On 30th January 2019, the High Court wound up the company ITRA, this followed many cases brought against them in various courts around the UK from many clients who paid for services to extricate them from timeshare contracts and claim compensation.
This case brought before the High Court was made by a couple that had previously taken ITRA to court. Their grounds in the original case were unlawful conduct which involved misrepresentations and failure to provide the promised services. The services were relinquishment of the timeshare contract and a claim for compensation. It turns out even though the couple had won their case, ITRA failed to refund the money paid for the services as ordered by the courts.
ITRA were by no means unknown by the UK authorities, they had been investigated on many occasions for being involved in various deceptions. The UK authorities named them as being the main instigators of a classic “bait & switch” tactic, where consumers were invited to meetings for legal assistance. They were then sold “concierge services” or holiday club, which has also been described as “leisure credits”.
As far as the relinquishments are concerned, it is well known that many of the timeshare resorts did not recognise these, a case in point is our own Mrs B, who paid ITRA many thousands of pounds to relinquish her Dona Lola timeshare. As we know, ITRA transferred the timeshare to a named person for the nominal sum of 1 euro. MacDonald Resorts have never recognised this transfer, and Mrs B is still being threatened with court action for maintenance arrears, she is 90 years old!
This news was broken by Timeshare Business Check, which is part of KwikChex, funded by the Resorts Development Organisation (RDO). Which we know that it is their own members who did not recognise any of the transfers, if indeed ITRA did actually do them. In a way it is the industry that has brought about this sorry state of affairs where timeshare consumers can be taken in by companies such as ITRA.
As for KwikChex, Inside Timeshare published an article about them and Chris Emmins the director, in March 2016. This was when they were awarded the contract to take over from the discredited Alberto Garcia, who directed the “Enforcement Programme” along with mindtimeshare on behalf of the RDO, forming Timeshare Business Check and the “Timeshare Taskforce” (bit of a hollywood name). You will see from the article that Chris Emmins does not have a very good track record as a director.
It appears that the Anti Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has reduced the highest penalty of imprisonment to 24 months, a far cry from the 8 to 12 years originally called for. The reason is that the Prosecutor’s Office applied a mitigation of undue delays as the investigation which actually began 20 years ago.
However, the defendants will be liable for a subsidiary civil liability of 1,890,000 euros. A rather paltry amount considering the millions that was scammed from their victims.
The largest sentences of 24 months were given to Richard Cashman, Palmer’s lieutenant, for illicit association, fraud and money laundering.
Darren Morris was hand 10 months for unlawful association, 10 months for fraud and 4 months for money laundering. He was also handed a further 1 year for a firearm with the serial number erased, which was found in his home.
Christine Ketley who was jailed for 2 years on 2001 in the UK along with palmer and the lawyer Ramón Solano seem to have been spared sentence.
The prosecutor had also asked for a sentence of 8 months for Jacobba Visscher who ran the headquarters of Dinastia Resorts for 44 charges of fraud, this is reduced from the 8 years originally requested.
In the end although they have finally been brought to court, somehow the victims will not think that justice has actually been served.
In Gran Canaria the Judges in Maspalomas have been consistently declaring there is no need for cases against Anfi to go to a full trial. These Judges have decided to pass their resolutions at the preliminary hearing, yesterday 5 January, 5 preliminary hearings took place with all 5 having results announced without the full trial. For the clients this will mean no travelling for the trial and a much speedier resolution to their case.
In Tenerife a cash embargo has been placed to the value of 44,494.20€ against Silverpoint. Great news for this particular client, as the original claim was 32,791.75€, 11,702.45€ more. They will also get legal fees and legal interest.
Back to the courts in Gran Canaria, Another embargo has been placed against Anfi to the value of 12,882.79€ on behalf of a German client. The enforcement team consisting of the lawyers Judith Diaz Pascual and Cristina Batista are obviously doing a fantastic job on behalf of their clients.
In January the state of play was:
76 trials in all Spanish courts
28 appeals from the opposition
1 supreme court hearing
21 provisional executions
9 provoked interventions
1 cash embargo against Anfi
47 sentences all in favor of our CLA clients
1.600.000 € in claim amounts
Once again this does go to show that contrary to some posters on various forums and websites that have an axe to grind that CLA does not do what it says and along with the timeshare resorts and RDO who deny they are losing, or that the courts have got the law wrong, that is certainly not the case. These are all a matter of public record and can be verified.
If you have any comments or questions about this or any article published then use our contact page, we welcome the feedback.
Also if you have had dealings with any company or are about to with regards to a possible claim against your timeshare resort, but are not quite sure if it is genuine, then again use our contact page and we will give you the best advice possible.
Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.
Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.
Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.
This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?
Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.
Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.
February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s“Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.
Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the Anfi “Tauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.
This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.
Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.
Another story we have been following is that of Los Clavelesin Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.
There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.
In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.
This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.
After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!
There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.
But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.
On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.
There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.
Now for the year from a US perspective.
What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what
I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016
Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.
Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.
Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.
We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.
April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.
This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.
I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.
Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates
Timeshare Lawsuits 2017
By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016
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:
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:
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?
WestgateUpdate 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegelwas seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.
“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
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.
The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneidermanmanaged to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.
Back in 2016
Attorney Douglas 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
Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.
“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.
Diamond Resorts Update:A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.
A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:
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.
I 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. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.
So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.
Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.
Welcome to the first Tuesday Slot with Irene of December, this week Irene gives an update on an article from October, but first some important news from Europe.
Last week Inside Timeshare had some unconfirmed news on a raid in Tenerife, which we did not publish, this was against the offices of Mark Rowe’s enterprise there. This week news came out of raids at his businesses in the UK By Trading Standards, so this could just verify the Tenerife news.
This raid follows an investigation by the “Scambuster Team” of Trading Standards, offices of around 22 Mark Rowe companies were searched, employees questioned and documents removed for further investigation and as evidence if any criminal charges are brought.
It looks like we will have to wait until the new year before we know the outcome, this follows the news last month of another enterprise EZE Group, where the directors and owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates of “Aggressive” sales tactics and “Coercion” with their product “EZE Credits”. They are to appear at Crown Court on 15 December, whether they will be sentenced then or just remanded on bail until the New Year remains to be seen.
In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARSTIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program. “Consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits,” announced TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel.
The limited deed/limited fun program is geared toward fixed week resorts, but the same strategy could be implemented by major timeshare point sellers, solving the problem a timeshare owner faces when life changes and now they own a vacation product they don’t want, they can’t afford, and can’t sell. TARS could eventually neutralize resale and listing scams. Scam revenue would turn into new buyer revenue which would be a win-win for everyone except the scammers.
Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 223 readers (176 when the October 26 article was published). Members sometimes describe catastrophic financial distress when denied a release.
I asked Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberté Management Group of Companies and Chairman of TARS to provide an example of how the limited deed works. “The TARs program offers the member an option to purchase a limited term deed for five or ten years. The term will be the decision of the Associations, but we would not recommend any term less than three years. We feel the five year plan best suits the Association and the owners. The design is to utilize the units’ maintenance fee costs with an increase annually to make the tax repercussions better for the Association – a major savings, but each unit in each resort would be different,” Dennis explained.
The example Dennis provided was for a Voyager unit with an annual Maintenance fee of $510. A five year limited deed could be purchased for $6,000. The now former perpetual deed owner becomes a limited deed owner. At the end of five years the term is up and the unit reverts back to the HOA.
At this point skeptics raise their eyebrows. Wait! A $510 annual maintenance fee turns into $1,200 a year or $171 a night for a seven night stay? The Liberté website offers a one bedroom gulf view for $1,053 a week. So the limited deed would cost the member $735 ($1,200 – $1,053 = $147 x 5 years).
One timeshare insider suspects it’s a crafty upfront scam. I know Dennis and Martin Kandel so I have no concerns there. Another insider I contacted voiced a concern about what would happen if TARS went out of business. Liberté has been in business 35 years managing seven fixed week resorts and brokers resales and rentals as well. Liberté is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.
Dennis received a great congratulation from one timeshare advocacy organization, told this can be a huge positive change for the industry. Dennis also spoke with Robert Follisat the Florida Attorney General’s office who also saw the program as a solution to many problems.
When I called Voyager, I spoke with M J Hassall, also with Liberté, who expressed great enthusiasm. “Every owner is unique so we provide a one on one presentation. One obstacle is convincing owners this is not just another ruse to get them to buy more weeks. This really is important information they need to know about. We have presented the plan to about 15 members with about 50 percent in favor of the program,” explained M J.
“In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an a la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. One of the partners is Let’s Go N Travel,”M J added.
This led me to Let’s Go N Travel which will be the subject of January’s monthly TARS update. I spoke with Chip Langdon at Let’s Go N Travel. Chip described Let’s Go as a Vacation Club boasting 450,000 members. More on how this fits in with TARS later.
TARS provides a new way to address old problems (www.tarserv.com) in an effort to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program. This would seem a concept owners need to wrap their heads around, as they may not have yet thought about an exit or even if they need one.
Thank you to all at TARS for their help as we learn more about this evolving program. As a former deeded fixed week owner, I can see spending the extra money on something I enjoyed for 30 years, paying an extra $735 spread out over five years to be done with it without the hassle of dodging scams or waiting for an over supplied product to sell. As with any product, if it meets the needs of the consumer, it will sell itself. Timeshare does not sell itself. It is product that has to be “sold” and often requires six to eight hours of brow beating, “pitching heat” and deceit, according to 220 of our readers. We hope, working with developers, such tactics will diminish. We know there are good timeshare sales agents out there selling the product the way it should be sold. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney for their scarce complaint record.
Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to follow along as TARS progresses. I still need to call my favorite fixed week timeshare people at Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.
At least this provides a positive topic members and developers can agree on – the need for an honest timeshare exit to shut off the scam valve.
Irene will be keeping us updated on a monthly basis on TARS Limited Term Deed Program, could it be that there is some honesty in this industry called timeshare? Only time will tell.
Other news coming in from the US is the link up between ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) and Europe’s RDO (Resorts Development Association). It has been rumoured for sometime that the RDO is what you might call “strapped for cash”, well they have this year lost one of their major members, Silverpoint. Could this link up be the saviour of them?
Kwikchex has also laid out the scope of its new mission, running the “Timeshare Helpline”, on behalf of the RDO, which replaces the disgraced and bankrupt TATOC. As we know TATOC was supposed to be an independent body representing timeshare owners through their committees, but under the leadership of Harry Taylor, they did the bidding of their benefactors. These benefactors were the industry and RDO members.
So the question is if the new helpline is run by Kwikchex and the Timeshare Task Force, paid for by the RDO, how can it be independent and on the side of the consumer?
Have Trading Standards and other Authorities been taken in by them, the same way as Citizens Advice Bureau were taken in by TATOC?
Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to draw your own conclusions.
As the answer was NO, the court had no other option than to place TATOC in the hands of the Official Receiver.
This will be a big blow to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) who at the beginning of the year during the TATOC conference presented Harry Taylor with a cheque for $30,000 as a contribution for the TATOC helpline.
We have reported before that TATOC was not really on the side of the consumer, how could it be? It was funded by the very industry the consumer had problems with!
Just look at the relationship Harry Taylor and his TATOC team had with MacDonald Resorts, a company that even the RDO had not had any relationship with since 2005!
MacDonald Resorts pursued an aggressive policy of taking over fixed weeks, converting those owners to the points system, which even owners did not want. Harry Taylor ran a campaign stating that this was the best way forward, that it was in the best interests of the owners.
The question is how was it in the best interests of the owners? By changing to the points system from their fixed weeks, which gave them very strong rights, they effectively gave control of the resorts to MacDonald’s. Overnight they changed from being owners with the right to set maintenance fees, employ the management company and basically run their resort, to mere members with no rights whatsoever. Just the right to use subject to availability.
It now transpires that Kwikchex has set up a consumer helpline of their own, this has been announced by the RDO on 24 July. This seems to be part of the Timeshare Task Force, the question is how will this be independent advice considering that they are also funded by the RDO?
According to the RDO announcement this new consumer helpline will be offering assistance and advice about any company that is not an RDO member. What about offering assistance and advice about their own members, after all most of the problems are with the resorts and developers themselves.
The fact that owners / members who are having problems with their own resorts are left on their own as the RDO will not intervene in any dispute, this leaves those owners with nowhere to turn. This in itself leads to those unscrupulous companies to feed off the vulnerability of owners who either want to sell or just want to get out of their timeshare. The industry itself has created the “scam” market because of it’s own inability to deal with the issues, disputes and resale markets that owners need. Their own greed has been their downfall!
For years, timeshare has been sold, especially in Spain, with total disregard for the laws set in place to protect consumers, this has resulted in hundreds of court cases,along with Supreme Court rulings enforcing the laws that they have themselves flouted. Only last week, a recent ex-member of the RDO, Resort Properties / Silverpoint had five rulings against them in one day.
The RDO themselves have backed up the resorts against these rulings, believing that the judges have interpreted the law incorrectly, (see link).
If the industry is to survive, it needs to change how it operates, it needs to listen to the concerns of the owners / members, the very consumers who pay for it, not just chase those companies bogus or legitimate who decline to join their little club. After all, why would law firms such as Canarian Legal Alliance or JCLA & AS pay for membership when it is those members they are taking to court?
We have said this on many occasions, timeshare could be a good product, many have had many happy years of ownership, especially with those resorts that valued their custom. One has to only look at recent events at Los Claveles, for years those owners had no complaint, until Wimpen sold out their management rights to the ONA Group, then it really turned nasty.
The time for change is now, the industry cannot police itself, it is self serving, the likes of Kwikchex running a consumer helpline in the interests of the industry is a farce. There are very few places consumers can turn for truly independent and valuable advice, it has become an even bigger minefield.
If you have any questions or concerns about any timeshare matter, contact Inside Timeshare, if we don’t know the answer we will find it for you. These pages are read worldwide, we are bringing owners together from the USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines adding more as we go, through their articles and contributions you will find you are not as alone as you think.
Well, well, well, the news for consumers just keeps getting better, TESS announced on their website yesterday, Wed 3 May, that Harry Taylor’s crusading enterprise TATOC is finished.
They are now being placed into administration, as TESS put it “TATOC is bankrupt, insolvent and unable or unwilling to pay its debts if and when due”.
Inside Timeshare published the photograph of Harry Taylor receiving a cheque of $30,000 from ARDA, this was ostensibly for their helpline, as it was said they were helping owners of American Timeshare. This information was supplied by our US readers before it was announced publicly by TATOC.
We also know that recently TATOC has been losing support from its long standing industry allies, namely the RDO and Silverpoint. These are the ones we know about, how many more have been fleeing the nest or reducing their membership contributions, without us knowing about it.
Along with TATOC, there was Alberto Garcia, another “Timeshare Consumer Champion”, again funded by the industry, primarily by the RDO. He was made head of the “Enforcement Programme”, (very Hollywood), along with his website mindtimeshare, he waged a war against any company or individual that threatened the industry.
He may have highlighted the most dubious of enterprises, but he made it his mission to destroy by any means possible, not only the downright dirty, but also those companies that were genuine, including respected and practicing lawyers and law firms.
This culminated in his fabrication of evidence to destroy the Arguineguin law firm CLA, even to presenting statements to the National Police that these lawyers were part of a “Criminal Gang”. He alleged that they were extracting money from people for court cases they could never win, yet still took them on.
All this has been proven to be false, the law firm is thriving and beating the industry on behalf of consumers from the lower courts right up to the Supreme Court.
TATOC have duped organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau into believing they were on the side of timeshare consumers, so they advised people with timeshare problems to go to TATOC. What did TATOC do? Send them back to the timeshare company they had the problem with.
A very good example of the way Harry Taylor and TATOC have behaved is their unwavering support of MacDonald Resorts, (even the RDO has had nothing to do with them since 2005). Harry Taylor extolled and fully supported MacDonald’smoved to take away from all fixed week owners their weeks and moving them into a points system. He even went on to say it was in the best interests of owners, regardless of the fact that fixed week owners had more rights than points club members. This effectively transferred ownership of the resort from the members to MacDonald’s. There is an ongoing legal battle by these owners against MacDonald Resorts.
Another example which Inside Timeshare has been highlighting and fighting for almost a year, is the case of our Mrs B. She went to TATOC because MacDonald Resorts did not accept that she had legally transferred her Doña Lola week to another person using the services of another firm. She has been and still is being chased by MacDonald’s through a debt collecting agency for maintenance arrears, (aged 87). TATOC told her to speak to MacDonald’s and even directed her to Alberto Garcia to report the firm she had dealt with as “bogus”, all because they were not RDO or TATOC affiliated. The case is still going.
Harry Taylor has lost credibility, reputation and now his little empire, this can only be good for the owners, unfortunately, unconfirmed news from our contacts across the pond is not very promising. It is reported that the one and only, serial failed director Chris Emmins of Kwikchex, Timeshare Business Check and the RDO’sTimeshare Taskforce, (replacing the enforcement programme, still trying to sound hollywood or pseudo legal), is set to take over the resurrected and saved TATOC, (if that does happen).
We have said it before and we will say it again, the only way timeshare owners can be represented properly is to have their own association which is not funded or controlled by the industry. The only problem is the industry is very good at sending in the infiltrators.
So there we have it, great news for some but devastating news for others, as the news comes in we shall be reporting it here. So watch this space!
Since we went to press the NTOA are very surprised at this news, here is their response: “The NTOA has worked with TATOC in identifying a number of rogue resale and secondary market companies over the past several years. To that end, our staff has shared intelligence and best practices for consumers or foreign purchasers of timeshare intervals. We have always considered TATOC a partner in the war on resale fraud.”
Here we are again, another Friday and another letter from America, courtesy of Irene, following on from last week’s article.
Firstly the similarities between ARDA ROC and the RDOTATOC, both are industry trade bodies and owners organisations funded by the industry. Both require their members to abide by a code of ethics, but neither will arbitrate or investigate their own members. One difference is that ARDA ROC will not recommend any resale company, but RDO and TATOC will recommend any company that is one of its members.
Both bodies also actively focus on chasing scam and bogus companies, the RDO has employed kwikchex to head their Timeshare Taskforce. This company runs Timeshare Business Check, who contact businesses and question them for transparency, they list those who are not RDO or TATOC members, basically saying if they are not members or submit to their questions don’t touch them. They have no legal mandate and the owner has what can only be described as a very poor track record as a director. (see following link).
Only last week we announced and published the news that ARDA have donated $30,000 to TATOC and their Consumer Helpline, which received charitable status after initially being rejected. This donation was given because it is said they help and advise European Owners of US timeshares.
This is obviously a saving grace for TATOC as many of their members are withdrawing their membership or reducing their membership status, as was seen by Silverpoint dropping from Platinum to Silver.
Harry Taylor himself has been somewhat discredited over the Lakeview debacle, which has been going on for sometime. He has also been a very vociferous supporter of MacDonald Resorts and their forcing owners from fixed weeks into points. There is a class action ongoing by members who do not want the change as it then gives MacDonald’s“ownership” of the resorts and reduces members to “right of use only”.
This is happening in Spanish resorts, where we know that the points system is illegal, yet is still going ahead. MacDonald Resorts have a very bad reputation for the way they deal with members including the elderly. Yet they are main contributors to Harry Taylor and TATOC. Even the RDO have had nothing to do with them since 2005.
So we now move on to Irene’s article.
Part II: What is our Timeshare Advocacy Group Doing Today?
ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, is the national organization representing the timeshare industry. The ROC in ARDAROC is the Resort Owners’ Coalition looking out for timeshare owners’ or members’ interest. Critics argue ARDA ROC works against timeshare owners when the interest of the owner and the developer diverge. It should be noted that non-deeded point members don’t “own” anything as they are right-to-use programs.
FAQ Timeshare Resale Questions found on ARDA ROC website
Can ARDA-ROC or ARDA help me?
ARDA provides professional and educational development for its members provides industry research and data and advocates for policies that promote the vitality and continued growth of the industry. Based in Washington, DC, ARDA is comprised of nearly 1,000 corporate members and one million timeshare owner members.
Question: How many readers knew they were a member? Donations range from $3 to $10 as an opt-in or opt-out donation. That adds up to approximately $5 million a year in voluntary donations. How many timeshare members even know what the letters stand for? I didn’t. I was told it was an organization that helps timeshare owners. Foreign buyers who buy a US timeshare are also charged. How much do you think they know about ARDA ROC?
More from ARDA ROC FAQ
Neither ARDA-ROC nor ARDA provide information about complaints they receive. ARDA-ROC and ARDA do not mediate, arbitrate or otherwise resolve individual disputes between a consumer and an ARDA member or non-member business. They don’t buy or sell timeshares OR recommend companies with whom you should do business. Neither can tell you if a company is “legitimate.”
ARDA does not have any regulatory authority, although they do require member companies to agree to abide by their Code of Ethics. Failure to do so may result in expulsion of the company from membership.
Timeshare owners, often unaware they have signed a perpetual contract without a secondary market, consider the lack of a secondary their primary concern. ARDA has focused their efforts on chasing timeshare transfer agent scams, but little is mentioned about the cause of the scams, which is the lack of or limited secondary market.
Thank you to Disney because Disney does allow a secondary market. “Disney is known for exercising their first right of refusal. When a timeshare company exercises their first right of refusal, the effect supports the resale price,” explained Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty. Check out those Disney resale prices. Is your timeshare on the resale list below?
Deeded weeks can almost always be listed. If a resort has converted from weeks to points, non-deeded points with no secondary market will not be listed as the members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association feel such points are worthless on the secondary market. If denied a voluntary surrender, a seller in this situation has nowhere to turn but foreclosure or the well reported transfer agencies that may or may not get you out of your timeshare.
Tom is a LTRBA member. I’ve gotten to know quite a few of the members and respect what they do to work with what little secondary market they’ve got.
Tom cautioned against making a blanket statement accusing ARDA ROC of not doing anything for members. A good example is the Virgin Islands. They are trying to slap an extra $300 onto an exchange. “If that happens, Aruba and other locations may try to follow suit,”warned Tom. In Hawaii, our two bedroom timeshare at Maui Hill slipped in a $6.90 a night Hawaii some kind of tax.
However, when the interests of the timeshare developer are at odds with the timeshare owner, the result is controversy. Issues like:
Owner access to membership lists. Timeshare owners receive endless calls offering vacation giveaways due to a mysterious $1800 credit on our maintenance fees, yet the developers work to pass laws or put up obstacles preventing owners from contacting other owners. No one on our Advocacy Facebook group will question why developers don’t want that!
This “voluntary donation” can be difficult to remove from your account.
What is this voluntary ARDA-ROC fee doing in my maintenance fee bill? – RedWeek.com
I asked timeshare Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group why it has been impossible to have my voluntary $7 removed from my timeshare maintenance fee invoice?
“Indeed you are quite correct that several other resorts include a line item in their maintenance fee statement for an ARDA-ROC contribution. I guess they get away with it because it’s allegedly voluntary. However subsequent maintenance billing beyond the first one incorporates that so called voluntary contribution and lumps it in with the subsequent maintenance fee total billing. If you don’t pay your bill after you receive the initial bill and you pay it after you receive a subsequent bill, you’ll probably be inadvertently including that voluntary contribution into your maintenance fee,” Mike explained.
Our Advocacy Group will begin having monthly conference calls to:
Target legislators that might be willing to consider owner concerns;
Educate the general public about what questions to ask before buying a timeshare. We wish someone gave us that advice!
Get updates on current legislation;
Get updates on legal and regulatory matters;
An update on the measurable success of our Advocacy Group.
So there we have it the end of another week in the murky world of timeshare, Irene and myself thank those who have contributed to all the articles we publish, hoping it gives you the owners and readers an insight into what is going on. We have had many people contact us for advice and help, and through the contributions from readers, we have highlighted many dubious companies.
It remains for Irene and myself to wish you a very happy weekend, have fun.
As we reported in our article of 16 March 2016, Alberto Garcia had attacked many firms with false allegations, all at the behest of the RDO in its bid to discredit any company who was not a member of that organisation.
During his time working as “The Enforcer” (sounds like something from a hollywood film) this ex-police inspector falsified allegations and used his connections to discredit, have arrested and destroy innocent people. All under the guise of protecting the consumers of the timeshare industry, an industry that itself is doing nothing for the consumer apart from causing many financial burdens and stress.
This can be seen in the number of cases being won against RDO members in all the courts in Spain. The Supreme Court itself has made 46 rulings against these RDO members, yet nothing is said or done to change what the industry is doing. In fact the RDO backs up the claims from the likes of Silverpoint and Anfi that the laws are wrong and that these eminent judges are wrong in their interpretation of the law.
The RDO´s enforcement programme has been discredited, mindtimeshare has been discredited, Alberto Garcia has vanished (not that anyone had ever seen him, with this the only photo found).
Another name that tries to imply it is a “legal law enforcement entity”. This time it is being coordinated by Kwikchex, a company owned by Chris Emmins, which claims to be a “Worldwide Reputational Management” company, which is only around 6 years old.
Mr Emmins, has a very long history as a director, having resigned fro 4 directorships, and held 17 appointments at 17 companies which have all been dissolved. It is also alleged that these dissolved companies have left a debt of over £500,000 to creditors. Not a very auspicious record! (see link to previous article)
It is also believed that Chris Emmins was the only tender for the contract to run the new “Timeshare Task Force”.
Again, it is designed to fool the public into believing that only the RDO can be believed, that when Kwikchex does its so-called verification process, it is doing so as a legal right. Any company not subjecting themselves to their questioning will receive negative comments on the KwikchexTimeshare Business Check website. No company is legally obliged to answer their questions, there is no legal reason why they should, let alone have to join the RDO in order to conduct business.
Ask yourself the question, why would, say a law firm engaged in suing the timeshare industry want to join the industry trade body?
Why would they pay the organisation the membership fees to be accredited as “legitimate”, when it is those members who are flouting the timeshare laws?
These are questions for you the reader to decide the answer.
We also recently published the article on 6 February “The battle Lines have been Drawn”, we reported about the problems of TATOC and Harry Taylor. Since then we have received information of a major falling out between TATOC and the RDO, with RDO members withdrawing membership or reducing their contributions. In another twist to this story, it has been reported from the US that the American Resorts Development Association (ARDA) President and CEO Howard Nusbaum, will be speaking at the March Conference. We have also been told that this organisation will be contributing substantial funds to TATOC, apparently much to the consternation of the RDO.
There are many trade associations which have been setup to represent the interests of their particular industry, but also to ensure that the public / consumer is also protected. So what about the timeshare / holiday ownership industry?
The trade body for this industry is the RDO, Resort Development Organisation, formerly the OTE, Organisation for Timeshare in Europe. It purports to represent the interests of resorts, developers, resale companies and consumers. But there seems to be a problem, it will not investigate any of it’s own members, even when there have been blatant breaches of regulations and their own codes of conduct. (see link: Tenerife Court Rules)
It is well known there are many cases going through the courts against RDO members, but nothing from this organisation acknowledging the fact. Look at the RDO website, the news section carries not one word about the 21 Supreme Court Rulings made against at least 3 of it’s members. The latest being another against Anfi, a long standing member of the RDO, yet again the RDO says nothing. (see CLA links)
At present one law firm has over 2000 cases at various stages of preparation going to court against RDO members, again nothing from the RDO apart from denials that any infringement of the laws have taken place. In other words don’t worry boys we will put a spin on this and protect you.
Only recently, Holiday Club Finland and Palm Oasis (Tasolan SL) have had rulings made against them, the RDO has said nothing. You the consumer are being kept in the dark, according to the RDO the judges have got it wrong, (even when they are unanimous decisions by a panel of 12 judges). They say these cases are not genuine, they are frivolous and even indicated that anyone winning a case will be liable to pay for all the holidays taken. Hang on, have you not already paid for them with maintenance fees? (see link: RDO Trying to Scare Anfi Owners)
What is the mission of the RDO?
To put it simply, to ensure the interests of their members are served. They state they have a code of conduct and ethics, one of which is all members shall abide by any laws in the country in which they operate. This also includes the EU Directives on Timeshare. Yet for years they have ignored the fact their own members are operating outside of the law. According to their website they have a consumer policy which allows consumers to file complaints against its members. But in another paragraph they clearly state they will not mediate in any dispute and the consumer must first try to deal directly with the member concerned.
The RDO has even had the audacity to complain that newspaper articles about it´s members are poorly researched. A little snipe at Tony Hetherington who highlighted several cases of the bad practices of the industry and in particular another member of the RDO, MacDonald Hotels and Resorts. (see link: A new member)
In the past the RDO setup “The Enforcement Programme”, this was run by one Alberto Garcia and was called Mindtimeshare. It attacked any company that was not an RDO member, while protecting any company that was. This was highlighted several years ago by one Mrs Wilson, she approached Mindtimeshare for help with a dispute against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. Mindtimeshare failed miserably, she eventually took her case to court using the services of a Canarian law firm. She won her case for being sold several timeshare weeks as an investment which failed to materialise. Mindtimeshare has since been discredited and Alberto Garcia was forced out.
They have also set up another initiative called Timeshare Task Force, this is being overseen by Kwikchex, a company which also runs Timeshare Business Check. Again just like Mindtimeshare it targets any company that is not a member of the RDO. They have along with the RDO made out they have a legal authority to check on any business, then if that business fails to respond to their enquiries, (which it does not have to) negative comments are placed on the website. The overall picture is they are trying to look like a Pseudo Police Force without any official mandate. The company itself is run by a man who does not have a very good track record. (see link: Kwikchex)
Inside Timeshare has published many articles on the RDO, each time highlighting their failure to help the consumer. Each article even suggests that an independent body separate from the industry should be setup to ensure compliance and protection for the consumer.
Until the RDO recognises the fact they are protecting a discredited industry, failing to act against infringements by their own members, timeshare is going to remain a dirty word. The industry only has itself to blame and at the helm is the RDO.
On 5 January 2016 the company name was changed to: Monster Rewards Limited using the same company number and registered at the same address. There is also a Monster Rewards SL in Tenerife. the Ltd company is the UK arm.
This was originally set up by Sandy Grey, (1999), when he died it was taken over by a group of people wanting to continue his work. May 2014 Stephen Boyd (lawyer) instituted the new Company The Timeshare Consumer Association Ltd, he resigned in December 2014, Now a partner in Athena Law. For some time (December 2014 Director) it was controlled by Mr David Cox (now a TESS Director). The Website was taken over by Tolmex Ltd 08143115 and was directed by William Aspinall.
On 11 April 2016 the company changed name to Bridgewell Investments Ltd using the same company number and address:
Fernhills Business Center, Foerster Cham, Todd Street. Manchester BL9 5BJ
William Aspinal resigned as director on 8 July 2016
He was replaced on that date by Mark Rowe.
This now means that the TCA a previously independent information resource website is now under the effective control of Monster Group Travel and Mark Rowe.
According to some new information taken from Timeshare Business Check (an arm of KwikchexRDO funded), When they published their findings on the TCA (23 June 2014), they listed as “Other associated businesses and trading names” the following:
Athena Law (again known to be associated with TCA)
It would now appear that the company Kwikchex have themselves been subject to a ruling by theAdvertising Standards Authority. The TCA published a piece today 23/3/16 that the ASA ruled that the term “World Leading” was not factually correct. They were ordered to revise it.
They now use the term “World Renowned”. I don´t know about you, but does it not sound very similar? As I stated in the post dated 17th March, how can a company no one had heard of, running for only 6 years claim to have such a Global reputation?
Surely they are trying it on with the ASA, and still trying to claim this crusading status. Maybe another complaint to the ASA is in order, I leave it to you the reader to decide.
Thanks to the TCA for bringing this to our attention.