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Sheila Brust

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, this article is based on a report released by the St Louis Better Business Bureau, it is based on their full report published on the BBB website which we have included as a link. The full report carries some very sound advice along with recommendations for Government and the industry. Whether they take note is another matter.

August is the month for Spain to basically close down, so there is no news from the courts, but this little snippet from the RDO website news section and published on 24 July caught our attention.

“We never sleep”

During this particular break-out session the RDO legal panel will provide attendees with an update on a range of issues, including the latest developments in the Spanish Supreme Court rulings and the on-going lobbying programme.

Other issues that will be covered within the session will be ongoing collaboration with UK authorities to take fraudulent individuals/companies to court and new legislation that is being developed to curb the activities of claims companies. Attendees will also learn how ARDA is dealing with similar issues in the US and whether there are lessons for RDO and its members.

Well one thing is for sure, the RDO obviously believe that the Spanish timeshare laws are not good for the industry, with the judges getting it wrong, along with their belief that they will be able to change things in their favour through the lobbying programme. Well somehow I don’t think the Spanish authorities will be looking to changing their laws to return back to the bad old days!

In the end these court cases that are being brought are of the industries own making, if they had abided by the laws in the first place they would not be paying for it now. A very good case to remember is Silverpoint, whose CEO Mark Cushway was at one time also a director of the RDO, this company is being pilloried by the lower courts in Tenerife and the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Why?

Quite simple, they sold a product that flouted virtually every article of Law 42/98, especially with their promise of the “investment” weeks, where unsuspecting purchasers, many of them on the verge of retirement, were sold under high pressure and very misleading sales pitches a promise that these weeks would be sold or rented out. These never materialised and are the subject of many of these court cases. All this while Mark Cushway was one of the directors of the industry trade body, there to ensure that members operated in a legal and ethical manner.

On the legal front, Canarian Legal Alliance has just published their mid year report, it is certainly impressive and really does put the above statement from the RDO in a different light. Follow the link for the full report direct from the lawyers themselves.

https://canarianlegalalliance.com/canarian-legal-alliance-mid-term-successes/

Now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

A St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

Released July 24, 2018

Don’t Fall for Deception Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations

August 3, 2018

Inside Timeshare has received complaints against Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Hawaii, California, and Virginia sales centers. Missouri is no worse than the other states. We appreciate the St. Louis, Missouri Better Business Bureau taking timeshare complaints seriously.

From: American Resort Development Association’s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”

From the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report:

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT

  • Tougher law enforcement action. Regulatory agencies have reported receiving an increasing number of complaints about the timeshare industry. Bringing action against any bad actors in the industry could help consumers and deter companies from violating consumer protection laws.
  • New laws. BBB hears from many senior citizens who have been affected by the timeshare industry. Missouri legislators should consider special protections for those 65 and older who enter into agreements with timeshare and travel club companies. An extended right of rescission period could help seniors who may not totally understand what they have purchased. All consumers should receive pertinent information – such as access to websites and passwords – at point of purchase so that they can check potential savings and actual values of timeshares on resale market so that if they decide to cancel, they can take advantage of the rescission period.

(BBB) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY

  • More honesty from the industry. The timeshare industry needs to develop and adhere to a set of ethical standards to address widespread reports of high-pressure and deceptive sales practices and to deliver accurate, honest sales pitches to consumers. Reputable companies do not pressure consumers over several hours to purchase services they had little interest in buying or, in some instances, can’t even afford. If presentations are held, consumers should not be detained past the scheduled time or express a false sense of urgency to act immediately. Avoid telling consumers something that will entice them to sign but is later contradicted by your contract.
  • Honor promises. Provide tickets or other promotional items at the time of the presentation. Do not mail them later or make the consumer obtain them from another source.  
  • Do not mislead about timeshare inheritance. Too often misleading statements or scare tactics are used to encourage those who have inherited a timeshare to believe they are liable for it. Don’t misrepresent the law or circumstances for financial gain.
  • Do not require consumers to initial documents “under duress.” Too often, consumers are faced with presentations consisting of long hours; eventually succumbing to high pressure sales tactics.
  • More transparency from the industry. If a consumer is referred  to another company or person to complete the presentation process, be transparent about the process (ie. obligation to sit through a two hour presentation to obtain discounted tickets) and amount of time it will actually take to possibly alleviate someone from their timeshare.
  • Eliminate company mediation. Do not require consumers to mediate through the company’s internal program should a dispute arise. Instead, use neutral, third-party mediation source such as Better Business Bureau or American Arbitration Association.
  • Easier exits. The recent establishment of deed-back programs may be a step in the right direction. More consumers should be able to take advantage of these programs. The establishment of more deed-back programs is likely to lead in a decrease in fraud seen in the resale and exit markets.

Inside Timeshare has received 515 timeshare complaints from our readers, 271 since January 1. All but a handful report their complaint was dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Our advocacy efforts have had an effect. After publishing this last statement a few times, the defense has been changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said” still relying on the oral representation clause. About 200 complaints were copied to ARDA / ARDA ROCbut were ignored.

If “You signed a contract” – is the industry’s official policy, and the regulator’s position in some states, the public needs to be made aware misrepresentations reported by timeshare buyers will be ruled in favor of the timeshare sales agent. In Florida and Nevada, all our readers’ complaints filed with those state Attorney General’s timeshare divisions have been dismissed with “You don’t have proof.” An upcoming article examines proof and why FBI agents and several attorneys don’t buy this response.

Inside Timeshare contributor Sheila Brust reported, “We were given ludicrous advice from a regulator that is clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality. I was told to contact a licensed timeshare resale broker, but every agent I contacted informed me my timeshare had no secondary market. By steering complaining members to licensed real estate agents, when turned down, members often end up the contacting a scam that will charge the member upfront money promising to sell or cancel their timeshare. Often that promise falls short.”

Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints against Branson, Missouri sales centers. Our researchers discovered one Branson timeshare sales manager was selling points at the same time he was working for a timeshare exit company named Mutual Release a suspicious name for a company, as mutual release is the form signed when a timeshare issue has been resolved.

Our Advice

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION or any Luxury Item AT 12% TO 19% and don’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. As the St. Louis BBB recommends, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare. There you will receive straight answers.

 http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the positives when it feels like the battle is all uphill. All we can do is reach out to those who feel lost to let them know Inside Timeshare and real advocacy groups are there for them. Consumer and advocacy are two words members should take with a grain of salt, used and abused by scam artists. We are real advocates.   

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, for those in Europe beware the heat wave, especially if you are travelling to Spain, Seville is reported to be facing temperatures of 48º C or 118º F.

Join us next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare, don’t forget if you have any comments, questions or just need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and don’t get sunburnt!

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Sheila Brust gives us an update to her previous article “Pencil Pitch”, again edited by Irene Parker.

It would seem that Darth Vader has sent in his Imperial Stormtroopers and Inside Timeshare is under attack from the dark side, no problem, the force of the good is with us. Keep your stories coming, the truth will always prevail!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

An Update to Sheilah Brust’s Pencil Pitch

The Florida Timeshare Division told us,

“You have no Proof” and we were not allowed a rebuttal

Why is this not proof?

July 6, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Many potential timeshare buyers have watched timeshare sales agents scribble timeshare promises on a piece of paper. Buyers are not allowed to keep a copy of the “Pencil Pitch” but Sheilah Brust managed to walk out with hers.

Sheilah listened to her pencil pitch in Daytona presented by Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie. She filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) and was told the following,

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  Based on our review, it did not appear that the information provided to you by the sales agents were false and misleading. Lack of clarity could be an issue but that in itself cannot be considered a violation. We are not surely, if the sales agent had voluntarily provided the hand-written notes or you had kept them on your own.  If there are discrepancies between the notes and what was actually received in terms of points, we will address that issue.

By Sheilah Brust

My husband Thomas and I have been Diamond timeshare members since Diamond acquired our resort. Our original timeshare was purchased in 1994. Things were fine until we fell for the Pencil Pitch.   

On February, 4, 2017, we attended an update meeting at Diamond’s Daytona resort The Cove. We wanted to attend the update because Diamond had been sold to Apollo Global Management. We are Platinum Diamond members so already had more points than we needed, but wanted to hear about the changes.

Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie said that he had just returned from training in Orlando and had learned about a new program that would allow us double point usage. We patiently followed Brad’s presentation. He wrote the numbers upside down. I remarked at how he could he do that. He said practice.

We feel Diamond must not understand the Pencil Pitch or they would cancel this purchase. I have learned Diamond retained the law firm Duane Morris to write a letter implying our article was defamatory. I have submitted this article as our rebuttal. We understand the figures we were presented. We were not confused. I have an accounting background. I wrote down everything Brad Leslie said.

Here’s the pitch. We hope you post a comment expressing your interpretation.  

The actual Pencil Pitch is three pages long. Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 additional points instead of 25,000 points pictured above because we said no to 25,000 points. The numbers below reflect 65,000 points instead of 75,000.  For those not familiar with the point system, a Diamond timeshare points sells for around $4 a point.

Timeshare members incur annual maintenance fees. For Platinum members the annual maintenance fee is $.15 per point, or $8,631 for the 50,000 points we owned before the purchase of 15,000 additional points.

From the original illustration above, to offset maintenance fees, on the right side of sheet, Brad said and wrote:

  • Own 75,000 points
  • Ability to get (Double Usage) 150,000 points – 50,000 points is what would be left for travel
  • 100,000 points would be available for point redemption @ 10 per point through a Travel Reimbursement program. Brad told us to book hotels, etc., and then cancel the reservations. We would receive a reimbursement check back for $10,000. The 50,000 points tendered would not be credited back. Brad said we would be reimbursed via check in about 30 days or 72 hours if via a reloadable debit Visa card. Without the double points, this program is of no value. If we used all our 50,000 points for redemption at $.10 a point, we would receive a reimbursement check for $5,000 that would only pay $5,000 towards a $8,631 maintenance fee bill with no points left for travel.

Brad said we could use the reimbursement check to pay maintenance fees but he said he could not tell us that. He said, “It’s your money!”

Brad said we paid $8,631 in maintenance fees for 50,000 points in 2017.  Following Brad’s logic, we could eliminate $8,000 of the increased $11,252 maintenance fee (due to the purchase of 15,000 additional points), by taking advantage of this new program.

65,000 own                 $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given              2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

80,000 left                 $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

Brad said Diamond was working on a new member page for the new program that would have a split screen and that we would be able to see our newly acquired 15,000 points in the background. He said the 65,000 points “given” (Brad’s word) would also appear on a “split screen” on our member account page.

When I asked about the maintenance fees on the new 15,000 points, Brad said, “If you don’t use them you don’t pay maintenance fees on them. They will be kept in the background. If you want to use them then you will pay maintenance fees.”

I specifically asked Brad, “So if I had all 130,000 points reimbursed, they could all be redeemed for a check? Brad said, “Yes.”

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED.     

We met with Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad said Diamond was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. He said DRI was working on the split screen. He said now we would need to generate the reimbursement checks by participating in the Travel Reimbursement program. I was familiar with this program and had used it before. This was a benefit we already had as Platinum members, but only beneficial if we were to lose points. We feel Brad adulterated the Travel Reimbursement program, incorporating it into his February Pencil Pitch.  

Brad’s reply to our complaint submitted to the Florida DBPR was that 15,000 points in the background was for a Dream Vacation. He said I was confused! Dream vacation points were not in any background account. They were added to our account February 17, 2017 so these could not have been the points in question. Brad sent us a $2,621 check to reimburse us the maintenance fees on the newly purchased 15,000 points. If it wasn’t for the NEW 15,000 points, we never would have gotten a $2,621 reimbursement check for the maintenance fees. Diamond representative Brandi said sales agents are allowed to reimburse members for their first year’s maintenance fees. Dream Vacation points don’t have maintenance fees.

Of course Brad was selling a double point program. He wrote down 130,000 and called the 65,000 points “given” points. I had told him that this program better be right because we are retired and living on fixed incomes and that we had NO extra money if he was not telling us the truth.  His answer was that he hoped to rebuild our trust in Diamond. We had told him we had been duped previously, told we had to buy 4000 points to prevent our heirs from being stuck with Diamond points.

Diamond’s response to us was that the information as presented was confusing, but not illegal. This is the CLARITY promise Diamond launched in response to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an Assurance of Discontinuance.  

The CLARITY Promise: With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a DRI Hospitality agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

Summary

As a result of this upsell and lack of clarity, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and $26,000 Barclay Card balance.

Brad charged on two Barclay Cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. He had us fill out a credit card application to see if we qualified for the new program. He returned and said, “Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned we had been charged these amounts. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.  

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service taking advantage of 65,000 bonus points. You can book a lot of vacations with 50,000 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,000. You can stay a week for roughly 2500 to 5000 points. At an estimated 4000 points per week, about 12 weeks.       

What CLARITY?

According to the Federal Trade Commission Section 5

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

 

  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.

 

 

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

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/jun/17/whconsider-when-buying-time-share-vacatispot/472994/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help with a timeshare concern or would like to share your experience.   

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you Sheila for your candid story, it just amazes us that this type of sales practice still goes on, yet the companies involved deny all responsibility for their sales agents actions. In Europe timeshare is very much on the decline, partly due to the antics in the past of unscrupulous sales reps, not all I hasten to add, I do know many who abhor the deceitful practices and are genuine in their approach to selling the product. They believe that telling the truth sells the product.

We have said this on many occasions, timeshare was and could be a good product, it may not suit everyone but sold properly and truthfully will only strengthen it and give it a future.

So we say to all timeshare companies, get your house in order, reign in your sales agents / reps, stop these types of sleazy sales presentations, take control or you will lose a product that could work.

News has just come in from Canarian Legal Alliance of this weeks court cases, on the receiving end are Anfi in Gran Canaria once known as the flagship of timeshare resorts in Europe and Silverpoint in Tenerife.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, has had NINE sentences passed against them this week. The clients will receive back all their money and have had their contracts declared null and void.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint, who are well known on these pages has lost another case in the Court of First Instance in Arona. Again the court ordered the return of all money and the contract declared null and void.

In total these 10 cases will cost these timeshare resorts over 325,112€ plus legal interest and in most cases the return of the client’s initial legal fees.

So the week ends with another “Black Cloud” hanging over the timeshare industry. Will they ever learn?

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, if you would like to share these with the rest of the timeshare world, then use our contact page and get in touch.

So that is all for this week, join us on Monday for more news and views of the timeshare world, have a great, enjoyable and safe weekend.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the Easter edition of Friday’s Letter from America, by Joshua Parker, Sheila Brust and Richard Sokolowski, edited by Irene Parker.

Just as we were getting this ready to publish, Josh has been informed by the Florida Timeshare Division, they will be initiating a new investigation into his complaint. Josh and Nicole’s first complaint that they were told their Diamond points are an investment and easily sold, had been closed. They are now expecting twins and cannot afford the timeshare, Josh is a combat veteran who has seen service in Iraq. So at least some good news before we start.

Normally we have a roundup of news from Europe, but that was published yesterday, so straight on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

Earth to ARDA Part II

Another Open Letter to ARDA CEO Howard Nusbaum

Robert Clements, Lobbyist and General Counsel

Peter Roth, ARDA media

By Joshua Parker, Sheilah Brust and Richard Sokolowski

March 30, 2018  

consumer1

From: American Resort Development Association’s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”  

Diamond Resort members Sheilah Brust, Joshua Parker, and Richard Sokolowski have learned there is no timeshare regulation and there is no timeshare enforcement for us. We have been filing complaints with every regulatory agency known to an American citizen and all we get is a passing of the buck to another department or agency. In addition, we have been given some ludicrous advice from regulators that are clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality.

Sadly, we agree with Eron and Irene. We think ARDA’s Code of Ethics is meaningless. Like Eron and Irene, we are professionals.

Sheilah Brust: Worked for the New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations

My experience speaking with an FBI agent and what I learned about the process    

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-14/

Josh Parker: Army combat veteran, Sergeant

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-41/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezkJ7GlJN4U&feature=youtu.be

Richard Sokolowski: Arizona Real Estate

Earth to ARDA by Eron Grant and Irene Parker – Part I

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-40/

Eron’s YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FMk_45zRzk&feature=youtu.be

Sheilah Brust: So far the only light on the horizon is the FBI. Through Social Media members are talking to other members. No one doubts there are those who use and enjoy their Diamond points. I enjoyed my Diamond points as a Platinum member until we were pitched a program that does not exist. We weren’t confused. The numbers were easy to understand. Gad and Noreen Liebmann are enjoying their retirement by protesting outside Diamond’s Daytona Beach Regency Resort. We were both up-sold by the same Diamond sales agent, Brad Leslie, the same program that does not exist, and still Diamond will not listen.

Protest

According to Facebook postings, the FBI has been responsive and agrees our allegations constitute fraud – deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch. In our opinion, Diamond, in effect, endorses and approves of these tactics by maintaining the position the customer is always wrong. Hospitality agents from the Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department automatically respond, “Sorry you signed a contract” and the emailing of your initials on fine print rewards bad behavior with a commission check.  

Josh: I was advised by Hector Tapininge at the Florida Department of Business Practice and Regulation DBPR to call a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Like Sheilah, I learned licensed timeshare resale agents won’t even accept a Diamond listing feeling the resale market for Diamond points is non-existent. I almost signed up with a scam until finding our Advocacy Facebook.

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

When I informed my reviewer that licensed resale brokers won’t accept a Diamond listing; he said he was aware of this. In other words, send the consumer on a wild goose chase that often leads Diamond members into the nets of scams.

How many timeshare buyers knew they were buying a lifelong timeshare product that could not be sold? As a veteran, I can tell you no service member would ever buy an unsellable asset. The Diamond contract states you can sell your points. Since you are dealing with a licensed real estate agent, it is logical to assume the timeshare can be sold, especially since we were told Diamond points are an investment.

Given so little enforcement and regulation, our mission is to reach the general public to make sure they know they are spending thousands of dollars, signing a perpetual contract, with rising maintenances fees and no secondary market.

Veterans, Active Duty military and law enforcement and government workers are encouraged to support Whistleblowers of America, a nonprofit in Washington DC that seeks justice.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Sheilah: I was contacted by Mr. Alan Parkinson, Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement, Division of Consumer Services.

Mr. Parkinson recommended I contact DBPR, the same Florida Department of Business Practices and Regulation Josh contacted. We saw how much good that did with the response Josh received. I will follow up and we will all continue to report on our progress or lack of. I too spoke with licensed resale brokers. I was told even timeshare companies that do allow a secondary market; the net to the consumer is often negative after commission. I was told I could list a deeded week I own, but it would end up costing me money to get rid of it. Consumers defrauded, are left with a perpetual contract, rising maintenance fees and no secondary market. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Richard Sokolowski: I tried to file a complaint against Diamond Resorts with the Nevada Attorney General’s office. They won’t do anything if I did not buy from a Nevada sales agent. I can’t believe a consumer complaint can’t be filed against a company headquartered in Nevada.

I was also told to contact an attorney. Diamond is the only major timeshare with a class action ban, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is known to be pro-industry. Diamond hires the arbitrator. If the arbitrator rules against the member, the member can be ordered to pay Diamond’s legal fees; and that amount can be higher than the disputed amount. Besides, Diamond has armies of lawyers and outside law firms. They can outspend the average citizen. I’ve talked to lawyers. Getting a lawyer will do nothing to stop predatory and criminal business practices.

Sheilah: According to Josh, this response from the Florida Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement is useless.

Ms. Brust,

By way of introduction, my name is Alan Parkinson and I am the Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement, Division of Consumer Services.  I have received your concerns and would like to take a minute to respond.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has a Timeshare and Condominium division that can likely address many of your concerns regarding the sales practices and issues you have with Diamond Resorts.  If your issue is with the purchase and contract for the timeshare, they would be the appropriate agency to speak with. You can contact them through the link below:

http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/  

 

If your issue is outside of those parameters then you may consider filing a complaint with us so that we can reach out to them and asked that they address your concerns.

www.floridaconsumerhelp.com  

If you any questions please feel free to contact me directly.

Alan Parkinson

Comment from Irene

The Florida timeshare division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014, in contrast with the Arizona Attorney General’s office that opened an investigation after receiving 400 DRI complaints and, according to a source, received 500 additional complaints after the press release. The AZ AG has issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. Diamond did not admit wrongdoing.

From Eron’s March 9 article:

Inside Timeshare will be following Platinum Diamond members Roy and Lillian Simmons as they make their way through Vacation Ownership’s highly regulated industry. Mr. and Mrs. Simmons are worried about losing their home, up-sold at age 69 and 70 to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. They live on Mr. Simmons letter carrier pension.   

Roy and Teresa Mori, Mr. Mori a recipient of two Purple Hearts, remains devastated. Based on the response daughter Teresa Laird reported to us from a hospitality agent working for Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, the company doesn’t care if sales agents have allegedly ruined their lives. “Sorry, you signed a contract” after being sold 17,000 MORE points over the phone by a Las Vegas company representative after daughter Teresa called to explain the Sampler or trial product should be cancelled. In the middle of her archeology thesis, she is making signs to protest outside Diamond’s Polo Towers.  

In response to a draft sent for comment, Josh received this response from DBPR:

Josh’s responses to Ahmed Y. Kassoo  are in bold

Thank you for contacting the division regarding your concerns. Please note that the division is not authorized to comment on or give its opinion of or approve any articles written by any individual which he or she intends to publish in any form including at various websites or in other publications.

I understand.

Since the division does not regulate the operations of real estate brokers, we are not aware of their criteria with regards to offering real estate listing and marketing services.  As a courtesy and for information purposes only, we provide the web site information of licensed real estate brokers (LTRBA) who specialize in selling timeshare interests and vacation club membership in Florida.  We neither recommend nor endorse a particular broker.

I understand, but why is nothing done about Diamond sales agents allegedly selling vacation points as an investment, yet the points are worthless the moment the contract is signed, should the buyer need to sell. LTRBA members will accept a listing for any major timeshare EXCEPT Diamond Resort, so not only is there no resale value when they are selling the points as an investment, they are the only major timeshare company that can’t be listed with them. Our Diamond Advocacy Facebook of over 1,100 members is flooded with similar complaints, the BBB has over 1,000 complaints and the AZ AG received over 900 complaints, yet the Florida AG timeshare division sends you to LTRBA? Can you see how frustrating this is? Not only is there no regulation or enforcement, Diamond victims are sent on a wild goose chase.     

Please note that it is always safe to employ a licensed real estate broker who are prohibited from collecting advance fee for listing the timeshare for rent or sale, except when permitted by law, and who are strictly regulated by the state.

What does this have to do with Diamond members if the LTRBA members won’t list their points? They feel Diamond has restricted the use of points purchased on the secondary market to the point it does not exist; it’s a hamster wheel 1. Lie to sell 2. Force foreclosure (I know of over 30 active duty and retired military and law enforcement alleging they were defrauded by Diamond, Bluegreen and Vacation Village, seven are concerned they are going to lose their Security Clearance, one lost his air unit command) 3. Take back the points 4. Resell to the next victim. With so little enforcement or regulation, there is nothing to stop timeshare sales agents from using and abusing the oral representation clause.    

If they cannot help the owners, they will let them know upfront and will not waste their time and money to advertise their properties which they know are not marketable. They will not give a false hope unless they are sure they can sell the timeshare.  Despite your statement that “resale market is nonexistent”, please note that timeshare interests do sell in the secondary market, however, buyers are selective and only buy those timeshares which they consider to be in high demand at choice locations. Therefore, it is not true that the timeshare resale market is non-existent.  If it was, these brokers won’t be able to survive.

One of them told Shielah they survive because they get paid a commission even when the seller ends up with a net loss. We don’t hold that against them, but that’s how they survive.  

An owner is free to select any entity to market his/her timeshare interest or club membership.  However, based on the history of complaints we have received, we have learned that many owners have been burned by the individual and entities who take their money and run without providing the promised services based on false and misleading claims.

Exactly, I rest my case. The industry is the cause of the scams because desperate consumers who feel, know, they were defrauded, are easy prey for professional liars.  

I hope this information was helpful

No, I’m sorry. It was of no help. It is my opinion the reason there is so little enforcement and regulation is because Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is influenced by the timeshare PAC ARDA. I will be researching through FOIA how much money she has received in campaign contributions and other means.    

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

If you have any other question or concern, feel free to contact us at your convenience. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to address your concerns.

Thank you. I would like to speak with you. My wife and I have been defrauded. I am a combat veteran, 90% disabled. My wife is pregnant with twins. We bought this because we were told it was an investment and that the points could be easily sold. I know many other members who would appreciate your help, like Eron, Sheila Richard and Gad mentioned in the article.

How many consumers need to contact DBPR to convince DBPR some timeshare sales agents in Florida are engaging in criminal practices?  Irene said Bluegreen has as many complaints as Diamond, but they have their own Advocacy Facebook.

Josh Parker

If you are having a timeshare nightmare, contact our Facebook or one of the non-industry influenced, self-help Facebooks and website listed below.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you to all our contributors and we hope we see more positive results in the weeks ahead. If you would like to share your story with others, contact Inside Timeshare.

We wish you all a very Happy Easter and don’t eat all the eggs in one go!

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