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JOANNE JOHNSON

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now on with our letter from America.

What is a Defamatory Statement?  

When to File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Irene Parker

July 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The response from the company to the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Defamation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defamation Per Se  

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

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

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

Emily Doskow, attorney

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

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

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

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

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

Related article: Timeshare Advocacy Group™

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

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

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

Midweek Roundup and Another Dodgy Looking Setup

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

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

Positive Outcome – Contractual Specialists

With the address:

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

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

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

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

[email protected]

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

So what has concerned our reader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click below to read the two emails.

Lance Emails