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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, in this article which replaces the one scheduled, which we pulled once again at the last minute due to a very good response from the timeshare company, Irene Parker explains how US timeshare owners can file a complaint.

In Europe, Spain leads the way in protecting consumers of timeshare, we do understand that in the US, each state is responsible for their own laws, there seem to be no federal laws which govern the sale of timeshare. Europe has tried to unify how timeshare is sold, the unfortunate thing is that in many states the industry (with their large corporate law firms) have held sway.

Spain, which was one of the main areas where timeshare resorts were being developed, has suffered from the bad press associated with the industry. People being hijacked on the street while on holiday, bundled into taxis to endure hours of hard sell by unscrupulous sales agents. Although the blame must be on the sales and marketing companies,who paid only on results, commission only. Many start out okay, but the pressure to produce is enormous and an agent can be forced out by being given poor quality “ups” if they don’t produce.

The European Union developed a series of timeshare directives which each member state had to enact into domestic law, many have watered them down, Spain on the other hand decided that they needed to be strengthened and enacted Law 42/98.

This law came into force in January 1999, since then it has been strengthened by Law 4/12 along with the many Supreme Court rulings.

This now gives consumers more protection, no deposits within a 14 day cooling off period, no contract longer than 50 years, no points or floating weeks systems, with many other safeguards.

There are other laws which protect the consumer which are being used in the many cases coming before the courts, these include the civil consumer laws, mercantile law and by no means least, criminal law.

The way consumers are enticed to attend presentations has also been looked into, OPC’s are now regulated and licensed, unlike before. Infringements of the regulations can result in very severe penalties.

Timeshare in Europe has a very bad reputation because of the past, the original concept cannot be faulted, it is the greed around the sales that is to blame. We know this to be true due to the closing of many sales decks, with many of the sales agents now working for the “bogus” law firms and claims companies that are springing up on an almost daily basis.

Inside Timeshare is doing what it can to warn consumers of these companies, but as soon as we identify one there is another to replace it. Litigious Abogados is a great case in point, changing names every few months but the “scam” is the same.

It is only through the help of our readers that many of them are identified, as owners / members working together we will be able to protect the timeshare community.Now for this weeks Letter from America.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (May 2018 revision)

Start with the Attorneys General Office

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

May 18, 2018

By Irene Parker

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. Rosa Parks

Inside Timeshare received 425 US timeshare complaints as of May 16, 2018 (238 was the number of complaints reported as of our last revision 12/15/17). An escalation in the criminal nature of member allegations, especially those voiced by 45 active duty and retired military and law enforcement, led us to the FBI (9 members of the military/law enforcement reported allegations of timeshare fraud as of 12/15). Some fear they could lose their Security Clearances due to a foreclosure on their record. Active duty military feel this is a threat to our national security as just about anyone can get hired to sell timeshare points.

Members need to be especially vigilant about “Get you out of your timeshare” firms because many are scams. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ (TAG) has a scam research team formed by members who have themselves been scammed. Contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below if you are contacted by someone you don’t know offering to help you get out of a timeshare.

This US Department of Justice timeshare scam report details the extent of the problem. Based on 425 complaints, our advocates feel the front of the timeshare sale contains a comparable level of criminal activity.  

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

Timeshare developers created the criminal cottage industry of transfer and exit scams by overreliance on the oral representation clause, iron clad developer based contracts, the lack of an adequate secondary market, and ingrained deception run amuck, according to reported complaints. The vast majority of our readers are highly professional, educated citizens with credit scores around 800 who have rarely been late paying a bill. Identical complaints, directed against the same sales agent, sometimes in cooperation with a manager or vice president, can establish a pattern of complaints.

It is one thing to say I am a sinner, but let someone else say that about me and then I feel it – I am up in arms. If I am falsely accused I may suffer, whereas if correction be found on even a small reality – something in me having deserved it – then often that hurts more. We must be happy that our faults are known as they are. Mother Teresa

With no way out if the timeshare company refuses to even acknowledge the deception, hiring a lawyer or foreclosure were the only options until real consumer advocates formed Timeshare Advocacy Group™ – bridging the gap between the developer and the member harmed. At times it felt like turning the Titanic, but closing gaps on social issues never comes easy and some causes take longer than a lifetime. Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus at great peril to her safety, but Rosa reached a decision that enough was enough and action was needed. It was a small action, but one that led to great changes. Educator and activist Parker Palmer explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK0dXNK94BM

Almost all members have reported their timeshare company responded to their allegations of deceit with, “Sorry, you signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” This knee jerk dismissal is backed up by some Attorneys General, via their timeshare divisions, responding the same. Unscrupulous timeshare sales agents realize this of course, so the hamster wheel of recycled inventory never ceases beginning with “It’s not a sales presentation.” If there is still truth in advertising, change needs to begin there.   

According to the FBI and to lawyers consulted, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, but it takes volumes of complaints to raise a regulator’s eyebrow. The Federal Trade Commission released its summary report of 2017 complaints listing travel, vacation, and timeshare as one of the most costly frauds at $1,710, although complaints we have received from members range from $25,000 to $400,000 or more. We wish members were only losing $1,710.   

Travel, vacation, and timeshare frauds were the most costly with people losing a median amount of $1,710. The FTC also broke out fraud losses for members of the military and found their median fraud loss to be 44 percent higher than the general population.

https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/opinion/columnists/2018/04/06/ftc-releases-2017-complaint-statistics/493425002/

According to the FBI,

White-collar crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial—to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage. These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three).

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of financial institution fraud known as “fraud for profit”:

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

The FBI has advised our members, if the allegation involves credit card fraud, the member should also file a complaint with the Secret Service.

https://ask.metafilter.com/81136/Should-I-call-the-Secret-Service-over-credit-card-fraud

The two most common complaints reported:

  • The agent said I could easily sell my points
  • They said I could pay maintenance fees by charging purchases to a credit card, neglecting to add only about 1% of each purchase is credited to maintenance fees. Some fell for bogus maintenance fee relief programs. Already struggling, they buy more points.

How Advocacy Works

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is organized into seven teams:

  1. Team 1 is our Reporting Team. Once the timeshare member has related their concern or grievance, the member submits their written complaint to the timeshare company. If ignored or the member receives a negative response, the complaint is forward to one of six advocates assigned to a specific regulatory or law enforcement agency. For example, Sheilah Brust is our go to person for the FBI and the Secret Service. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-4/
  2. Team 2 is our Legislative Team. Members on this team reach out to sympathetic lawmakers to advocate for better disclosure. It would be nice to know that the timeshare you just bought for $100,000 had little or no secondary market the moment you signed the contract. TAG has received an alarming number of complaints from seniors 75 to 85 who have signed timeshare contracts for $100,000 or more. Not one of the 425 members reaching out to Inside Timeshare realized their timeshare in all likelihood could not be sold, even when costing as much as a house.
  3. Team 3 is our Military Team. We encourage anyone who has resolved their timeshare complaint as a result of our efforts to make a donation to Whistleblowers of America. WOA is a non-profit that seeks justice for active duty and veteran members of the military and government workers. WOA has supported our efforts by helping to distribute our articles. Our timeshare fraud report was presented as part of a Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs March 14, 2018.  https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/
  4.  Team 4 is our foreclosure support group. Facing cruel and relentless debt collection calls can be an overwhelming experience for anyone who has rarely been late on a bill, but for those who have recently lost a spouse the experience is devastating. Some members of this team have been through this and are determined to stay involved to fight Elder Fraud especially.
  5. Team 5 is our Scam Research team. This team consists of members who themselves have been scammed. There is a very dark side to this illegal industry. We are careful in our approach.
  6. Team 6 is our Media Team. Given state regulators backing up the timeshare company by responding, “You should not have relied on verbal representation” or “You have no proof” the Court of Public Opinion and Outcry is the only court open in some states.
  7. Team 7 is our Technology team.  We have a support staff of volunteers to assist those without access to a computer due to age, illness or disability. This team also provides YouTube production support.

Contact Inside Timeshare or email Irene Parker at [email protected] or call 270-303-7572 EST if you are interested in becoming a volunteer. Feel free to call any day of the week from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST. It’s best to schedule a call. All calls and emails are returned within 24/48 hours.

Now it’s time to begin filling out the form. 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 or inflammatory language.

Our advocates 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 and law enforcement agencies 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 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. It’s a good idea to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card if one was used

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment?

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. There can be no loan outstanding and maintenance fees need to be current.

Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded as will a request based on not being able to afford the timeshare. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say you can’t afford it. The difference is you can sell your home. Your complaint should be filed with the FBI only if there are credible and serious allegations of deceit and bait and switch. If you feel you were deceived, list the reasons why.   

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.

After you complete your complaint, email it to the appropriate resort department or to TAG if you need help with your complaint. Expect to be denied. Typically your resort reviewer will restate your concerns, produce your initials and signatures, point out the oral representation clause and inform you, “If something was important to you, you should have asked for it to be put in the contract.” File a rebuttal if you disagree with their response.

Depending on the seriousness of your complaint, your advocate may forward your complaint to the firm’s public relations office or firm and to ARDA, the timeshare industries PAC, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. ARDA’s Code of Ethics can be found on ARDA’s website.

We do not recommend owners make the voluntary opt in or opt out ARDA ROC contribution on your maintenance fee invoice. It is the opinion of our advocates that although ARDA lobbies for the industry and for timeshare members, when the issue at stake is one that is at odds with members, members lose because they have no voice. We also forward your complaint to the Association of Vacation Owners. AVO has been tracking our complaints for research purposes. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-3/

Mark your email to the resort urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. The member will report back to us if the issue is resolved. Due to the required non-disclosure or mutual release form, terms and conditions will not be discussed.

The FBI complaint website is called IC3.gov which stands for Internet Crime. This is a bit confusing. IC is the name of the portal. That doesn’t mean it has to be an internet crime. We think they should have a white collar crime option to avoid this confusion. Click IC3 as your choice when filing. https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Serious allegations of fraud should be reported orally by calling the FBI field office’s public access line available 24/7 (see Sheilah’s article). Sometimes your local field office will pay closer attention than say Las Vegas, where losing money is a tourist attraction. You can find your nearest field office from this website.

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

The next step is to file a complaint first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract and where you live. 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 name and Attorney General.

If there was an unauthorized credit card charge or account opened 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. This is the organization that helped Wells Fargo victims. The CFPB lost power after the roll back of the Dodd Frank act March 2018. The Dodd Frank act was enacted after the abuses caused by subprime lending. The CFPB is still considered a regulator. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/

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. Your advocate can help you find the agent’s ID number. Timeshare sales agents are real estate licensed in most states.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints. Sometimes the BBB allows you to log in and file a rebuttal.  

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 timeshare black holes before engaging in a timeshare sales presentation.

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • The FBI at IC3.gov portal if you feel you were deceived by a bait and switch. For allegations of a serious nature also contact an FBI field office to file an oral tip. Have your facts and figures ready.
  • Attorneys General where you signed your contract. 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.  
  • 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 involved. Timeshare has dodged this regulatory bullet because most members don’t even know the identity of the lender as the timeshare company often services the loan. Timeshare companies are not an option from the CFPB’s drop-down menu.
  • The Federal Trade Commission
  • 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 work, it is, but you can file with some, all, or none of the agencies. We have a team of advocates who can answer questions and help guide you through the process. We feel “Action and Advocacy” is the way to change questionable timeshare business practices.  

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 by referring timeshare members who need help to Inside Timeshare or to one of the self-help groups listed below we know are not industry influenced.   

Who We Are and Why We Do This

Timeshare members contacting us are often struggling with maintenance fees and high interest rate loans. Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever but an organized campaign to track complaints and report criminal activity has already born fruit in the form of Attorneys General settlements and a greater awareness.

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.

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.

  1. The abnormal becomes the normal. After receiving 425 complaints, I fear deception is endorsed and encouraged by some timeshare companies. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney Vacation Club because of their scarcity of complaints.
  2. Victims are silenced and isolated via non-disclosure agreements and arbitration. Buyers should opt out of arbitration immediately after signing a contract.   

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. My solo effort has grown to a network of 44 Advocates. We are not compensated. We are volunteers. We hope there will come a day our advocacy group is not needed.

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

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

http://tug2.net/

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

May 18, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy GroupTM

 

That’s it for this week, the weekend once again beckons so join us again next week for more news and information on the world of timeshare.

Latest news just in from the Court of First Instance Number 3 Abona Tenerife.

The judge in a case against Diamond Resorts Tenerife Sales SL, has declared the clients contract null and void. The infringments are the points system which has been made illegal, the contract in perpetuity, when the law stipulates that it should be for a maximum of 50 years and the taking of deposits within the cooling of period, which is also illegal even by a third party.

The client will now receive a total of £44,790 which includes double the deposit illegally taken, the court also awarded legal interest.

The laws in Spain have been put into place and strengthened by the Supreme Court to protect consumers, they are having a profound affect on the industry, which for too long believed it was untouchable.

What Do You Believe?

Inside Timeshare is receiving many enquiries from readers who are so confused they don’t know what to believe anymore. The subject is regarding court cases against the timeshare companies.

They are receiving letters from their timeshare resorts and companies stating that the claims about court victories against them is false, that it is all a ploy to get their money. So what is the truth?

Inside Timeshare agrees there are bogus law firms and claims companies out there, after all we have published many articles about them, but the fact is these court cases and the rulings from the Spanish Supreme Court are genuine.

For too long the timeshare companies have been selling their products in breach of Spanish Timeshare Law, now they are having to pay the price with all the legal action being taken against them. Obviously they don’t like it, they will do and say anything to stop their members from getting justice.

It is costing them not just in the amounts being awarded by the courts, but it is also costing them in the reduced amount they receive in maintenance fees. They are losing income, not only from maintenance fees but also from selling the product to new members, sales are reducing at an alarming rate.

Sales Decks are closing, the sales teams are being laid off, the OPC’s on the streets are disappearing, new members are becoming a rarity. The existing membership base is now retired or getting very close to retiring. Their children don’t want the timeshares, to them is it a waste of money, they use the internet and get their holidays far cheaper.

In the light of this it is not surprising they are going on the offensive and denying everything. Unfortunately for them the truth is out there, the Spanish press along with other countries are publishing the stories. The court documents are there and can be verified quite easily, there are several ways this can be done, obviously directly with the court that issued the judgement, but there is also an official website which can be used, although it can be a little confusing to use.

Below is a link to the website which shows Supreme Court Sentence 373/2017 against Silverpoint. To see the full sentence click on the title for the entry.

https://www.iberley.es/search/?form%5Bcollection%5D=sentencias&form%5Bterm%5D=373%2F2017+tribunal+supremo+sala+de+lo+civil&form%5Bsave%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bdate_from%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bdate_to%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bnum_sen%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bnum_rec%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bid_cendoj%5D=&form%5B_token%5D=v20bRsJcl3_oPlj09fv-H8J_EX1FkQ__IjvREimVyHo

This link will show a ruling from the Supreme Court Sentence 684/2016 against Anfi.

https://www.iberley.es/search/?form%5Bcollection%5D=sentencias&form%5Bterm%5D=684%2F2016+tribunal+supremo+sala+de+lo+civil&form%5Bsave%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bdate_from%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bdate_to%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bnum_sen%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bnum_rec%5D=&form%5Brequest%5D%5Bid_cendoj%5D=&form%5B_token%5D=I_ObFuVA45vnXtSEUP_reRzF5FfDF_0Jr45lUj8YCXw

So back to the question of our title, What Do You Believe?

The facts are there, you believed what you were told when you were sold the product, most of that has turned out to be untrue, so can you actually believe what they are now claiming?

We leave it to you the reader to decide.

If you have any questions about this or any article published, contact Inside Timeshare and if we don’t know the answer, we will find out for you. We are here to give you the facts and the truth!

 

My Thoughts Today: End of January

We began January with an update on “bogus” law firms Litigious Abogados and Litigar Abogados, with the addition of a third firm called Abogacia Española, with the founder being Fernando Holaci. All three websites are the same except for minor alterations such as colour and the names of the founder and the lawyers.

The method of enticing timeshare owners to pay is also very sophisticated, with fake court documents, copies of compensation cheques and official looking documents from the so-called Procurator, Davido Harstun Jaime.

LIT

They begin by sending or calling prospective clients about the court case they are about to conduct against their timeshare company, that they are eligible to participate. In order to be registered on the coming court case, a sum of around 1,500€ is required. This has to be paid quickly as the case is due to be heard within the month.

Once this sum is paid, the client receives another email with the fantastic news that their case has been won, with the court awarding many thousands back to them. All this is done within weeks, a feat not seen in a Spanish court or any other court for that matter. Now comes the main part of the “sting”, in order to get this sum paid out court taxes etc need to be paid first, the amount varies from client to client depending on the court award. But they are in the region of £4000 to £8000. For further information see the link below or search Litigious Abogados in the search area for all the posts.

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-plot-thickens/

Another article published was around a Credits based lifestyle company which popped up on our radar called Keys Concierge. The reason for this article was very simple, it is the link between the director of Keys Concierge, Mr Franz Markus Deutsch and the CEO of Silverpoint / Resort Properties, Mr Mark Cushway.

The company became active in August 2015 and has a credits based system to purchase goods and services. Credits are also “earned” with each purchase and shows substantial discounts on holidays and products. So far there has been no other information come to light.

http://insidetimeshare.com/keys-concierge-another-credits-based-lifestyle-company/

Inside Timeshare with Irene, also broke the news of a settlement between the Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Diamond for $800,000 which revolved around “Allegations of Consumer Fraud Act Violations”. This is a story that we have been following all month. (see following articles).

arizona-ag-seal

After the “Breaking News” of the settlement, a joint article by Charles and Irene on the role and use of OPC´s in the timeshare sales cycle. It began with an outline on what regulations various countries in Europe have on controlling how these “scratchcard touts” operate. Going on to explain how they work in the US, with Irene laying out the information they are after. She also spoke about an OPC that she knows personally. It was an insight into how you ended up on the presentation.

This was followed by more Litigious Abogados updates and the article “Thinking of Buying a Timeshare”. It was closely related to the previous article on OPC´s as it explained how the scratchcards work, then going on to ask “Is it worth buying one”?

It came to the conclusion that it depends on what you are after, it also weighed up whether to buy from the developer or a resale. There was also a link to Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group, who also gave some very sound advice.

Again we went across The Great Lake for more news from the US,

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

In this article Irene gave her analysis of the importance of the Arizona Attorney General’s settlement with Diamond. Irene told the story of the nightmare suffered by Irina Allen and her purchases, along with the fact she had her membership suspended on false allegations of being a “mega renter” with an AirBnB account. She had even been advised by a sales rep to buy more points as renting will help pay the maintenance.

Another article we published was on the subject of plagiarism, this was prompted by posts appearing on the TCA website which more than resembled articles written by myself and Irene. Any author will recognise their own writing style and use of words. Especially as the grammar used by the TCA writers is to say the least very poor.

But, the main point was the use of information not just from Inside Timeshare but also from Canarian Legal Alliance. In all the posts on the TCA site, no mention or accreditation to where  this information had come from. It all appeared  the TCA was taking credit for the information and the Supreme Court victories achieved by CLA. Whenever Inside Timeshare publishes any article that uses information or news from another source, that source is always credited for it. That is the basic rule of any journalist or writer.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tca-using-others-work/

plagiarism

The next article on US timeshare had a very happy ending, back in November Irene explained that Wyndham had launched “The Ovation” surrender programme. After receiving this news Inside Timeshare contacted one of our readers, Steve, who owned at Wyndham. Due to his personal circumstances he wanted to surrender his ownership, he did not have a claim, so relinquishment was the only option.

It was explained to Steve about the Ovation news and he duly contacted them to surrender his ownership. Within two months he got the news that they had indeed accepted his surrender request. Since then Diamond have also accepted the surrender of his European membership, although due to his statement of events at the point of sale, Diamond are investigating and we hope to report on that in the near future.

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndhams-ovation-surrender-program-latest-news/

On the day President Trump was inaugurated Inside Timeshare along with Irene published the question “Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump”. The article explained how the business and politics are linked, including the role of the “lobbyist”.

This was a subject being asked by many owners of timeshare in the US and only time will tell what effect his presidency will have on them.

http://insidetimeshare.com/attorneys-general-timeshare-trump/

In the article “And So it Begins”, it followed Irene being banned from the Diamond Resorts International Members facebook page. The reason, a few thought her posts and links to our articles were political, Inside Timeshare posed the question “what is not political nowadays”?

The real reason of her ban is simple, she asks questions about Diamond, she writes about Diamond, she questions Diamond, she questions the practices of the sales reps, but she also has dialogue with Diamond. She brings to their attention the concerns of thousands of members, she has also had statements from senior Diamond employees which she has used in her articles.

In her following article she called for advocacy in timeshare, highlighting Diamond creating an Advocacy Department, even contacting Maya Pogoda, Diamonds Public Relations Representative, who is also helping to launch the Diamond Advocacy and Clarity programme. But to some on the facebook page she was attacking Diamond, when in reality she and Inside Timeshare are calling for dialogue. Yes we do highlight the ugly, but we also highlight the good.

In another twist to this tale, two more people have been banned from this group, the reason? They have been highlighted in articles by Irene and published on Inside Timeshare, They are Irina Allen and the Saldana family. Do those calling for a ban who are the administrators believe in two sides to a story or are they only interested in promoting their own ego´s, one openly boasts how he owns so many points yet has never actually paid for them, one wonders how he got them? You know who you are and Inside Timeshare awaits your response.

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

CLA Logo

Back to Europe, Canarian Legal Alliance has been hitting the news again, published on the 26 January, was the news of two Supreme Court rulings against Silverpoint / Resort Properties. In the first judgement the court announced that the Club Paradiso product was indeed timeshare and fell under the relevant laws, they also concluded that the client in this case was a consumer not an investor as Silverpoint claimed. This has significant implications for other “Club” schemes operated by other companies.

This case was picked up by The Northern Echo follow the link:

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/15045851.Woman_wins_a_landmark_legal_ruling_on_timeshares/?ref=rl&lp=2

Within days there were another two verdicts delivered by the highest court in Spain, again against Silverpoint. In the fourth ruling, the court reiterated the earlier verdict that the “Club” scheme was timeshare, this was in relation to Hollywood Mirage and Beverly Hills Club Vacation package. Now if memory serves me correctly the second ruling on “Club” schemes now puts that into jurisprudence.

 

In the last article this month, Irene gave her views on Diamond’s Clarity programme, she had an interview with Maya Pogoda the Diamond PR and also had comments from Executive Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Flaskey. Now if this isn’t creating a dialogue, well I don’t know what is!

This will be followed next month by Part II: How Owners Feel About Clarity.

We have also been informed of a major news item that is just breaking, we hope to have an article on this tomorrow, Irene is busy on it now. But we must remember she is several hours behind us, so watch this space.

Inside Timeshare publishes these articles to keep you informed of the latest news, developments and views in the world of timeshare. Much of it you would never hear about, especially as many forums will remove posts the administrators don’t like. We will continue to publish even if it is controversial, that is what we believe in, the freedom to question, criticise and comment.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who have contributed to articles this month, either through information or comments, without you the stories would not be there.

great quote

 

Thinking of Buying a Timeshare?

For most people buying a timeshare was not actually on their mind, the usual scenario was they were on holiday and they were stopped on the street by a happy, smiling young lad or girl, the OPC. They would be offered a free scratch card and would win some kind of prize, then low and behold one of the cards was the “Star Prize”.

The lad or girl would then turn cartwheels of joy that you had “won” this, they have never had a winner before, you are so lucky, there are only ever one or two a week. In truth everyone who is given the cards has a “Star Prize. The touts know which ones are which. We´ll let you into a secret here, on the front is a picture, it may be of a palm beach with seagulls in the air, one card has three of them the other has four. You guessed it, the four seagulls contains the star prize.

After this you are invited into a taxi and taken to the resort to collect your prize, you will also hear about this wonderful resort while you wait for your prizes. This will only take a maximum of 90 minutes.

That is how the majority of “owners” got into timeshare, very few went out of their way to buy one.

90mins

So is it worth buying one?

It may be for some and not for others, it really depends on what you want from your holidays. The original concept of timeshare, being the fixed week fixed apartment was in fairness a good one. It did give you quality accommodation, the feeling of exclusivity as only other members would stay at the resort.

Also the fact that before the internet, you were reliant on the high street travel agent and we all know that many of the hotels were not as advertised. Some even had allocation on arrival.

For many families it worked well, especially for those with a couple of kids, as booking through a travel agent you were charged per person for the accommodation. With the timeshare you paid the original fee and then a yearly maintenance charge, so whether you went alone of with a family of four the price was the same. when you added the cost of flights and airport transfers, the cost was usually cheaper than a travel agent for the same quality of accommodation.

bedroom

Obviously buying a timeshare from the resort developer themselves is a very costly way of doing it, costing in most cases upwards of £10,000. Buying from a resale agent or even from ebay may be the best option, with prices as low as £500 for a week. But you must also remember that the yearly maintenance fees have to be paid, so you do need to know how much they are beforehand. Also this fee will go up, how much does depend on the resort.

Then there is the length of the contract, in Spain no contract can be for more than 50 years, other places are still issuing perpetuity contracts, in other words lifetime never ending. Another problem is the fact that you will then be at the mercy of the in-house sales reps, who will continually try to upgrade you and sell you more. As long as you can resist this it could actually work for you.

As with anything in life, do your homework before you decide, is timeshare right for you, does it fit your way of taking holidays, what are the benefits against cost. These are all questions you need to answer.

Mike Finn of Finn Law Group in Florida is a leading timeshare lawyer with around 45 years of experience, he recently posted an article on timeshare and the retired on his website. It carries some very good information, though it is aimed at those in the US, it is still relevant to those in Europe. Follow the link for his article

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/major-lifestyle-mistakes-retirement?utm_content=buffer195b5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer

If you require any information about this or any article published, contact Inside Timeshare and will find the answer for you. If you have been contacted by any company or are contemplating dealing with them and want to know more we will help you with the research.

 

OPC´s in Europe and the USA.

Today’s article begins with a recent press release from the Arizona Attorney General, it then goes on with an article on OPC´s or Off Premises Canvassers. We begin with how they are regulated in most of Europe, then Irene´s article, where she has interviewed an Ex- Diamond OPC.

arizona-ag-seal

Arizona Attorney General Brnovich Announces $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts – Forewarned by a Diamond OPC

For Immediate Release: December 23, 2016
Contact: [email protected]

Attorney General Brnovich Announces $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts
Settlement Agreement Resolves Allegations of Consumer Fraud Act Violations

Follow the link for the press release.

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

Diamond’s Response

The following response is from Maya Pogoda, DRI Public Relations Spokesperson

By Irene Parker

Diamond Resorts seeks to put its members first and provide the best customer experience possible and already has – and had – policies, procedures, training and a quality assurance program in place to provide a positive sales experience.  Nevertheless, anytime a member believes we fall short of that goal, we take that concern seriously and try to remedy the situation and do better going forward.

As part of our continual effort to improve, we have been working on a new national program that we will be rolling out later this month. This program, called Diamond Clarity, goes beyond the requirements of the AOD and includes policies and procedures that will create greater transparency for the consumer and accountability for sales agents and quality assurance officers nationwide.  Diamond Clarity will enhance our policies and procedures and improve the overall customer experience when purchasing vacation ownership.”

According to the Assurance of Discontinuance agreement,

“The provisions of this Assurance shall be limited to Diamond’s Business with Consumers at Sales Centers in Arizona and with Arizona-domiciled Consumers who attend Sales Presentations with Diamond outside of Arizona.” 

However, certain provisions regarding sales presentation should be applied throughout the organization and the industry like:

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

The latter has been described by timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group as “a license to lie”. Even this one change would radically improve the seedy side of timeshare. Read the document for complete terms. 

The Guys on the Street.

opc

In Europe the OPC´s or Off Premises Canvasser are in most cases subject to certain controls, the extent of this depends on the country.

On the Canary Islands the OPC must be badged and licenced, working from booths set up with the resort name for which they are working. According to the authorities they are not allowed to wander more than a few meters away from that booth and any attempt to coerce people who have made it obvious they are not interested, can be viewed as harassment. There can be some severe penalties from fines and the removal of the badge and licence.

On mainland Spain many do not adhere to the regulations and on many occasions you can see them dodging the Local Police. The Costa del Sol is particularly bad for the heavy handed approach and over the years there have been many complaints.

 

Malta has recently instituted some very strict regulations regarding OPC´s, this has resulted from the huge number of complaints made to the Malta Tourist Authority. Many of the comments made by people on holiday regarding the continual harassment from the street touts, have included that they love the island but would never return because of them.

The MTA has seen the damage that this is doing to the tourist industry and decided to act, this is not surprising as tourism accounts for a very large part of their economy.

They have instituted licences and are planning to outsource security patrols to police the timeshare touts. In a very clever move the MTA is requiring the timeshare companies to pay a 3000€ bond for each one they employ, allowing them to work in a regulated way. In the event of any breach of the regulations, rather than have the trouble of going through the courts, the companies will be fined direct from the bond. They will then have to make this up immediately. In another move, for very serious breaches, large fines will be given with licences removed and the culprits deported.

https://www.captchasolutions.com/article/89668/malta—tackling-the-timeshare-reps/

Back to Spain, many of the OPC´s are not directly employed by the resorts sales and marketing team, but work for a marketing company contracted by the resort. In this way the resort can deny any responsibility for the actions and pitch of the OPC. Diamond is one company who does not directly employ OPC´s and have done so for many years.

The tactics used to get you into the resort for a presentation are the same wherever you go, the lure of prizes and the promise that it will only last a short while. It has also been known for the OPC to pay the “UP” 50€ to attend the presentation as the pay per couple can be very good, in most cases around 150€ with a bonus if they actually purchase.

As you will see from the following, there is little difference between Europe and the U.S. in respect to the “scratch card touts”.

By Irene Parker, January 5, 2017

puzzle-pieces-and-people
Timeshare is a puzzle built by relationships between consumers, timeshare developers, timeshare sales agent and solicitors known as “scratch card” agents or OPCs. One OPC recently contacted Inside Timeshare concerned he might be leading people into – a Timeshare Trap.

The timeshare sale begins as a circle that starts with the prospects strolling down the street and a person greeting them with a bright smile and good news! We don’t often think about the important role the OPC plays at the beginning of the cycle that will end with happy vacations or a desperate attempt to get out of something the consumer did not understand due to high pressure, deception, lack of due diligence and vacation brain.

animated-questWho and what is an OPC

OPC stands for “Off Premises Contact” and here’s what they do and how they do it. It’s not an easy job, but it can be fun and exciting.

According to Simple Sales and Marketing Solution:

http://www.simplesalesandmarketing.com/2008/02/opcs-you-either-love-them-or-hate-them_12.html

Keep Reading

Diamond Resorts or A Nightmare on Timeshare Street.

sunterradri logo

Diamond Resorts were unknown in Europe until the takeover of Sunterra in 2007, for many members, they believed it was going to be a new start. Sunterra formerly Grand Vacation Club had a reputation that was to say the least heavy handed, the sales side was aggressive and showed no quarter to those pulled in from the streets. Long standing members with fixed weeks refused to change as they had originally been sold their timeshares as “investments” in property. They also had the right to vote on maintenance fees and other matters which affected the resort they owned.

 

When Sunterra filed in the US for Chapter 11, which is the equivalent to filing for bankruptcy, many owners wondered what would happen to their “investment”. For those on holiday the talk around the pools and bars was what would happen next, rumours abounded. Information was non existent, the sales decks had been closed with all the reps being laid off. There were still a few of the in-house reps but they had no idea what was going on.

 

It was then announce that a new company from the States was looking at taking over from Sunterra. The takeover was announced in the Las Vegas Review Journal 28 April 2007. Steven Cloobeck´s privately owned Diamond Resorts paid around $700 million, and also took on responsibility of Sunterra´s debt of $375 million. Was this the new beginning the owners had been waiting for?

 

Unfortunately, as time has moved on, it has turned into a nightmare for many.

 

The points system was marketed very aggressively, more so than under Sunterra, owners were basically forced into converting. Around 2008 the first additional levy was introduced, Diamond claimed it was due to the state of the Euro to the Pound. This was only the start, in the first three years management fees increased by around 20-25% annually, for many owners this was a huge burden and they wanted out.


Keep Reading

How did I ever get into Timeshare?

How did I ever get taken in by the timeshare sales rep?

 

I have got to be stupid to have fallen for it!

 

Am I that stupid I fell for the smooth patter?

 

These are just a few of the comments many people have expressed when trying to sort out their timeshare problems. The answer I tend to give is no you´re not stupid or daft, I even know of barristers and senior police officers who have been taken in.

 

There are several things you have to remember, you were most likely on holiday in a foreign country, it was hot, you were relaxed and probably had a drink. The next stage, the fast talking lad or lovely young lady with the scratch card that stopped you on the street (OPC). The excitement they showed when you win the “Star Prize”, that’s infectious. If you have young children with you the scratch card may have been given to them, not to forget the free water park tickets, so you feel obliged to go so as not to upset the kids!

 

Next you get into a taxi with this perfect stranger and whisked away to an unknown destination, what was that we tell our kids? Don’t talk with or go with strangers! Then we go ahead and do it. All the time the non stop chatter from the OPC, how you are his first ever winner. Forget the fact everyone’s a star prize winner.

starprize
Keep Reading

A New Position For The Ex Enforcer of the RDO?

Further to the posts published on Inside Timeshare (16th March 2016) with regards to Alberto Garcia leaving Mindtimeshare and the RDO, it appears that the assumptions as to the reason may have been correct. In the end Alberto Garcia is indirectly to blame for the growth in the claims sector against timeshare. His posts attacking legitimate companies backfired, with many people realising he was defending the undefendable.

 

http://insidetimeshare.com/alberto-garcia-steps-down-as-director-of-mindtimeshare/

 

We know the industry has only itself to blame for its woes, but they employed him to act as “Spin Doctor”, now they are reaping the whirlwind. As we have seen with politics employing spin to hide the truth, it will always get you in the end.

spindoctor2

Further to this it appears that he has a new post with Holiday Club Finland. It is believed this new job involves ensuring OPC´s and sales staff  dissociate themselves with sending clients to the claims companies. Maybe even getting them to deny anything is going on, or that everything that is being sold is legal and above board.

 

We know that Calvin Lucock the CEO, sent out a letter to members stating that their contracts were legal and valid. It also stated that very few cases have been won and any litigation could cost the member heavily in fees to cover the cost of these companies defending themselves. More scare tactics!

 

http://insidetimeshare.com/holiday-club/

 

Is this another damage limitation exercise, designed to stop consumers from pursuing any action? After all if the RDO and these companies had taken notice of the regulations in the first place, consumers would not have the need to claim for misselling or misrepresentation. The EU Directives were put into place to protect both parties. Now we know that the RDO lobbied the EU heavily when these regulations were being discussed, but that was for the industries benefit not you the consumer.

 

Could it be Alberto Garcia is himself trying to repair the damage caused by his actions?

spindoctor3

 

Again time will tell, as we find out more it will be published here, informing you the owners of events as they happen. The truth will come out in the end, it always does!