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Embarc

Friday’s Letter From Canada

Welcome to the first Friday’s Letter From Canada, Inside Timeshare is pleased to give a warm welcome to Club Intrawest Owners Group who have contributed this week’s article. As Usual we start off by looking at the European timeshare scene.

At the moment, which is nothing unusual for this time of year as it is rather quiet, that will change after the summer holidays when the maintenance bills start to arrive. That is when we start to see a lot of new or resurrected bogus companies start to appear.

bogus clipart

On the legal front, the courts in Spain have been very busy, with an almost daily announcement of cases being resolved. At the moment there seem to be two companies in the firing line, Anfi in Gran Canaria and Resort Properties / Silverpoint in Tenerife.

Anfi, which was the dream project of the late Norwegian Bjorn Lyng, who wanted to build a resort which was pure luxury, has for some time been on the receiving end of many claims for breaches of the timeshare law.

Many of these, involve the taking of deposits within the statutory 14 day cooling off period, contracts with a duration of more than 50 years and the floating weeks and points systems.

This week the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas has ruled on two case to the value of 44,131€ and 35,485€ respectively. In both cases the contracts have been declared null & void.

Resort Properties / Silverpoint have also had several rulings against them this week.

The first was at the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife, the judge ordered the return of £22,736, this was followed by a Supreme Court ruling with the judge ordering the return of 37,400€.

Tenerife

We then had another Court of First Instance ruling of around 25.000€ and as we go to print our sources in Madrid have informed us of another 3 rulings by the Supreme Court. At the moment we have no idea of the amounts involved, but we do know that all contracts have been declared null & void.

On the fake law firm front, one gentleman has had lucky escape, he received correspondence from Armando Gareca Abogados, part of the Litigious Abogados family, who we highlighted sometime ago. He received notification to pay the initial procurador fees to get the case into court, but something made him suspicious. He did a search on the internet and found the articles posted on this website about them.

Needless to say he realised he was about to be the victim of an elaborate scam and has not gone ahead. He sent a message of thanks as this has saved him not only a substantial amount of money, but a lot of stress. This does go to show that you must do your homework before engaging with any company, especially if they have contacted you with a story that sounds too good to be true.

homework

Tauro Beach

The Anfi man made beach project.

It has been awhile since we had any news on this sorry subject, so here is the latest.

As we previously reported the beach has been fenced off denying access to the public, with security guards and police removing anyone who entered the beach. Although recently massive crowds have flocked to the area in defiance, a new strategy has now been implemented.

This new move has also had the impact of denying access to the homes of people who live there, all paths and access roads have now been blocked with rocks and other implements. Videos and photographs have been posted on facebook by one resident who has been campaigning against this project from the start and also published in laprovincia a Spanish newspaper.

This is another example of how a timeshare company behaves, not just to it’s own members but to the local community. It is also an example of how elected authorities view the people they are supposed to serve. Please show your support for the people and post your comments on the links.

Follow the links to view the posts from this local resident and the La Provincia newspaper.

http://www.laprovincia.es/gran-canaria/2017/07/20/grupo-anfi-cierra-acceso-playa/961620.html

https://www.facebook.com/naiana.rguezllavata/posts/1491927374183912

https://www.facebook.com/naiana.rguezllavata/posts/1492232357486747

Now on with our latest contributors.

Club Intrawest v. Canada

Club Intrawest (Embarc)Timeshare

Must Pay Millions in GST Back Taxes

Following Recent Federal Court of Appeal Decision

gavel

July 21, 2017

On July 11, 2017, In a decision that will likely affect all timeshares and owners of timeshares with properties located in Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal set aside the Tax Court of Canada’s decision in the case of Club Intrawest v. Canada. In doing so, the Court of Appeal substituted its own decision to refer GST assessments back to Canada Revenue Agency for reassessment of GST just for services supplied in Canada in relation to vacation homes situated in Canada.  Federal Appeal Court Judges Nadon, Gauthier and Dawson agreed with the Tax Court’s finding that a principal-agent relationship does not exist between the club and its 22,000 members. This decision also confirms that members of Club Intrawest (now re-branded Embarc by Diamond Resorts International (DRI)) do not hold beneficial ownership in the real estate and equipment in vacation home resorts and do not control the Club.  The Court found that members merely own a right of occupancy in exchange for their resort points. This contradicts sales presentations, financial and marketing materials by Intrawest Corporation (“Intrawest”) and now DRI, to the effect that members have beneficial ownership of vacation homes and control the Club through election of the Board of Directors, responsible for managing the Club’s operations.  The ruling will require the club to pay reassessed GST back-taxes for tax years 2002-2007. The GST/HST tax liability for tax years 2008-2016 is unknown at this time.  All timeshare owners with vacation homes in Canada may be impacted by this decision and may also see themselves assessed for back taxes on the supply of services in Canada related to vacation homes situated in Canada.

“Based on a detailed survey answered by more than 400 members, I expect that the majority of our members will be shocked and disappointed that the court found that members have no beneficial ownership in the vacation homes.  About 79% of them remember being told by Intrawest and DRI sales representatives they would own a real estate interest in the resort properties. About 91% of members also remember they were explicitly told that members controlled the Club and that resort properties were vested in a trust for the benefit of members. The Federal Court of Appeal now tells us that no evidence was produced that ownership of these homes has been vested in a trust for the benefit of members”, says Patrick Cormier, Volunteers Team Leader of the Club Intrawest Owners Group (Embarc), (CIOG) a grassroots movement of over 3400 members.  “However, it seems clear that the Intrawest/DRI-dominated Board of Directors anticipated the GST liability all along since it began accumulating a C$14 million reserve from members’ resort fees under a 2011 Board resolution without informing members until the CIOG raised the GST issue with the Board in 2016”.

Club Intrawest was established by Intrawest Corporation in 1993 as a stand-alone not-for-profit Delaware corporation, but with Intrawest in a controlling position. Intrawest ensured they had control of the Club in several ways, including by granting themselves (as “Declarant” member) a 15 times voting power advantage over individual members guaranteeing Intrawest and now DRI, ongoing and complete control over all aspects of the Club.  In addition, Intrawest and now DRI voted in their own employees on the Club’s Board of Directors to maintain a controlling majority on the Board, hired themselves as manager and pay themselves a guaranteed 10 to 15 per cent management fee on all financial transactions.  Club Intrawest (Embarc) members have no control of the club or effective means for recourse, even though members, other than DRI, own 95 per cent of the timeshare points.

About the Club Intrawest Owners Group (Embarc), (CIOG)

The CIOG is a grassroots movement of over 3400 members who are banding together seeking fairness and transparency in their Club’s operation for all 22,000 members.  The CIOG is disputing and challenging unfair actions of Intrawest Corporation, Diamond Resorts International and their domination of the Club’s Board of Directors and Management Company. The CIOG came together as a volunteer group in December 2015, following Intrawest’s announcement of the sale (without member input) of Club Intrawest’s management to DRI. Following the sale, DRI rebranded the club to Embarc and fully controls the not-for-profit timeshare.  For more about the group, visit

www.citheownersgroup.org.

Judgment of Federal Court of Appeal:  see link

http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/fca-caf/decisions/en/item/232795/index.do

canadian flag

Clearly this is an evolving story. Inside Timeshare will continue to monitor and report ongoing developments.

Other member sponsored Diamond Advocacy groups include:

DRIP launched by over 1,000 British Diamond members

http://drip.enjin.com/

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Group and because timeshare concerns are bigger than any one resort Timeshare Advocacy Group ™

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.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Some of the points in this article regarding the judges decisions are very similar to those from the Supreme Court in Spain. Especially on the system of “points”. The Spanish Courts also agree that they are not owners but members with only a right to use, it makes us wonder if the Spanish rulings may have had an effect on this?

Anyway thank you to our Canadian cousins or should we say “Canucks”, we look forward to more contributions from you. Also a great big thanks to Irene who is helping to make this happen. It is through articles like this we make the world smaller and help timeshare owners no matter where they are. So welcome to the global timeshare family from, The Philippines, Australia, USA and Europe. We now need some from South Africa!

Have a good weekend and don’t forget to do your your homework!

weekend cat

Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”

In today’s article from Irene Parker, we take another look at the Arizona Attorney General’s settlement with Diamond Resorts. It is a simplified version on the 37 page  “Assurance of Discontinuance”, It also goes on to explain who is eligible for thesettlement and gives details on how to claim. It also include the date of the deadline.

This article is a prelude to one that will be published later on “Consumer Protection Week” which is starts on 5 March and ends on 11 March. So watch this space.

An Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”

Is the AOD a Blueprint for the Timeshare Industry?

March 5 – 11 is Consumer Protection Week

By Irene Parker – March 1, 2017

objectives

The following Facebook groups are reaching out to those eligible for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts. Given the success of the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocate Facebook, assisting Diamond owners who face legitimate concerns, other Advocates have come forward to launch a Timeshare Advocacy Group Facebook available to all timeshare owners.

These groups go beyond helpful posts to actually intervene and assist those unaccustomed to interacting with governmental regulatory agencies and loss mitigation departments. Most are owners struggling under the burden of maintenance fees they can no longer afford.

In 2010, the board of Diamond’s PVC (Premier Vacation Club) amended the Membership Plan to allow an increase to a maximum of inflation plus 25% per year from the original maximum of inflation plus 10% per year.

Diamond’s US Collection has capped Maintenance Fees increases to 25% per year. A15000 point example and history of Maintenance Fee increases provided in the Assurance of Discontinuance:

$1,214 – 2007

$1,348.50 – 2008

$1,686 – 2009

$1,850 – 2010

$1,923.50 – 2011

$2,018.50 – 2012

$2,045.50 – 2013

$2,330 – 2014

$2,404.70 – 2015

Buyers sign a perpetual contract with virtually no secondary market.

Sales are made same day without being allowed sufficient time to comparison shop, as one would if buying a car or house. Certainly the expense and upkeep of a timeshare is equivalent to that of a major purchase.

Owners facing legitimate timeshare issues should consult the following:

Timeshare Advocacy Group

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

A Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook was launched for Diamond Members with legitimate concerns so they can seek help without fear of censor.

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook

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

Both Facebook groups provide updates on legal and legislative issues.

arizona-ag-seal

A time sensitive issue concerns Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” due to the complaint filing period which ends the end of April.

Not everyone wishes to wade through a 37 page “Assurance of Discontinuance” (AOD) so we have generalized and summarized the key points. To the best of our knowledge, this Assurance of Discontinuance is the first document of its kind to offer a prospective blueprint for timeshare as a whole. In an effort to promote timeshare reform, we encourage ARDA, lawmakers, and timeshare developers to make this a blueprint for the industry.

The actual Arizona Attorney General press release, link to filing a complaint and link to the Assurance of Discontinuance:

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

Who is Eligible for the Arizona Settlement?

A Consumer who files a written complaint against Diamond Resorts with the Arizona Attorney General, another law enforcement agency, the Better Business Bureau, or the Arizona Department of Real Estate after January 1, 2009 that is received by the Attorney General’s Office prior to the Effective Date or during the Filing Period. The Filing Period is expected to end by the end of April.

The provisions of the AOD are limited to Consumers who did business with Diamond at Sales Centers in Arizona and with Arizona-domiciled Consumers who attend Sales Presentation with Diamond outside of Arizona.

Our Blueprint Proposal

Meeting chart

A Quality Assurance Program – Independent from Sales and Marketing

Timeshare sales agents may not deviate from Sales Materials;

Timeshare sales agents may not make oral representation at the point of sale inconsistent with purchase documents:

  • Pertaining to the use of Points to book travel arrangements such as flights, rental cars, or cruises claiming such arrangements are comparatively lower in cost than if the Consumer would spend cash for the same travel arrangements, unless such representations are accurate; 
  • Claim a non-deeded timeshare interest such as Points is a deeded property or may be considered an investment in real property;
  • Claim Points appreciate in value;
  • Claim Points may be used to pay Maintenance Fees or that Maintenance Fees will be reduced by the purchase of additional Points, unless such representations are accurate;
  • Claim Consumers may rent out Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public unless such representations are true;
  • Claim the company will buy back Consumer’s Memberships unless the company offers a buy-back program;
  • Claim there is a secondary market for the sale of Points, and that such secondary market has a certain level of sales volume, or provides Consumers with the ability to re-sell Points, unless such representations are accurate.
  • Represent to Consumers that the sales agent would assist them with selling their Membership, unless a resale program exists.
  • Claim Consumers will be able to obtain a loan from a private lender to refinance a loan.
  • Claim interest paid on a points based product is tax deductible unless such representations are accurate. Vacation membership products are not considered “qualified home” according to IRS Publication 936.
  • Provide any information that may be construed as tax advice;
  • Represent to Consumers that Sales Presentations typically last 90 to 120 minutes if the norm is several hours.
  • Call a sales presentation an “informational meeting” to learn about changes to a resort if such meeting includes a Sales Presentations for the purpose of upgrading or up selling the consumer.
  • Overstate availability

What happens to the sales counselor when they do not adhere to the above?

How will Consumers know if sales agents violating the above declarations are reprimanded, suspended or terminated?

This can only be accomplished by forming viable and vibrant consumer groups reaching out to other owners. One such Diamond Owner sponsored Facebook was formed by the original owners of Club Intrawest acquired by Diamond, now known as Embarc.

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

How do Diamond owners get released from their timeshare contract?

What is the “Relinquishment Program” and is it different from Transitions?

“Transitions” is Diamond’s relinquishment program publicly announced by Diamond on May 4, 2016. Unlike the AOD “Relinquishment Remedy Program”, Diamond’s Transitions or Relinquishment Program is offered, on a case by case basis, at Diamond’s discretion and does not constitute an obligation under the AOD.

writing thoughts

Preparing a narration for a governmental agency or a timeshare loss mitigation department is difficult for some, especially if English is the Member’s second language. We’re here at Inside Timeshare and all owner groups to listen, educate, disseminate and advocate. Contact us!

Whether you are in Europe or the US, Inside Timeshare and our associates at the various facebook groups, would love to hear from you. It is only with your experiences are we able to inform others that there is help and hope.

Timeshare could be a great product, but we need to let the industry know that it has to change, by putting the members first. We call on the industry to listen and learn from your concerns, work with us to make the change.