Back in June 2016 Inside Timeshare published the following article, it started with a “Spoof” Trade Body which Inside Timeshare had just become a member of. Due to some of the articles we have published recently it was decided to republish this article as a warning that even “Trade Bodies” cannot be relied upon to give consumers the best advice or even tell the truth. (The article has also been amended from the original).
Although the article starts with some humour the message is very real, we hope that you enjoy reading it.
Inside Timeshare is proud to announce that it has been invited to become a member of the prestigious trade body EGTBW. This is the European Guild of Timeshare Blog Writers, it is affiliated to the IATBWG, the International Association of Timeshare Blog Writers Guilds.
Becoming a member means that Inside Timeshare must adhere to the Code of Conduct and Ethics of this Organisation.
Members must not attack, make detrimental comments or otherwise demean any organisation that is a member or affiliated to EGTBW or IATBWG.
Members must adhere to the laws of the EU, or the country of registration. Unless we can get away with it.
The EGTBW and IATBWG will not mediate in any dispute between a member and non-members.
If any organisation or entity has a complaint about a member of this organisation it must be taken directly to the member concerned.
Any member may lie or spread false information about any non-member, citing freedom of speech and expression.
If any action is taken against a member, both organisations will fully support that member, no matter what it has done wrong.
Members may display both the EGTBW and IATBWG logos on all promotional material, correspondence and websites.
This Logo is a sign of quality and is a kite mark of excellence.
So there we have it Inside Timeshare has paid its £20,000 a year membership fee for the full protection and backup of these prestigious organisations. It now means we can do what the hell we like, so there!
If this was not a joke it would be farcical but unfortunately this is all too real in timeshare. On a daily basis we see owners and members being treated in the most disrespectful manner, we have also seen numerous court cases against the timeshare industry for breaking legislation.
There is an organisation that is supposed to be the trade body of this industry The RDO, (In the US it is ARDA), but it is its own members that are breaking the rules. What do they do about it? Not a sausage.
This organisations own code of conduct states that members should adhere to any legislation and laws regarding the sale of timeshare. Yet we see illegal contracts still being sold, deposits being taken on the day, all in breach of EU Directives which are supposed to be in each member state’s laws.
The industry funds this organisation and it does its bidding, it will not even investigate its members when a complaint is made by an owner or member. They say that you must deal with your own resort/company.
They also believe that the press does not research the stories they publish, creating even more of a slur on the industry. Following is a direct quote from their own website under why join the RDO:
“Vacation ownership has been the victim of poorly researched press attention. These articles and broadcasts can cause serious and lasting damage to the reputation of the industry. RDO works on behalf of vacation ownership companies to clear up any misinformation, accusations of sharp business practices and to actively encourage the education of journalists and travel bloggers.”
“We believe that this work directly benefits all businesses in the industry by maintaining buyer confidence in holiday ownership. Additionally, RDO members have the added marketing advantage of being able to display the RDO logo on their marketing material. The RDO logo is a Kite Mark of quality for the holiday ownership industry and enables RDO Members to offer additional peace of mind to their customers.”
So a prestigious journalist such as Tony Hetherington has poorly researched his articles. (It must be pointed out thatMacDonald Resorts have not been RDO members since 2005, but these articles highlight a problem that is rampant throughout the industry).
On another point, there have been numerous rulings made by the Spanish Supreme Court regarding the timeshare laws, Anfi (an RDO member) have been on the receiving end of these rulings, having contracts declared null and void and huge amounts having to be repaid to consumers. Anfi believe the court has got it wrong, the RDO it seems agrees with them!
For many, timeshare has become a burden, the membership base is aging, new younger members are not being attracted to the concept, hence many sales offices are closing and staff being laid off. Yet those that want to get out of their membership are being held to “ransom”, they can’t sell (no resale market) and can’t get out without paying huge amounts for the privilege.
What does the RDO do about this problem of getting out of the timeshare?
It enhances its “Code of Conduct” for so-called “legacy” cases, or those sold in perpetuity. The rules are not really very helpful and are as follows:
In the event of the death of a joint owner, the surviving owner can surrender their timeshare if they wish and additionally, the beneficiaries of a will are not obliged to take on the timeshare if they do not wish to do so.
A timeshare owner who has been declared bankrupt may hand back the timeshare without charge.
If a sole owner or either of the joint owners is suffering from a long-term illness that prevents them from travelling to their resort for the foreseeable future, the timeshare interest may be surrendered.
In all other cases, an owner may surrender their timeshare interest at any time, subject to the agreement of the RDO member. In such cases any surrender fee shall not exceed a sum equivalent to 3 years current maintenance fees.
(Notice it states “Subject to the agreement”)
As the industry trade body, should not the RDO back up these owners and make sure their members act in an ethical manner.
No surprise here, they back the RDO plans to the hilt, after all they are funded by RDO members who pay them to be members of TATOC, all so they can display this organisation’s logo. Oh sorry, it is another sign of prestige, you can trust us we are members of The RDO and TATOC; just look at our logos!
Since this article was first published TATOC has now been totally discredited and forced into bankruptcy. (Search TATOC in the search bar for previous articles). For years this organisation run by the infamous “Harry or is it Henry” Taylor, duped timeshare owners into believing that it was a credible organisation out to protect timeshare owners. It has now been proven that this was not in fact the case, in fact TATOC’s backing of MacDonald Resorts move to transfer their fixed week owners to the infamous points system and become members of a vacation club rather than owners, is a prime example.
We started this article with a spoof, the only thing is this spoof is real when it comes to timeshare. The industry is in decline, its reputation has been sullied, it only has itself to blame, the past greed and belief that they could get away with anything has finally caught up with it. Consumers no longer believe the “sales pitch”, they can see it is not value for money, members see their resorts being rented out to non members on the internet, usually for less than their maintenance fees. Yet the industry and the Trade Bodies cannot see the writing on the wall because they still believe they are right!
Inside Timeshare will continue to highlight any bad practice and report any news within the world of timeshare. If you have any questions regarding your ownership/membership, or need to know which company to deal with, contact Inside Timeshare and we will get back to you.
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.
Welcome to the first Tuesday Slot with Irene of December, this week Irene gives an update on an article from October, but first some important news from Europe.
Last week Inside Timeshare had some unconfirmed news on a raid in Tenerife, which we did not publish, this was against the offices of Mark Rowe’s enterprise there. This week news came out of raids at his businesses in the UK By Trading Standards, so this could just verify the Tenerife news.
This raid follows an investigation by the “Scambuster Team” of Trading Standards, offices of around 22 Mark Rowe companies were searched, employees questioned and documents removed for further investigation and as evidence if any criminal charges are brought.
It looks like we will have to wait until the new year before we know the outcome, this follows the news last month of another enterprise EZE Group, where the directors and owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates of “Aggressive” sales tactics and “Coercion” with their product “EZE Credits”. They are to appear at Crown Court on 15 December, whether they will be sentenced then or just remanded on bail until the New Year remains to be seen.
In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARSTIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program. “Consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits,” announced TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel.
The limited deed/limited fun program is geared toward fixed week resorts, but the same strategy could be implemented by major timeshare point sellers, solving the problem a timeshare owner faces when life changes and now they own a vacation product they don’t want, they can’t afford, and can’t sell. TARS could eventually neutralize resale and listing scams. Scam revenue would turn into new buyer revenue which would be a win-win for everyone except the scammers.
Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 223 readers (176 when the October 26 article was published). Members sometimes describe catastrophic financial distress when denied a release.
I asked Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberté Management Group of Companies and Chairman of TARS to provide an example of how the limited deed works. “The TARs program offers the member an option to purchase a limited term deed for five or ten years. The term will be the decision of the Associations, but we would not recommend any term less than three years. We feel the five year plan best suits the Association and the owners. The design is to utilize the units’ maintenance fee costs with an increase annually to make the tax repercussions better for the Association – a major savings, but each unit in each resort would be different,” Dennis explained.
The example Dennis provided was for a Voyager unit with an annual Maintenance fee of $510. A five year limited deed could be purchased for $6,000. The now former perpetual deed owner becomes a limited deed owner. At the end of five years the term is up and the unit reverts back to the HOA.
At this point skeptics raise their eyebrows. Wait! A $510 annual maintenance fee turns into $1,200 a year or $171 a night for a seven night stay? The Liberté website offers a one bedroom gulf view for $1,053 a week. So the limited deed would cost the member $735 ($1,200 – $1,053 = $147 x 5 years).
One timeshare insider suspects it’s a crafty upfront scam. I know Dennis and Martin Kandel so I have no concerns there. Another insider I contacted voiced a concern about what would happen if TARS went out of business. Liberté has been in business 35 years managing seven fixed week resorts and brokers resales and rentals as well. Liberté is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.
Dennis received a great congratulation from one timeshare advocacy organization, told this can be a huge positive change for the industry. Dennis also spoke with Robert Follisat the Florida Attorney General’s office who also saw the program as a solution to many problems.
When I called Voyager, I spoke with M J Hassall, also with Liberté, who expressed great enthusiasm. “Every owner is unique so we provide a one on one presentation. One obstacle is convincing owners this is not just another ruse to get them to buy more weeks. This really is important information they need to know about. We have presented the plan to about 15 members with about 50 percent in favor of the program,” explained M J.
“In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an a la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. One of the partners is Let’s Go N Travel,”M J added.
This led me to Let’s Go N Travel which will be the subject of January’s monthly TARS update. I spoke with Chip Langdon at Let’s Go N Travel. Chip described Let’s Go as a Vacation Club boasting 450,000 members. More on how this fits in with TARS later.
TARS provides a new way to address old problems (www.tarserv.com) in an effort to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program. This would seem a concept owners need to wrap their heads around, as they may not have yet thought about an exit or even if they need one.
Thank you to all at TARS for their help as we learn more about this evolving program. As a former deeded fixed week owner, I can see spending the extra money on something I enjoyed for 30 years, paying an extra $735 spread out over five years to be done with it without the hassle of dodging scams or waiting for an over supplied product to sell. As with any product, if it meets the needs of the consumer, it will sell itself. Timeshare does not sell itself. It is product that has to be “sold” and often requires six to eight hours of brow beating, “pitching heat” and deceit, according to 220 of our readers. We hope, working with developers, such tactics will diminish. We know there are good timeshare sales agents out there selling the product the way it should be sold. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney for their scarce complaint record.
Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to follow along as TARS progresses. I still need to call my favorite fixed week timeshare people at Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.
At least this provides a positive topic members and developers can agree on – the need for an honest timeshare exit to shut off the scam valve.
Irene will be keeping us updated on a monthly basis on TARS Limited Term Deed Program, could it be that there is some honesty in this industry called timeshare? Only time will tell.
Other news coming in from the US is the link up between ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) and Europe’s RDO (Resorts Development Association). It has been rumoured for sometime that the RDO is what you might call “strapped for cash”, well they have this year lost one of their major members, Silverpoint. Could this link up be the saviour of them?
Kwikchex has also laid out the scope of its new mission, running the “Timeshare Helpline”, on behalf of the RDO, which replaces the disgraced and bankrupt TATOC. As we know TATOC was supposed to be an independent body representing timeshare owners through their committees, but under the leadership of Harry Taylor, they did the bidding of their benefactors. These benefactors were the industry and RDO members.
So the question is if the new helpline is run by Kwikchex and the Timeshare Task Force, paid for by the RDO, how can it be independent and on the side of the consumer?
Have Trading Standards and other Authorities been taken in by them, the same way as Citizens Advice Bureau were taken in by TATOC?
Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to draw your own conclusions.
Considering August is usually a quiet month with all the holidays, Inside Timeshare has had quite a run on articles. We began August with news on the Tauro Beach Project entitled “Tauro Beach: In the UK News”.
This followed the publication of a story in The Guardian, a UK newspaper, on the importation of the sand used to build the beach, from Western Sahara. The article by Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer, two independent journalists who investigated the possible illegal importation of the sand.
They explained that if this sand did originate from the Western Sahara, which it most certainly looks like, it was against UN Resolutions and rulings from the European Court of Justice. In their article they quote the head of SEPRONA in Gran Canaria, Lt Germán Garciá who stated “The sand was brought illegally, it was discharged with no control at all,” we know this has caused concern among environmentalist on the Island, as there is a protected area just 300 meters off the beach.
For the full story follow the links at the end of this article.
The following day we published the Mid Week Report, this started with the news that TATOC had truly gone as their website is no longer accessible. It was then followed with a link to The Canary News, an English language newspaper based in Gran Canaria. The Canary News article by Ed Timon, the editor, gave a very good insight into the history of Western Sahara, which was the subject of the previous article.. (Again see links below).
We also published the first article of the month from Irene Parker, from our US branch, this was to do with a lawsuit in the US by Welk Resorts against Timeshare Exit Team. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting lawsuits by timeshare developers against resale / exit companies and law firms.
Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare was the title of the next article. This highlighted Timeshare Compensation’s blog on Silverpoint now known as Signallia. In this blog Timeshare Compensation warns its readers of the “dodgy” past of this company, which was very surprising indeed as the owner of Timeshare Compensation,Mark Rowe, is an ex-senior sales manager of Silverpoint and thereby employee of Robert “Bob” Trotta, as well as colleague of the CEO Mark Cushway. Told you there were some strange things in the world of timeshare!
In our first Friday’s Letter from America for the month, we published the article by Eron Grant, this covered the question of why does ARDA have a code of ethics? One question we have also asked of the RDO.
Once again that family of fake law firms in Tenerife came up, yes you know the ones, Litigious Abogados.
We then published “Truth, What is Truth?” This was in response to readers enquiries about Anfi denying losing any court cases. This has caused confusion among members, after all these cases have been publicised in the press, yet Anfi tell everyone it is not true! So who do you believe?
In the next Friday’s Letter from America, we published Part 4 “Our DRI Misadventures” by David Franks. He Joined our team of writers from the US, some months ago and has given us a great deal of fun. He certainly has a style of his own and is a welcome member to the team.
We then started our “Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message” by Irene Parker, this is based on the book Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer. He is to be a keynote speaker at the Interval International Shared Ownership Conference to be held at the Miami Beach Eden Roc Hotel October 23 – 25. Mr. Baer has advised more than 700 companies including The United Nations and 32 Fortune 500 companies.
Next came the news of a story we published last year, it involved The Manhattan Club in New York. The NY AG Eric T Schneiderman had suspended all sales at the club back in July 2014, this followed many complaints of deceitful practises. The case is now finally over, with a settlement of $6.5 million, also the owners are being forced to sell and have been barred from participating in the timeshare industry. Well done Eric, one for the consumer!
Once again Karen Garello from our Timeshare Advocacy, contributed another “Secret Shopper Report”. In this article, Karen gives sound advice on the questions you should ask when going on a sales presentation. Following her advice could save a lot of problems in the future.
It was back to Europe for our next piece, this was titled “ Timeshare In the Press”. This was actually very timely as it followed on from the Truth What is Truth article, it was based on the article in the Spanish paper El Diario. It highlighted the Supreme Court rulings, mainly against the Tenerife company Silverpoint, who just like Anfi deny any cases going to court or being lost.
It also included the article published in The Canary News, based on the one from the paper La Provincia, this began with a recap of the groundbreaking first Supreme Court ruling back in March 2015. Again throwing out the claims of the timeshare industry that these are all fictitious cases.
There followed a couple more articles by Irene Parker and a Timeshare Advocate. The first highlighted the lawsuits between developers and law firms, the second was an open letter to the timeshare industry. Whether they take any notice is another thing.
In The Monday Briefing, we again focused on the Litigious Abogados family, giving a recap on how they operate their rather sophisticated scam, but also some sound advice which if followed will protect you from becoming one of their victims.
In the same article we welcomed and wished all the best to a new forum for timeshare owners, Timeshare Users Forum. This has been set up by disgruntled members of Timeshare Talk, a previously independent forum. We won’t go into detail here, but you can read the full article.
The last article for August was Part II of Hug Your Haters: A Customer Service Message.
So that is it for August, tomorrow we don’t cross the great lake to the US, we go to the land down under, for another Letter from Australia, contributed by Justin Morgan, on the role of private equity and the secondary market in timeshare. Do join us and bring your didgeridoo!
Following on from the news that TATOC is no more, the latest news is that TATOC Consumer Helpline Ltd has also been wound up, when more comes in we’ll publish it here. If you have tried to access the TATOC website, you will have noticed that it no longer comes up, confirmation that TATOC and Harry Taylor are truly gone, although we wonder if any of his old allies (MacDonald Resorts) will be offering him a job?
On the story published yesterday regarding the sand on Tauro Beach, The Canary News has also published a full in depth report. It not only looks at the controversy surrounding the importation of sand from the Western Sahara, it also has a very good introduction to the history of this region.
Now it is August, the courts have closed down for the month, so there will be no news emanating from there. Good news for the timeshare companies! But it is guaranteed that come September there will be a flurry of sentences being announced.
It is also a time for the new “scams” to start getting ready for the Autumn and Winter season, the new company names and websites will soon be surfacing along with some of the old names that will be resurrected. So be warned, do your homework first, check and recheck, these scams are getting very sophisticated, you only have to see the articles on Litigious Abogados and their family of firms. If in doubt or not sure how to check, then contact Inside Timeshare.
Welk Resorts sues Timeshare Exit Team for Racketeering
Right To Use timeshare programs need a secondary market
By Irene Parker
August 2, 2017
Welk Resort of Lawrence Welk fame has sued Timeshare Exit Team for racketeering. Once again, the lack of a secondary market forces beleaguered timeshare members into the nets of alleged unscrupulous transfer agents when a resort provides no exit for members sold a timeshare contract in perpetuity.
First, a hat’s off to Lawrence Welk, a big band great that kept early American households riveted to their seats for over 20 years. To this day the Welk resort is a family friendly resort that knows how to run a business. My husband and I stayed at a Welk Resort in California. It was one of our most memorable timeshare vacation experiences.
Inside Timeshare has received a volume of reader responses alarmed that there often is no way out of a timeshare contract. ARDA and the industry have lauded timeshares evolution towards a right to use product and have stated members should not expect value back when they seek release from a right to use timeshare.
The problem with ARDA’s“see no evil, hear no evil” position is – about 90% of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received, have loans attached and many allege they were duped into signing off on high interest rate loans and credit cards. Voluntary surrender or “take-back” programs require the member be free of loan encumbrances. In addition, voluntary surrenders are never guaranteed.
Mr. Howard Nusbaum, President and CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), was quoted in a June 2014 RedWeek article in reference to the lack of a viable timeshare resale market, “This is a legacy problem. People buying a timeshare today are buying it from multisite clubs that have management forever and sales teams forever, so the ability to recycle inventory will not be a problem in the future.”
Timeshare Exit Team Response to the Welk Resort lawsuit
Response from Brandon Reed, founder and CEO of Timeshare Exit Team:
Timeshare Exit Team learned of this matter through a media release distributed by Welk Resorts on July 26, 2017. Following the news being publicly distributed, we were formally served on July 27th, 2017, and intend to present a vigorous defense to these claims. We would also like to inform consumers that the meritless lawsuit and inaccurate accusations therein will not dissuade our team from continuing to advocate for consumers.
I’m proud of the service we offer and of the company we have built. Timeshare Exit Team has built an unparalleled in-house team, leveraging effective outside resources as needed, to assess each customer’s unique situation and to provide them with qualified, thorough, and trusted management of their issues.
The Welk Resort lawsuit v Timeshare Exit Team reported by Business Wire
“SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Welk Resorts, developer of family-friendly vacation resorts, has filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California against Reid Hein & Associates, operating as “Timeshare Exit Team,” and law firms in two states for allegedly operating a nationwide racketeering scheme to induce vacation owners to disrupt Welk’s contractual relationships with its vacation owners, causing breach of contracts, delinquencies and defaults that damaged Welk, the vacation owner association and vacation owners.”
“The suit cites fraudulent racketeering activity, intentional interference with contractual relations, and violations of the California unfair competition law, California Vacation Ownership and Time-Share Act, California False Advertising Law and the state “Running and Capping” Law. The latter makes it illegal for non-attorney agents to obtain business for an attorney or law firm for compensation, or solicit others to engage in running and capping.”
Timeshare Exit Team charged fees of $5,000 and more for this “service.”
Timeshare Exit Team fulfills an HOA Collections Agent’s Prediction – Previously Reported by Inside Timeshare
Kristi, a Home Owners Association timeshare collection agent I interviewed back in March of 2017, complained of lawyers transferring timeshare contracts to fictitious persons or LLCs. Some things are universal. Charles Thomas has been reporting on a recurring “Litigious Abogados” theme. Inside Timeshare is published in Spain.
As reported by Inside Timeshare in our interview with Kristi:
Irene: Are you familiar with Timeshare Exit Team? One of their agents contacted me and asked me to review their program. What is your opinion of this firm?
Kristi: I would never endorse or advise anyone to use their services ever!! They specialize and advertise “Cancellation of Timeshare Contracts” but we don’t have contracts. We have deeds. We have chosen not to do business with Timeshare Exit Team because of their inability to follow our procedures and because of the quality of work previously sent to us.
Timeshare Exit Team has been involved with two other timeshare resale companies and/or timeshare attorneys that were involved with transferring 18 of our deeds since 2014 to four individuals that have never paid the dues and are delinquent in the amount of over $18,000. Out of the four individuals we were able to track, we learned that they are all associated with each other thru business dealings, contract employees or registered agents. They must assume that the association will eventually foreclose or take the property back but it is very costly to foreclose and we do not accept property back.
Here are ARDA–ROC’s (Resort Owners Coalition) eight tips for selling your timeshare and how they apply or do not apply to Diamond Resort members. This is what I have learned since trying to sell my Diamond right to use points.
Know what you own – Most own non-deeded right-to-use points
Consult your resort – Diamond’s Advocacy Department has helped some members but others have had to seek legal assistance when denied relinquishment. Tracking our reader outcomes thus far – 29 out of 77 report positive outcomes.
Sell it yourself – member supported Facebook pages seem to be the best option, but complaints abound that “no one wants it.”
Generate income by renting. Diamond Resorts does not allow renting through a third party website. “Use by a Member of public advertising or an online website to seek renters shall be deemed a prohibited commercial use.”
Lela Renea, a Bluegreen timeshare member, contacted Inside Timeshare about her battle with Timeshare Exit Team after they appear to have stonewalled her. Since Lela is in the middle of negotiations, she did not want to elaborate on the distress she feels, attempting to resolve her Timeshare Exit Team concerns – suffice to say she had reason to reach out to Inside Timeshare. We will be reporting as to whether Bluegreen will come to her rescue or allow her to fall to the mercy of Timeshare Exit Team.
Despite the customer loyalty and lack of complaints we reported last week among Disney deeded timeshare owners, with access to resale and rental options, right to use non-deeded timeshare programs continue to ignore the growing problems caused by perpetual contracts not able to be sold, rented or relinquished.
Welk Resorts back in the day was a fixed week timeshare but has converted to a right to use non deeded program. A life change like a job loss or illness, rendering the timeshare unaffordable, is as much a problem for members of right to use programs as it is for legacy resorts.
We hope someday, someone in the industry or ARDA will see that throwing up roadblocks to a secondary market is a detriment for all. As we reported last week, timeshare attorney Mike Finn has never had a Disney client and it is unlikely Timeshare Exit Team has ever had a Disney client either.
Some answers are so logical and simple, they cannot possibly be understood.
Once again thank you to Irene, who explains the timeshare world across the great lake, as you will have noticed there is very little difference to the problems that owners / members face.
So there we have it, half way through the week and a couple of hard hitting stories, we’ll be keeping an eye on the Tauro Beach story and will bring you the latest as it surfaces. Remember, beware the scam artists, do your homework, check and check again, it will save you a lot of money and stress in the long run.
As the answer was NO, the court had no other option than to place TATOC in the hands of the Official Receiver.
This will be a big blow to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) who at the beginning of the year during the TATOC conference presented Harry Taylor with a cheque for $30,000 as a contribution for the TATOC helpline.
We have reported before that TATOC was not really on the side of the consumer, how could it be? It was funded by the very industry the consumer had problems with!
Just look at the relationship Harry Taylor and his TATOC team had with MacDonald Resorts, a company that even the RDO had not had any relationship with since 2005!
MacDonald Resorts pursued an aggressive policy of taking over fixed weeks, converting those owners to the points system, which even owners did not want. Harry Taylor ran a campaign stating that this was the best way forward, that it was in the best interests of the owners.
The question is how was it in the best interests of the owners? By changing to the points system from their fixed weeks, which gave them very strong rights, they effectively gave control of the resorts to MacDonald’s. Overnight they changed from being owners with the right to set maintenance fees, employ the management company and basically run their resort, to mere members with no rights whatsoever. Just the right to use subject to availability.
It now transpires that Kwikchex has set up a consumer helpline of their own, this has been announced by the RDO on 24 July. This seems to be part of the Timeshare Task Force, the question is how will this be independent advice considering that they are also funded by the RDO?
According to the RDO announcement this new consumer helpline will be offering assistance and advice about any company that is not an RDO member. What about offering assistance and advice about their own members, after all most of the problems are with the resorts and developers themselves.
The fact that owners / members who are having problems with their own resorts are left on their own as the RDO will not intervene in any dispute, this leaves those owners with nowhere to turn. This in itself leads to those unscrupulous companies to feed off the vulnerability of owners who either want to sell or just want to get out of their timeshare. The industry itself has created the “scam” market because of it’s own inability to deal with the issues, disputes and resale markets that owners need. Their own greed has been their downfall!
For years, timeshare has been sold, especially in Spain, with total disregard for the laws set in place to protect consumers, this has resulted in hundreds of court cases,along with Supreme Court rulings enforcing the laws that they have themselves flouted. Only last week, a recent ex-member of the RDO, Resort Properties / Silverpoint had five rulings against them in one day.
The RDO themselves have backed up the resorts against these rulings, believing that the judges have interpreted the law incorrectly, (see link).
If the industry is to survive, it needs to change how it operates, it needs to listen to the concerns of the owners / members, the very consumers who pay for it, not just chase those companies bogus or legitimate who decline to join their little club. After all, why would law firms such as Canarian Legal Alliance or JCLA & AS pay for membership when it is those members they are taking to court?
We have said this on many occasions, timeshare could be a good product, many have had many happy years of ownership, especially with those resorts that valued their custom. One has to only look at recent events at Los Claveles, for years those owners had no complaint, until Wimpen sold out their management rights to the ONA Group, then it really turned nasty.
The time for change is now, the industry cannot police itself, it is self serving, the likes of Kwikchex running a consumer helpline in the interests of the industry is a farce. There are very few places consumers can turn for truly independent and valuable advice, it has become an even bigger minefield.
If you have any questions or concerns about any timeshare matter, contact Inside Timeshare, if we don’t know the answer we will find it for you. These pages are read worldwide, we are bringing owners together from the USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines adding more as we go, through their articles and contributions you will find you are not as alone as you think.
Yesterday Inside Timeshare highlighted the plight of owners at Los Claveles resort in Tenerife, our US readers have a similar problem with developers attempting to take over resorts. Their problem is the transfer of deeded weeks to points, rather than the heavy handed actions of the Ona Group. We have also seen this in Europe, where the likes of MacDonald Resorts with the tacit approval of the owners committees association TATOC, are attempting to change all fixed week owners to their ridiculous points system. A system which only allows a stay under one condition “SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY”.
Over the past few months Irene ParkerInside Timeshares partner from across The Great Lake, has been highlighting the problems that Diamond owners are having. One of the main themes has been the downright lies sales agents have been using to sell more and more points to people who obviously cannot afford it. The use of the DiamondBarclayCard is one tactic they have used, with promises that it reduces maintenance fees. Irene has in previous articles shown how this has devastated people’s lives.
Diamond sometime ago rolled out “Clarity”, supposedly to make everything transparent, today’s article from Irene poses the following question:
Is the Diamond Resorts Clarity Program Real?
By Irene Parker
May 23, 2017
My husband and I stayed over two weeks at Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links and Los Abrigados this past month. Anxious to hear more about Diamond’s Clarity Program, I asked if I could speak with a sales agent to learn more. Unfortunately, my requests at the concierge desk and emails went unheeded. Disappointed, I approached several existing members asking them for their feedback. I had hoped to hear positive stories.
Two of the families I spoke with did not want to go on record, but Faye and Mike Hanrahan from New Jersey shared their experience with me. I probably picked the wrong couple because they are former Monarch owners. Diamond has pursued former Monarch owners to give up their deeded timeshare week in exchange for non-deeded “right-to-use” points. In addition to Monarch, ILX, Intrawest and now Gold Key face the same battle in an attempt to hold onto their deeds.
Here’s what happened at Los Abrigados in Sedona according to Faye and Mike:
We had our sit down. We were told we have no way out of Monarch unless we spend approximately $10,000 for the equivalent of 6,000 Diamond vacation points with either a $1,400 maintenance fee or, if we signed a contract that same day, an $871maintenance fee. After we refused the first sales agent, we were introduced to an agent who said he was an original Monarch owner, but now worked for Apollo, although he had on a Diamond name tag. It was because he was with Apollo he could offer a half price on maintenance fee offer if we signed before leaving the room. Already familiar with timeshare, we knew there is no such opportunity for one owner to have half off the company’s maintenance fee. They offered to help by opening a Diamond Barclaycard for $3,995 put up by Barclays. The deal was to pay $39.95 month for 23 months to buy a “Club Combination for Life” program. After 23 months we were told we could use the $4,000 to buy into Diamond or Barclays will “zero out the debt” having paid a total of $918.85 at the end of 23 months. We of course could continue to use the credit card. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of this timeshare?
Pressure to give up a deed is a frequent complaint. Once you give up your deed, the Diamond owner is no longer allowed to rent using a third party rental agency or website.
But back to Clarity, which is about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. In the spirit of fair and balanced reporting, here are some excerpts about Clarity provided by Maya Pogoda, PR spokesperson for Diamond resorts.
Before we begin, I should mention that Inside Timeshare has been hearing from Diamond members on almost a daily basis. The majority of complaints received have been about upsells to existing members, even Platinum members, as per the individuals who reported to us, for the following reasons:
The only way to sell Diamond points is to buy more points because only Platinum members can sell their points.
The only way your heirs don’t have to keep up with maintenance fees is to upgrade to the next loyalty level. One family bought more points for this reason only to be told by the next agent at a subsequent presentation this benefit is already available, as she pointed out in a guidebook.
You should not have bought US Collection points because you won’t be able to book Hawaii (if in Hawaii) or you should not have bought Hawaii points because Hawaii maintenance fees are going to increase dramatically (if on the US mainland).
The only way to be eligible for a $.30 maintenance fee reduction is to upgrade to the next loyalty level. Only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point.
You need to buy more points because you can’t do anything with the small number of points you purchased.
Member stories are listed in our Barclaycard article
Here is Diamond’s perspective on Clarity from PR spokesperson, Maya Pogoda. Her comments are from discussions we had in January and were previously reported.
“We have been piloting the various elements of the Diamond Clarity program for some time,” Pogoda explained. “Now that we gained the confidence that each of these pieces were effective, we were able to roll out this cohesive, national program that seeks to enhance the overall customer experience when purchasing and holding a vacation membership. Diamond Clarity will rewrite industry best practices by increasing transparency for the consumer and accountability for our team members.”
Pogoda noted that 70% of its sales are to existing members, however, Diamond Clarity “will improve the overall customer experience by increasing transparency for the consumer and accountability for our team members. At Diamond Resorts, we are always working to provide our members with the best possible vacation experiences. This focus on hospitality and creating lasting experiences has made Diamond Resorts an industry leader. We have always believed that customer satisfaction creates loyalty. So while the definition of customer loyalty has not changed, our commitment to finding new ways to drive customer satisfaction to create loyalty evolves constantly. Diamond Clarity is evidence of that.”
Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel within the company’s corporate headquarters, to quickly address any issues or concerns members may have. This new platform will allow Diamond Resorts to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.
No one doubts there are are Diamond members who are sold honestly and fairly, but over 250 Diamond member families have bonded together through our advocacy Facebook to support one another as we fight off endless up-sell attempts that have driven families further and further into debt.
To date our Advocacy group has received and assisted the following complaints.
Our Advocacy Efforts Statistics Update
75 Inquiries for assistance
55 Formal interventions complaints filed or assisted with
Reasons for 75 complaints as provided by the complainants
34 Sold by deception and bait and switch
09 Barclaycard upsell/predatory lending
02 30 cents to convert to MF relief (non-existent program)
06 Switch back from HI to US Collection or vice versa
06 Maintenance fees increases
02 Survivor benefit program (non-existent as already available)
08 Bought more points told it was the only way to exit the timeshare
08 Lack of Availability
We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to
advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
“Diamond Clarity is not limited to just one state, it’s a national program that includes four new operational initiatives. One of these initiatives is recording quality assurance sessions subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training. The company has invested in technology to ensure that these recordings can be archived and searchable. Recording sales presentations would not meet these objective and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity Program.”
The recording of the QA session is the biggest sore point Diamond members have with Clarity. Many of our complaints include the sales agent advising the buyer not to say anything about an exciting new program because “The program is not public yet so I could lose my job if you tell anyone.” Arizona allows the recording of the sales session but few buyers will go to the trouble.
This new program by DRI is a very predictable step after the Arizona Attorney General’s action. If Clarity is about transparency, why does Maya not once reveal the only reason the company issued the program is because Diamond is essentially under state supervision in Arizona after the issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” after over 400 complaints received claiming Diamond violated Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.
DRI is obligated to demonstrate cooperation and compliance to new disclosure requirements by the AZ AG, but the company will do nothing for existing owners because they purchased contracts during the “Murky Stage”…
“Clarity” does not have any provision of fixing the existing and growing problems which are flooding the courtrooms all over the world where DRI operates ….
Regarding recording the QA sessions by DRI, this should be only offered if attendees, who are, according to “Clarity“, 70% existing owners, be allowed to do the same in order to establish a level playing field. Otherwise it is a trap participating owners will end up in, because it will give DRI additional defense tool in the courtroom.
Regarding creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel. This Channel should have consumer rights attorneys and secret observers not employed by DRI in order to eliminate conflict of interest.
Regarding increase training to frontline personal. The frontline personnel had superb national training during the “Murky Stage”. How else can you explain the fact so many owners all over the world had exactly the same upsell by deceit and “bait and switch” during sales presentations? Many of our 250 Facebook member families claim sales representatives all over the world presented exactly the same falsified and misleading comments in order to entice owners to buy additional points. The name of the national sales training program should be: “101 ways how to deceive owners during sales presentation process and increase the volume of sales.”
Second member comment
I realize we are all skeptical about “promises” made by DRI, but this program has the potential of making a positive impact on our relationship with DRI.
Third member, a Diamond member and an attorney
Is the idea that none of these rules were previously in place? It appears to me these are designed as Diamond CYA’s going forward, “we have a recording” or “there as an observer” or “contact the consumer advocacy channel within __ days”. For Diamond to say the allegations we all experience did not happen.
What does this accomplish for the victims of the bad business practices from the past?
Recording Quality Assurance sessions, subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training.
Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel within the company’s corporate headquarters, to quickly address any issues or concerns members may have. This new platform will allow Diamond Resorts to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.
Increased training of frontline personnel. All sales and marketing personnel will take part in quarterly training exercises to reinforce their awareness, understanding, and compliance with all sales and marketing rules, principles, and practices.
Regularly placing “Consumer Engagement Observers” at sales presentations to continuously provide the sales organization with feedback necessary to achieve constant improvement.
I would suggest these are great improvements to the training and consumer friendly positions Diamond should have had all along. It does nothing to help people who have already suffered with no recourse from Diamond.
If their product was so great, Clarity would be evident within the first 6-12 months of an owner’s experience with the company. It would be clear that this is “everything they said and represented” or it is “nothing that I was promised” and the consumer would still have options to exit, sell or rescind on some compromised plan. The longer you wait the less you retain.
I am not impressed.
Fourth comment anonymous due to Litigation
Enforcement of DRI “PROMISE” is difficult, unlikely, and merely a smoke screen to generate a false sense of security regarding oversight. It is another set of unenforced regulatory promises which incidentally spawned the crisis currently engulfing Diamond owners. The paltry AG financial agreement and appurtenant agreements simply demonstrate that the AZ AG is taking steps to protect itself from accusations of inaction.
Their behavior is reminiscent of the legal machinations demonstrated by ADRE and California Department of Real Estate. Complainants with ADRE regarding fraudulent practices at Diamond are told that such a complaint is an employee/employer dispute.
When filing complaints with RE regulatory agencies, it must be understood that determinations that deflect the fraud accusations are made to avoid costly investigations. This embraces the policy of waiting for some catastrophic event to prompt unavoidable enforcement action. It does not eliminate the need to continue to create a public record of these complaints, and legitimate demands to be made whole from recovery funds. Misleading determinations by these agencies should be challenged in order to demonstrate the lack of responsible enforcement pertaining to regulatory obligations.
Fifth anonymous member
If we only hear one side of the story or information how are we truly being informed? That is what happened with the hard sales only hearing their side. Our Advocacy members and Diamond need to hear and listen to both sides instead of the constant media spin.
You can share.
Sixth anonymous member
I’m afraid I don’t have much hope that this “Diamond Promise” will change much. I purchased a Sampler package in Sedona in 2012 and annual points the next year in Las Vegas. As best as I can recall, the procedures enumerated in the “new” Diamond Promise existed then, and still I was misled on some important issues.
The Diamond Clarity program has no mechanism which commits the vacation counselors, sales managers, and quality assurance officers to the Promise. In other words, there is no effective enforcement mechanism. Such a mechanism must impose a cost on the seller when the promise is violated.
The economic analysis of warranties has shown that a product sold with a warranty creates an incentive for companies to improve product quality. Reductions in the level of quality – like the misleading sales information in the case of timeshares – leads to higher warranty costs and thereby penalizes such behavior. We have good reasons to believe that in the absence of warranties high quality products get driven out of the market, while low quality products are driven out when warranties are used.
This new program depends on the trust in and good will from Diamond managers. But this is the same group that is incentivized to increase sales and revenue for the organization.
Seventh anonymous member
Promises are only as good as the party providing the assurances. I too see no real means of enforcement, and if anything this could provide an excuse for relaxed oversight by regulators.
I have been pressing the AZ Dept. of RE for 3 years to take enforcement action against DRI’s brokers. It has been clearly demonstrated that they are negligent in discharging their responsibilities pursuant to RE statute.
I would recommend that owners look at filing a claim with ADRE as complaints are mounting regarding DRI behaviors.
Eighth anonymous member due to litigation
Clarity is definitely a meaningless program – except to bolster Diamond’s position in court. I can hear it now – our QA monitored sessions prove no widespread fraudulent practices.
Agents will know when they are being monitored or recorded so they will be on their best behavior.
Will there ever be a day when we can all get along by communicating and responding to voices of the concerned?
Once again thanks to Irene and all who contribute from the other side of The Great Lake, one thing is for certain, owners on both sides are starting to see that by joining together they can make a difference.
To those owners at Los Claveles, you do have support, we only need to bring it together.
If you have any comments on any article published or would like to contribute, Inside Timeshare welcomes you.
Following our theme of readers experiences, today David Franks shares his and his wife’s holiday turned into nightmare by a sales presentation. What was supposed to be 90 minutes turned into 5 hours of hell.
As usual we start with a few items from Europe, yesterday we published a rather tongue in cheek article about the court ruling against TATOC, as we said in the article all comments have now been removed from the TATOC Facebook page. This includes the comment about someone meeting Harry Taylor and found him to be a gentleman. It certainly looks like they are on the defensive.
Last week ended with the news after publication of another defeat in the Tenerife courts for Silverpoint.
In this case Court No 3 in Arona found for the British clients of CLA and ruled that the contract did not fulfill the terms of Spanish timeshare law, the court awarded them over 13,000€ and declared the contracts null & void.
The Supreme Court rulings are certainly having an effect on timeshares sold in Spain.
In Gran Canaria, the beach at Tauro, which was the artificial beach being developed by Anfi remains closed to the public, that is not surprising really as much of the sand has been washed away. There was some worry last week as we were expecting some severe storms, these thankfully never came. There have however been reports, though unconfirmed of sightings of scorpions on the remaining sand. One does wonder if it could be true as the sand came from Western Sahara and was untreated.
The investigation into corruption over the project is ongoing along with the investigations of licences and other documents being forged. The former head of the coastal authority is still awaiting trial, we will report on that as we get the news in.
Inside Timeshare has been receiving many emails from US owners, these are passed on to Irene Parker, who is better place to deal with them, however we have also been receiving many questions from owners in the UK. These mainly concern calls they have received that say they have a claim, on a “no win no fee” basis. Many of the names are not new to us, and are what can only be described as “dubious”.
In many cases the consumer does not have a valid claim as they did not purchase in Spain. It then turns out that the “claim” is going to be on a section 75 of the credit consumer act, with then a substantial amount to be paid to relinquish / surrender the timeshare. Unfortunately, section 75 is not going to work, the credit card company / provider will rightly state that you purchased ex number of years ago and have used it. Therefore you have received the goods and services paid for, the act does not cover illegal timeshare contracts. So the so-called “no win no fee” claim is just a ploy to get thousands from the owners to just be rid of it.
On this particular theme, Inside Timeshare has saved this week alone several readers from paying anything to the “fake” law firm in Tenerife, the family known as Litigious Abogados and company. At least the news is spreading.
A new book is due to be published on 1 June and will be available from Amazon. The book is the story of John “Goldfinger” Palmer, who was implicated in the Brinks Mat bullion robbery but was found not guilty by a jury for smelting it down. It charts his Tenerife Timeshare business in which many people lost thousands of pounds. The author Wensley Clarkson contacted Inside Timeshare after reading a previous article “TIMESHARE” A Dirty Word For Many.” He thought it might be of interest. I will certainly be placing my order.
“Those who are incapable of committing great crimes do not readily suspect them in others.” François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac
By David Franks
May 19, 2017
My lovely wife and I enjoy Las Vegas. Our last visit, in July 2015, found us at The Golden Nugget. Unfortunately, Diamond Resorts was also there, at the entrance fronting the parking garage. We had seen the two episodes of Undercover Boss featuring Stephen Cloobeck, who had striven to be impressive. We were offered gift cards that seemed ample compensation for the supposed ninety minutes they would commit us to, and we’d get to see what passes for a resort near Las Vegas.
The next day, they shuttled us to Diamond’s Cancun Resort, barely within sight of town. In we went, and into a conference room where we filled out a survey about our travel interests. Then the earnest pitchman told us about the benefits of buying in. He focused on cost control, talking about the exchange value of Diamond points and their supposedly stable cost over time, compared to an inflation rate he pulled out of some warm part of his digestive tract. He said quite a bit about the exchange value of Diamond points, mentioning 30 cents several times. He might have mentioned a 20-cent valuation a couple of times; but apparently he wasn’t interested in promoting the more plebeian levels of membership.
There were a couple of people in the group who claimed to be happy owners of timeshares. As I recall, they were not Diamond members, but I have no evidence that they were shills.
That took about eighty of the ninety minutes.
The targets were then ushered out to a large room with bad lighting and loud music, where we would discuss our most intimate aspirations and financial details at tables separated only by a few feet and loud music – a disoriented slice of vulnerable humanity.
Well, we tried to not be interested. We told the helpful salesperson that our only conceivable interest in Diamond was as a small outlay whose yearly expense would goad us into getting out of the house once a year. We enjoy traveling, but we also enjoy being at home, and we are frugal wherever we are. Economy would be the key.
We explained that we like cruises and train travel, road trips, old motels and roadside attractions, and dining at local restaurants. After a while, the attentive salesperson stopped talking about resorts and started talking instead about how points can be used for all kinds of travel for their exchange value (20- or 30-cent). He talked about how being a member of Diamond Resorts and Interval International made it possible to book any kind of travel, get discounted pricing and pay for it with points. We asked about European river cruises, explaining that we would be interested in a Viking river cruise on the Rhine or the Danube. He said that should not be a problem. We explained that we didn’t want to spend any additional money. He said that should be possible, though we might need to save points so as to use two years’ worth at one time.
A couple of hours later, the solicitous salesperson suggested a tour of the resort. We tried to tell him (again) that it would not be necessary because we have no interest in resorts, but he would have none of it. He was proud of the irresistible pile of faux-Mayan faux stucco, and off we went to the example unit. I explained (again) that I cook at home, and see no need to go on vacation to cook. Back we went to the interrogation room.
Certain that he could pretend to meet our stated expectations, the intrepid salesperson showed us several options for joining, to no avail. After another hour or so, he excused himself for an awkward spell, and then returned with a grizzled veteran of the timeshare wars. He had with him the data sheet for a 2500-point membership. He said they don’t usually offer them, but – as he was unable to let us go without buying something, however inappropriate – here we were. It was pointed out to us that this would not get us a full week in a resort, which was irrelevant to us. It would give us an opportunity to experience the advantages of Diamond membership, they said. It was not pointed out to us that this minimum membership had few of the benefits that had been sold to us.
We bit. About an hour later, as we flailed around in the flurry of papers they thrust at us, one of the three people who had ganged up on us by that point mentioned, in reply to our question, that Diamond does not buy back memberships, but members can certainly resell them themselves – not that anybody ever wants to, of course.
We were there for a bit over five hours. By that time, the shuttle bus had become an antique and was placed in a museum, so the helpful salesperson called a cab and paid the driver to take our gullible selves back to our hotel. We enjoyed chatting with the cab driver.
Important points so far:
The music was playing at about 75 decibels – almost as loud as a vacuum cleaner. Conversation was difficult.
The 20 or 30 cent exchange value of points was the only exchange value mentioned.
Convenient, discounted travel was emphasized.
The availability and advantage of comprehensive service through Interval International was emphasized. (This despite the fact that Interval International had stopped providing comprehensive service for Diamond at the end of 2014).
There is a distinct and important difference between “Diamond Resorts does not buy back memberships, but members can certainly resell them themselves” and “Diamond Resorts actively obstructs individual resale of membership and the resale industry won’t deal with them.”
Inside Timeshare would like to thank David for his article and sharing his experience at the hands of Diamond sales agents in Vegas. It is the first time we have heard of loud music during the presentation process, it does make you wonder if these agents had been trained by someone well versed in the techniques of interrogation!
Also once again thanks to Irene Parker for her invaluable help in bringing people together to share those experiences and editing the articles, it has saved a lot of time at this end.
If you have any stories and experiences such as this you would like to share, you can contact Inside Timeshare or our Advocacy Facebook page.
Have a great weekend and don’t forget to do your homework, it will save you money in the end.
TATOC accused TESS of running a cold call campaign and calling them a “scam” company, this verdict is very damaging for Harry Taylor and TATOC, which we know has now gone into administration.
The trial took place at the Liverpool Civil and Family Court on 15 May 2017, the defendant Harry Taylor did not attend.
The court were satisfied that liability was established and that s1 Defamation Act 2013 test had been met. The court ordered the following:
Judgement be entered for the Claimant.
The Claimant is awarded:
£75,000 by way of general damages to be payable forthwith;
£100,000 by way of special damages to be payable forthwith;
The Defendant shall pay the claimant’s costs of and occasioned by the claim summarily assessed in the sum of £100,000 forthwith.
The court also stated that if the defendant disobeys the order they would be held in contempt of court and may be fined or have their assets seized.
So a very expensive day for TATOC. Well they did ask for it.
On Tuesday 16 May TATOC posted on Facebook “Timeshare Association (Timeshare Owners and Committees) (“TATOC”) and its Chief Executive, Harry Taylor, have been subjected to many unfounded allegations in the social media and elsewhere to which neither TATOC nor Harry Taylor have responded, concentrating on the core business of TATOC which is to represent and protect the interests of timeshares and committees”.
This author posted several comments, which began a string of other comments, for some reason it is no longer on there, the only comment is from someone who say they met Harry and found him a gentleman, with Harry thanking him for his kind words!
This author stated that Harry Taylor was a former Director at Diamond Resorts European Collection Limited, his reply was he was never a director. Well according to company house records there was a Henry Taylor, along with the same birthday as Harry, could it be a twin brother? I think not, after all Prince Henry Windsor, is known as Prince Harry!
Then when we look at the director records of company house it lists Harry Taylor’s directorships, lo and behold Diamond Resorts European Collection Limited is listed along with his others including TATOC.
So apart from duping The House of Lords, Parliament, the EU, Citizens Advice and others into believing that he and TATOC are or rather were, the VOX POPULI of timeshare owners he denies the recorded fact he is listed as a Diamond director.
The author also asked if Harry Taylor was such a champion of timeshare owners, why did he back MacDonald Resorts to the hilt when they “forced” fixed week owners into their points system, saying that it was the best thing they good do and it would be better for them?
Well we all know about MacDonald’s, this company has not been a member of the RDO since 2005, yet were a staunch supporter of Harry Taylor and TATOC. I leave it to you to decide why?
MacDonalds are one of the downright ugly as the late Sandy Grey would say in his piece “The good, the bad and the ugly of timeshare”.
Ugly is not really a word I would use, despicable is more like it with a few profanities thrown in. After all Inside Timeshare has been highlighting a case of an 87 year old lady who is house bound and being chased for maintenance she does not owe. This has been passed to debt collecting agency, Network Credit Services in Scotland and they are threatening to take her to court.
So that is that, if they don’t pay what the court has ordered, which given their present financial difficulties, could we see Harry and the other directors losing their personal assets?
Inside Timeshare looks forward to the next episode of TATOC: The Fallen Angel of Timeshare.
We welcome your views and comments, so do get in touch and share with the rest of the timeshare community who have been misled over the years.
Welcome to our Monday article, we start with some news from Europe, Canarian Legal Alliance has been at it again. More news from the courts in Tenerife finding for CLA clients against Silverpoint.
On 2 May, the judge presiding over The Court of First Instance No 5, ruled the contract these clients had contained several infringements and declared the contract null & void. The judge also ruled they should be awarded over £25,957.79 plus the return of their legal fees and legal interest. In this case the main infringement was the floating weeks. The Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98 was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, a timeshare contract must include a specific date, location and period.
The following day, the same court declared yet another contract from Silverpoint illegal under law 42/98, this infringed the length of the contract. The Supreme Court on numerous occasions have stated that under the law no contract can be over 50 years. The judge in this case again declared the contract null & void, ordering Silverpoint to return over £8,856.71 plus legal fees and legal interest to the client.
Canarian Legal Alliance also received a visit from the Kavli Family, who had their Anfi contract declared null & void awarded back over 39,413€ plus legal interest. Their visit while enjoying a relaxing holiday was to thank the entire team at CLA for all the work they put in to resolve their situation.
On another note, this weekend saw the awards presentation of the Canary NewsBusiness Awards. Canarian Legal Alliance won the the award in the Service Category, with the Head of Operations, Csilla Nazali being awarded Business Person of the year, this was accepted on behalf of the entire CLA Team. So congratulations to them.
So on we go with the NTOA article, this follows the news that TATOC, the association that is supposed to represent owners committees, is going into administration. As you will see from the article, there is a difference between the two organisations. The NTOA is independent of the industry, whereas TATOC was funded and run by the industry for the benefit of the industry and not you the owner’s / members. After all we know that Harry Taylor took up his position with TATOC while still a senior figure with Diamond Resorts Europe. We also know he supported MacDonald Resorts to the hilt against owners, when MacDonald’s decided to remove all fixed week owners and replace them with a points system, legal action on this is still ongoing. Somehow we think that is a conflict of interest and not conducive to being “independent”.
Just before publishing today’s article, ARDA once again unleashed its powerful propaganda arm in retaliation against Don and Irene’sFOX Property Man interview with Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi. This was Don and Irene’s attempt to warn the public about Diamond Resorts points not being able to be listed with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. A timeshare member can list any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts with any of the 64 members of the LTRBA. The members feel the restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points are more onerous than any of the major timeshares they do list.
You decide the merit and purpose of this interview. The industry continues to ignore the secondary market preferring to promote surrender programs. While the elderly are often mentioned, many young families who feel they were defrauded on the front end of the timeshare purchase have reached out to Inside Timeshare to let their voices be heard.
One of the many Diamond Advocates has reached out to the ABC reporter to offer a 101 in Truth. Why Diamond will not loosen its restrictions so that a member can actually sell their timeshare is a mystery.
Our National Timeshare Owners Association 20th Anniversary
NTOA – A Timeshare Member’s Only Voice
By Charles Thomas and Irene Parker
May 8, 2017
European timeshare member lobby efforts are in a state of upheaval due to the bankruptcy of TATOC. It is not always easy to determine if an organization is on the side of the timeshare member or on the side of the developer. One thing is clear. The timeshare developer is not on the side of the member when the interest of the member is at odds with the developer.
The National Timeshare Owners Association in the US is one timeshare member/owner organization unquestionably on the side of the owner or member. As the industry moves towards points, timeshare buyers don’t “buy” or “own” anything. I will use “member” from now on when referring to timeshare purchases.
Timeshares today are mostly a “right-to-use” program. Buyers “join” the program. Unlike a country club that charges a nominal initiation fee upon joining, a timeshare purchased directly from a developer usually involves an initial outlay of $25,000 to over $100,000. Unlike a country club, you can’t cancel at whim.
Signing a perpetual contract without a secondary market, or a limited secondary market at best, has given rise to a robust transfer agent scam industry and has been a boon for timeshare lawyers assisting those sold by “deceit, concealment or bait and switch”, defined by the FBI as White Collar Crime. There have been numerous lawsuits.
Timeshare developers have been unwilling to address the need for a secondary market, preferring to focus on voluntary surrender programs, which are not guaranteed. Often members must grovel before the developer seeking release from a timeshare they no longer need or want.
This unwillingness to allow a legitimate secondary market could lead to the industry’s demise. As one member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association told me, “Many of the calls to our office begin with – my parents got roped into this timeshare.”
Timeshare has had its share of ups and downs over the years. My husband and I bought our first timeshare in 1984, so we have ridden the waves. Never have I seen such an upswing in predatory lending and aggressive strong arm selling tactics. Never before has there been such a need for an organization that truly and purely is on the side of the timeshare member.
I asked Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association to describe the organization in a nutshell.
“NTOA is a source of real and unbiased information and education. Over the organization’s 20 year history in the timeshare community, we have seen many ownership programs develop and later change. For example, developers have been converting to points programs from deeded intervals for several years. There are other major changes happening in vacation ownership and often owners are not keeping up with those changes. Our role is to help educate those owners (our NTOA members), assisting them to better understand their current ownership benefits”.
“Advocacy is another area we focus a lot of attention on in the United States, Canada and now Mexico. We work with law enforcement, regulators, legislators and attorneys, assisting in consumer protection and again educating all stakeholders on various threats to consumers that exist in the marketplace”.
“Finally we do everything we can to encourage owners to get the most beneficial interest out of their Vacation Ownership. As timeshare owners ourselves, we feel these are the three areas that owners typically seek knowledge and support from us.”
Inside Timeshare previously published an article about NTOA’s efforts chasing fraudulent timeshare transfer agents caused by the limited secondary market. This is one area the NTOA and the timeshare developer lobby organization ARDA share a common interest. As NTOA works so much behind the scenes, many timeshare members are not even aware of the organization’s existence.
We hope that will change as we launch a membership drive.
Here is one example of how NTOA worked with Eagle Crest in Oregon to stop this particular timeshare transfer fraud.
As to the demise of TATOC in Europe, Greg expressed some dismay over the demise of this organization.
“The NTOA has worked with TATOC in identifying a number of rogue resale and secondary market companies over the past several years. To that end, our staff has shared intelligence and best practices for consumers and for foreign purchasers of timeshare intervals. We have always considered TATOC a partner in the war on resale fraud.”
I posed the following questions to Greg:
What can a timeshare member do to promote legislative changes to reduce the volume of complaints about aggressive selling and predatory lending?
Greg: The various state legislative processes are often fast moving and difficult to keep up with. Having success in this area requires a grassroots effort in states where owners reside. The optics that many legislators have is that our owners/members are not voters in the states where industry lobbying is prominent. We have to change that perspective so that elected officials are more receptive to the voices of owners.
What is NTOA’s three to five year plan?
Greg: NTOA is in the final leg of its expansion plan in North America. We have been working in Canada for the last three years and began working in Mexico in 2016. This year, we are participating in two industry conferences in Mexico and intend to have a consistent presence there going forward.
To accomplish this part of our mission, we rely on close relationships with other associations in those countries. This includes the CVOA, CARE, ASUDESTICO and ACLUVAQ. In working with partners, we can not only better assist our members/owners but also promote regional tourism as well.
Is there anything NTOA can do to promote a legitimate secondary market?
Greg: The secondary market is a very complicated problem and no one-size fits all solution will work. The NTOA is working with the C.A.R.E. resale task force to develop a better understanding of the barriers, challenges and opportunities for owners and HOA’s.
When you support the NTOA, you are supporting the only recognized independent association in North America supporting timeshare owners.
Timeshare Advocacy needs more member voices. We look forward to hearing from you. For more information about how to join NTOA, here is their website.
NTOA has assisted many of our Inside Timeshare readers through member supported advocacy groups. We have several upcoming articles contributed by timeshare members reaching out to the general public and to current members by sharing their story hoping to promote increased awareness.
We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
Inside Timeshare would like to thank Greg Crist, CEO of the NTOA for his contribution to this article, as usual Irene has done a superb job of conducting the interview.
We would also welcome any views or comments on any article published, it is your voice, use it.