Browse Tag

Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service

Start the Week: Diamond Lose in Tenerife; Latest news on Tauro Beach and Anfi.

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we report on two cases Diamond Resorts have lost in Tenerife, but first we look at the disturbing scenes at Tauro Beach over the weekend.

Over the past year Inside Timeshare has been reporting on the debacle that is the Anfi Tauro Beach Project, this has been an ongoing saga, with charges being brought against the former head of the coastal authority along with others and a full blown investigation by Seprona, the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service.

It has been well reported that Anfi had plans to transform the old shingle beach into a man made one with sand, build a marina and also several hotels with a shopping complex on the land behind. It turns out that part of the investigation into the beach found the sand had been illegally imported from the Western Sahara. (see link to The Guardian Article).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/28/trouble-in-paradise-the-canary-island-beach-accused-of-illegally-importing-sand

Now a company called Desokupa went in over the weekend and began demolishing the homes of those who live there. The reason is the land “belongs” to Anfi, who claim that these dwellings are illegal. Whether they are or not is not the point, considering that there are no planning permissions in place and the fact that the Anfi concession to run the beach is on hold while the Gran Canarian government apply to the courts to revoke the licenses. Should these demolitions have waited until the outcome?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIHbrdIC_To&feature=share

Was there a court order which allowed Anfi to bring in the bulldozers?

All valid questions which will eventually be answered, but what we have lost is a little bit of old Gran Canaria and a very popular paradise spot, for locals and tourists alike. The bar Pio Pio is one of the most popular venues in the area at the weekend, with a wonderful atmosphere and great music. Is that now in danger!

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

Since publishing this following has appeared on facebook for Nueva Canarias

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10155352630021755&id=185892306754

It will take you to the link below, this is very disturbing news.

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

Now for the court cases against Diamond Resorts and a look at timeshare law compared to other places.

Both these cases were heard at the High Court No 3, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, both were appeals on behalf of the British clients. These cases were originally held at the Courts of First Instance and unfortunately the clients lost those cases. These were heard before the Supreme Court in Madrid issued the numerous rulings (now 126) on how the timeshare laws should be interpreted and applied.

Before these rulings, different courts and judges interpreted the laws differently, no one actually knew how the laws should be applied. This is nothing unusual in legal work, laws are put into place, but it is not until they are tested and challenged are they effective, this is what the Supreme Court has done, issued a definitive interpretation.

In the first case, the client has been awarded over 19,000€ plus legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

In the second case held at the same court, over 30,000€ has been awarded plus legal interest, again the contract being declared null and void.

The court found several infringements of Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, (along with other relevant Consumer Laws), with contracts being over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of payments within the cooling off period. The court also found as per the rulings from Spain’s Highest Court that the contracts lacked any substance or tangible product as they were points based. These have been declared illegal in Spain. (See PDF’s below for the court sentences).

HC n 3 Diamond 1

HC N3 Diamond 2

So how does Spain’s timeshare laws compare with elsewhere?

During the early days in Europe, timeshare was virtually unregulated, know one actually knew what it was, was it real estate, as that is how it was “sold” to the public, a share in your own holiday home, or was it purely a holiday product which was not an investment?

The free for all lasted some years, then the European Union issued the first of many Timeshare Directives, these were to try and regulate the industry, with the directives supposedly being put into the domestic laws of each member state. Basically all singing off the same hymn sheet!

In some countries, the directives were very much watered down, the industry trade body The RDO and the “representing” owners body TATOC, (now defunct), successfully lobbied the UK parliament and those laws are probably the weakest in Europe, they tend to be in favour of the industry not the consumer.

Spain on the other hand had a very different approach, which in some respects is not that surprising. Spain was one of the major places for timeshare development, they had just recently found freedom and democracy, with the country in dire need of development. The building of resorts and the tourist industry was one of the most important factors in this development.

The unfortunate thing is the free run timeshare developers had, timeshare was being sold even before the resorts were actually started, known as off plan. Many consumers got stung in these enterprises, with the resort they paid for never even getting built.

People on holiday were being picked up off the street left right and center, taken to sales presentations and coerced into parting with huge sums of money. Spain’s reputation as a great holiday destination was being sullied by these practices.

That all changed in December 1998, when the government introduced Law 42/98, based on the EU Timeshare Directives, but stronger. Spain was going to have the strongest laws in Europe and this was going to hurt the industry if they didn’t comply.

The law became effective on 5 January 1999, although they did allow a period where the timeshare companies could get their house in order and comply. One aspect of the law was regarding the duration of the contract, before, these were sold in perpetuity, there was no end date. The law now demanded that contracts be for a duration of a minimum 3 years and maximum of 50 years. Timeshare companies were allowed to place a deed of adaptation to all contracts sold before the law came into place, this allowed the pre 99 perpetuity contracts to remain, but all new sales must conform.

Many ignored this, on advice from their lawyers many continued to sell perpetuity, citing the deed of adaptation as the basis for carrying on. This obviously was one point that needed to be tested in the Supreme Court, but that would be many years ahead.

As a point of interest, there were two countries where timeshare laws only allowed for a maximum of 30 years on contracts, they are Madeira and Malta. Those had been put into place right at the start of timeshare development.

Another aspect of the law which Spain has put into place is the illegality of the Floating Weeks and Points systems. According the the Supreme Court they have ruled the timeshare law clearly states that any contract must have substance and tangibility, in other words the guarantee of the apartment and the week being sold. Floating weeks and points do not do this, you only have a right to use subject to availability.

So how does this compare with our friends experience across the Great Lake in the US?

Well from the many articles we have published on Inside Timeshare, they are sadly lacking any control or real consumer protection, it is pot luck which State you have purchased as to what protection you have. There appear to be no Federal Laws governing the sale of timeshare.

In Europe we have the 14 day cooling off period, where no payments should be taken and the consumer has the right to cancel, in some States we have been informed this can be as little as 3 days!

From what we have published, there are so many different agencies and authorities for the consumer to turn to, from Attorneys General (that depends on which State you are in) to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI. (See link below on filing a complaint).

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-teusday-slot-with-irene/

We are seeing many complaints coming into Inside Timeshare on the practises of sales agents, which the timeshare companies seem to condone. There needs to be regulations to govern what is acceptable and what is not, these should be right across the board so that no matter which State you purchase in, the rules are the same for all.

Canada is preparing new legislation on the regulation of timeshare, we hope to bring you news of this from our Canadian readers in the near future.

South Africa is also pushing for changes, there have been several high profile cases against the timeshare industry, resulting in jail time and massive fines. It will not be long before they also have some of the strongest laws regulating timeshare in the world.

In Australia, there is also a move to regulate the timeshare industry, we have published in the past a couple of articles on timeshare down under. Again we wait for our Antipedian friends to submit their articles.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of timeshare, it may not suit everybody, after all we are all different, but it is how it is sold and administered that is the problem. For too long the industry has and in many cases, the US in particular, still carries on as though they are untouchable.

Diamond believed this in Spain, these cases highlighted today and those in the past along with the many more waiting to be heard, are letting them know that they are not above the law and will be curbed and brought to justice. Consumer protection is paramount in any industry, after all it is the consumer’s money that keeps any company afloat!

If you have any comments on this or any other article, then use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes them.

Are you being contacted by different companies offering claims or relinquishments? If so and you are not sure if they are genuine and will do what they say, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you look for the information and point you in the right direction.

Tomorrow we publish an article by a new contributor, Diane Creager and titled Elder Advocates, so join us tomorrow and welcome Diane.

2016 End of Year Review

So here we are at the end of another year and what a year it has been, it started with the relaunch of Inside Timeshare, bringing you truthful information and news you would otherwise not get.

One of our first articles explained what fly buys are, the fact you would get a cheap holiday but be subject to attending a presentation. At this you would be pitched a holiday product of some sort, be it a holiday club or timeshare. The article also warned of the pitfalls of not attending the presentation, either being charged the full accommodation price and in many cases being removed from the resort.

We also highlighted many “scams” that timeshare owners have been subjected to over the years including many new ones. The latest being the article on Litigious Abogados (see links). We also showed how some of the so-called resale companies operate, giving you the reader the information to make an informed choice.

http://insidetimeshare.com/1059-2/

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-update/

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-latest-information/

CLA Logo

Another theme Inside Timeshare published was the on-going woes of Anfi, the first article titled: “The Great ANFI Battle of the Partners”, explained the story of the two partners in the Anfi empire, the Lyngs and the Cazorlas. We then published the story of legal history being made with the very first Supreme Court ruling, this was the case of the Norwegian lady, Mrs Tove Grimsbo and her battle with Anfi. The case was brought on her behalf by Canarian Legal Alliance.

Since that auspicious occasion, Canarian Legal Alliance has gone from strength to strength, securing 36 rulings from the Highest Court in Spain, 29 of these have been against Anfi. Others have been against TasolanPalm Oasis and Holiday Club Puerto Calma, with the ruling against Puerto Calma confirming the Fractional did indeed come under Timeshare Laws. This resulted in around 243,000 Euros being returned to a British client.

There have also been 24 High Court and 21 Local Court rulings against various timeshare companies including Resort Properties / Silverpoint and Club La Costa. Some of these Courts have been in Maspalomas, Arona, Barcelona and Fuengirola. There are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euro, with 117.208.00 Euros reclaimed per month, there are on average 2 to 3 cases per week being heard.

(These figures are what we have on file, there have obviously been more cases, but we have yet to receive an update).

This is certainly an impressive achievement by this law firm, who has in the past suffered from some very negative press instigated by the industry itself. Inside Timeshare congratulates the whole team at Canarian Legal Alliance, including the clients who in some cases have waited years for these results.

Another series of articles have been about MacDonald Resorts and the ongoing battle of Mrs B, now known as Mrs Price. It is a case that has riled us at Inside Timeshare, who are fighting on her behalf. The story revolves around MacDonald Resorts refusal to accept that she no longer owns a timeshare at Dona Lola in Spain, continuing to harass this 87 year old via a debt collecting agency Network Credit Services. This harassment has included threats of court action to recover a debt that is not owed, this case has been referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Inside Timeshare will continue to highlight this case until MacDonald Resorts abandon the chase for money. It must also be noted that the RDO, which is the industry trade body has also washed their hands of this company.

In the April article “The Resurrected” a warning was issued about an old company from Fuengirola had come back to life. It is the story of Ramirez and Ramirez, who several years ago were very active in deceiving many timeshare and holiday club members out of thousands for bogus claims. It must be said that very little has been heard of them since.

Mark of excellence

We have also had a few light hearted moments, although they did come with a serious message. In the spoof article “A New Member to EGTBW”, it explained about the trade bodies for the timeshare industry operate. This was extremely fun to write and gave many people a good laugh, the only problem was that it was actually based on fact.

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-member-egtbw/

Back in July we started to publish the ongoing story of the Tauro Beach Project, the fact that irregularities had been uncovered and an investigation had been started by the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA). As the story unfolded the Head of The Canarian Coastal Authority had been dismissed and is now awaiting trial for wrong doing in public office and forgery of official documents. Then in August we published the story of the local inhabitants and their homes being flooded, this instigated further investigations which also include the local mayor. The story continues. (search Tauro Beach for further information).

We also teamed up with Irene Parker in the United States, she has provided some valuable information and interesting articles on the world of timeshare across the Great Lake. Below is her latest article.

What Timeshare Owners Can Look forward to:

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker,  December 26, 2016

2017

Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:

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

The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys general:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and  solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.

Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?

round-table

Westgate

Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

Another US Attorney General Exposes Deceptive Tactics.

Wyndham $20 Million

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.

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

The Manhattan Club

Attorney Douglass Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

Marriott Racketeering

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.

 http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

holidays-are-hereI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

  • A legitimate secondary market
  • Less aggressive and deceptive selling
  • Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Human leverage and a clearinghouse of information exchange is the answer.

inside final small

So that is the end of 2016, we hope you will join us in 2017 and also help us to get the news out to others. Without your information many of the articles, particularly on possible scam or bogus companies will not be published. So from the Charles and Irene, we wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

happy-new-year

Tauro Beach Project: Canarian Government Revoke Anfi Concession.

The newspaper La Provincia on 27 November 2016 has published news on the ongoing problems with the Tauro Beach Project, it has been announced that the Canary Island Government is to revoke the concessions awarded to Anfi for the development of this area.

la-provincia

This comes after the investigation started by SEPRONA, the Guardia Civil  Nature Protection Service into irregularities into the licences and permissions that were granted. We have already seen the head of the Coastal Authority, Jose Maria Hernandez, dismissed from his post and facing charges for “Breach of Trust” and Forgery of documents. This case has been declared admissible by Court No3 of San Bartolome de Tirajana. Also an investigation is underway into the Mayor of Mogan, over her involvement.

It transpires that Anfi are being stripped of the concession and being accused of starting the work without providing the correct paperwork. They have also been accused of encroaching on land that was not part of the original project and not completing the project correctly. It appears that they have only laid sand on a fraction of the beach, 1300 sq meters and not the 3811 sq meters as agreed. Environmentalist are also up in arms as the 70,000tonnes of sand imported from the Sahara has not been treated. This according to them means it could contain “invasive species”, which could have a detrimental effect on the local environment.

Playa-Anfi-Tauro-Canarias-Ahora_EDIIMA20160716_0223_18

The current permits allow Anfi to develop the beach area, building hotels, commercial center and beach services for profit, with the concession running for 50 years. Because of the infractions uncovered, the licences and permits will be revoked, with initial proceedings being heard at the local court of San Bartolome de Tirajana.

This is certainly a huge blow for the Anfi Group and the new 50% owners Lopesan. The financial consequences of this could be huge, it may mean that Anfi will have to spend to put things right, but it also means they have lost the huge investments already made in the project.

It now remains to be seen what will happen next, will there be more charges as the investigation continues?

How is this all going to affect Anfi as a whole, will it mean an increase in maintenance to help cover the losses incurred in the project?

As the investigation goes on, Inside Timeshare will bring you the news as it comes out.

Click on the PDF links for the La Provincia article:

costas-abre-expediente-al-grupo-anfi-para-revocarle-la-concesion-de-tauro-la-provincia-diario-de-las-palmas

costas-open-file-to-the-anfi-group-to-revoke-the-granting-of-taurus-the-province-diario-de-las-palmas

Follow these links for more information:

https://m.facebook.com/notes/gran-canaria/surprise-tauro-beach-so-dodgy-the-government-is-taking-it-away/1664104110273792

https://youtu.be/txEIuzIT7M4

http://insidetimeshare.com/first-prosecution-tauro-beach-project-filed/

http://insidetimeshare.com/mayor-mogan-investigation-anfi-tauro-beach-project/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-project-latest-news/

http://insidetimeshare.com/anfi-tauro-beach-project-people-flooded/

If you have any questions about this story, contact Inside Timeshare and we will be pleased to answer them. If you have any information about this or any other subject Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you.

My Thoughts for Today: End of August.

So here we are, the end of August and what a month it has been, we ended July with the breaking news about the Anfi Beach Project at Tauro. It was announced the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) had begun an investigation into irregularities in the permissions that were granted.

Playa-Anfi-Tauro-Canarias-Ahora_EDIIMA20160716_0223_18

This resulted in the dismissal of the head of the Coastal Authority, it appears the investigation which is ongoing may result in more dismissals and may even end in charges being brought. Inside Timeshare has been following the case as more information came to light, on 1 August Ben Magec of Ecologists in Action called for “the immediate shutdown and sealing” of the project, pointing out that it was having a detrimental effect on the nearby Special Area of Conservation.

 

Then on 5 August, Inside Timeshare published the story about the floods that occurred the day before, posting a video made by one of the local residents. At the time the flooding occurred it was a high tide, this would not have been a problem when the beach was in its original state. The rocks and pebble beach which was much higher than the sand beach, created a natural defence, with the rocks breaking up the waves. Without this natural defence the sea just rolled over the beach, flooding several homes.

 

August 8th, we published further videos of the flooding and photographs of some of the damage caused to homes of the local residents. The Bomberos (fire brigade) spent considerable time helping to pump out the water from these homes, but damage to many appliances such as fridges and washing machines was considerable. The local population then made denuncias (official complaints) to the Guardia Civil, who are now investigating. One comment from a resident was who was going to pay for the damage, they also felt they were being ignored that they were “desperate, nobody pays attention to us”.

CLA Logo

On 9 August it was announced that Canarian Legal Alliance had just won their 18th Supreme Court Victory, this took the rulings by the Supreme Court against Anfi to an incredible 17. In this particular case the court awarded over 45,000€ plus interest and legal fees to the client. Again the court stated that contracts over 50 years, floating weeks and taking deposits within the 14 day cooling off period illegal. So another happy client of Canarian Legal Alliance.

 

Then on 15 August another win for a client of CLA, this time at the High Court in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. A staggering 66,907€ plus interest and legal fees were awarded to the client, also their contract was declared null & void. The High Court cited the Supreme Court rulings in making this judgement, showing that the judgements from Madrid are having a profound effect on how the lower courts rule.

 

The following day we published an article on the argument that is raging between TESS (Timeshare Exits & Support Services) and the Monster Travel Group. It highlighted two articles published on the TESS website on the same day, in this Tess pulled no punches in the accusations laid against Monster Travel. It also made a scathing attack on the sales staff, particularly what TESS called the “Taylor Twins”, again TESS pulled no punches.

eldiario

Then it was published in the Spanish press that the boss at Anfi (one of the part owners) Santana Cazorla was moving to Morocco for “retirement”. El Diario headlined it as Santana Cazorla se refugia en Marruecos” or Santana Cazorla takes refuge in Morocco. Inside Timeshare published this story on 17 August, in the article the questions asked are what had prompted this news. One only has to see the problems of Anfi with the court cases being brought by their members, then to cap it all the accusations and investigation into the Tauro Beach Project.

 

Just to move away from Anfi for once, Diamond Resorts announced that they had sold off their interests at the Garden Lago resort in Mallorca. The ONA Group now run Garden Lago, they also have interests at the  Cala de Mar and Cala Pi resorts, also in Mallorca. It also highlighted one member who bought because they loved it there, now Diamond have no interests there, the only way for them to use the points they own is to use them on exchange, or book direct with the resort. With this last option they would have to pay the going rate as their points would not be used.

 

19 August, CLA announced another victory at the High Court in Las Palmas, the British couple Mr & Mrs Hammond had their contract declared null & void. They were also awarded a full refund including interest and legal fees, it was not stated how much this was.

 

So in all, August has turned into quite an eventful month, it remains to be seen what September will bring.

 

If you have any questions relating to any of these articles please contact Inside Timeshare and we will do our best to answer them. It only remains for me to say have a great bank holiday weekend and I hope the weather is just as good for you to get the BBQ´s out.

bbq man