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Friday’s Letter From America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter From America, Irene Parker’s article this week focuses on eleven Platinum Diamond Members who have had problems. But first a round up of the news from Europe.

Once again, those lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have made legal history in Spain. Back in March 2015 they secured the first Supreme Court ruling against the timeshare industry, on Tuesday 13 June, they did it again with their 50th ruling from Spain’s highest court. From our sources, no other law firm in any field has managed to get this many rulings through this court. It certainly has shaped the way the timeshare laws are now being applied.

This latest ruling was against Silverpoint in Tenerife, a company with a long history of litigation against them. Since January the Supreme Court has ruled on no less than 10 cases brought by CLA on behalf of their clients.

Yesterday, Thursday 15 June, it was also announced that the Court of First Instance of Granadilla de Abona Tenerife, has ruled against Diamond Resorts Tenerife Sales SL. The client’s contract was declared null & void and the court ordered the return of over 29,000€ this was because the contract was the Diamond points system.

On Wednesday 14 June we published the Anfi CEO’s letter to members, in his letter he still indicates that the Supreme Court has got the perpetuity contracts decision wrong, he also says that it is not true that Anfi are losing. Well here we go, Wednesday 14 June, the High Court No 3 of Las Palmas once again declared an Anfi contract null & void in respect of the contract being over 50 years in duration (perpetuity) and that it also contained “Floating Weeks”. In this case they have been ordered to pay back over 10,950€

The truth is there and plain to see, it can also be easily verified through the courts themselves. Sounds like the “Fake News” syndrome is catching!

At least in Spain, consumers are getting the protection of the law, maybe our cousins across The Great Lake will take heart, that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Now to Irene’s article.

 

Eleven Platinum Diamond Members Cry Foul

Romeo and Lily Dalisay Share their Story

be strong

By Irene Parker

June 16, 2017

It’s not easy to stand up against wealth and power, whether you are a woman accusing a famous comedian, or a former FBI Director accusing the President of the United States. Any timeshare member who has come forward to share their story can relate to the discomfort felt when the decision has been made to stand up publicly for truth and justice.

Inside Timeshare previously published the story of Romeo Dalisay, age 70, and his wife Lily, age 71, a California Filipino family. Romeo is a retired physical therapist and Lily a hand therapist. The family has maintained a good credit score until now, facing foreclosure for the first time in their life.  Mary was working just to pay for their Diamond Resorts loan and annual maintenance fees, but can no longer work due to complications from diabetes.

Romeo and Lilly decided to release their identity after reading Angela Johnson’s Inside Timeshare article. It was also of great comfort to read about the Fournier family and the lawsuit filed against Diamond Resorts by attorney Amir Goldstein, as the Fournier family is struggling with the foreclosure process as well.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy-group-update/

The Dalisay family is one of eleven Platinum Diamond member families that have reached out to Inside Timeshare alleging they were up-sold to a higher loyalty level by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.

Out of the eleven Platinum member complaints, Diamond’s Advocacy Department has resolved three. Three of the eleven complaints involve Diamond’s rental policy change, which states Diamond members can only rent to friends or families. All hold contracts allowing rentals and were sold on the benefits of renting.

philipines flag

The Dalisays are one of four Filipino families who have reached out to Inside Timeshare. Diamond has helped two of the four Filipino families resolve their complaints. The Dalisays first article was translated into Tagalog.

Diamond Resort’s non-deeded vacation points cannot be listed with any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, so families find themselves forced to foreclose if they are not eligible for a voluntary surrender due to a loan outstanding. Diamond Resorts is the only major timeshare that cannot be listed with an LTRBA member due to restrictions the company has placed on the use of secondary points the LTRBA members feel are more onerous than other major timeshare companies.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints from Diamond members concerning Diamond’s Polo Towers and Cancun Resorts sales tactics. Of the eleven Platinum members filing complaints, six are from these two resorts. One of the six was up-sold by a Polo Towers sales agent while she was training Diamond’s sales agents in Virginia.

In brief, here is a description provided by nine of the eleven Platinum member complaint allegations that do not concern the rental issue except for Irina. Irina Allen has been accused of renting, although she says she only posted one ad on RedWeek on the advice of her sales agent. There are many Diamond rental ads posted on RedWeek. Irina also alleges she was upsold by deceit. The families are listed only by number.

  • Ka’anapali Hawaii sales center, up-sold from US to Hawaii Collection or there would be no Hawaii availability. Virginia sales center, up-sold to take advantage of a 30 cent maintenance fee reduction program that did not exist, Polo Towers Las Vegas sales center, “should have been invited to a meeting” up-sell from Hawaii to US Collection, or they would regret being Hawaii Collection members.
  • Branson MO up-sold to obtain a survivor release benefit, already available, a Ka’anapali up-sell US to Hawaii claiming only Hawaii points can be rented and only Hawaii members have survivor release options.
  • Polo Towers, a Legacy up-sell because points will appreciate and buying Legacy points is the only way to sell points. Complaint resolved in member’s favor.
  • Polo Towers, a Legacy upsell so they could sell their points. Complaint resolved in member’s favor.
  • Polo Towers, a Legacy up-sell as the only way to sell points. Unresolved Irina Allen up-sold in order to use secondary points, the subject of an upcoming article.
  • Polo Towers, a Legacy up-sell as the only way to sell points. Complaint resolved.
  • A Polo Towers sales agent, working in Virginia to train Virginia sales agents (as she said she helped developed many of Diamond’s policies), a Hawaii to US upsell or there would be no US availability. US to Hawaii upsell or there would be no Hawaii availability and renting Hawaii points is allowed only in Hawaii to cover maintenance fees.
  • Romeo and Lily Dalisay described herein.

Back to Romeo and Lily’s story in their own words

The Dalisays are former Monarch owners. Convinced to give up their Monarch deed, they currently own 60,000 Diamond points. The mortgage balance is $85,968 financed by Diamond at 13.1% and the monthly payments are $1,375. Maintenance Fees for 2017 are $9,034. Historically, according to information culled from lawsuits, Diamond points have sold for $3 to $4 a point, so the Dalisays have spent at least $200,000 on vacation points.

Many Monarch owners at all loyalty levels have contacted Inside Timeshare alleging deception, claiming they were told they had to buy additional points due to Monarch’s bankruptcy as they were responsible for their share of Monarch’s debt, when in fact many Monarch owners were able to deed back their Monarch week for a $250 fee.

In Romeo’s and Lily’s words

In Las Vegas at Diamond’s Cancun Resort in 2013, we were told we should have received an invitation to attend a dinner to discuss the transition from Monarch Grand Vacations to Diamond.

“You should have been invited to a dinner” is being used today on Gold Key and Intrawest owners. It seems designed to confuse.

The sales agent asked us to write a letter stating we did not receive the dinner invitation and therefore should be given the same price per point as those who attended the dinner. He faxed our letter to a Las Vegas Diamond office. We were told that due to Monarch’s bankruptcy we would lose our equity if we did not purchase additional Diamond points. The promised one hour meeting lasted five hours. We eventually broke and signed a contract to buy more points.

We constantly received telephone calls asking us to attend more updates. We generally turn them down, but accepted an offer from Diamond’s Cancun Resort. A previous telephone sales encounter from Cancun lasted over three hours.

In Pomona, California July 2015 at another meeting, we again were told we had to get rid of our Monarch points by buying more Diamond points in order to prevent the increase in maintenance fees due to less and less people owning Monarch.

This is a difficult topic and one of great interest to Intrawest and Gold Key owners as well because it is unclear how diminishing numbers of deeded members will be treated. At a 2016 Monarch Annual Meeting it was announced 30% of the remaining 40,000 Monarch owners had not paid their 2016 Maintenance Fees.

The Pomona sales representative said that if we keep our Monarch deed, we will be assessed increased maintenance fees to pay for the repair of the Cabo property caused by a hurricane. Another example he gave was the water damage at The Point at Poipu, a Diamond acquired property in Hawaii.

This meeting lasted over five hours until midnight. Focus, decision making ability, and judgement falter if kept that long. The increase in maintenance fees after this purchase started our financial struggles.

A total of four credit card accounts were opened to pay the down payment.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-finance-barclays-hot-water-high-court/

In 2016, we took out loans to pay our maintenance fees. We also used points to pay maintenance fees, but a point purchased for around $4 is only worth $.04 if used to pay maintenance fees.

stick men

Many of the tricks of the timeshare trade, like promising a buy-back program when none exists, are not unique to Diamond. What is unique is an organized effort among 5,000 Diamond member supported Websites and Facebook members determined to report deception when it occurs by obtaining the sales agent’s name and ID number, the resort location, and date and nature of alleged deceit. In other words, we act to hold Diamond accountable when members feel “the script” is nowhere to be found.

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/

We hope the goals of accountability and transparency promoted by Diamond’s new CLARITY™ program are acted on and enforced as we work in partnership to make sure they are.

Our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ motto, courtesy of Jimi Hendrix, is Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens. It is our hope that one day timeshare developers will not look upon customers such as those described in this article as “the enemy”. Those mentioned in this article with issues resolved issues were initially denied and had to fight for a positive outcome. We teach our children to admit when they make a mistake, but grown-ups working in the corporate liability world must abandon this important principle in order to survive in a sometimes customer unfriendly world.

truth set you free

So there we have it another week over in the murky world of timeshare, thanks to all those who contribute, either by writing their stories or just giving us the heads up on the latest news. The truth is out there as Mulder and Scully from the X-Files would say, it is just a matter of who you wish to believe, those who sold it to you or independent sources?

friday dog

Have a good weekend.

stop press

Just as we were about to publish this news came in from the High Court Number 3 of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Diamond Resorts Tenerife Sales SL, (Diamond Resorts Management Ltd), Club Sunterra Europe Ltd,(Sunterra Europe Ltd) Diamond Resorts International have just been ordered to return over 33,451€, with the client’s contract being declared null & void.

Clarity: The Quality of Being Coherent and Intelligible.

Yesterday Inside Timeshare highlighted the plight of owners at Los Claveles resort in Tenerife, our US readers have a similar problem with developers attempting to take over resorts. Their problem is the transfer of deeded weeks to points, rather than the heavy handed actions of the Ona Group. We have also seen this in Europe, where the likes of MacDonald Resorts with the tacit approval of the owners committees association TATOC, are attempting to change all fixed week owners to their ridiculous points system. A system which only allows a stay under one condition “SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY”.

Over the past few months Irene Parker Inside Timeshares partner from across The Great Lake, has been highlighting the problems that Diamond owners are having. One of the main themes has been the downright lies sales agents have been using to sell more and more points to people who obviously cannot afford it. The use of the Diamond BarclayCard is one tactic they have used, with promises that it reduces maintenance fees. Irene has in previous articles shown how this has devastated people’s lives.

Diamond sometime ago rolled out “Clarity”, supposedly to make everything transparent, today’s article from Irene poses the following question:

Is the Diamond Resorts Clarity Program Real?

facts

By Irene Parker

May 23, 2017

My husband and I stayed over two weeks at Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links and Los Abrigados this past month. Anxious to hear more about Diamond’s Clarity Program, I asked if I could speak with a sales agent to learn more. Unfortunately, my requests at the concierge desk and emails went unheeded. Disappointed, I approached several existing members asking them for their feedback. I had hoped to hear positive stories.

Two of the families I spoke with did not want to go on record, but Faye and Mike Hanrahan from New Jersey shared their experience with me. I probably picked the wrong couple because they are former Monarch owners. Diamond has pursued former Monarch owners to give up their deeded timeshare week in exchange for non-deeded “right-to-use” points. In addition to Monarch, ILX, Intrawest and now Gold Key face the same battle in an attempt to hold onto their deeds.

Here’s what happened at Los Abrigados in Sedona according to Faye and Mike:

We had our sit down. We were told we have no way out of Monarch unless we spend approximately $10,000 for the equivalent of 6,000 Diamond vacation points with either a $1,400 maintenance fee or, if we signed a contract that same day, an $871maintenance fee. After we refused the first sales agent, we were introduced to an agent who said he was an original Monarch owner, but now worked for Apollo, although he had on a Diamond name tag. It was because he was with Apollo he could offer a half price on maintenance fee offer if we signed before leaving the room. Already familiar with timeshare, we knew there is no such opportunity for one owner to have half off the company’s maintenance fee. They offered to help by opening a Diamond Barclaycard for $3,995 put up by Barclays. The deal was to pay $39.95 month for 23 months to buy a “Club Combination for Life” program. After 23 months we were told we could use the $4,000 to buy into Diamond or Barclays will “zero out the debt” having paid a total of $918.85 at the end of 23 months. We of course could continue to use the credit card. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of this timeshare?

Pressure to give up a deed is a frequent complaint. Once you give up your deed, the Diamond owner is no longer allowed to rent using a third party rental agency or website.

But back to Clarity, which is about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. In the spirit of fair and balanced reporting, here are some excerpts about Clarity provided by Maya Pogoda, PR spokesperson for Diamond resorts.

Before we begin, I should mention that Inside Timeshare has been hearing from Diamond members on almost a daily basis. The majority of complaints received have been about upsells to existing members, even Platinum members, as per the individuals who reported to us, for the following reasons:

The only way to sell Diamond points is to buy more points because only Platinum members can sell their points.

The only way your heirs don’t have to keep up with maintenance fees is to upgrade to the next loyalty level. One family bought more points for this reason only to be told by the next agent at a subsequent presentation this benefit is already available, as she pointed out in a guidebook.

You should not have bought US Collection points because you won’t be able to book Hawaii (if in Hawaii) or you should not have bought Hawaii points because Hawaii maintenance fees are going to increase dramatically (if on the US mainland).

The only way to be eligible for a $.30 maintenance fee reduction is to upgrade to the next loyalty level. Only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point.

You need to buy more points because you can’t do anything with the small number of points you purchased.

Member stories are listed in our Barclaycard article

Timeshare and Barlcaycard in the US

Here is Diamond’s perspective on Clarity from PR spokesperson, Maya Pogoda. Her comments are from discussions we had in January and were previously reported.

“We have been piloting the various elements of the Diamond Clarity program for some time,” Pogoda explained. “Now that we gained the confidence that each of these pieces were effective, we were able to roll out this cohesive, national program that seeks to enhance the overall customer experience when purchasing and holding a vacation membership. Diamond Clarity will rewrite industry best practices by increasing transparency for the consumer and accountability for our team members.”

Pogoda noted that 70% of its sales are to existing members, however, Diamond Clarity “will improve the overall customer experience by increasing transparency for the consumer and accountability for our team members. At Diamond Resorts, we are always working to provide our members with the best possible vacation experiences. This focus on hospitality and creating lasting experiences has made Diamond Resorts an industry leader. We have always believed that customer satisfaction creates loyalty. So while the definition of customer loyalty has not changed, our commitment to finding new ways to drive customer satisfaction to create loyalty evolves constantly. Diamond Clarity is evidence of that.”

Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel within the company’s corporate headquarters, to quickly address any issues or concerns members may have. This new platform will allow Diamond Resorts to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

No one doubts there are are Diamond members who are sold honestly and fairly, but over 250 Diamond member families have bonded together through our advocacy Facebook to support one another as we fight off endless up-sell attempts that have driven families further and further into debt.

To date our Advocacy group has received and assisted the following complaints.

Our Advocacy Efforts Statistics Update

75 Inquiries for assistance

55 Formal interventions complaints filed or assisted with

Reasons for 75 complaints as provided by the complainants

34 Sold by deception and bait and switch

09 Barclaycard upsell/predatory lending

02 30 cents to convert to MF relief (non-existent program)

06 Switch back from HI to US Collection or vice versa

06 Maintenance fees increases

02 Survivor benefit program (non-existent as already available)  

08 Bought more points told it was the only way to exit the timeshare

08 Lack of Availability

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/

According to Maya,

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 objective and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity Program.”

The recording of the QA session is the biggest sore point Diamond members have with Clarity. Many of our complaints include the sales agent advising the buyer not to say anything about an exciting new program because “The program is not public yet so I could lose my job if you tell anyone.” Arizona allows the recording of the sales session but few buyers will go to the trouble.

Marjorie Menacker’s experience is an example of this. To date, Diamond has denied her release.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond

We end with some member advocate comments as to why these upsold members are wary.

inspired advocates

Irene Allen

Jan 28 (5 days ago)   

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

This new program by DRI is a very predictable step after the Arizona Attorney General’s action. If Clarity is about transparency, why does Maya not once reveal the only reason the company issued the program is because Diamond is essentially under state supervision in Arizona after the issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” after over 400 complaints received claiming Diamond violated Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.

 DRI is obligated to demonstrate cooperation and compliance to new disclosure requirements by the AZ AG, but the company will do nothing for existing owners because they purchased contracts during the “Murky Stage”

“Clarity” does not have any provision of fixing the existing and growing problems which are flooding the courtrooms all over the world where DRI operates ….

  1. Regarding recording the QA sessions by DRI, this should be only offered if attendees, who are, according to “Clarity“, 70% existing owners, be allowed to do the same in order to establish a level playing field. Otherwise it is a trap participating owners will end up in, because it will give DRI additional defense tool in the courtroom.
  1. Regarding creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel. This Channel should have consumer rights attorneys and secret observers not employed by DRI in order to eliminate conflict of  interest.
  1. Regarding increase training to frontline personal. The frontline personnel had superb national training during the “Murky Stage”. How else can you explain the fact so many owners all over the world had exactly the same upsell by deceit and “bait and switch” during sales presentations? Many of our 250 Facebook member families claim sales representatives all over the world presented exactly the same falsified and misleading comments in order to entice owners to buy additional points. The name of the national sales training program should be: “101 ways how to deceive owners during sales presentation process and increase the volume of sales.”

Second member comment

I realize we are all skeptical about “promises” made by DRI, but this program has the potential of making a positive impact on our relationship with DRI.

Third member, a Diamond member and an attorney

  • Is the idea that none of these rules were previously in place?  It appears to me these are designed as Diamond CYA’s going forward, “we have a recording” or “there as an observer” or “contact the consumer advocacy channel within __ days”.  For Diamond to say the allegations we all experience did not happen.  

What does this accomplish for the victims of the bad business practices from the past?

  • 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.
  • Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel within the company’s corporate headquarters, to quickly address any issues or concerns members may have.  This new platform will allow Diamond Resorts to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.
  • Increased training of frontline personnel.  All sales and marketing personnel will take part in quarterly training exercises to reinforce their awareness, understanding, and compliance with all sales and marketing rules, principles, and practices.
  • Regularly placing “Consumer Engagement Observers” at sales presentations to continuously provide the sales organization with feedback necessary to achieve constant improvement.  
  • I would suggest these are great improvements to the training and consumer friendly positions Diamond should have had all along.  It does nothing to help people who have already suffered with no recourse from Diamond.
  • If their product was so great, Clarity would be evident within the first 6-12 months of an owner’s experience with the company.  It would be clear that this is “everything they said and represented” or it is “nothing that I was promised” and the consumer would still have options to exit, sell or rescind on some compromised plan. The longer you wait the less you retain.

I am not impressed.

Fourth comment anonymous due to Litigation

Enforcement of DRI “PROMISE” is difficult, unlikely, and merely a smoke screen to generate a false sense of security regarding oversight. It is another set of unenforced regulatory promises which incidentally spawned the crisis currently engulfing Diamond owners. The paltry AG financial agreement and appurtenant agreements simply demonstrate that the AZ AG is taking steps to protect itself from accusations of inaction.

Their behavior is reminiscent of the legal machinations demonstrated by ADRE and California Department of Real Estate. Complainants with ADRE regarding fraudulent practices at Diamond are told that such a complaint is an employee/employer dispute.

When filing complaints with RE regulatory agencies, it must be understood that determinations that deflect the fraud accusations are made to avoid costly investigations. This embraces the policy of waiting for some catastrophic event to prompt unavoidable enforcement action. It does not eliminate the need to continue to create a public record of these complaints, and legitimate demands to be made whole from recovery funds. Misleading determinations by these agencies should be challenged in order to demonstrate the lack of responsible enforcement pertaining to regulatory obligations.

Fifth anonymous member

If we only hear one side of the story or information how are we truly being informed? That is what happened with the hard sales only hearing their side. Our Advocacy members and Diamond need to hear and listen to both sides instead of the constant media spin.

You can share.

Sixth anonymous member

I’m afraid I don’t have much hope that this “Diamond Promise” will change much. I purchased a Sampler package in Sedona in 2012 and annual points the next year in Las Vegas. As best as I can recall, the procedures enumerated in the “new” Diamond Promise existed then, and still I was misled on some important issues.

The Diamond Clarity program has no mechanism which commits the vacation counselors, sales managers, and quality assurance officers to the Promise. In other words, there is no effective enforcement mechanism. Such a mechanism must impose a cost on the seller when the promise is violated.

The economic analysis of warranties has shown that a product sold with a warranty creates an incentive for companies to improve product quality. Reductions in the level of quality – like the misleading sales information in the case of timeshares – leads to higher warranty costs and thereby penalizes such behavior. We have good reasons to believe that in the absence of warranties high quality products get driven out of the market, while low quality products are driven out when warranties are used.

This new program depends on the trust in and good will from Diamond managers. But this is the same group that is incentivized to increase sales and revenue for the organization.

Seventh anonymous member

Promises are only as good as the party providing the assurances. I too see no real means of enforcement, and if anything this could provide an excuse for relaxed oversight by regulators.

I have been pressing the AZ Dept. of RE for 3 years to take enforcement action against DRI’s brokers.  It has been clearly demonstrated that they are negligent in discharging their responsibilities pursuant to RE statute.

I would recommend that owners look at filing a claim with ADRE as complaints are mounting regarding DRI behaviors.

Eighth anonymous member due to litigation

Clarity is definitely a meaningless program – except to bolster Diamond’s position in court.  I can hear it now – our QA monitored sessions prove no widespread fraudulent practices.  

Agents will know when they are being monitored or recorded so they will be on their best behavior.

Shacking hands

Will there ever be a day when we can all get along by communicating and responding to voices of the concerned?

Once again thanks to Irene and all who contribute from the other side of The Great Lake, one thing is for certain, owners on both sides are starting to see that by joining together they can make a difference.

To those owners at Los Claveles, you do have support, we only need to bring it together.

getting together

If you have any comments on any article published or would like to contribute, Inside Timeshare welcomes you.