, even though I walked by rooms that stood vacant during our entire stay. Guess they had to keep those available to sell on Travelocity. Why make it available to an “owner?” I would never recommend this company to anyone. They care about nothing but lining their pockets. They have zero concern for the happiness of their customer, and are unwilling to make even the smallest accommodations.

Comments

Comment from the Business:

Dear Ms. *** Thank you for taking the time to share your experience! We sincerely apologize to hear of all the difficulties you have experienced in getting on vacation using your ownership, as well as for any misunderstanding surrounding the resale process or use of other benefits. We would be more than happy to help address any of these concerns! So that we can assist you, please send an email to ***@bluegreenvacations.com referencing your BBB review, and making sure to include the names, phone number, and email address associated with your Bluegreen account. We look forward to assisting you further! ~Bluegreen Customer Care

by Business on Apr. 19, 2018

Bluegreen has a long history of consumer complaints

On April 5, 2013, Bluegreen Corporation responded to BBB’s concerns. Bluegreen Corporation does not believe they fail to grant cancellations and refunds where they are factually and legally appropriate. Bluegreen states their company does provide timely cancellations and refunds to those consumers who properly rescind their timeshare purchases within the rescission period. Occasionally, a consumer does not follow the properly prescribed cancellation method contained in the timeshare sales documents. Nevertheless, once the appropriate business area within Bluegreen becomes aware of the request, even when not properly given by the consumer, diligent efforts are made to process the cancellation and refund as promptly as possible. With respect to the purchase of a vacation package, such purchases are accompanied by details of participation which advise a purchaser how to cancel their vacation package and the amount of time they have to do so. Also, in some instances, the consumer may have purchased the vacation package from a third party provider or vendor, and not directly from Bluegreen Corporation.

BBB reviewed this company’s complaints again on July 12, 2013, again on December 11, 2015, and again on August 18, 2016 and found that the pattern of complaints identified by BBB continues.

BBB reviewed this company’s complaints again on September 5, 2017 and found that the issues regarding the cancellation policy have decreased. However, the issues regarding high pressure sales practices, availability, and refund issues still exist.

BBB will continue to monitor the complaint activity of the company and update the Business Review as needed.

Our Bluegreen complaint

My husband and I work long hours in very high demanding jobs. We cannot discuss personal matters during work hours, which made it virtually impossible to talk to anyone at Bluegreen about our dispute. I work as a project assistant at a large engineering firm, and my husband works as a project manager for a general contracting firm in Florida. I cannot take personal calls during the day.   

Bluegreen customer care agent Kimberly arranged to speak with us after hours. The first telephone appointment was arranged, but Kimberly did not call or otherwise notify us that she was unable to make the scheduled call. We felt Bluegreen did not care and that we were not important, but we feel considerable attention is placed on selling points and collecting money not paid. Kimberly eventually contacted me again by email, but just advised that the actions of the Bluegreen agents we experienced are not the way Bluegreen sells. She refused to consider a refund or cancellation. I requested to speak to a manager and was put in touch with Autumn Fechner. All Ms. Fechner offered was a one-time day use pass for Tradewinds, which was in essence, no response.  

The deception we experienced:

We bought 10,000 every other year points at Tradewinds July 7, 2012 in St. Petersburg

Our purchase price:  $13,150

Loan 1: Amount Financed: $11,456 @ 16.99%

We were told Bluegreen would be purchasing the land next door by the end of 2013. They told us that if we purchased Bluegreen points we would have day use privileges because Bluegreen was buying Tradewinds. Since we live not far from Tradewinds, this sounded like the perfect vacation plan. We were told we could use bonus points to rent rooms for $69 or $79, not needing to use our Bluegreen points.  When I tried to book around August 2012 there was no availability. I was told I must have been mistaken about the day use privilege and bonus time privilege when I contacted customer services. There was no mistake. My husband was with me. We know what we were told.

We can’t even read the signature of the sales agent on our contract. The sales agent said they were not allowed to give out personal business cards, which is odd. A sales agent is not allowed to give out business cards?

Tradewinds gave me the name of Barret Shank, Director of Field Administration, Bluegreen Tradewinds Preview Center I. I contacted Mr. Shank via email.  Mr. Shank emailed in response saying Tradewinds is not available for bonus points, only for $99 for promotional purposes. He also said day use is only listed on the back of our charter for very specific places, but not Tradewinds.

We were baited and switched.  Nothing the sales agent advised was correct or ethical.  Timeshare sales deceit and bait and switch is supported by the response of Mr. Shank, and all others involved in the sale and customer care follow up, in response to our complaint. In my opinion, timeshare point sales are a minefield of deceit waiting to happen.

We bought a second time at Tradewinds November 29, 2013. It took a year to find availability for this stay. We were told we had to do an update because the program we purchased one year earlier in 2012 was worthless. We did not want additional points, but attended and purchased fearing what we had purchased was worthless.

We purchased 10,000 additional every other year points November 29, 2013

Purchase price: $10,950

Loan 2: Amount financed $9326.17

I kept saying through the entire sales pitch, we did not want two loans. The sales agent said to complete this sale and then we could combine both loans through Bluegreen.  She said we would just need to call the mortgage department after the sale was completed. When I called the Bluegreen mortgage division as advised, I was told I must have misunderstood because they could not combine the two sales.

I was advised to go to my bank or credit union because they would know how to refinance and that Bluegreen has dealt with multiple customers who refinance because Bluegreen is property. Bluegreen is a right to use product that has nothing to do with real estate. The company should not assume all Bluegreen buyers will be able to refinance. My bank said timeshare is not considered real estate and could not be refinanced. We were stuck with two loans at a high interest rate and what we were told was a real estate investment is not considered property. Bluegreen also told us we owned deeded property. Bluegreen points sold today are not deeded and a lawyer told us our Bluegreen deeds are worthless and not really deeds in the traditional sense.

Florida Timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group settled a class action with Bluegreen and credit reporting agencies, forcing Bluegreen to not report the failure to pay a Bluegreen loan as a foreclosure. Foreclosures are now reported as settled for less.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20151222006023/en/Finn-Law-Group-Settles-Consumer-Class-Action

The third time we purchased Bluegreen points was at The Fountains in Orlando August 24, 2014. We were again told it was mandatory to attend an update. It lasted 10 AM to 7 PM. We were told that because we were such loyal Bluegreen customers, they were giving us a special price on all additional Bluegreen investments. We were told Bluegreen points are an investment. They said we would own a coveted property in Dennisport, Massachusetts. After hours of repeated “no”, and multiple sales agents offering additional perks, we purchased once again. All the documents said Bluegreen, but when we received our first bill, it was with a completely different company and had a higher interest rate.   

We purchased 10,000 annual points upgrading to Silver

Purchase price $15,000

Amount financed $13,425

At every sales meeting, we were told it would be easy to refinance a Bluegreen loan and we were also told that we could sell points back to Bluegreen. Every sales person that we dealt with at Tradewinds and The Fountains in Orlando had an almost identical sales script. All sales presentations lasted five hours or longer, with increasingly aggressive sales agents and managers.

Bluegreen’s decision not to grant a refund or cancel our contracts was based on our using the timeshare that we paid for and because we have owned it for so long. We have paid $30,000 for Bluegreen points. Supervisor Autumn Felcher stated she could provide evidence of our deeds. On April 12, 2018 she produced three documents she stated were property deeds. After a review by a lawyer, I was advised that these were NOT real property deeds. I quote, “Resort Title clearly identifies the interest as beneficial interest in the trust. The Cibola deed transfers the interest via a deed but not to you, but to the trust. The Sounding deed does the same. I stand by my earlier opinion that you folks are not deed holders.” Thus, Bluegreen again made untrue statements. In my opinion Bluegreen’s intentions are not to support the customer, whether it is in a response to the BBB, an Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, or the FBI.

The following are self-help groups for timeshare members. This is our attempt to warn the public: Don’t believe anything a timeshare sales agent says!

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Robin and once again thanks to Irene Parker for her editing, again this is a story that Inside Timeshare is very used to hearing, it goes well with today’s lead about Claim Your Claim.

The timeshare industry is full of rogues, from the timeshare developers right down to the scam companies the industry is responsible for developing. The only way to stay safe and keep your money is to check and check and check again, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

So Friday is here, the weekend beckons, time to relax and enjoy the company of friends, have a good one and we will see you next week with more stories of “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.