As we mentioned yesterday, TESS and David Cox are at it again, bringing false allegations against Inside Timeshare and Canarian Legal Alliance. Using allegations made by a very dubious and discredited source called Alberto Garcia. He even uses links to the Daily Mail to corroborate his allegations, the information given to the Daily Mail was supplied by Garcia himself.
Alberto Garcia was at one time employed as head of the enforcement program for the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation), he ran a blog site purporting to be a consumer association called Mindtimeshare. This was funded by the RDO and Alberto Garcia had the task of destroying any company that was not a member of the RDO, or who threatened the industry financially.
It is well documented that Garcia himself had a personal vendetta against Eugen Kaiser and any company he had dealings with. This did culminate in a raid by the Policia Nacional on Club Puerto Atlantico and other offices in 2013. This raid was in organised and instigated by Garcia, using his old contacts at the Policia Nacional, where he was once an inspector.
Eighteen lawyers were accused of being part of a criminal gang, within days of the arrests it was up before a judge at the court in Las Palmas. This judge ruled that the warrants for the raid, which incidentally did not appear until hours after the raid took place, were illegal and so the raid, arrests and seizure of property was also illegal.
It is also fact that this judge had also sat on cases brought by the lawyers of CLA against the timeshare industry. He ordered a full investigation into the facts of the raid and Garcia disappeared. Eventually, several senior police officers faced charges for collaborating with Garcia on an illegal operation.
No charges were ever brought against Eugen Kaiser, Paula Beatson the lawyers or any of the staff that were detained. In fact they all made official denuncias against Garcia, Mindtimeshare and the authorities. Alberto Garcia was forced to step down as director of Mindtimeshare and the enforcement program in early 2017, the RDO did not renew funding for Mindtimeshare in April 2017.
As for David Cox’s allegations that all the cases are false, below are links to the Jurisprudencia website, where you will see the official sentences for 5 of the 99Supreme Court rulings brought by lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance on behalf of their clients: (Note: to use these links you will need to register free on the website, right click open in new window, go to Usario in top right and register, this can be done either through Google + Facebook or linkedin, you can also register with a user name and add password).
By using the link below you can check on the official register of lawyers by using their ICALPA number and selecting Las Palmas as the Collegio, the press BUSCAR. This will bring up the lawyers name, by clicking on the name, you will then find address, telephone number, date of admittance to the college or Alata Colegiación and the date of renewal.
This should leave you in no doubt that David Cox’s allegations are false.
As for myself and my website Inside Timeshare, I did state yesterday that I do have a very good working relationship with Canarian Legal Alliance, in fact one of the lawyers is dealing with a legal dispute with a bank for my partner.
I do undertake work for them on behalf of their clients, this usually involves finding the information on companies they have paid to carry out services such as relinquishments, resales, fraudulent claims companies and bogus holiday clubs. This then helps them to instigate section 75 claims for their clients, on many occasions this has been done by Inside Timeshare free of any charge, not even a success fee! Can TESS say the same?
As for David Cox, well below is a PDF of all the companies he has been involved with, this has been taken from Company House Records:
It should also be remembered that when he was running the TCA, that website even recommended CLA as one of the best law firms to engage. This all went by the board the moment he asked CLA to pay him for the recommendation. It was obvious that he needed money, as the TCA website at the time was even asking people to make donations!
It is also understood he even went to Gran Canaria to meet with CLA and was put up in the Club Puerto Atlantico Hotel, as guest with no charge to himself. This meeting was to try and do a deal for TESS to pass on clients to CLA regarding claims for Spanish Timeshares. From reports by those that saw him, he seemed to spend most of the time inebriated!
Although I do personally undertake work for CLA, Inside Timeshare is an independent voice for timeshare owners, CLA has no influence on the articles published, they are either from my research or are personal opinions. All the articles published from Canada, The Philippines, Australia and most importantly from America are submitted by readers in those countries, bringing the timeshare community worldwide together.
So Mr Cox, your time is coming, my lawyer is preparing a case against you and no doubt so is CLA.
Our regular readers are those we have helped, again free of any charge, they know the truth. Inside Timeshare is still being asked for help from desperate owners not knowing who to trust, With your allegations you have shown that you and your company TESS are in the category of not to be trusted.
As usual nothing really surprises us when it comes to Silverpoint, so it was only time before they announced they would not be offering a resale service for their Club Paradiso members. Many of these people have bought into this club via the ever upgrading of the “investment weeks” peddled by Resort Properties and then Silverpoint. Inside Timeshare explained this in the 12 March article “Silverpoint a Costly Experience for Some”.
This practise has been going on for years, with many losing out on thousands of pounds, in these so-called investments, many funded through finance agreements arranged by Silverpoint sales staff with Barclays Partner Finance. There have been and still are ongoing class actions by clients of Silverpoint against Barclays in the UK, these have been brought by two law firms, Stewarts Law and Edwin Coe.
Considering Silverpoint announced in April last year it had withdrawn its membership from the industry trade body the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation), along with the announcement that it was no longer going to be selling “timeshare”, it comes as no surprise that they have stopped the resale program, if it even existed in the first place!
So the questions that many are now asking including the enquiries received from our readers are very simple ones:
What is now going to happen to all that money we paid for these so-called investments?
Now that we know there is no resale market, what other “investments” are they going to offer us to save what we have already paid?
Are they going to ask for even more money?
Well we do know that many have been coerced into paying and transferring to what is being termed the “Company Participation Scheme”, sounds good doesn’t it?
But what is this scheme?
Well, all we can say is that it is just another way for them to get your money, according to some of the evidence we have seen, and we are still going through it as it is all wrapped up in jargon, the basics of it appear to be that you now buy shares in a company, with the contract being signed at the notary.
The thing is if you are now a shareholder in a company, what are the implications if anything should happen, are you then going to be liable for any costs if the company goes into liquidation or fails to pay taxes?
So there we have it, Silverpoint have finally admitted that all those with their weeks listed on the resale programme for Club Paradiso, are not going to get them sold. These were originally sold to them with the promise of a return on their outlay when they are sold, a promise that we have seen is full of hot air.
The final part of Silverpoints email reminds these members that they “can still use your membership, even if listed for resale, to enjoy great holidays around the world”. Signed Silverpoint Vacations SL.
Hang on, they have stated in the same email they “will no longer be able to offer this service”, so how can it still be listed for resale?
As usual Silverpoint can’t seem to get their own story straight, do they actually know what they are doing, somehow we think not!
If you are a member of Club Paradiso with these investments and had them listed for sale and are worried by this latest development, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.
Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.
Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.
While we are on the subject of Silverpoint, It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare. Hence the product Keys Concierge, which does not appear to fall into the realms of timeshare laws.
This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?
Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.
Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.
February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s“Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.
Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the Anfi “Tauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.
This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.
Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.
Another story we have been following is that of Los Clavelesin Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.
There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.
In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.
This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.
After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!
There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.
But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.
On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.
There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.
Now for the year from a US perspective.
What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what
I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016
Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.
Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.
Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.
We seek to provide timeshare members and owners a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.
This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.
I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.
Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates
Timeshare Lawsuits 2017
By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016
Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:
The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:
Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.
Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?
WestgateUpdate 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegelwas seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.
“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.
The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneidermanmanaged to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.
Back in 2016
Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.
“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point. The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed. But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016
Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.
“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.”Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.
Diamond Resorts Update:A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.
A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:
Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
I don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,
People are listening!
Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:
⦁ A legitimate secondary market
⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling
⦁ Less predatory lending
Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.
So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.
Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.
Recently Silverpoint has been making the headlines due to the rulings against them not just at the Supreme Court, but all the lower courts on Tenerife have also followed suit.
Now it has been announced that Silverpoint has withdrawn its membership to the Resorts Development Organisation (RDO), this will come as a blow to the timeshare industry trade body, as Silverpoint was a major contributor. The CEO of Silverpoint, Mark Cushway was also on the board of directors.
Another announcement was from The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, (TATOC), only recently Silverpoint downgraded their membership from Platinum to Silver, now they have withdrawn their membership completely. Again Silverpoint was a major source of funding to TATOC. So the donation to them of $30,000 by ARDA has come at the right time. TATOC have also stated that the following resorts will remain affiliated members: Palm Beach Club, Hollywood Mirage Club and Beverly Hills Heights. We also have to remember, part of Beverly Hills Heights is being sold off, with many members being moved to other apartments or to the Hollywood Mirage.
Silverpoint have also announced that they will no longer be selling “Timeshare”, well that is a surprise, as according to them in their own evidence to the courts, they sell affiliations to a club and “weeks to investors” and this was not timeshare. Fortunately the Supreme Court did not agree with them, this court stated they did sell timeshare, that the so called “investors” were in fact consumers of timeshare.
Many of these cases have been reported here on Inside Timeshare, for more information on this have a look at the Canarian Legal Alliance website news section. All the Supreme Court judgements have been published by them.
So now the question has to be asked, what are they going to be selling if they are not selling timeshare?
Rumour has it, from very reliable sources, Silverpoint are going to be selling “Holiday Packs” and “Freehold Property”. Obviously, if they have withdrawn membership from the timeshare industry trade body, the “holiday packs” will not be coming under timeshare law, so what will that be regulated by?
On the “Freehold” side, is this going to be full freehold or is it going to be a rehash of “Fractional”?
Is this going to be regulated by Real Estate Laws?
Another question that needs to be asked is, could all this be down to the the courts now rejecting Silverpoints defence and finding at last in favour of the consumer?
Will the RDO and TATOC also now acknowledge the fact the law in Spain as laid down by over 50 Supreme Court rulings is correct?
Only time will tell, we will be keeping an eye on developments and report them here, as and when the news comes in.
Today we also publish another story from our US writer Irene, in this short article she announces the start of the new series from Fox News Property Man Season 3 with Bob Massi.
Bob Massi is a renowned Nevada lawyer with many years experience as well as a TV celebrity.
Irene and her husband Don will be on his show on 14 April, they recorded an interview segment some time ago with Bob Massi, on their own timeshare experiences. So Irene and Don have become “timeshare TV rock stars”. (I must get their autographs).
FOX News Property Man Season 3 Premiere airs Friday April 7
Follow up to first timeshare segment “How to Get Rid of Your Timeshare”
Season 3 of The Property Man with Bob Massi will begin airing this Friday, April 7th at 8:30 PM ET on FOX BUSINESS NETWORK. The show will continue to air on Friday evenings on Fox Business Network (FNC’s sister channel) at 8:30 PM ET. We are looking forward to Season 3 in Arizona airing and wanted to thank all of you for joining us on the show. I will send individual emails to all of you with the exact air dates for your segment(s). We welcome all social media promotion and interaction:
My Vacation Plan has turned my life upside down. Let’s review the timeline.
July 2015 I attended a timeshare sales presentation where my husband and I were blatantly lied to. The same day I learned 4500 hundred promised exchange points were credited only 3000 the third year I used the program. I turned on the television and watched Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, host of Property Man air “The Queen of Versailles” about Westgate timeshare owners. I wrote to Mr. Massi and was selected for an interview because, out of a multitude of respondents, I was the only one who wanted to talk about the positives of timeshare, in addition to the negatives.
So there we have it, Silverpoint no longer selling timeshare, the RDO and TATOC losing a major source of revenue and long standing member.
Consumers purchasing in Spain now being protected by the strongest timeshare laws in Europe, with massive payouts for past infractions of these laws. Let us hope that other countries will enforce the law to the same degree and protect timeshare consumers all over Europe, no matter where they bought. After all, that is what the EU Directives on Timeshare were put into place.
If you have any questions about this article or any published on Inside Timeshare, contact us and we will try to answer them for you. If we don’t know the answer we will find out for you. If you have been contacted by or are looking at dealing with any company and want to know more Contact us and we will point you in the right direction.
As we reported in our article of 16 March 2016, Alberto Garcia had attacked many firms with false allegations, all at the behest of the RDO in its bid to discredit any company who was not a member of that organisation.
During his time working as “The Enforcer” (sounds like something from a hollywood film) this ex-police inspector falsified allegations and used his connections to discredit, have arrested and destroy innocent people. All under the guise of protecting the consumers of the timeshare industry, an industry that itself is doing nothing for the consumer apart from causing many financial burdens and stress.
This can be seen in the number of cases being won against RDO members in all the courts in Spain. The Supreme Court itself has made 46 rulings against these RDO members, yet nothing is said or done to change what the industry is doing. In fact the RDO backs up the claims from the likes of Silverpoint and Anfi that the laws are wrong and that these eminent judges are wrong in their interpretation of the law.
The RDO´s enforcement programme has been discredited, mindtimeshare has been discredited, Alberto Garcia has vanished (not that anyone had ever seen him, with this the only photo found).
Another name that tries to imply it is a “legal law enforcement entity”. This time it is being coordinated by Kwikchex, a company owned by Chris Emmins, which claims to be a “Worldwide Reputational Management” company, which is only around 6 years old.
Mr Emmins, has a very long history as a director, having resigned fro 4 directorships, and held 17 appointments at 17 companies which have all been dissolved. It is also alleged that these dissolved companies have left a debt of over £500,000 to creditors. Not a very auspicious record! (see link to previous article)
It is also believed that Chris Emmins was the only tender for the contract to run the new “Timeshare Task Force”.
Again, it is designed to fool the public into believing that only the RDO can be believed, that when Kwikchex does its so-called verification process, it is doing so as a legal right. Any company not subjecting themselves to their questioning will receive negative comments on the KwikchexTimeshare Business Check website. No company is legally obliged to answer their questions, there is no legal reason why they should, let alone have to join the RDO in order to conduct business.
Ask yourself the question, why would, say a law firm engaged in suing the timeshare industry want to join the industry trade body?
Why would they pay the organisation the membership fees to be accredited as “legitimate”, when it is those members who are flouting the timeshare laws?
These are questions for you the reader to decide the answer.
We also recently published the article on 6 February “The battle Lines have been Drawn”, we reported about the problems of TATOC and Harry Taylor. Since then we have received information of a major falling out between TATOC and the RDO, with RDO members withdrawing membership or reducing their contributions. In another twist to this story, it has been reported from the US that the American Resorts Development Association (ARDA) President and CEO Howard Nusbaum, will be speaking at the March Conference. We have also been told that this organisation will be contributing substantial funds to TATOC, apparently much to the consternation of the RDO.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Given recent regulatory decisions and legal actions, a highway of hope is under construction.
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 [email protected]
The RDO, or Resorts Development Organisation, is the trade association for the timeshare industry in Europe, its function is to ensure standards within the industry are maintained and that members abide by a code of conduct. These members fund the organisation with annual subscriptions, they also provide the board of directors, it is a self policing organisation, funded and controlled by the people who make their money selling the products.
The RDO says that it helps to protect the consumer, but as we know, it is their own members who have breached the timeshare laws, just look at the many cases being brought in Spain. The only protection they appear to offer consumers is constantly attacking any company offering a service who is not one of their members. They say you should only deal with RDO “accredited” companies, any other company who is not a member is likely to be a scam.
The press has highlighted in the past, many transgressions RDO members have perpetrated, MacDonald Resorts is just one. This company was the subject of several articles by the Award Winning Journalist Tony Hetherington, one was titled “The timeshare contract that even death will not save you from”. It followed the story of one owner who could not get out of her contract on the death of her husband. What did the RDO do, nothing.
They state one of their missions is to “Educate” journalists as they are ill informed on the subject, that the industry has been the victim of poorly researched articles. Yet these articles are highlighting the plight of their own members customers!
The current CEO, Harry Taylor is no stranger to the Industry, between 14 June 2007 and 18 June 2013, he was listed as a director with Diamond Resorts European Collection Ltd. The strange thing is he is also listed as being appointed director of TATOC at the same time, 23 January 2007. (See Company House PDF).
TATOC should be representing your rights, but we have seen on many occasions they have backed the plans of the resorts / developers themselves, again a case in point is MacDonald Resorts. There has been a move by this company to remove all fixed week owners into their points system, this has been resisted by many owners and is the subject of ongoing battles. Yet the advice from TATOC is to change to the points system, saying it will be better for them, backing MacDonald Resorts to the hilt at the expense of the people they say they represent.
It has been stated by Inside Timeshare many times, there does need to be dialogue between owners, resorts and developers, but the owners should be a separate voice, not one funded (run) by the industry. (See following link on trade associations inc, Tony Hetherington articles)
As for the “voluntary contributions” added to maintenance bills, this does not appear to be the case in Europe, so far we have not seen this and it is possible it would be highly contested if it were to be introduced.
ARDA and ARDA ROC
Timeshare owners worldwide who own a timeshare in the US may pay more attention to ARDA ROC’S “Voluntary” donation this year. Depending on the developer, the fee can range from $3 to $10. Owners must call their resort accounting department to have the charge removed unless it is an “opt-in” request.
One reason timeshare owners are taking a closer look is because legislation passed in Florida last year outraged timeshare owners and timeshare advocacy groups. The legislation went into effect July 1, 2015.
One clause, simply put, “Currently, if there are errors in the contract, then a buyer has a right under Florida law to cancel that contract after 10 days. Under the new bill, errors or omissions that are “nonmaterial” would NOT allow a buyer to cancel after 10 days.” (Deanna from Winning the Timeshare Game)
It would appear that the roller coaster of rulings from the Supreme Court just isn’t going to stop, it was announced on 8 July 2016 that Canarian Legal Alliance had just received ruling numbers 12 and 13.
In ruling number twelve, their Norwegian clients had their contract cancelled and were awarded 31,998€ plus all the legal fees. The court has upheld previous judgements that contracts over fifty years and floating weeks are illegal.
Following on from that, ruling number thirteen was for a family in the UK, they were awarded a total of 82,808€ including double the deposit paid, legal fees and interest. As before the same principle was applied, contracts cancelled due to being over 50 years, floating weeks and the taking of a deposit within the 14 day cooling off period.
So within two days Anfi has been penalised by over 114,806€ for breaches of the timeshare laws. This does go to show the Spanish legal system will not tolerate companies who defy the legislation put into place to protect the consumer.
It is a wonder the timeshare industry has been able to get away with these illegalities for so long. Could it be because they held so much influence in the past they actually believed they were immune from the law?
Yet, we hear nothing from the trade body for the industry the Resorts Development Organisation, or even TATOC, the so called owners committees association. Surely if these two organisations were what they purport to be, I would have thought they would at the very least, make some kind of statement that they would sanction any member who still broke these rules. It is their members who are selling products deemed illegal, but not a word of warning to them.
It must also be pointed out that although these rulings have been made against the Anfi Group, it affects all timeshares whether fixed weeks, floating weeks or points sold anywhere within Spain, Balearic Islands or the Canary Islands. These rulings apply to any company that has not complied with the laws which came into force in January 1999.