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Monday, The Start to Another Week.

We finished last week with the announcement of 6 sentences from the courts against Anfi, we start this week with news just in from our contact in Madrid. We also start this week with an article from Irina Allen, who has featured before. But first the Judgement.

The Supreme Court has made yet another ruling against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this ruling the court has awarded a british client a substantial amount, reportedly around £32,000. At the moment we are not sure what the ruling was comprised of, but going by previous ones it will probably be for the perpetuity contract. When the sentence document becomes available we will publish it here.

So we wonder what is in store for the rest of the week, now on to Irina’s article.

Diamond Resorts Suspended my Account worth over $500,000

For posting one RedWeek rental ad as my sales agent advised

ethics

By Irina Allen

July 17, 2017

Inside Timeshare first published my Diamond Resorts story January 2017 after Diamond suspended my 139,000 points, falsely accusing me of renting points for commercial purposes.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

I was expected to make monthly mortgage payments of $2400 a month and pay $29,000 in maintenance fees during the one year suspension. Diamond is able to rent my points for promotional purposes during the suspension period.

Ironically, I replaced the points I had promised to friends and family by renting points on RedWeek. I also lost thousands of dollars on airfares that had already been booked as my account was suspended without warning. I am not the only member hurt by Diamond’s change in rental policy.

I was accused of opening an Airbnb account. I have never had an Airbnb account, but Diamond Resorts told me they were not required to provide any proof despite my common last name. My attorneys are working with Airbnb to prove I never had an Airbnb account. I have given Airbnb permission to share my story with their international news community.

I don’t want to get bogged down in details so suffice to estimate I paid $5 per point for my vacation points and with closing costs the figure is closer to $6 per point. According to our Facebook posts, a Diamond point sells for about $4 a point so I also feel I overpaid. At 139,000 points we are talking about a serious amount of money – over $500,000.

After contacting an attorney and filing complaints with the FTC, CFPB, AGs and the Real Estate Departments of AZ, HI, NV and CA, I found our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Facebook. At least this provided some support as all the regulatory agencies ignored my complaint.

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

Alarmed that others could be victimized, I became an administrator for Timeshare Advocacy Group ™, hoping timeshare owners and members from other timeshare companies will reach out to us when facing problems or have concerns about their timeshare membership. I have learned Diamond Resorts is not the only timeshare company exhibiting what I feel is predatory behavior.

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

It is unfathomable any corporation could exhibit such blatant disregard for a customer. My situation is very bizarre. In addition to a suspension, I experienced a 17% increase in maintenance fees while the actual increase was only 6%. I only found out about this by reading a post on our Advocacy Facebook page. Diamond automatically corrected their “error” (only for 2017) after receiving correspondence from my attorneys.

Many do not even believe me. I am grateful to Senior Correspondent Jeff Weir of RedWeek for the two hours he spent interviewing me, even though he initially decided not to publish our interview. After Inside Timeshare sent a draft of this article to RedWeek, Mr. Weir requested a copy from my editor Irene Parker indicating he would publish our interview.

One can find hundreds of Diamond rental ads on several commercial websites. I do not know why I was targeted for placing one ad without providing any evidence of commercial use. I am a professional. I bought Diamond points to share with my friends, family and clients.

Here is the current Diamond rule:

2.5.1 A Member is not prohibited from periodically renting the Accommodation reserved for the Use Period or the reserved Other Redemption Opportunity pursuant to these Club Rules.

However, the use of Points to reserve Accommodations or Other Redemption Opportunities for commercial purposes or for any other purpose other than the personal use of the Member or the Member’s family and guests is prohibited.

Use by a Member of public advertising or an online website to seek renters shall be deemed a prohibited commercial use.

Members who are primary developers of Club Resorts (that is, members of the Diamond Resorts International group of companies) and providers of Other Redemption Opportunities are specifically exempted from this restriction, and are entitled to use their reserved Accommodations and reserved Other Redemption Opportunities for promotional, rental, or other commercial purposes.

Here are a few of the Diamond rental ads on the RedWeek online website. Not only are there hundreds of ads, but many of them are for prices greatly above maintenance fees and could therefore be considered “for profit”.

Timeshare Rentals – Timeshares for Rent By Owner | RedWeek

https://www.redweek.com/timeshare-rentals

Diamond Resorts International

Kaanapali Beach Club

Lahaina, Hawaii

stars 51 reviews

255 rentals available

$132 – $500 /night

12 resales available

$600 – $15,000

Daytona Beach Regency

Daytona Beach, Florida

stars 7 reviews

I don’t expect Ebay, VRBO or other non-informational platforms to post a warning. However, RedWeek is an informational resource for vacation timeshare members and owners. I feel RedWeek should post a warning that Diamond Resorts does not allow rentals given the consequences can spell financial disaster.

Diamond’s policy is clear. Either there is a rental policy or there is not a policy. With the consequences of violating the policy so severe, why does RedWeek not post a warning? More importantly, why does Diamond not allow members, many struggling to pay maintenance fees, to post rental ads on RedWeek?

“RedWeek advises members to check with the resort before renting,” stated Gary Prado, spokesperson for RedWeek.

Why would anyone check with Diamond Resorts before renting, especially those who had been renting for years, and why would anyone check if there are hundreds, if not thousands, of rental ads all over the internet?

I opened a RedWeek account on the advice of a Diamond Hawaii sales agent and attempted to rent some points. I had not even heard of RedWeek until the sales agent recommended the site based on her personal experience. She said many Diamond employees rent on RedWeek to offset maintenance fees. I was never paid for the RedWeek rental so I gave up the idea of renting.

I am one of 18 Platinum members who have contacted Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ alleging deceptive and bait and switch up-sells. Like the others, I accumulated 139,000 Diamond vacation points due to aggressive selling. I agreed to take over 42,000 Diamond points from the secondary market on one condition – I do not have to buy any additional points. As the Diamond agents promised, “due to my Platinum status, owning at the time 75,000 points, I would be allowed, as a onetime courtesy, to transfer contracts without being required to purchase additional points.” In 2013 this was a common practice.

Diamond refused to honor their promise after the transfer. I was told I had to buy 23,000 points in order to use the transferred points without the secondary market restrictions. I could not use the points due to layers of restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points. Diamond is the only major timeshare that cannot be listed with any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association as the members feel Diamond’s secondary market restriction are more onerous than Diamond’s major competitors.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

group

Speaking with other families affected by the sudden change in Diamond’s rental policy, I asked:

  1. Are you not allowed to rent or has DRI just made it more difficult?

They have made it very difficult because we can’t advertise.  They also tried to ban us from using upgrades for rental weeks (making it harder to rent for more than cost) and they also started charging a fee to add guests.

Diamond maintains that they have the right to change the rules.

This is the crux of the matter. Would you buy a timeshare if you knew the timeshare developer could change the rules pretty much at any time for any reason?

Diamond stands to make a huge financial gain by forcing owners who relied on rental strategies into foreclosure. This is financially devastating for families because they are required to pay maintenance fees they can no longer afford for the high volume of points these members own. Diamond then “takes back” the points and resells for full value.

muscle

If you or someone you know has a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups.

Bit of a horrendous story, doing only what she was advised, how many times have we heard this type of thing from sales agents? You believe them because you trust them, they sound so genuine, then bingo! You are the one to be made out to be in the wrong. So thanks Irina for that little insight, we look forward to your next article.

Timeshare needs to change, it is not the product most of us thought we were purchasing, the truth is hidden, is any wonder that timeshare has a bad name and reputation?

If you would like to share any of your experiences contact Inside Timeshare and we will work with you.

Have you been contacted or thinking about contacting a company about your timeshare, but don’t know if they are genuine? Then send us an email or comment and we will point you in the right direction, remember it is better to spend time checking than even longer regretting!

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

Police raid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malaga Court

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

Now on with our US Article.

A Bluegreen Member Responds to Timeshare Advocacy Group™

A detective shares her Bluegreen Timeshare experience

Complaint queue

By Irene Parker

Friday July 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

law enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

advo

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

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

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

weekend

 

nightmare

Another Nightmare on Timeshare Street: Client Experience with Diamond.

Today we publish the story of Marjorie Menacker, another Diamond member who contacted Irene Parker for help. This is her story of how they feel about Diamond, it would seem that “Clarity” is out of the window. We let you decide for yourselves.

Will Diamond Resorts ever listen?

Marj

By Marjorie Menacker

May 15, 2017

We, Elle and I, are two more Diamond members asking the company to own up to misrepresentations and deception in Diamond’s quest to upsell current Diamond members. We know we were victims of a “bait and switch”. We were told buying more points would eliminate maintenance fees that had become burdensome due to my brain injury. Our 14 year old son Sam, diagnosed with FSGS, an autoimmune kidney disease in 2015, has added to our burden. Sam has required hospitalization.

I contacted Diamond Consumer Advocacy before seeking legal assistance or filing complaints with the Arizona, Virginia and Nevada Attorneys General, the FBI, the FTC and ARDA for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy Department should be named Diamond’s Advocacy Department because their job is to advocate for Diamond, as evidenced by the company’s response, refusing to acknowledge a Diamond sales agent would not be truthful.

In Arizona, Diamond’s new Clarity program does not allow sales agents to deviate from written sales materials. The oral representation clause still exists in the Arizona contract, but the Arizona Attorney General’sAssurance of Discontinuance” forbids sales agents from deviating from the sales agent’s official script. I was hoping Diamond Resorts would honor Clarity’s principles of fair and honest business practices even though we purchased in Virginia. Clarity is about Accountability, Transparency and RESPECT for the customer!

Diamond often offers to “take back” points, for a fee, ignoring the deceit, concealment, violation of trust and “bait and switch” so many from our Advocacy group have complained about, as defined by the FBI as White Collar Crime. Diamond even charges a fee to surrender points while requiring the member to still make any remaining credit card payments. This keeps the “hamster wheel” running as Diamond will merely take back our points and resell them for full value.

We are telling the truth. Since Diamond will not believe us, these Diamond sales agents must be telling unsuspecting consumers day in and day out, any story they can come up with to sell points.

Here’s what happened

Elle and I purchased a week at the Powhatan Virginia resort in the 1980s. Our deeded Powhatan week was given up in July 2007 while staying at Sedona Arizona when we purchased 10,000 points for $21,585. We purchased an additional 6000 points December 26, 2015 for $23,210 having been told about an exciting one day promotion if we purchased that day. The sales agents said we would not have to pay maintenance fees for 2016. Our contract lists a William Humphries as our sales agent, although we spoke to Brian and his supervisor Jeff at Diamond’s Greensprings Plantation Resort.

We were encouraged to open two Diamond Barclaycards to finance the purchase. A total of $23,170 was charged to two Barclaycards. The finance rate is 25.74%.

I suffered a concussion November 9 2015, about six weeks before our sales presentation, after being hit by a construction truck while I was walking in downtown Richmond.  At the time of our presentation, we had not yet realized the full extent of my injuries. Over the course of first quarter 2016 I realized I needed concussion and rehab specialists and quite a bit of therapy to initiate and sustain a slow recovery. I am still being treated for the brain injury and physical injuries from the accident.

The Powhotan sales presentation was very high pressure. We repeatedly stated that we could not afford anything that would require a loan, and did not like the difficulty we encountered finding availability. Maintenance fees were rising faster than we expected.

Brian repeatedly assured us that if we took advantage of the promotion offered that day, we would not have to worry about any maintenance fees after the 2016 calendar year. He said this promotion would have been offered to us had we participated in dinner meeting offers over the previous year. I’ve learned almost all Diamond presentations begin with, “You should have been invited to a dinner meeting.” Out of our sight, Brian obtained special permission to extend the offer only for the day (12/26/2015). Jeff confirmed what Brian offered.

We were told that we would no longer have to pay for annual maintenance fees, having qualified to participate in the special program that was not publicly available.  Brian illustrated in chart form on paper how this program would save us money by trading in part of total points each year. He said the remaining points would actually get “treated as double points.”

We should have been suspicious when he would not let us keep a copy of the paperwork with the calculations he made or even let us hold it to view in a private conversation.  Brian brought Jeff in, and they recreated the chart and both reassured us it was all above board, though warned us not to mention the specifics to anyone when time to sign the contract.

We trusted that Diamond Resorts was a publicly traded company (at the time) with a good reputation, and our expectation was that we would be properly treated and not misled.  They both explained we would receive a phone call annually in December right after our maintenance fee bill arrived and would be guided to trade in the proper number of points to write off the entire maintenance fee each year.

This past December 2016, when the call never came, we reached out to the Quality Assurance Officer whose card we were given. She was unavailable so referred us to Susan Schnibbe who put us in touch with the salesmen around December 20, 2016.  Both Brian and Jeff denied ever telling us this type of program existed, but we were promised a call back the same day as to “what was possible.”

We were in fine shape with the 10,000 points we already owned in the US Collection, and were able to manage to pay the annual maintenance fees. At this time we must pay down a loan instead of planning our vacation.

We told Brian and Jeff about our son’s condition, the ongoing expense and that I was dealing with post-concussion syndrome.  We also have medical expenses resulting from our older daughter’s Medical College of Virginia Pediatric ER for a serious head and back injury from a fall.  Realizing we were duped, our trust of Diamond Resorts has been shattered.  We feel that we were taken advantage of, misled and lied to. We have struggled to provide for our children as well as maintain our good credit rating. This breech of ethics by Diamond Resorts representatives jeopardizes Diamond too.

We would have been happy with the valued level status we had prior to the December 2016 sales-pitch.

Irene at computer

Our Diamond Resorts member sponsored Advocacy Group has been overwhelmed assisting Diamond members who feel they were victimized by sales agents making promises that fall far afield from reality.

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/

A Diamond representative said there was no misrepresentation.

Original letter sent to David Palmer January 7, 2017

At the time of our purchase, former Diamond CEO David Palmer had just made over $173 million on the Apollo buyout and over $26 million in executive compensation. That could be why he did not answer the letter we sent him.
7 January 2017

David F. Palmer, CEO

Diamond Resort International

10600 West Charleston Boulevard

Las Vegas, NV 89153-1260

Dear Mr. Palmer,

In December of 2015, we attended a very high pressure sales and “owner update” in Williamsburg at GreenSprings plantation sales office. The salesman, Brian and his manager Jeff were very demanding of our time even though we told them we had 3 middle-school-aged children waiting for us back at our condo. I had suffered from a serious concussion about 6 weeks earlier after being hit by a construction truck while I was walking in downtown Richmond.  We had not yet realized the full extent of my injuries at the time. I am still being treated for the brain injury and physical injuries from the accident well over a year later. We repeatedly stated that we could not afford anything that would require a loan and the growing maintenance fees. Brian assured us that if we took advantage of the promotion offered that day, we would not have to worry about any maintenance fees after the 2016 calendar year. We were told this promotion was something that would have been offered to us had we participated in dinner meeting offers over the previous year.  Brian obtained special permission, out of our sight, to extend the offer to us that day (12/26/2015), and that day only.

The bottom line is we were told that we would no longer have to pay for annual maintenance fees, having qualified to participate in the special program that was not publicly available.  Brian illustrated in chart form on a paper how this program would save us money by trading in part of our total points each year but the remaining points would actually get “treated as double points.”  We should have been suspicious when he would not let us keep a copy of the paperwork with the calculations he made or even let us hold it to view in a private conversation.  Brian brought Jeff in, and they recreated the chart and both assured us it was all above board, though warned us not to mention the specifics to anyone when time to sign the contract. They both explained we would receive a phone call (annually) in December right after our maintenance fee bill arrived, and we would be guided to trade in the proper number of points to write off the entire maintenance fees each year.  This December, when the call never came, we reached out to the Quality Assurance Officer whose card we were given.  She put us in touch with the salesmen around December 20, 2016.  Both denied ever telling us this type of program existed, but we were promised a call back the same day as to “what was possible.”   We have received no return calls.  As baby boomers, raised by parents from the depression era, we do not like to borrow money for anything. Both Brian and Jeff were told of our son’s condition, the ongoing expenses and that I was dealing with post-concussion syndrome.

With the enlightenment that we were duped into a loan and will also experience increasing annual fees, we feel that we are in severe debt and our trust of Diamond Resorts has been shattered.  We feel we were taken advantage of, misled and lied to, frankly. We have repeatedly asked for an avenue to appeal for a reversal and revoke the contract from last year. Actual ownership, it seems, is not an advantage, considering the expense we pay for the maintenance of these resorts.  We would like to return to the status prior to the December 2015 sales-pitch.

I do hope that you take our situation seriously, and, regardless of the internal consequences to the salespersons who so poorly and unethically represented Diamond Resorts, you and I begin an authentic dialogue about making this right.  My partner and I are quite willing to work this out efficiently and honestly, directly with your office or a representative to whom you would direct us.

Thank you for your time.  We look forward to hearing from you by traditional mail or email as how we may begin this dialogue.

Most Sincerely,

Marjorie S. Menacker

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Marjorie for giving us Her story so we could share it with you, this is important as it shows that you are not alone.

Inside Timeshare and the Facebook Advocacy page have been receiving many stories just like this, if you wish to share your experiences of these presentations you can contact Inside Timeshare or the Advocacy page.

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

 

nightmare

Is This Another Nightmare on Timeshare Street?

Just before publication Inside Timeshare received this news:

Nancy and Dan Callahan had been denied what they demanded until Inside Timeshare sent a draft of Nancy’s article to Diamond Resorts for comment. The company has since worked with the family to reach a positive outcome. The problem is, Inside Timeshare has received information from four other Platinum members voicing the same complaint as Nancy, from the same Las Vegas sales center, claiming they were told things like “people will be standing in line to buy your Legacy points” when not one member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will even list Diamond’s non-deeded points. All the respondents have credit scores in the 800 range and in the 60s or 70s, but considering foreclosure due to variations on Nancy’s theme.We have also heard from lessor loyalty level members and from other sales centers, especially in Virginia and Ka’anapali Hawaii where one side of the ocean will sell US Collection points while the other side claims the member should not have bought Hawaii points due to special assessments or the anticipation of rising maintenance fees. They are then instructed to buy more points to go from one side of the ocean to the other. As one former Diamond Resorts sales agent told Inside Timeshare, “It’s a Hamster Wheel.”

Nancy and Dan Callahan Share their Timeshare Experience

Why don’t corporations admit wrongdoing?

Grabbing hand

By Nancy Callahan

Without our Diamond Resort’s Advocacy Group, my husband Dan and I would not have known where to turn. Even though, as in our case, Diamond Resorts turned their back on us saying we lied and their sales agent at Polo Towers told the truth, we know where we stand and we know we are not alone.

I am 69 years old and my husband Dan is 67. We are both disabled and we both retired from civil service. Dan is a retired army Lt. Colonel and a combat Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran.  

We are Diamond Platinum members. We feel our most recent Diamond purchase was made under deceptive and extremely high pressure selling techniques. We had been struggling with two loan payments of $329 and $121 but the most recent purchase we did not even realize we made, will drive us into foreclosure.

Diamond sales agent Rick Casper in Las Vegas on January 22, 2017 sold us 50,000 Diamond points bringing our total number of points up to 106,000. Our new loan payment is $2,133 a month which we cannot pay.

We did not realize we made this $142,000 purchase until we returned home and checked our credit cards. Prior to this purchase we owned 56,000 Diamond points which cost approximately $101,000.  As I have had a double mastectomy, undergone cancer chemotherapy, radiation and have had two knee replacement surgeries, buying more vacation points was in no way our intention. Dan has had two minor strokes and a mild heart attack. He has chronic pain and is on 25 medications prescribed by the VA and our doctors. Dan also suffers from PTSD.

The $142,400 purchase price for the additional 50,000 points purchased from Rick Casper included:

  • $121,025 loan
  • $17,000 charged to a DRI Barclaycard
  • $4,375 charged to our Hilton VISA Card which is being disputed
  • $142,400 total plus our prior $101,000 purchase totals $243,000 in DRI points.

The current balance on the loan is $142,850 financed at 12.93% plus a monthly collection fee of $6.

Our credit score before this fiasco was 825. It has dropped 50 points since we disputed our Hilton VISA charge. We have received harassing calls for several weeks from Diamond.

We were not provided a truth and lending statement. The copy we have has has no signature or initials by a Diamond representative.

How in the world could anyone make a $142,000 purchase without their knowledge?

multi arm

It’s not as difficult as you might think.

We were invited to attend a presentation at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas to learn about new and exciting ways to use our Diamond points. Rick was there when we showed up and said, “I thought you were supposed to come to Polo Towers and not Red Rock Casino in Vegas.” Rick had arranged a conference room for the day.

Rick said we should join the new “Legacy program” that allows members to sell blocks of Diamond points to a third party with all Diamond benefits intact. This was said just to us as Rick took us to a private presentation because we were Platinum members. The benefits Rick talked about involved selling Diamond points and those benefits could only be obtained if we became part of the Legacy Program. He said if we joined the Legacy program “people would be standing in line to buy our points.” One of the biggest complaints from members is that you can’t sell Diamond points. “You will have enough points to travel to even Dubai Paris and London,” Rick said. Rick said if we joined the Legacy Program we would receive as Platinum members 50,000 bonus points.

I was in terrible knee pain that day as I had not brought my pain killers with me. Rick provided me with two glasses of wine in a-Styrofoam cups with plastic lids because alcohol is not allowed at presentations.

Rick also talked about how using Diamond’s Barclay MasterCard to make purchases was a wonderful way to offset maintenance fees through purchase credits. We signed up for the Barclaycard for this purpose. Rick, however, used the card to charge $17,000 worth of Diamond points. He did not explain that, when the card is used to offset maintenance fees, the offset is only 1.5%.

Six hours went by and we had still not decided on the Legacy Program. As the hours wore on, my pain increased and I became more and more confused. I walk with a cane so it was an effort just to walk to the restroom and back as it was some distance. I was exhausted. Dan is diabetic and needed to eat so Rick ordered room service. Dan was confused due to diabetic symptoms. We were so overwhelmed by the time we were signing contracts, we did not even realize we were buying points. Rick kept saying we would be receiving 50,000 DRI bonus points.

When we returned home we were shocked to see the charges to our credit card. We were signing things just to get out of there thinking we were just joining the Legacy Program and opening the new Diamond Barclay Credit Card that would pay for our maintenance fees through purchase credits.

Diamond Resorts has a new Consumer Advocacy Department which “Promises to help Diamond owners with their membership from Day One!” Aaliah Moore, one of Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy “Hospitality” agents has denied that Rick Casper made any misrepresentations and determined we were aware of what had transacted. We have learned from our Advocacy Facebook, there have been numerous complaints filed against Polo Towers with at least four directed against this same sales agent. All the families are financially devastated.

We were told hardship surrenders are reviewed and considered on a case by case basis but we would be denied based on deception and misrepresentations. The amount of money we would lose is too much to walk away from just so Diamond can take back our points and resell them for full value.

We will be filing a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov alleging Financial Institution Fraud under the FBI White Collar Crime division. As credit cards were charged, we will be filing with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

We are notifying the timeshare lobby ARDA ROC that Diamond is violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics, the FTC because Diamond is one of the only major timeshare companies that cannot be listed with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association due to restrictions the company places on the use of points bought second hand more restrictive than Diamond’s competitors.

We would have never agreed to buy 50,000 points. We were struggling with the two loans we already had outstanding with Diamond and our home mortgage as we bought at the height of Las Vegas real estate and are underwater on our home mortgage. We sent Aaliah a spread sheet explaining our situation thinking she would realize it was obvious we would never buy $141,000 worth of vacation points given our medical condition, medical bills and home mortgage! We would have cancelled the contract immediately if we had known.  

The maintenance fees due on the new points are $6,830 in addition to the existing $9,554 or so paid for 2017 maintenance fees which we prepay each month on a credit card.

At prior presentations other deceptive tactics were used. We were told we had to buy Hawaii points in order to get availability on Maui. Then at the next presentation on the US mainland on March 1, 2014 we were told we should not have bought Hawaii points because it is dangerous to own Hawaii points due to special assessments at Diamond’s Poipu property.  We were told we had to transfer back to Diamond US Collection points. They said Hawaii point owners were charged a onetime fee of $9,000 for Poipu assessments. We had to purchase additional points to bring the Hawaii points back to the US Collection to get out of the Hawaii Collection.

Another reason we would not have purchased more points is because we have not been happy with the points we owned before this new purchase.

There have been many resort properties that we have never been able to make a reservation for. When we are able to book a reservation, these presenters wear us down with their high pressure tactics. When we say no to one salesman, another one appears with an even harder pitch. We check into Diamond properties with a sense of foreboding.   

We have notified the National Timeshare Owners Association that they need to warn existing owners about the harm Diamond Resorts is doing to many of their members.

The Arizona Attorney General’s officeAssurance of Discontinuance

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

A billion dollar class action Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright in Nevada

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

A Diamond Advocacy member sponsored Facebook

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/

advocate 1

At least in this case Diamond has reached out to this couple, and come to a positive outcome. Although there is still a long way to go before we no longer have stories like this coming in, it does seem as if Diamond are starting to take notice of these complaints, they are too similar to be isolated incidents.

Inside Timeshare welcomes any dialogue with the industry if it improves thing for the better, but it is your experiences that will make them look again at how they operate. If you have an experience, good or bad, you would like to share contact Inside Timeshare or one of the advocacy groups that we work with.

 

friday dog

Friday’s Letter From America

Here we go it’s Friday again, the end of another busy week in the world of timeshare, it does seem to be a world that never sleeps. There is always something new to be reported, be it another “bogus” company or an old company coming up with a new “scam”, the ingenuity of some is beyond belief.

So far this week the news from the Spanish courts has been flooding in, with more owners having their contracts declared null & void and the return of all their money. The intrepid lawyers that form Canarian Legal Alliance have been very busy. Most of these judgements have been from the lower courts, who are applying the Supreme Court rulings with a vengeance, leaving no doubt what the interpretation of the timeshare law is.

Inside Timeshare has also been receiving a great deal of information about one company and their new product, yesterday’s article “New Name Same Company” shows the lengths some will go to appear to be different. Unfortunately for them, some of us can see through their smoke and mirrors, so we shall be keeping a very watchful eye on their activities.

On the “Bogus” law firm front Litigious Abogados and their other associated “lawyers” are still at it, the UK Action Fraud website has been receiving many reports of their activities. Inside Timeshare can also report that the Guardia Civil have an extensive file handed to them for investigation. So we wait with anticipation as to what the outcome will be.

So, now on to this Friday’s article from Irene and Irina, Resale and Rentals.

Consumer Advocate Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi Launches Season 3 of Property Man in Arizona on Business FOX  

https://www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi/

Two more Timeshare Rs – Resale and Rentals

By Irene Parker – Resales

Irina Allen – Rentals  

April 20, 2017

Sign post 

If you own or are thinking of buying a timeshare – the Bob Massi Property Man show has provided important tips for timeshare buyers and sellers. In Season 2 Florida, Mr. Massi interviewed members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. The LTRBA members offered important tips for consumers interested in buying a timeshare as well as tips on how to avoid a scam when a timeshare member or owner needs to sell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHCdcS2Ds-U

As a follow up to Mr. Massi’s prior timeshare segments, my husband and I were interviewed to express concerns and problems faced by Diamond Resorts International timeshare members. There are many who use and enjoy their Diamond timeshare, but as has been widely reported, rising maintenance fees and the lack of a secondary market can spell disaster for families who need to get out from underneath their Diamond timeshare. Timeshares can cost $100,000 or more so walking away with nothing can financially devastate families.

Our interview airs this Friday, April 21 at 8:30 PM EST on FOX Business. Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi has been a champion consumer advocate for the underdog. While showcasing spectacular homes of the wealthy, he also contrasts the flip side of wealth by interviewing consumers struggling with faulty or predatory lending practices.

Mr. Massi interviewed my husband and me after receiving a multitude of complaints after his segment featuring the home of Jackie and David Siegel. The Siegels own Westgate Resorts, a timeshare company based in Florida. The segment, “The Queen of Versailles” resulted in a multitude of complaints about timeshare. The Queen of Versailles is the name of the documentary featuring the Seigel’s massive 90,000 square foot home with 30 bathrooms, a 20 car garage and a 4,000 square foot clothes closet. The original documentary took Best Director at Sundance. Many wealthy Americans have built large homes, but with enough complaints to prompt a two year Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigation of Westgate’s business practices, I wondered about such wealth at the expense of timeshare owners unable to sell and sometimes not even able to give back their timeshare.

Mr. Massi’s Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association segment warned timeshare owners to work through a licensed timeshare broker. Ironically, FOX Celebrities Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham are paid to endorse firms like Resort Release, transfer agent firms licensed timeshare brokers warn consumers to avoid.

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-dave-ramsey-and-laura.html

A sequence of events led up to our interview with Mr. Massi. My husband and I attended a grueling and demeaning timeshare presentation at Diamond Resorts Grand Beach Resort July of 2015. We had purchased two Diamond contracts with few problems, but when I witnessed the tactics being used during this predatory sales presentation, I became alarmed. I returned to our unit at Mystic Dunes, turned on the television, watched “The Queen of Versailles”, and wondered how the wealth was won.

I wrote to Mr. Massi about my concerns. Never dreaming a response, I was surprised to receive a call from a FOX producer asking if my husband and I would be willing to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. Having just accepted a position as an interim music director, I declined, but was contacted again six months later and agreed to the interview. The producer said they had a multitude of responses to their first timeshare segment, but I was the only one invited to be interviewed, as I was the only respondent who wanted to talk about the positives, in addition to the negatives of timeshare.

To prepare for the interview I contacted LTRBA member David Cortese of Magical Realty in Orlando and asked if he would list our Diamond points. David was one of the LTRBA members interviewed by Mr. Massi. David sadly informed me he doubted that any of the LTRBA members would our list Diamond points as they felt the restrictions the company places on the use of secondary points are more onerous than that of any other major timeshare company.

To me this sounded like unfair business practices and a violation of fair trade. I filed a complaint with the FTC, but they just sent an autoreply pointing me in the right direction. If thousands of people complain, they go to Congress to enact better laws. That hasn’t happened.

Timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group maintains a steady 500 timeshares cases. Mr. Finn said about 20% to 25% of his timeshare cases are against Diamond Resorts. He said he has never had a Disney client. I asked Mr. Finn why legislators have not addressed the harm done to consumers when a perpetual contract does not have a secondary market. A secondary market is not to be confused with a voluntary surrender or exit plan as those leave the consumer who has spent $25,000 to over $100,000, often financed at 12% to 18% interest, with nothing. The timeshare developer takes back the points and resells for full value.

“Instead of shunning the secondary market, embrace it; the developers should invest some of their profits into stabilizing the resale market. Take the lesson the auto, boat and camper industries have long ago learned, that a healthy resale market is essential to the entire industry, from beginning to end there must be a continuous flow, a circle of economic life, if you will. If you can’t set up a used timeshare lot across the street from your project, at least sponsor knowledgeable licensed real estate brokers well offsite so as not to compete directly with your retail operations. Sure you’ll lose some initial business to these brokers, but by indirectly supporting these brokers, you’ll make timeshare interests affordable to the folks who really can’t afford to buy retail, but can perhaps afford to repurchase the interest of your newly divorced initial purchaser (something that you arguably owed the poor gal or guy anyway) and, more importantly perhaps, support the continuing financial health of the resort via the annual maintenance payments now to be made by the new owner, and ever crucial to the future of the resort you built and developed. Timeshare developers could take pride, not just profit, from making family vacations an affordable part of the American lifestyle by opening up that opportunity to even more folks!”

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/the-unconscionable-suppression-of-the-timeshare-resale-market

“Timeshare doesn’t need new litigation to assist the establishment of a re-sale market. All they need to do is support it from a market standpoint! They clearly have zero interest in doing that,” Mr. Finn added.

The Second R: Rentals (to be continued)

Part I – The 3Rs or F of Timeshare

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

Part II – The 3Rs Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund

http://insidetimeshare.com/part-ii-three-rs-timeshare/

If you or someone you know has a timeshare problem, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy groups. Our advocates are members helping other members, bringing our experience and knowledge to other members or owners while providing a clearinghouse of information about legal and legislative issues facing timeshare today.

Diamond Resorts has implemented a new Clarity Program after the Arizona Attorney General issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” and an $800,000 settlement. Diamond also has a Consumer Advocacy Department that claims to help members from Day 1 if they have concerns about their membership or purchase.

Timeshare owners worldwide would like to thank Mr. Massi and Business Fox for bringing this important topic to the attention of the public in America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. Inside Timeshare works with contributors and timeshare members in an ever expanding horizon.

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/

Jigsaw men

So there we have it, the end of another week, Inside Timeshare again thanks Irene and Irina for their contribution, we also thank all who have contributed information to help others. Next week we will be highlighting another military family who have fallen foul of the sharp practices of some timeshare sales agents. These stories are all too familiar, the consistency of the testimonies of different families bares witness to some very nasty sales techniques.

If you have a story to tell or have any information about a company that you would like to share with others, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

Have a great weekend.

friday cat

consumer protection week

Consumer Protection Week USA

Consumer Protection in Europe is governed by the EU Commission, each country within the EU also has their own consumer protection laws in their own legislation. Much of this comes from directives laid down by the EU Commission, the same way as the EU Directives on Timeshare.

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

Each year it focuses on different themes from buying a car to the quality of goods and customer care. The main focus is to educate the public on their rights, how to deal with complaints and who to turn to for help.

There are also many other avenues where consumers can receive help and advice, one of the most notable is “Which”, they have for many years published a magazine giving advice on various goods and highlighting major recalls. They produce many other publications free of charge including very simple guides on using computers, lap tops etc.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is also another well known place for help and guidance. Most towns have one and they will cover many areas of concern from benefits, problems with employers to financial problems. They tend to be run mainly by volunteers, but have experts such as lawyers and financial advisors on call.

In the field of timeshare there is a great lack of real advice, it is unfortunate that the 2 main organisations that give consumer advice will send consumers to TATOC. As we have highlighted in the past, this organisation is funded by the industry and is virtually run by them. Take a complaint about your resort, you will be told to contact them, as they will not intervene. Not a very good way of giving advice, sending a complaint to the ones that are the cause of the complaint.

In the Article by Irene Parker today, she highlights servicemen who have fallen foul of the high pressure selling tactics. In the UK several years ago there was a company that was preying on servicemen and their families, they set up a vacation club or what we know as a discount members club. It cost upwards of £6000 to join, with many servicemen taking up the offer.

As with many of these clubs the servicemen did not get what they paid for, with the so-called discounts being far more expensive than what was available on the highstreet. Many complaints went to the MOD, and this company has not been heard from since. Luckily many of those who paid did so on their credit cards and were able to retrieve the payment from the card provider using the Credit Consumer Act.

It is a very sorry state, when servicemen who put their lives on the line in defence of their country are treated in such a way. The most annoying aspect of the above example was many of the sales reps were themselves ex-servicemen, using this as a tool to gain trust.

Inside Timeshare hopes the following article will be of help to those caught foul some of these unscrupulous tactics.

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

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

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

man cash

By Irene Parker – March 6, 2017

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

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

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

What questions should people ask before buying a Timeshare? Should you make a $20,000 or more decision the same day without comparison shopping? Should you believe a word a sales agent says? Should you finance your vacation plan?

Timeshare Tip – Take your eye off the finger pointing to the low monthly payment, raise your head and ask, “At what Interest Rate?”

It’s surprising how many we talk to who did not know the interest rate they were paying until they started paying. I was two hours into our sales presentation, mesmerized by the numbers, before I thought to ask.

Today we use the example of a family who failed to ask these questions and are now devastated by a vacation plan that has turned into a nightmare. I use Diamond Resorts as an example, but they should not be singled out. I am a Diamond member so in contact with other members. Many Timeshare companies have complaints.

We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but in one week I heard from four military families. One is a Veteran, one family has a son in the military, and two are on active duty. We’re hearing a lot in the US press these days about how Veterans have not been treated fairly so a story about a Navy family is timely.

As the family has been referred to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, and an outcome is yet to be determined, we will call this couple William and Mary. This newly formed Diamond Advocacy Department has reached out to many of our Facebook members helping owners resolve issues and better learn how to use DRI vacation Points.

William and Mary feel they have been victims of fraud or “bait and switch”. They are requesting a full refund. Let’s weigh in on whether this case meets this simple definition of fraud: Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

William, age 47 is on active duty with the Navy, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia. An able bodied seaman, William is waiting on orders to be shipped overseas.  Mary, age 43, works for the Department of Agriculture. They have two children ages thirteen and eight.The summer of 2015 William and Mary booked a week at a Diamond Resort in Virginia by renting through RedWeek. They accepted an offer to attend a sales presentation. Mary does not remember the name of the sales agent (Vacation Counselor) in Virginia, but remembers he was a former Secret Service agent. The family purchased 15000 vacation Points for $63,232 or $4.22 per point. The current balance, financed at 14%, is approximately $43,395.

“Our original 50 minute presentation ended up to be 5 hours. We were told by the Virginia supervisor, a lady with a British accent, that we would have no problem getting a lower interest rate financed outside of Diamond since William was in the service.  All we would have to do is supply the lender with “duty orders” and it would go down to 1.5% as long as he was overseas,” Mary reported. The family later learned banks will not finance Timeshares, so that option was not available.

Anxious to try out their new vacation plan, the family booked a trip to stay at a Diamond Resort in Orlando. Now an existing owner, they were encouraged to attend an “owner’s update” which is always accompanied by an offer to buy more Points. The promised 55 minute update lasted three hours.

Orlando Sales Agent Joaquin told the family that since they now lived in Florida, they would be required to transfer the Points they purchased in Virginia to Florida.

The agent might have been alluding to a “Collection” as Diamond has a US, Hawaii, California and a few other Collections. There is no Florida Collection, but the family paid $4,898 as a down payment to transfer and buy more Points.

 “Joaquin promised to help resell our Points if we needed to. When we realized we could not afford the loan, I made a few calls and emailed Joaquin for assistance, but I was just ignored altogether,” reported Mary.

William was transferred to California. A Diamond Sampler package is ordinarily sold as a trial package, but on another trip to Orlando, the couple purchased a Sampler from Joaquin hoping William could stay at Diamond Resorts in California while stationed there. A loan of $1,100 financed by Diamond at 12.99% was obtained, but ultimately the three purchases were consolidated into one loan.

In William and Mary’s own words, here is why they feel they were misled:

“During the sales pitch we were told information that we discovered later was not true.”

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

By now, the family realized they had made a mistake and were deep in debt. December of 2016, while living in Jacksonville, FL the family was called and invited to a dinner of owners to discuss their account and give insight to how better to use Points. (Note: Buyers of Points don’t “own” anything as it is a right-to-use program similar to a country club)

William and Mary informed the Diamond caller they wanted to opt-out and were told a representative would be there to help start the process. However, when they went to the dinner, it turned out to be another high pressure sales tactic to get them to buy more Points with Apollo.

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

As of July 13, Diamond’s top executives and directors beneficially owned almost 23 million shares in the form of options and company stock. If the transaction is completed, a filing stated, those 15 people “would be entitled to receive an aggregate amount of $624,131,129 in cash. The bulk of that will go to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Diamond’s founder, and Mr. Palmer, the chief executive. Mr. Cloobeck would be entitled to $384 million and Mr. Palmer would receive $173 million.

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

Back to William and Mary:

navy

William and Mary told their hosts that they had a life change and could no longer afford their Maintenance fees or loan payments and wanted to relinquish their ownership (membership) per the buy- back program that they said they had.  At the meeting the account representative said Diamond did not have this program.

“Jose, the Supervisor, recommended we buy more Points as that would lower our Maintenance fees by taking back the Sampler. We were also financing the Sampler, so he said they could keep my monthly payment the same. After we left the presentation I reached out a few times to our original sales agent only to be told he no longer worked there. After we purchased the Sampler, we got called about 2 or 3 times a month by different account managers. At this point I could not even tell you the person’s name, but that was the last contact,” said Windy.

Where does the family go from here?

which way

“William has had a major loss in pay and we can’t afford the loan payments.”

Part II will provide a flow chart of options the family is facing.

Diamond is fond of boasting about how 70% of sales are sold to existing owners. William and Mary’s story is not unusual. I have reported our own personal Diamond story so many times, I dare not tell it again, but I have also heard from dozens of families telling the same story told over and over – existing Diamond owners told their Maintenance fees and availability issues would be resolved by buying more Points.

Again, Diamond is not alone. Based on my research, I have opinions on which Timeshare companies are the three worst offenders and which are the best, based on a census of online complaints, but that topic is for a future discussion.

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

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

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

Diamond Clarity is not limited to just one state. It’s a national program that includes four new operational initiatives. One of these initiatives is recording quality assurance sessions subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training.  The company has invested in technology to ensure that these recordings can be archived and searchable. Recording sales presentations would not meet these objectives and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity program,” according to DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Maya and I have had several healthy and interesting discussions about Clarity. I am concerned about the QA recording. In my opinion, I feel it will only strengthen Diamond’s position in court. As you can see from this article, the worn down member or prospect merely nods during the QA session checklist and none of the oral representations would be in that recording. I have learned recording without the other person’s knowledge is legal in Arizona as long as it is not wiretapping by phone.

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

At least Members are having discussions with Diamond. I think it might be a first and I thank Maya and the staff of Consumer Advocacy for their involvement and support. Inside Timeshare wants to get it right!

Coffe time

stop pressOfficial DRI Response has just been received:

“The options for any timeshare member or owner struggling to keep up with loan payments financed at 12% to 19% and rising maintenance fees are:

Surrender, Resolution, Foreclosure, Refund

A Diamond representative spoke to the family today to gather facts”.

Inside Timeshare will walk with this family along the road to timeshare recovery.

An upcoming article will take a look at the four options, the likelihood of each option, the process of foreclosure and its impact on credit reporting comparing and contrasting European and American processes.

Some resorts have the option of resale. The seller would be fortunate to recover 10% of the initial amount invested, but at least owners with this option are not solely at the mercy of the timeshare company.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contributed to Irene’s article, without your help we would not be able to highlight the problem or bring about much needed change.

On another note, news just in but not verified 100%, it would appear that Diamond Resorts Europe has now closed all sales decks which were run on a franchise basis. From reports this morning the only sales decks open and trading in Europe are those run and owned by Diamond.

With what has happened in the past few months with Diamond selling off their last concern in Mallorca, the question being posed now is are they getting ready for a major sell off?

When the news comes in we will be reporting it here, so stay tuned.

 

chickensoup

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

Chicken soup is used as a remedy whenever anyone is ill, I remember as a kid if I was under the weather mum or gran would ensure I had a bowl of hot chicken soup. Whether it did any medical good is not clear, but it did make me feel better.

The chicken soup for timeshare is a cacophony of abbreviated names, which many of us cannot work out what they stand for. I will not go for the ones on mainland Europe, for one simple reason, I don’t speak the myriad of languages we have. So here are the ones we have in the UK if you have a timeshare or consumer problem.

Firstly the timeshare ones: we have the RDO, Resorts Development Organisation, this is the trade body for the industry and represents only the industry not the consumer.

TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, this is supposed to represent you the owners, but as we know they are funded by the industry for the industry. Also they are in deep trouble as we saw in yesterday’s article.

Non timeshare organisations:

BIS, Business Innovation and Skills, this is a government department, in the past they are the ones who closed down several “dodgy” holiday clubs.

They also work very closely with TS, this is Trading Standards. Each county council has their own trading standards office, again they have been instrumental in closing down rogue companies.

CAB, this is the Citizens Advice Bureaux, this is an agency run mainly by volunteers who offer advice and information on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately when it comes to timeshare they will refer you to TATOC.

FCA, the Financial Conduct Authority, they deal with anything within the finance world, it is they who lay down the regulations for how businesses such as debt collecting agencies operate.

FOS, The Financial Ombudsman Service,this is a government body who is the last resort in any dispute on financial matters. For instance problems with loan agreement, credit card refunds, including complaints against debt collecting agencies.

There are plenty more but my soup pot is only small, so I cannot fit anymore in, Irene in the her article today explains the numerous ones in the US, this will be of specific interest to those in Europe who have bought in the US. You also have the right to lodge complaints there, even if you live in Europe.

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/surveying-administrative-remedies-for-timeshare-consumers-seeking-relief

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

Who are they? How can AGs, CFPB, FTC, or the BBB Help Us?

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

Many timeshare owners have little or no understanding as to how to go about fostering change when business practices have degenerated to the point such practices become harmful to consumers. This article takes some of the mystery out of governmental and nongovernmental agencies offering a blueprint for consumers to follow.

Given recent actions taken by such agencies, and in light of today’s timeshare climate, we look at what’s happening and examine where we can go from here.

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-court-order-barring-sales-manhattan-club-timeshare-hotel

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.bqeQAdL7#.whk6BDr5

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

Clearly, timeshare needs to change, so I reached out to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group in an effort to understand how regulatory agencies work. Mr. Finn describes his writing style as “lawyerly”.  In order for me to understand an article found on the Finn Law Group “Learning Center”, I have to rewrite it. This serves as some source of consternation to Mr. Finn, but he on occasion graciously allows me to redact one of his papers so that my fellow peasants can understand the topic.

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

The Federal Trade Commission was created in 1914 to prevent unfair and deceptive acts or practices. The FTC does not resolve individual complaints, but provides information about the next steps a consumer may take to resolve an issue.

The FTC looks at fact patterns in an industry. Several (the key word is always several) complaints may indicate a pattern of fraud and abuse which may lead the FTC to investigate and eliminate those unfair practices.

We begin with the FTC, because many states have enacted a portion of this federal act into state law.

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

If a consumer encounters a rogue sales agent in the timeshare industry, the experience can be described as a vicious cycle or circle that begins with the oral representation clause used and abused by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. Consumer complaints beginning with “the salesman said” are sadly told the timeshare developer is protected by the oral representation clause.

In some cases, as in the case of Ralph Marble, maintenance fees escalate so fast the timeshare owner can no longer afford the fee. Mr. Marble was never able to use his vacation plan because of being diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase. His maintenance fees increased from $200 to $684 over eight years.

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/timeshare-woes-for-one-man-who-tried-to-cancel-after-an-illness

Voluntary Surrenders are on a case by case basis. If a timeshare owner is denied a voluntary surrender, they are often driven into the nets of timeshare “listing” or transfer agents. Some transfer agents are bogus which means the owner thinks they have unloaded their timeshare but have not. If the transfer agent is “legitimate”, the surrendered contracts are bundled 50 to 100 contracts and sold back to the timeshare developer, who in turn resells for full price. Thus the circle is complete.

After a four to seven hour timeshare sales presentation, the beleaguered buyer is poorly equipped to read the mile high stack of documents they are about to sign.

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB is one of the newest government agencies created in July 2010 partly in response to the mortgage crisis in the late 2000s. The goal of the CFPB is to watch out for American consumers in the market for consumer financial products and services. The timeshare industry utilizes various financing tools in its sales practices and presentations.

The CFPB told me consumers should choose the mortgage option when filing a timeshare complaint, even if there is no mortgage. Timeshare is somewhat new to the CFPB. If the owner does not want to file a formal complaint, there is an option to “Tell Your Story”. I tell the CFPB stories almost every week.

The CFPB does publish the subject and data of the complaint, feeding its Consumer Complaint Database. Most importantly, the CFPB will report to Congress with the purpose of enforcing federal consumer financial laws and writing better rules and regulations.

As more credit card transactions involving timeshare purchases are generated, the credit card financing aspect should not be overlooked for consumers seeking a monetary resolution to their timeshare purchase issues, assuming a credit card was utilized. Diamond Resorts offers a six month 0% interest rate “Barclaycard” offer if the credit card is used to purchase a timeshare. More and more timeshare developers are acting as new credit card originators for third party financial provides such as Bill Me Later (a division of PayPal) Barclay Bank, Bank of America, and a couple of credit unions.

Unlike other regulatory agencies, companies must reply to the CFPB’s complaints or inquiries. Consumers should file their complaints with the CFPB, but expect only a modest resolution and an opportunity to be heard. However, the more complaints the CFPB receives regarding a company, practice, or industry – the more likely those complaints will be presented to Congress. Congress has the power to create new rules and regulations that can improve the market for consumers when Congress reviews and enacts new laws.

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

An Attorney General (AG) is a publicly elected position. Every state in the US has one. The AG is charged as the chief legal officer for their respective state. The AG’s Office proclaims to protect “timeshare owners by investigating business practices” relating to the sale and resale of timeshare interests.

The AG’s Consumer Protection Division has the civil enforcement authority to investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The Division is additionally responsible for the enforcement of the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act,(“RICO”), which punishes businesses and “enterprises” conducting patterns of illegal activities within a state.

Notably, the AG by law cannot represent private citizens in legal disputes. When a complaint is filed by a consumer, and the AG investigates the alleged misconduct, the AG does not represent the consumer on an individualized basis, but rather the interest of consumers in their state as a whole.

As in the case of the $800000 settlement the Arizona AG reached with Diamond Resorts, if the Division investigates and is successful in prosecuting or settling the action, there is a potential for recovery.

Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation (“DBPR”) state regulatory agency – Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”)

Florida is a timeshare mecca center. The DBPR is an extension of the executive branch of the Governor, and is charged with licensing and regulating all businesses and professionals within the state. The DBPR subdivision relating to timeshares is known as the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”). The Florida Timeshares Division licenses and regulates timeshares through education, complaint resolution, mediation and arbitration, and developer disclosure.

The Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) of this division represents the interests of Florida residents and does not represent individual complainants. In most cases the Department, even with successful prosecution, does not typically recover money that a consumer has lost. Many consumers rightfully wonder what the likelihood of success would be if they take the time to file a complaint.

Statistically speaking, from April, 2014 through April, 2016, the Florida Timeshares Division received 2,360 complaints. Of those complaints, only 110 resulted in action by the Florida Timeshare Division – less than 5%!

The Better Business Bureau BBB

The Better Business Bureau is not a regulatory agency. It is a nongovernmental nonprofit that serves to promote a community of business that consumers can trust. The BBB does not solve consumer disputes. Success is not based on the outcome, but whether the business responded or not.

The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues.

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

The National Timeshare Owners Association is a social purpose organization dedicated to educating, advocating and protecting ownership interests. For nearly 20 years, the NTOA has worked to ensure owners have access to resources available to them. As the oldest and largest member based association, NTOA works closely with other industry associations and stakeholders such as CRDA, TBMA, TATOC, CARE and FTOG. NTOA’s extended relationships include 12 domestic and international developers, HOA‘s and management companies. The NTOA seeks to find solutions to some of the industry’s most complex issues.

Summary and Conclusion

What avenues, if any, exist for the unwary consumer who gets pressured into purchasing a $25,000 to $100,000 or more timeshare interest with credit at a 14% to 19% annual interest rate accompanied by a lifetime and beyond maintenance fee obligation? A thriving resale scam industry exists due to the limited and sometimes nonexistent secondary market.  

It’s not until long after the contract is signed, or if the family experiences a life crisis, they learn that the purchase contract often contains no way out. In all likelihood, the perpetual contract was signed in a same day sale, after a sales presentation that lasted for hours. The elderly are targeted, according to several lawsuit allegations.

success

Given recent regulatory decisions and legal actions, a highway of hope is under construction.  

GET INVOLVED!

To perhaps state the obvious, the timeshare industry is a well-organized and wealthy industry that has the ability to lobby for favorable laws and treatment.  Contrast this with the average consumer who is economically stretching to afford a $25,000 timeshare interest.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to learn more about organized efforts to reform an industry badly in need of reform. Thank you to timeshare companies working towards a safer and owner friendly timeshare industry.

We would like to thank all contributors to this article especially Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group.

Inside Timeshare is here to bring you the latest news on what is happening in the world of timeshare, at present we are very much focused on Europe and the US. We are however working on collaborating with writers in Australia, this will bring you the news on a worldwide scale. We would also like to hear from any owners in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. You can contact Inside Timeshare through our comments section or email direct to admin@insidetimeshare.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

complaints

Call for Change in the US Timeshare Industry

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

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

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

Enjoy the article, it is certainly an eye opener.

FTC = Federal Trade Commission

FBI = Federal Bureau of Investigation

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

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare

December 5, 2016

burglar

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

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

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

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

The Olds Family did open a Barclaycard.

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

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

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