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National Timeshare Owners Association

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America on Thursday

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America on Thursday, yes that is correct, we are publishing a day early as we are travelling to the US on Friday.

Inside Timeshare is visiting our American colleagues, with Irene and Don meeting me at Orlando airport, while there we have arranged to meet with several attorneys including America’s very own Timeshare Crusader Lisa Ann SchreierWe will also be meeting many other people and hopefully having a few cold beers.

beer

Inside Timeshare is also pleased to announce a new collaboration, for sometime CLA International based in Dubai, has been getting their website up and running. They have been following the articles published on Inside Timeshare and have asked if we would run their news section.

They wanted an independent voice rather than their own take on things, Inside Timeshare has agreed to supply those articles, so many of the articles regarding international timeshare news we publish will be posted on their website. These will be from the many contributors who are now writing for Inside Timeshare. We also hope to add more from the following areas:

India (Goa), Thailand and the surrounding Asian area, Australia, Mexico, Central and South America, we welcome any contributor who would like to publish their experiences, news and views on the world of timeshare. You can contact us via our contact page or direct to admin@insidetimeshare.com

contribute

Update from Europe

Once again, Inside Timeshare has heard from another reader who found our articles on the Litigious Abogados family, namely Amador Galeca Abogados.

The reader had a call regarding their timeshare at Royal Sunset Beach, with the name Andrew Cooper again being named as the director being taken to court with all his personal property and assets being seized. For a sum of just under 1000€ they could be part of the case.

The reader then made a bank transfer, but then decided to check out the name Andrew Cooper, finding our previous article. When the reader contacted us we explained how the scam operates, they immediately informed their bank and the bank is now trying to stop the transaction.

The reader explained that when her husband became too ill to travel Royal Sunset actually took back the timeshare, so they no longer owned. Because of this there would not be any basis for a claim in any court.

This story just goes to show once again, before you pay any money, check who you are dealing with. Hopefully the readers bank was informed in time to stop the money being transferred.

stop think proceed

We started the week with verdict from the courts against Palm Oasis (Tasolan), the following day the Supreme Court ruled on another case against Silverpoint in Tenerife, that made 64 rulings from this court on timeshare. In this case the court again declared the contract null and void, awarding over £99,000 plus a double deposit of £6,082 including legal fees and legal interest.

Then yesterday Wednesday 4 October the High Court in Tenerife ruled once again against Silverpoint and awarded over 67,000€ plus legal fees and interest to the client. This was then followed by the news the Supreme Court had just issued another sentence against Silverpoint, bringing the total number of cases won at this court by Canarian Legal Alliance to 65.

Now on with Irene’s article where she recounts our first meeting and her visit and interview with Canarian Legal Alliance. We have certainly moved on since that first meeting.

Canarian Legal Alliance and Inside Timeshare

The meeting of minds

Irene with CLA
Irene Meeting with CLA Staff Sept 2016

By Irene Parker

October 5, 2017

We are judged by the company we keep, so shortly after submitting my first article to Inside Timeshare my husband and I flew to Gran Canaria, Canary Islands to meet Charles Thomas and his Canarian Legal Alliance friends. It was not an easy trip since we boarded the wrong plane in Madrid and ended up in AMSTERDAM!

We stayed at Diamond Resorts Cala Blanca resort on Mogan. A Diamond sales agent in the US actually introduced me to Charles by sending me one of his articles. The staff at Cala Blanca could not have been nicer. I talked quite a while with the manager as he was the head of a resort employee union of sorts advocating on behalf of refugees he felt were being treated unfairly at a resort on the other side of the bay. One of the sales agents working at Cala Blanca and a friend of Charles is one of my Facebook friends.

In today’s timeshare world you can’t be too careful. Attorneys come in all ethical shapes and sizes. In addition to meeting Charles, I was able to meet with the CLA office manager Csilla, named business person of the year for Gran Canaria, several intake workers showing sincere compassion as they listened to timeshare accounts over the phone, and a few CLA lawyers. Since this July 2016 video clip CLA has achieved several more victories for EU timeshare clients – 65 Supreme Court victories to be exact as of October 4, 2017. Watching this video for the first time, I remember thinking if Cristina ever decides she doesn’t like law, she could find a job in the motion picture industry.

http://www.canarianlegalalliance.com/cla-latest-updates-video/

Timeshare today seems to have lost all sense of direction. True, we hear primarily from the disgruntled, but developer lawsuits flying back and forth between timeshare developers and transfer agents has left many timeshare members in a state of confusion. Who do you trust?

I trust CLA and am honored to have been asked to have my Inside Timeshare articles featured on the new CLA International website with Charles webmaster of the news tab. Our Diamond Resorts member sponsored Advocacy Facebook administrator and Economics Professor Michael Nuwer and Australian Contributor Justin Morgan submitted their comments for this article about the Apollo Global Management buyout of Diamond Resorts.

http://clainternational.ae/2017/09/28/who-is-apollo-what-is-apollo-two-diamond-member-consumer-advocates-offer-their-opinion/

Timeshare members need help. It has been widely reported many aging baby boomers (like me) are desperate to be released from timeshare. Some timeshare companies have launched surrender programs, like Wyndham’s Ovation program, but the vast majority of members contacting Inside Timeshare succumbed to high interest rate loans and credit cards. Thus, they are not eligible for voluntary surrender programs. Often they are forced into foreclosure. The problem is exacerbated when the member alleges they were deceived into buying a timeshare or upgraded for maintenance fees relief or buy-back programs that do not exist. Out of 157 complaints received (as of October 4), 143 allege deceit on the front end of the sale. The others can’t afford rising maintenance fees.

From our humble beginnings, as more members started helping other members, we called ourselves Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as members turned anger and disbelief into action and advocacy. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ started as an afterthought. A former timeshare sales agent contacted me and said they wanted to do a press release in Arizona. We needed a place where readers could respond.

Irina Allen stepped up to the plate. She is our Facebook page administrator.

admin lady new

Irina (Irene) Allen purchased over $500,000 worth of timeshare points to share with family, friends and clients. On the advice of a sales agent, Irene opened a RedWeek account and posted one ad to rent some of her points. She gave up this idea after she never got paid for the rental. Rentals are not allowed, according to company rules, but there are hundreds of rental ads anyway. She also was accused of opening an Airbnb account. Irene says she has never had an Airbnb account. She was expected to pay $2,400 per month in mortgage payments and $29,000 in maintenance fees for a year while her account was suspended. Resorts are exempt from the rule for promotional purposes. Thus, the resort was able to rent out Irene’s points at Irene’s expense.

At Timeshare Advocacy Group™ members also help members with regulatory filings and media outreach. We have Wyndham, Bluegreen and Diamond members working alongside former Hyatt, Westgate, and Diamond timeshare sales agents in an effort to reform an industry badly in need of reform. In addition to timeshare members, other Advocates, like blogger Lisa Ann Schreier, lend their support. Lisa Ann and Charles are both former timeshare sales agents.

In America, it’s not easy these days for opposing sides to talk to each other, but every once in awhile there is a glance of a Republican sticking their toe over to the Democratic side of the aisle. It is our hope there will be a day when developers will take the time to listen to what critics have to say instead of only focusing on ambulance chasing unscrupulous transfer and listing agents. It is my belief, until the deception on the front end of the timeshare sale is acknowledged and addressed, the court of public opinion is the only court open for the beleaguered and often financially devastated timeshare member learning their contract is perpetual and the secondary market limited at best. For some timeshare companies, there is no secondary market. What other investment or product exists that holds the buyer of a product hostage?

Charles Irene

Charles is winging his way to America tomorrow, so let us know if you will be in the Orlando area October 8 – 12. Or, let Charles know the next times you happen to be on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

I am a former stockbroker and financial planner. After I retired from the brokerage business, I became a CASA Supervisor, writing court reports for Family Court on behalf of children in foster care. I have always had a problem turning my back on anyone who considers themselves a victim. There are many ways to volunteer time in retirement. Join us in our efforts to enhance timeshare accountability and transparency.

http://insidetimeshare.com/what-a-volunteer-does-for-nothing/

globe

That’s it for this week, tomorrow will be a long day as it is Gran Canaria, Madrid, Miami then to Orlando. I know Irene and Don have set aside a couple of days to show me some of the sights, so it will not be all work and no play!

We will however be trying to publish some articles while over there, so keep an eye on these pages.

Have a great weekend

cartoon-airplane

hand up

The Tuesday Slot: Giving You a Helping Hand

For many people it can be a daunting task to prepare a complaint against a large company, how is it written, who do you file it with? These are all questions that need to be answered.

In Europe the matter of making a complaint against a timeshare company has actually become easier, especially in Spain, where the laws are on the side of the consumer. But trying to deal with a company that has for the most part tied you up in contracts and legal jargon, has resulted in many complaints by consumers just being put aside with the feeling what is the point?

In today’s article Irene shows how to write the complaint and who to file it with, the most important point is don’t let it get you down there is always help out there. So on with the advice.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

complaints

By Irene Parker

September 12, 2017

After Inside Timeshare received 135 US timeshare complaints (as of September 8, 2017), this guide evolved to use as a blueprint to file a complaint. Previously, we published an article called “The 3Rs or F of Timeshare” because no one should have to own anything in perpetuity if they can no longer use or afford the product.

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

  1. Name (s) and age of member
  2. Phone Number
  3. State of Residence
  4. Number of points owned per contract
  5. Member Number
  6. Loan Number  
  7. Current Maintenance Fees
  8. Total purchase price per contract
  9. Location purchased
  10. Sales agent and sales agent ID Number if available
  11. Original Loan Amount, Loan Number and stated interest rate
  12. Current Loan Balance
  13. What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment?
  14. Why? Is it due to Deception, Health, Age or Financial Burden?

If your investment is $40,000 or less and you owned and used your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment.

Availability:  Dissatisfied in general with availability complaints will go unheeded.

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint. Begin with when you first became involved with the company and proceed chronologically. Keep your history brief up to the point when things began to go wrong.

The most common complaint is bait and switch. If you feel you were deceived list the reasons why.

who what

How Advocacy Works

Email Inside Timeshare your complaint if you would like to talk to someone about your concerns. Before you begin, raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? It is important to present your information factually and without opinion.

Consider becoming a volunteer report writer if you have reporting experience.

If you have questions, email Irene Parker – ireneparker377@gmail.com

Cell – 270-303-7572 EST – Feel free to call any day of the week between 1 to 5:00 PM EST or if you are unable to prepare your own report.

We are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice. We have researched regulatory agencies and are here to direct consumers to the appropriate regulatory agencies. Agencies are listed below. We have also developed media relationships and will continue to work with broadcast and print media to alert the general public as to what questions to ask before buying a timeshare. Life events, like a hurricane, can change your life in an instant or a day. If your timeshare provides no secondary market, it can make a member feel a hostage to their vacation plan. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

After you complete your complaint email it to the appropriate resort department. Expect to be denied. Typically your resort reviewer will restate your concerns, conduct an investigation and report back that the sales agent (s) denied your claims. It’s a negotiation so if denied, file a rebuttal.

deneid

If you feel you are a victim of deceit and bait and switch, send us a copy of your complaint. An Advocate will file your complaint on your behalf with the firm’s public relations office and ARDA, the timeshare lobby, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics which can be found on ARDA’s website. We do not recommend owners make the voluntary opt in or opt out contribution on your maintenance fee invoice for ARDA ROC (Resort Owners Coalition). ARDA is basically a PAC that lobbies for the industry when the issue is one that is at odds with members. We will also include NTOA National Timeshare Owners Association and the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card. By having the Advocate file on your behalf, we can track complaints, documenting a pattern of criminal behavior.

Mark your email urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. It may take up to 30 days to hear back from the resort. Resend in three weeks if you have not heard back. If you feel you were a victim of deceit and bait and switch, give the resort a week to respond before filing regulatory complaints.

The member will report back to us with a positive or negative outcome. Due to the required non-disclosure or mutual release form, terms and conditions will not be discussed. Just report a positive outcome or resolution.

If your resort denies your claim begin filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies beginning with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract, where you live and where your resort is domiciled. It can take a month or more to hear back from an AG but once your complaint has been accepted, debt collectors are not allowed to call. You can find any Attorney General by searching the state and Attorney General.

office of ag

If there was an unauthorized credit card charge or you feel you were deceived into signing off on a loan, you should file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage) and select the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card. One common complaint is that the buyer was told they could get a lower interest rate from a bank or credit union. File with the CFPB only if there is a loan outstanding or a credit card was used.

You should file a complaint with the state Real Estate Division in the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against a sales agent. The Advocate can help you if you don’t know the agent ID number. Timeshare sales agents are real estate licensed in most states.

File with the Better Business Bureau, although the company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints.

The definition of Financial Institution Fraud under the FBI’s definition of White Collar Crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. The FBI assigns Financial Institution Fraud the highest priority. You can read about White Collar Crime on the FBI website, but complaints are filed at IC3.gov. This is somewhat confusing because IC stands for Internet Crime and people think it has to be internet related. IC3.gov is just the name of the portal.

fbi

 

Most important, consider reaching out to local or national media. Reporters look for content and are surprisingly easy to reach. Write an article about your experience. The more people who come forward, the more the public is made aware of pitfalls before engaging in a timeshare sales presentation.

Our “Chicken Soup for Timeshare’s Soul” Inside Timeshare article is linked at the end of this article explaining what to expect or not expect when you file with a regulatory or law enforcement agency.

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • Attorneys General where you signed, where you live and where the resort is domiciled. Search (state name) Attorney General for contact information. Most AG complaints can be filed online.
  • The Real Estate Division of the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against the agent. “Right-to- use” membership programs are not defined as real estate, but the agent is typically a licensed real estate agent.
  • The FBI under the IC3.gov portal if deceit or bait and switch.
  • ARDA if you feel ARDA’s code of ethics has been violated.
  • The media – the court of public opinion is often the only court available. Inside Timeshare, published in Spain, publishes timeshare articles online focusing primarily on the need for reform and oversight.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option selecting the bank that issued the travel credit card or financed your loan.
  • The Federal Trade Commission – due to lack of secondary market
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Lawmakers – The problem is the timeshare buyer typically does not buy in their state of residence which is why lawmakers don’t seem to take timeshare seriously. Still, any effort to contact lawmakers is encouraged.

If this sounds like a work, it is, but you can file with some, all, or none of the agencies. We feel “Action and Advocacy” is the way to change questionable timeshare business practices. Change requires volumes of complaints.

What to expect from regulatory agencies

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Life without timeshare through “The 3Rs or F of Timeshare”

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

If you are granted a positive outcome, you may not say or write anything disparaging about the resort, but there is no harm in staying involved. Reach out to others when you stay at resorts. Create a business card type flyer.

Who We Are and Why We Do This

working others

The timeshare industry is wealthy and powerful, able to influence politicians and Attorneys General. Timeshare owners typically are struggling with maintenance fees, unorganized and alone. Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever.

There are a number of timeshare members and non-timeshare member advocates working behind the scenes to assist in the complaint process. If all else fails, we will refer to an attorney if the member can afford one. If you are forced into foreclosure, but have an otherwise unblemished credit report, you can write to the credit reporting agencies in an effort to explain why you were deceived and why you were not able to resolve your dispute.

After retiring from Edward Jones working as an Investment Representative, I worked three years as a CASA supervisor, writing and editing court reports for Family Court on behalf of foster children. I find two commonalities between children of abuse, neglect or dependency and deceptive timeshare sales.

  • The abnormal becomes the normal. After hearing 136 complaints (as of September 5), I fear deception is endorsed and encouraged by some timeshare companies. I have interviewed nine current and former timeshare sales agents and managers. They call it “pitching heat” or “No Heat, No Eat”. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest. We hear primarily from buyers seeking assistance when victimized by unscrupulous agents.
  • Victims are silenced and isolated via non-disclosure agreements. Non-disclosure is appropriate in the case of a settlement, but when a family receives nothing after an alleged bait and switch, after spending $5,000 to $500,000 or more on a vacation plan, not allowing the victim to say anything disparaging about the company seems harsh. Many of the families we have worked with are financially devastated.

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. My husband and I owned three timeshares for 25 years with no problems or complaints. After we attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation in 2015, I began researching the industry, writing articles and assisting timeshare victims. I am not compensated by anyone. Our Advocacy Group is composed of volunteers. We hope there will come a day our Advocacy Group is not needed.

Self Help Groups

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

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

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

September 12, 2017 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy Group™  

Although this article is aimed at our American cousins, the principle of how it is written will be the same for Europe. If you believe your complaint is valid, don’t give up, that’s what they want you to do, be persistent, be strong and seek help, it is out there.

In Europe the EU has set up many consumer agencies, most EU countries have consumer rights groups and Consumer Affairs offices. In the UK there are several that you could use, one which has been very good in the past is the Trading Standards Office, these are set up by local councils and have a lot of clout. They have also been instrumental in having some rather shady companies closed down.

Then there is legal action, employing a law firm to take your case to court, in Spain over the past few years this has been very successful. Law 42/98 and the updated version Law 4/12, is based on the EU Timeshare Directives, which were put into place to protect consumers and regulate the industry. Spain now has the strongest timeshare regulations in Europe, these along with other civil consumer laws protect consumers from unfair practices and contracts. These have been strengthened over the past couple of years with around 57 rulings from the Supreme Court, Spain’s highest court, which has removed any doubt about their interpretation.

It now remains for other EU countries to do the same, so no matter where you purchase, the same protection is available. We may even just see a change in the industry for the better.

If you require any further information about this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Inside Timeshare also wants your stories,

good, bad or downright ugly,

so if you have something you would like to share or think will help others,

then

hear from you

 

airplane

The Tuesday Slot

Today Irene Parker calls on our readers in the US to join Inside Timeshare for a get together in Orlando, but first a little of the news in Europe.

 

anfi ariel view

We have been looking at the ANFI DEL MAR Public Group Facebook page, in a post and discussion started on 29 August, all does not seem well amongst the members. The post related the dire state of the accommodation, how it is falling way behind what it was when these members joined.

The complaints are also about the furniture with one member stating that the bed settee “was not fit for purpose”. This same post also complained about the bed covers curtains and furniture still the same as when the upgraded in 2007, that it is shabby and past its sell by date.

Other comments also included having to call out maintenance on several occasions for various things including a broken down jacuzzi, including falls due to slipping on leaking water. Another commentator told of water damaged kitchen cupboards, including a balcony door falling out.

So what is happening to this once wonderful resort?

We leave you to decide the answer to that little conundrum.

Now on with Irene’s little piece.

Meet Inside Timeshare in Orlando for a Meeting/Party

Heres news

Meet Charles Thomas and Lisa Ann Schreier October 11, 2017 in Orlando  

September 5, 2017

By Irene Parker

There has never been a time when the need for Advocacy in the timeshare industry has been so apparent. The evolution from fixed deeded timeshare to sometimes confusing and convoluted points programs, consumers buy in a same day sale, often after an hour’s long sales session, leaves many buyers bewildered and sometimes shocked when the product purchased doesn’t meet the product promised.

Charles Thomas will travel from Canary Islands, Spain, to join us in America as Lisa Ann Schreier and I show Charles what Orlando has to offer, and hopefully gather as many timeshare members as we can to attend an informational meeting/party October 11th.  Grassroots as always, bring your own food and beverages. Charles will be in Orlando for the week, so if you are available from October 7 to October 12, let us know. This will give us an idea on how to plan.

Charles describes himself as a former timeshare sales agent who wasn’t very good at it, refusing to give into high pressure or deception. Charles is British of Maltese descent. After a beer or two you might get Charles to talk about his family tree that dates back to William the Conqueror 1068.

 Lisa Ann Schreier is “The Timeshare Crusader.” She has been teaching and helping timeshare members since 2004.

The Timeshare Crusader is dedicated to helping consumers navigate through the myriad of confusing timeshare information as well as working with forward thinking organizations to be a catalyst for positive change. Lisa Ann is the creative force behind International Timeshare Appreciation Day, held annually on November 1, so perfect timing for a preliminary kick-off.

Lisa is author of two bestselling books, “Surviving a Timeshare Presentation…Confessions from the Sales Table” and “Timeshare Vacations for Dummies.” She also co-authored the college-level textbook, “An Introduction to Vacation Ownership Management.”

Lisa Ann’s Blog can be accessed at

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com

A little bit about Lisa Ann Schreier

Lisa Ann served as the Director of Member Services for the National Timeshare Owners Association from 2013 to January 2017. Prior to NTOA she served as Director of Communications for Celebration World Resort and most importantly, understands the industry from the inside out having worked in timeshare sales and sales management for several Orlando resorts.

Lisa Ann’s passion for the timeshare industry and the rights of the consumer fits like a hand to glove with the mission of Inside Timeshare:

Our mission is to provide you news surrounding the timeshare industry, providing you with the information and tools to make informed decisions about the companies you may wish to deal with.

Then there is me. I call myself The Peasant of Venice antithesis to The Queen of timeshare Versailles because I live in Venice and have devoted full time volunteer hours to help timeshare members, alleging they were deceived by bait and switch, prepare their request for refund, relinquishment or loan cancellation. I rely on Lisa Ann and her expertise along with several other timeshare insider advocates working behind the scenes as the member and I work toward timeshare freedom, if that is their goal.

Hat’s off also to Irene Allen and the admins of advocacy Facebook groups working towards timeshare reform. Social Media has indeed enhanced the ability for members to contact other members to share experiences and concerns.

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/

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

Join us in Orlando if you can. I have met with several of our Facebook members at resorts throughout the country. There’s nothing like meeting someone you already consider a friend face to face. Remember to contact Charles at Inside Timeshare, Lisa Ann or me if you are able to hook up with us.

party time

Thank you Irene, I am certainly looking forward to meeting you all and visiting Orlando, see you all soon.

 

law

Legal News From the US: Castle Law Group PC v Timeshare Developers

Today Irene Parker gives us an insight into one lawsuit that has made the headlines in the US, it would seem that across the great lake it is the timeshare companies that are on the legal offensive. In Europe the timeshare companies are very much on the defensive as we have seen in some of our previous articles.

Yesterday we published an article about the legal battle being waged against Silverpoint, they have stated that they will be filing a case with the High Court of Justice of the European Union, arguing that Spain has got the EU Timeshare Directives wrong.

eu court justice

Just to clarify one point on the EU Timeshare Directives, that is what they are “directives”, they are not law. A directive issued by the EU is a guide to all EU States to enact into their own domestic laws certain aspects which affect citizens. It is up to each individual state to interpret those directives as they see fit. The whole point is that each State may strengthen the directives, which is what Spain has done with their own timeshare laws, firstly with Ley 42/98 and more recently with Ley 4/12.

Directives are there to try and unify each State’s laws, especially on the matter regarding consumers rights, which the timeshare directive was intended to do. Before the timeshare directives came out, timeshare in Europe was what can only be described as lawless, timeshare companies could walk all over the consumer, there was no protection, timeshare was a new concept which nobody actually understood.

It followed an old economic system known as Laissez-faire, which has its roots in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was to be free of any government intervention, such as regulation. More recently a new term was conceived by conservative politicians and economists ‘free-market capitalism’. Timeshare has always followed this model, profit, profit and more profit at the expense of the consumer. (Again it sounds like Star Treks Ferengi).

Until laws are strengthened to the benefit of the consumer, we are going to see many more of these legal battles, be it consumer against developer or developer against law firms, the stage is set, let battle commence!

Now on with today’s article by Irene

Castle Law and Judson Phillips is Sued in Federal Court for Fraud

Orange Lake v. Castle Law Group PC

Westgate v. Castle Law Group

Diamond Resorts v. Castle Law Group

Who Next v. Castle Law Group

Speak truth

By Irene Parker

August 22, 2017

Who is Judson Phillips?

Tea Party Nation is a conservative American group considered part of the Tea Party movement.   The group was created by former Shelby County, Tennessee assistant district attorney Judson Phillips in 2009

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_Nation

Judson Phillips Ridiculed for Wanting to Deny Others the Right to Vote

Judson Phillips, the lawyer behind Castle Law Group (Nashville), latest idea has created a hurricane size backlash against Mr. Phillips. The Castle Law Group owner believes that only property owners should have the right to vote.  Phillips seems to believe those who aren’t the elite feudal lords of property can’t be trusted to vote. Instead, they must be put back in their place as serfs, working for their lords for scraps off the feudalistic tables.

http://www.brighthub.com/money/home-buying/articles/123520.aspx

A Bright Hub reader’s response:

Yes, I am Republican but in no way would I ever want to be affiliated with any political group who deemed renters shouldn’t vote in public elections.

Who Castle Law Group is not:

http://www.castlelawgrouppa.com/

I contacted attorney Ben Hillard of the Castle Law Group P.A. in Largo, Florida a few months ago – by mistake. Mr. Hillard responded saying he thought I had his law firm confused with Castle Law Group PC of timeshare fame, law firms differentiated only by the initials P.A. and PC. Mr. Hillard would like to make it clear his firm is in no way associated with Mr. Judson Phillips or his law firm Castle Law Group PC. In a recent letter to Mr. Hillard, Mr. Phillips said his firm is considering rebranding for reasons not associated with Mr. Hillard’s concerns, the similarity in names.

Here is the Castle Law P.C. and Orange Lake Lawsuit as reported by Paul Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel

Orlando-based timeshare companies Westgate Resorts and Orange Lake Country Club filed nearly identical lawsuits in Orlando against Tennessee firms Castle Law and Castle Marketing. Westgate and Orange Lake accuse the Castle companies of charging some customers an upfront litigation fee of $7,500. Orange Lake said Castle filed no lawsuits for any of its owners who paid the fee; Westgate said Castle hasn’t filed lawsuits for some owners who paid the litigation fee.

A senior partner with Castle — attorney and Tea Party leader Judson Phillips — denies those allegations…. he said in an email he believes the suits are frivolous, and he and Castle have obtained good results for clients.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-timeshare-cancellation-fraud-20170618-story.html

According to a letter sent to Orange Lake attorney Brian Lower, from a Castle Law Group attorney, Castle accused Orange Lake of “gross misrepresentations regarding the terms and conditions of the Orange Lake timeshares in that they were fraudulently induced to enter into the timeshare contract and the debt instruments associated with such contracts in violation of federal and state laws.”

A letter from a lawyer like this triggers a “cease and desist” demand of all communication with the client, including collection attempts. This cease and desist letter has served as a bone of contention to timeshare developers in that a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer if the consumer is represented by an attorney or has an open Attorney General complaint, under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.

Among the twelve causes of action in Castle’s cease and desist letter against developers, are those our Inside Timeshare readers who have contacted us asking for help would not disagree with:

  • Improper and unethical high pressure sales tactics.
  • Gross and deliberate misrepresentations regarding benefits of ownership.
  • Gross misrepresentation regarding the ability to utilize timeshare points to cover fees associated with membership and exchanges.
  • False information regarding the ease and/or ability to resell for a profit.
  • False sense of urgency to purchase the same day.

Castle Law Group PC is not Better Business Bureau accredited, is nonrated, and a consumer complaint warning has been posted.

https://www.bbb.org/nashville/business-reviews/timeshare-cancellation-and-litigation-attorneys/castle-law-group-pc-in-nashville-tn-37113357

According to the Castle Law website they are timeshare lawyers trusted by thousands with a 4.7 out of 5 star ranking based on 12 reviews (powered by GetFiveStars). When I reached out to the firm for comment, I was put on hold for a very long time.

https://timesharecancellation.com/

you decide

Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association was recently quoted by the Orlando Sentinel that more lawsuits against cancellation companies were likely in the works.

“Some of those cancellation companies that have been targeted by developers were actually started by their own former timeshare employees. Those folks learned how to exploit the system by learning what is called the inside track. They know how the high-pressure sales tactics work,” Crist said. “They attract timeshare owners in the same way — post cards offering a free dinner, or an evening out. They show owners how maintenance fees escalate, and literally scare the hell out of these people using calculations that are wildly inaccurate and overstated. These are not law firms but represent to have an attorney on staff, giving the illusion that there are legal services involved in the transaction. Rarely does the company even communicate with the resort and the timeshare owner doesn’t even know what is happening until it is too late. Why is that?”

Crist explained this is often due to an unqualified money back guarantee the company provides that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The owner is simply lulled into a false sense of security, until they are foreclosed on and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Crist has watched this happening for years, but says the industry is making a mistake by throwing legitimate attorneys in the same mix with resale, transfer and advocacy groups.

While the NTOA is involved with educating owners, advocating for their rights and helping them engage in the product they already own, they do not sell, transfer or offer services like TPE’s do. Any timeshare member or owner can join NTOA.

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

GBUgly

The present legal climate in the timeshare world is reminiscent of the old west with summons flying like bullets back and forth across the corral. Lost in the middle is the consumer, many complaining they purchased a timeshare based on false promises. The timeshare lobby ARDA and the major timeshare developers seem determined to ignore outcries of deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale.  

All attorneys are not created equal. It seems that timeshare developers don’t want a timeshare member to ever contact any lawyer and they lump all attorneys into a kettle of frivolous lawsuit filers. Two major developers attributed their rise in default rate due to “attorneys targeting members and cease and desist letters.” As in any profession, some attorneys do have questionable business practices, but any citizen should have a right to their day in court and the legal representation that accompanies that right if they feel they were deceived into purchasing a timeshare.

One former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent described “inventory recycling” as a hamster wheel that sometimes begins with deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. To date (as of August 16, 2017) Inside Timeshare has received 124 inquiries of which 110 allege they were deceived on the front end of the timeshare sale. Most have outstanding loans.

“I am asking you to look at the moon and you are staring at the end of my finger,” deceased Jesuit Priest Anthony DeMello once wrote. That’s how I feel listening to case after case from family members, often financially devastated, alleging they were deceived, sometimes just days after a rescission period. Why won’t developers take a closer look at their own house?

ethics cartoon

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a positive or negative timeshare experience to share, through your experiences others may have a better understanding of what they are going through and see that they are not alone.

If you need any further information regarding any article published, or wish to know where you stand legally with your timeshare, Inside Timeshare is here to help. Contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

Welcome to this Friday’s Letter from America, first a recap on the past week.

On Monday we wished the National Timeshare Owners Association a happy anniversary. For 20 years this organisation has been the voice of US timeshare owners, it is a totally independent body, not governed by the industry. Greg Crist the CEO works very hard to create a dialogue with the industry, he believes as we do that without dialogue there can be no changing of attitudes.

We also warned about another new addition to the Litigious Abogados family, Abogados Amable & Garcia.

Their website http://www.abogadosamablegarcia.com/ is the same as all the others, except for new photographs of the so called “lawyers”, (probably just downloaded from the images on the web), even the names are variations of the others used. We have yet to see what the paperwork is like and what names appear on those and the emails, somehow we think the “Departmento Legal” will have the same ladies names as all the others.

Yesterday we publish the story about the legal action by the London law firm Edwin Coe, who are representing around 106 clients against Barclays Partner Finance. This case is being held at the High Court in London, it revolves around the issuing of loans for the sale of timeshare as an “investment” by Resort Properties / Silverpoint, with a claim of over £1.5 million.

This article has already prompted a huge response on both sides of the great lake.

On another matter, it would look like that MGM Muthu (formerly Petchy) are being very aggressive in chasing “arrears” in maintenance. Many of these that we are hearing about are those who believed they no longer owned as they “sold” years ago.

These demands are coming from “Customer Services” and signed by Luliia Sulovei. They threaten court action if they are not paid and also demand around £3000 plus the “arrears” to be paid for them to grant a surrender. Most of those contacting Inside Timeshare are elderly and some are widows. This is not a nice situation and in our view amounts to bullying and extortion!

extortion

We will be publishing a full article on this in the next week or so.

Now, on with this weeks Letter from America.

Don and Irene are making their way back home today from Arizona. Irene met many new and old Diamond Advocacy Group friends during her stay and two baby rattlesnakes. (These may have been trainee sales agents). Irene has a degree in biology and said she used to teach a class on reptiles. Irene says she likes snakes and alligators (you would need to to survive a timeshare presentation). Yes, they were rattling.

Irene would like to thank Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey, intervening on behalf of the ailing pool table at Spoke and Wheel restaurant at Los Abrigados in Sedona. Kyli, the restaurant manager, contacted Irene informing her that the antique Brunswick pool table (and I thought Brunswick only made pin spotters) is to be restored to its original glory and another manager, that same day, went out and purchased additional pool sticks (we call them cues). Don and Irene ate at the restaurant. The food was superb. While dining, the Diamond Advocacy Group gained a new member. Many of the guests staying at Los Abrigados are original ILX owners. Now they are Diamond members.

Eron Grant is not a pool table, but she hopes Mr. Flaskey will show her family the same compassion.

Diamond Resorts was a Huge Mistake!

Good choice

By Eron Grant

May 12, 2017

I have asked Inside Timeshare to publish an account of our experience with Diamond Resorts. We hope to warn others to not fall victim to high pressure same day sales and encourage readers to become involved with our Diamond Advocacy Group before buying something they will live to regret later.

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/

Many Diamond members are happy with their Diamond membership. I believe if sold properly, Diamond’s vacation program could be of benefit to some families. In our case the program was grossly oversold in terms of availability. The Diamond program will not work for us as we have all the basic timeshare benefits we need as Marriott timeshare owners.

Here’s what happened

We stayed at Diamond’s resort, The Ridge in Sedona Arizona, over Thanksgiving 2016. We booked our stay through Interval International. At the time, I had not heard of Diamond Resorts.

I called the concierge at The Ridge to ask for restaurant recommendations. She said she would get back to me. I thought it odd that a concierge needed to get back to a guest about restaurant reservations.

Later that day the concierge called back asking if anyone had scheduled us for a presentation with a DRI team member. She told me about a few restaurants she thought we would enjoy, adding that Diamond would give us a $150 gift card if we agreed to attend a 90 minute sales presentation. We agreed.

When we arrived we told the sales representative, Karen Calvano, we had a tee time scheduled in a few hours. She seemed irritated and said we would not be finished in that amount of time. Puzzled, we told her the concierge told us the meeting would only take 90 minutes. She wanted to know who told us that. She complained about the tee time when we followed her to the presentation area. She kept saying that she felt rushed going through the presentation. The presentation lasted six hours.

Ms. Calvano told us that Diamond owns numerous properties and that finding something in our local Texas area would not be a problem. We specifically asked about Texas and Louisiana because we are both working and with the kids, we can’t easily fly to take vacations due to the expense and trouble flying entails. We did say we could drive to New Mexico to ski with our kids, and added that we wanted to stay at Great Wolf Lodge.

We agreed to purchase 3500 Diamond points. When I tried to book Great Wolf Lodge, I learned it would take approximately $11,000 in equivalent DRI maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at Great Wolf Lodge when it could be booked online for $3,300. The same holds true for New York City and other big cities because Diamond does not own these properties. They are “affiliated” properties so never discounted.

I recently got in contact with another Diamond member on our DRI Advocacy Facebook group who reported an almost identical complaint. According to a DRI customer service representative, the only property available near Boston was Great Wolf Lodge Fitchburg.

The Fitchburg property was available August 14 – Aug 18 for 16,000 points.

Diamond only had availability for a Deluxe Queen.

Searching the Great Wolf Lodge Fitchburg site directly, Great Wolf had availability for a Wolf Pup Den for four nights for $1429.96 plus 270.31 tax totaling $1700.27.  At $.23 per point DRI maintenance fees, this equals $3,680 in equivalent maintenance fee dollars so $3,680 for the same property, the same week, could be booked directly with Great Wolf for $1700.

Back to our Diamond experience

Ms. Calvano told us we would be assigned the Platinum loyalty level due to being Marriott members. We own a three bedroom Marriott timeshare in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Therefore, Ms. Calvano said we could book a studio room and upgrade three times at no additional fee. Later we were told this was not true.

As we were leaving, Ms. Calavano said to contact her at any time if we had questions or needed anything at all. I emailed her on December 1, 2016 with a question but never heard back.  

In December 2016 Linda Barton, Member Marketing Agent called us and asked to attend an “orientation for new members”. She said we would learn all about our new membership, and told us to be sure to bring our tablet given to us by DRI. The orientation took place January 13-15, 2017. It was called a Diamond “Once in a Lifetime Event” in Orlando, FL. My husband had asked what this event of a lifetime entailed. He was told we would learn all about our new membership and possible upgrades. “But we just purchased our membership! We are not going to spend any more money,” my husband informed Ms. Barton.

Looking back, we should have suspected the orientation would end up a sales presentation. At the orientation the sales representative, Chris, told us we would only be allowed to upgrade one time at no extra fee. This contradicted what Karen Calvano had initially told us.

Chris said at the orientation we could sell our points back for 30 cents per point if we were platinum, but the brochure we had been provided said it was 10 cents per point. When my husband asked Chris to show us on paper where it said $.30 cents per point, Chris pointed to his handwritten notes to show us where he had written that number down. My husband demanded he show us somewhere in the DRI paraphernalia where it said points could be sold back for $.30 per point, but Chris said, “Never mind if you’re not interested. I don’t want you to have hard feelings.”

Next, we were handed over to another DRI employee who repeatedly said, “I am not sales.” He then proceeded to encourage us to purchase more points, because we could get them at a low cost of $4 something per point which, according to him, was unheard of. The fee to purchase the additional points was over $3,000 with another $4,000 something due in a year or so after that. We turned it down. This ordeal took over 3 hours.

We contacted the Diamond Resorts Advocacy Group at Diamond that promises “to assist Diamond member from Day One should a member have questions or concerns about their purchase!”

Diamond refused to cancel our contract. We filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General after learning Diamond had been issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” as a result of over 400 complaints filed against the company just in Arizona. Diamond automatically denied our claim, but after filing a rebuttal the Arizona AG said we are eligible for consideration.

In response to the Arizona AG action, Diamond has introduced a new program called Clarity that is about Accountability, Transparency and RESPECT for the customer. As far as we are concerned, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here’s a bit of information about one of our local Texas businesses owned by Jim McIngvale. Mr. McIngvale has owned Mattress Mack since 1981. It is a hugely successful business in Houston.  

Gallery Furniture believes in being on the right side, in other words, to be on the Gallery Furniture customers’ side instead of defending the industry. Advocate for the customers! Gallery Furniture makes it very clear, that we’re here for the Gallery Furniture customers, to better their lives with high quality furniture sold at the best price possible, not to pad the pockets of our manufacturers. Come out to Gallery Furniture TODAY for the best customer service in the business… (August, 2015):

http://www.mattressmack.com/macks_weblog/satisfied-customers/

Mr. McIngvale can be booked for speaking engagements.

Customer care

Perhaps Diamond would like to book him soon?

Thank you Eron for your contribution and another thank you to Irene Parker for coordinating it from the States.

Inside Timeshare welcomes contributions outlining your experiences, it helps other to know that they are not alone. Together you can influence the industry, changing the way they view the owners / members, along with the NTOA, the advocacy facebook pages and this publication you do have a voice. The industry is taking note, we know that for a fact, it is just a matter of time before they actually implement real changes.

All it leaves us to say is we hope that Irene and Don have a safe journey home from vacation, that all of you have a great weekend.

weekend cat

 

nightmare

Is This Another Nightmare on Timeshare Street?

Just before publication Inside Timeshare received this news:

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

Nancy and Dan Callahan Share their Timeshare Experience

Why don’t corporations admit wrongdoing?

Grabbing hand

By Nancy Callahan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

multi arm

It’s not as difficult as you might think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arizona Attorney General’s officeAssurance of Discontinuance

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

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

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

A Diamond Advocacy member sponsored Facebook

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

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

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

advocate 1

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

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

 

europe-usa

Timeshare Fraud: Happens on Both Sides of the Pond

We all know the “scams”, many timeshare owners have fallen victim to them over the years, from the “we will sell your timeshare for you”, “we can get you a legal surrender” to “we can get your money back and your contract cancelled”.

In Europe, as Inside Timeshare has highlighted in many articles over the past months, the proliferation of so-called claims companies and law firms is rife. From companies such as Litigious Abogados the rulings made by the Spanish Supreme Court have given them the tools to fool you the owners.

Many other companies who once peddled other products are also getting in on the act, companies such as the Monster Group, owned by Mark Rowe, now have a company called ABC Lawyers. All using the rulings as if they were their own, that only they can get your money back and cancel those contracts.

In the past it was the resale and transfer companies, many would charge to “relinquish” your timeshare, but would actually transfer it to a third party for 1€. Then after about 2 years, you find the demands for arrears in maintenance fees dropping through your door. The timeshare company does not recognise the transfer made by the company you paid. This is the problem Mrs B has had with MacDonald Resorts.

In the US this is also a very big problem, Irene Parker in today’s article continues to look at the US market, and what can and is being done to stop these fraudulent practices and protect you the consumer.

How to Reduce Fraudulent Timeshare Transfers

The Smart Money Turns to Logic and Simplicity

By Irene Parker 21 March 2017

goal chart

The National Timeshare Owners Association works diligently behind the scenes to stop fraudulent timeshare transfers by working with attorneys, law enforcement, regulators and other stakeholders in the timeshare community. It’s a collaborative effort as we highlighted last week with HOA Collection Agent Kristi Hanley. She explained the pervasive and unending attempts to defraud timeshare owners and developers alike along with the financial consequences.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-hoa-collections-agent-shares-experience/

 Gregory Crist, CEO of the NTOA says “This is white collar crime that we call the “Viking Ship” model. It is well funded and highly sophisticated. By design, it is creating further damage to the secondary market at a rapid rate and leaving behind a trail of clouded deeds. This is a serious problem we have on our hands right now. At the NTOA, we are sharing “Best Practices” with HOA’s and helping them utilize proper safeguards to protect themselves.”

However, there is light shining on the horizon. After our interview with Kristi we followed up with Dave Heine at requestmyestoppel.com and learned about Timeshare Pro Plus, a simple and effective way to reduce timeshare transfer scams. Today we will examine this innovative Cloud based technology and then hear what Laura Hey, Assistant Manager at Silver Beach Resort Daytona, has to say about timeshare transfer problems and about Timeshare Pro Plus.

According to the company’s website, Timeshare Pro Plus can improve timeshare transfer efficiency by at least 75% while reducing timeshare transfer fraud.  

If you are a timeshare owner wondering why you should be concerned with the nuts and bolts of a timeshare transfer, review this fifteen page Department of Justice timeshare scam report.

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

Everyone needs to do their part to stop fraudulent transfers. When a company contacts you asking if you would like to get rid of your timeshare, be the detective. Write down the name and location of the company, the website address, the caller’s name and a phone number to call them back.

The beginning of the timeshare hamster wheel, as described by a former timeshare sales agent, is the vacation give away. Those calls are usually outbound only and if you ask for a call back number, they will make one up or hang up. Transfer agents do offer more information as they must pose as a legitimate business.

Be an empowered and informed timeshare owner. Leave the desperate, angry and confused shackles behind. Become an advocate. If you are able to gather this information, report it to one of our advocates and we will take it from there by forwarding the information to the National Timeshare Owners Association.

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

Here are Timeshare Pro Plus bragging rights  Timeshare Pro Plus puts everything the resort’s back office needs to efficiently transfer a timeshare deed or contract while implementing some safeguards in the transfer process, under one umbrella by using the latest Cloud technology. This saves time, money and paperwork.

This software incorporates SSL encryption

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral.

The data center is HIPPA Compliant assuring the level of security demanded by the medical community.

https://home.timeshareproplus.com/

When Kristie Hanley said cleaning up the timeshare transfer business might be accomplished by requiring a simple signature from the timeshare resort, it sounded too simple and logical to be true so I contacted Dave Heine at Timeshare Pro Plus.

Sure enough, it is not simple. There are four parties involved in a timeshare transfer: The timeshare seller

⦁ The timeshare seller

⦁ The timeshare buyer

⦁ The transfer agent

⦁ The resort – pictured is Maui Hill – our favorite timeshare resort

Kristie’s suggestion was a good one, but requiring a signature from an HOA is not applicable to timeshare any more than it would be selling your primary residence. You don’t ask your HOA to sign your contract when you sell or buy a house or condo, but the HOA can put a lien on your property if you are past due on fees.

The same thing happens in timeshare. As Dave explained, timeshare scams are caused when the fictitious buyer is an individual or a company that has no intention of paying future HOA or timeshare maintenance fees. These companies charge upwards of $5000 or more to guarantee your transfer out of your timeshare unit, but in a fraudulent transfer the buyer disappears or was non-existent in the first place as soon as the transfer agent receives the owner’s transfer fee. Owners thinking they disposed of their timeshare learn the resort did not accept the transfer when they receive an invoice for maintenance fees at the end of the year.

I asked Dave how many resorts are using Timeshare Pro Plus. “Out of approximately 1000 or more resorts we work with about 50. Timeshare companies have been relying on the post office since before fax machines were invented. Resorts are slow to embrace modern technology from a fear of being cost prohibitive or from familiarity. Many take the approach of, we have always done it the way we have been doing it, it works, so why should we change?” offered Dave.

We would still be reading by kerosene lamps with that mentality.

One resort that is keeping up with modern technology is Silver Beach Resort in Daytona, Florida. Laura Hey, Assistant Manager, describes timeshare transfer as “a no man’s land” encompassing transfers from here to Hawaii and beyond. The problem is worldwide as told by one of our Inside Timeshare readers this week.

http://insidetimeshare.com/merdith-pritchard-readers-experience/

Ironically, Laura said many of the fraudulent companies are not in Florida. Florida is a mecca center for timeshare. Laura feels this may make it easier for the perpetrators to be caught operating in a state always on the watch for fraudulent transfers.

Silver Beach uses Timeshare Pro Plus and acknowledges it has made a difference, but Laura does not feel the problem can be eliminated by software alone. It takes people working together, more information, hard-hitting questions and legislative efforts. “We feel a sense of joy and victory whenever we outwit those preying upon the vulnerable,” said Laura. “Recently we received two recorded deeds, but we are not sure the transfer is legitimate. More needs to be done to make sure that, for example, a timeshare delinquent $10,000 in maintenance fees isn’t transferred to a person that doesn’t exist. When we requested a driver’s license to confirm the identity of two buyers, we learned both Nevada driver’s license were fake.”

Laura went on to warn timeshare owners to stay away from Postcard companies.

http://tstoday.com/members/magazine/issue118/39-postcard%20warning.pdf

 

It seems there is no end to the creativity and the ingenuity generated by timeshare’s lack of a secondary market. In summary – here is what we at Inside Timeshare propose:

Work towards an improved and viable secondary market.

Ask your resort if they use Timeshare Pro Plus and if not, ask what the resort does to ensure legitimate transfers.

Report companies that call asking if you want to be released from your timeshare.

Help spread the word to encourage people to ask the right questions when buying a timeshare, including talking to a member of the US Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to compare the benefits or lack of benefits buying on the secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

I hope more resorts look into Timeshare Pro Plus because reducing timeshare transfer fraud is one point timeshare owners and developers can agree on.

For more information about Timeshare Pro Plus contact Dave Heine.

http://resorttrades.com/business-directory/timeshare-pro-plus/

world hub

As we have seen, much of the problems around these “scams” and “frauds” are actually caused by the industry itself. By over valuing  the product as “an investment” as if it was actual “real estate”, lack of a resale or secondary market to the selling of contracts that breach the laws.

When there are problems such as this, it leaves owners with nowhere to go, they are then vulnerable to the clever “scammers” who then fleece the desperate of thousands.

If you need any help or advice on any company contact Inside Timeshare, we can point you in the right direction. We will show you how to check out these companies for yourself, remember doing your due diligence will save you money in the end.

  

 

letter from america

A Timeshare HOA Collections Agent Shares her Experience

By Irene Parker, March 13, 2017

Hair pull

Inside Timeshare has written many articles about timeshare transfer agents, but not often does a timeshare developer offer insights from their perspective. Kristie works in HOA Collections at a west coast legacy resort. Her job can’t be easy, so we appreciate Kristie taking the time to answer our questions.  

The timeshare resort asked not to be identified. Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman’s response to the interview is posted at the end. We reached out to Timeshare Exit Team but they have not responded.

Irene: We are grateful that you have come forward to offer a developer’s point of view. Tell us your biggest concerns.

Kristie: I am excited to have been asked to offer my thoughts concerning this difficult topic and happy to provide any assistance you may need in the future. The biggest problem we see is that only the seller has to sign the deed. One thing that might help alleviate transfer scams is if both the timeshare owner and the resort representative had to sign to sell and receive property. Year to date I have tracked 85 individuals, representing $352,000 in uncollected dues because of what we consider to be fraudulent activity.

We have been able to address many fraudulent practices by working closely with the National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA). Our establishment met CEO Greg Crist at the TBMA Orlando Conference a few years ago. Since then, we have worked together to stop some of the seemingly never ending fraudulent activity. Greg and his team have always provided positive outcomes. I would encourage every timeshare establishment to reach out to NTOA. They are the best in the industry.

Owners pay transfer companies thousands of dollars to be relieved of their timeshare which in the end often does not relieve them. This negatively affects the current dues paying owner with Maintenance Dues increases due to “Viking ships” that have no intention of paying dues. The term Viking Ships refers to Vikings who put their dead on ships and then shipped them out to sea.

We also work with Dave Heine @ requestmyestoppel.com. His program was set up to try to assist timeshare companies in an effort to stop fraudulent transfer activities by having a place for the purchaser & seller to sign as well as the estoppel & account information pages. His program can be built into any resorts policies. This saves all parties time and money.

Real Life Examples

The following article is about a Waunakee Wisconsin businessman who took over unused timeshares for a fee and will have to refund money to owners and return the timeshares to resorts, according to a consent judgment.

Jail

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/state-gets-judgment-against-waunakee-time-share-wholesaler/article_11d2cf8b-f2d9-5cdb-86d3-054e9148e417.html

NTOA works behind the scenes in their effort to stop fraudulent transfers.

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

“Most NTOA members are timeshare owners, but twelve HOAs have joined NTOA as non-profit Associate Members. We assist HOA members when an HOA suspects fraudulent activity by working cohesively with the resort under attack while cooperating with and coordinating regulatory and law enforcement agency efforts,” Greg explained.

“Our HOA members agree to abide by NTOA’s Timeshare Owner’s Bill of Rights and Best Practices Agreement. Most if not all legacy resorts, meaning sold out traditional timeshare resorts, fight fraudulent practices on a daily basis. When a deeded timeshare is not properly transferred, the resort must hire a lawyer to resolve “clouded title” issues. This costs a resort from $200 to $2500,” he added.

Our interview continues:

Irene: Question 1 – Have you seen a dramatic increase in owners seeking release or more children and heirs taking over their week?

Kristie: We have seen both. Individuals seek a release because either they don’t want to burden their children or they have stated the kids don’t have the money or the time. Our resort and our owners have matured.  Other reasons for release include age, health, finances or are not able to travel like they used to.

If they do transfer the timeshare to the kids, they have stated it’s because they don’t want to give up the property and because of the wonderful memories. They want to keep the family tradition going.

Question 2 – Have your owners been successful selling their weeks and does your resort maintain a resale department or refer to Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers?

Some of our owners have had great success selling their week and some have had difficulties. Based on feedback, it seems that it is about 50/50, with half selling on their own and half having a licensed resale company sell it.

When a customer calls we strive to give them all the information they need to make an educated decision. We advise customers about the many frauds and guarantees and to stay away from timeshare attorneys. We advise them of the transfer costs and re recording fees and even provide the paperwork they will need.

Question 3 – What are the some of the problems you have encountered when owners seek release through transfer agents?

We see fraud and incorrect deeds being prepared and recorded.  It seems that nine out of ten transfer companies are fraud and when one gets shut down 20 more open up. We have seen timeshares that have been transferred to individuals and companies that keep buying them but then never pay dues.

We have new transfer policies in place for all resale companies. All companies requesting a transfer must provide their company information so we can make sure they are a legitimate company.  We also cross reference addresses and phone numbers and if we find that the customer has chosen a resale company that is not legitimate we immediately advise the customer.

Question 4 – Are you familiar with Resort Release, endorsed by FOX celebrities Laura Ingraham and Dave Ramsey? If so, what is your opinion?

I am not familiar with Resort Release but I am familiar with radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Dave Ramsey and how they have endorsed certain resale companies. Unfortunately they are endorsing the wrong companies giving false information to clients. They both get paid to endorse companies to make it sound good regardless of the outcome. They are in advertising.

Most resale companies promise to get an owner out of their timeshare, but if it’s a deeded property they have to transfer the deed. The resale company might be able to get someone out of a contract, but they can’t get our customers out of a deed. The deed must be transferred to a legitimate party and all of our transfer procedures must be met for a transfer to be valid.

Question 5 – Are you familiar with Timeshare Exit Team? One of their agents contacted me and asked me to review their program. What is your opinion of this firm?

I would never endorse or advise anyone to use their services ever!! They specialize and advertise “Cancellation of Timeshare Contracts” but we don’t have contracts. We have deeds. We have chosen not to do business with Timeshare Exit Team because of their inability to follow our procedures and because of the quality of work previously sent to us.

Timeshare Exit Team has been involved with two other timeshare resale companies and/or timeshare attorneys that were involved with transferring 18 of our deeds since 2014 to four individuals that have never paid the dues and are delinquent in the amount of over $18,000. Out of the four individuals we were able to track, we learned that they are all associated with each other thru business dealings, contract employees or registered agents. They must assume that the association will eventually foreclose or take the property back but it is very costly to foreclose and we do not accept property back. It seems as long as they get their money they will make an effort, but if it doesn’t work out in their favor they just transfer the deed to anyone without making sure of whom they are selling it to.

Our newest issue is with the US Consumer Attorneys. They also specialize in Timeshare contract cancellations. They have transferred deeds to the same individuals as stated above that have never paid, and seem affiliated with timeshare Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman.

We were never notified of the transfers and none of the procedures were followed. This seems to be a repeat of the Timeshare Exit Team accounts all over again. We would be happy to work with any timeshare resale company as long as the procedures were followed.

Question 6 – When you deny someone a release, and they foreclose, with no loan, do you or the collection agency file a lien or report this to credit reporting agencies?

The account is considered delinquent 30 days after the due date. We send a few letters before filing a lien on the property. Once the lien is recorded and the customer has received the final notice we send the account to a 3rd party collection agency. They will report the account to the credit bureau. They work the account and report it negatively for a year. After the year we pull the account out of collections and evaluate the account for litigation.

Question 7 – Are there any transfer agencies you feel are appropriate for owners denied surrenders or are they better seeking help from a timeshare attorney?

We refer our clients to a company called The Timeshare Guys @ 877-987-4897. This is a legitimate resale company that we use all the time.

http://www.timeshareguys.com/

We never refer our clients to a timeshare attorney. Everyone we have dealt with has taken money from our owners and not been able to perform the work they promised they would do. The timeshare attorneys send us letters telling us that their clients will no longer pay the dues and we need to transfer the deed back to the association. That is not our policy and unfortunately our customer paid thousands for something an attorney cannot do. In this situation we refer our customer to the Secretary of State, or State Bar Association to file complaints to try to get their money back.

Question 8 – If an owner is denied a release, how likely is it a transfer agent will be able to release the owner, as some transfer agents guarantee a release and others offer money back guarantees? Is there such a thing as a guaranteed transfer agent?

If our owner is denied a release, a transfer agent will certainly not be able to get the owner released. If they offer a guarantee and money back they are only deceiving the customer. The board members are the only ones that have the authority to release a client and there are policies that must be followed for that to happen and it does not happen often.

Question 9 – What do you charge an owner for a one week deed-back if your resort accepts the transfer?

Usually we charge two times the amount of the dues plus hard costs.  Each owner’s request is reviewed by the board and our owner’s situation is taken into consideration. The board will never agree to transfer the deed just because the owner is tired of paying. This is deeded property like a home and is treated as such.   

Question 10 – Are transfer agents necessary? If an owner is denied a release, ads say the owner can get released through a transfer agent. The deed goes back to the developer anyway and the owner can be charged $5000 or more.

Our association would rather deal directly with our owners to avoid the transfer agent fee but it seems the customer reaches out to transfer agent first. If the transfer agents were legitimate they would be helpful because they can prepare & file any paperwork.

Question 11 – Are there any other specific company names you can provide that timeshare owners should watch out for?

 

Kristie: There are so many timeshare resale companies that just pop-up and think they know what to do. I am not sure how they get lists of owners but they get the names and prey like wolves on consumers. Some of companies we have had the most problems with and would advise owner to stay away from are: Tek Solutions, Vacation Ventures, Resort Access, Tanya’s Timeshare, Superhealth Technologies, Sunshine Groves, Sunshine Clearing, Starla Missions, and Fireside Registry, just to name a few. Then we have the deliberate scams that timeshare attorneys and resale companies transfer to – individuals that never pay and never notify us. We usually find out about things like that when the customer gets the bill or we stumble upon it in the recorder’s office.

Irene: Thank you Kristie for answering my questions. It sounds like the popular timeshare slogan “Vacation Planning Simplified” does not apply to vacation un-planning. I learned a lot from Kristie’s answers. It will take some time to digest. Inside Timeshare will continue to unravel the mysteries of our timeshare world.

think box

Mr. Sussman responded as follows:

While I understand their position, the simple fact is that if the timeshare had any value at all….the resort should be thrilled to take it back so that they can resell it for a profit.

Of course, since the timeshare is a liability and not an asset, the resorts refuse to take back what is essentially a lifetime financial obligation.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable.  When for health reasons or simply lack of income they are unable to utilize the timeshare the resorts have zero sympathy, refuse to take back the timeshare and then report the owner as a deadbeat to the credit reporting agencies.

Shame on them and bravo to any attorney, willing to sue or otherwise punish the resorts for taking advantage of the weak and infirm.

If a resort wants attorney’s in the field of timeshare cancellation to not feel as I do, they should simply agree to take back their timeshare when asked by their owner. Not by the attorney. Why should there have to even be attorneys in this field?

If timeshare resorts maintained a policy that would allow owners who are no longer willing and able to travel out of their timeshare, there would be no need for timeshare attorneys or timeshare transfer companies.

Mitchell Reed Sussman

Attorney at Law

The views expressed in this article are the views of the interviewee. Timeshare transfer agents and the problems resulting from fraudulent transfers – as evidenced by the Department of Justice timeshare scam report linked in our article below – is a subject Inside Timeshare will be closely following.

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

 

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Kristie for her time and insight, it gives owners / members more information on this mysterious world called timeshare. Also a big thank you to Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman, his views on owners being able to hand back without the need of an attorney will, we believe, be welcomed by many on both sides of the pond.

 

We welcome your comments and stories, contact Inside Timeshare if you have something you would like to share. It you the reader who provides the information which will help others.

 

chickensoup

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

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

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

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

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

Non timeshare organisations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

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

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

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

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

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

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

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

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

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

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

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

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

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

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

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

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

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Business Bureau BBB

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

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

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

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

Summary and Conclusion

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

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

success

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

GET INVOLVED!

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

media

And So It Begins!!

Following on from Friday’s article Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump, it would appear to have upset a few people on a facebook page that Irene is or rather was a member of, Diamond Resorts International Members page.

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

Apparently some think it is political, well what isn’t political nowadays?

Gandhi free press

It asks the question what will happen to timeshare under the Trump presidency, a fair question considering his business background. He is a developer himself, having built a golf resort in Scotland, which includes plans to double the number of timeshare apartments.

He is all for business, fair enough, but is that going to be at the expense of beleaguered timeshare owners in the USA?

We have already seen in previous articles the predatory nature in the sale of timeshare including the continual upgrading and “lending” in order to fund this. It has been highlighted time and again that there is a lack of a “secondary market”, which ends up with owners being at the mercy of unscrupulous resale and termination companies.

Just from the actions in barring Irene from the group by a few, freedom of speech and expression is being eroded by a few, who think they know better. Are these people just stooges for the industry? Do they speak for the majority?

Voltaire free speech

Inside Timeshare thinks not, we will publish stories about both sides, whether they are “the good, the bad or just downright ugly”. Freedom of speech is the fundamental aspect of democracy, when we lose that we have dictatorship, Irene has lost one avenue for that freedom and it is to the detriment of those other members who wish to know the Truth.

Timeshare and Politics

Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech Works

By Irene Parker January 23, 2017

hand and pen

Whether we are talking politics or timeshare, media spin is usually the first line of defence. I have been banned from one of the Diamond Resorts Members Facebook page for posting the article Inside Timeshare published Friday, January 20 about US Attorneys General working for timeshare owners and Attorneys General who seem to be on the side of the timeshare developer. I was banned because the article was deemed political. I did not know President Trump was going into the timeshare business until I read the article after it was published.

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

Timeshare is all about politics. The problem is, timeshare is a one sided political game with all the muscle on the side of the timeshare developers.

Several of the members of the Diamond Facebook contacted me with their reasoning as to why I was banned. I’m told the quota of unhappy owners has exceeded its limits. Happy campers are encouraged to apply.
I worked with over two dozen of the Facebook members, several having been financially devastated by their vacation plan. I felt like I had been making real progress interacting with PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda, the newly formed Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department, and Diamond’s In-house Counsel – responding when legitimate examples of deceptive and fraudulent business practices are brought forth, similar to the Monarch example below.

Owners released from a timeshare contract cannot share their story because they are required to sign a confidential non-disclosure agreement or CNDA, agreeing not to say anything negative about Diamond Resorts. How can this Monarch owner go through life not saying anything negative about Diamond Resorts? I use Diamond as an example, but a few of the big players are just as guilty.
I am at the Cancun resort in Las Vegas and went to a breakfast where they said they would simply update me about the changeover to Diamond. I was told that I should have been invited to a dinner where I would have been given options, decided by a judge in a legal ruling against Monarch due to their bankruptcy. They proceeded to show me a print out that said when my current term expires in August. I would have to pay $573 per quarter to Monarch. They said that due to the bankruptcy, I would have no equity. That was option one. Pay more, have nothing. The other option they said was to transfer into Diamond at a cost of $12,000 plus and pay a yearly maintenance fee of $1,700. Less than the $2,292 I would soon be giving Monarch. They also told me that I would then have equity of $41,000 that I could sell. I was in tears. I do not have any extra money. In fact I have been looking for ways to get out of Monarch for over a year now. They said that was not an option and that as an owner, I was now proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. After reading the comments above I am even more scared. I am trying to start my own business and am already in severe debt. They claimed when they ran my credit though that it looked better than most and assured me I qualified for financing. I would have to pay off, basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now before I could look to sell. One of the reps assured me that she would put me in touch with someone who could help me sell my points. She even gave me her cell phone number to call after the sale/transfer is finalized. I am really scared though. Please help! We have to do something. It seems as though they have no qualms about lying to and robbing people for their own benefit.

bill of rights

Attempts are being made to suppress the America media. CNN has been aggressively targeted. Suppressing the media is the first step in a dictatorship. It pains me to see Anderson Cooper rattled by the absurdity of debating crowd size.

Propaganda and distraction are the means to control the message. In timeshare this is accomplished by requiring relinquishing owners sign a non-disclosure agreement. This is common in any industry, but seems harsh when an elderly or vulnerable family has turned over sometimes their life savings because they believed they were buying the equivalent of a second home. The family will receive nothing when they relinquish. The developer takes back the contracts and resells for full value. Amounts from $50,000 to $100,000 are not uncommon. I dare not show them past levels of executive compensation which I believe are wildly inflated. Is it fair to silence?

I sent our controversial article to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with this note:

I know Senators Warren and Sanders are kind of busy right now, but I really think they should know our President is going into the timeshare business and one of his best friends for the last 20 years is the owner of Westgate who you have been investigating for a couple years.

What can be done about it?

help key

There seems to be a real disdain for confronting a problem with the preference being to deny the problem exits. In the media, I have seen masterful examples of answering a question by not answering the question. I have always said half a problem goes away when confronted. How CAN the timeshare problem be confronted?

Finally, a timeshare company listened!

Diamond Resorts has created a Consumer Advocacy Department that allows owners who have been victimised by rogue timeshare sale agents to contact their Consumer Advocacy Department at:

mailto: ConsumerAdvocacy@DiamondResorts.com

Often issues are related to miscommunication. Meaningful dialogue can work wonders. The entire industry benefits although timeshare lawyers may notice a decrease in their earnings.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and his staff are working with Diamond Resorts to improve their business practices. Diamond is certainly not the only timeshare company that needs to improve.

OPC´s in Europe and the USA.

One of my favourite posts on my former Diamond Facebook was when an owner said Diamond needs to take the Blinkers off. Blinkers off? It’s a worldwide Facebook page so an American said the word we use is Blinders.

Timeshare needs to take its blinkers or blinders off and realize there is a problem with the timeshare industry and the continual conflict between timeshare developer lobbyists like ARDA, RDO and TATOC and timeshare owners and advocates. CRDA is not on this list because CRDA does have an advocacy arm. It’s called the National Timeshare Owner’s Association and it has been helping owners for over twenty years. Owners have available an “ASK CRDA” helpline that has operated without any interference from developers. But that’s Canada for you.

Too many senior citizens we used to call baby-boomers are being harmed by predatory marathon sales presentations repeatedly asking us to sign perpetual contracts with little or no secondary market.

Let’s wake up Timeshare!

The Arizona Attorney General has taken the first step by throwing out the oral representation clause in Arizona, or “license to lie” as timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group likes to describe it. For years deception and fraud has gone on unchecked because of the oral representation clause. The oral representation clause is the start of a vicious circle that ends with the widely reported timeshare resale scam industry.

Is honesty really that hard?

 

reform

Inside Timeshare will continue to publish stories such as these, without them timeshare owners around the world will be kept in the dark. If you have any comments on this or any other article Inside Timeshare welcomes them. If you have a personal story on your experiences which you would like to share, contact us and we will get back to you. You Have a voice, use it!

 

   

  

 

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