Browse Tag

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Tuesday Slot with Irene

Inside Timeshare publishes members accounts of sales presentations.

The reason we publish members accounts is because all but a few members report back to us that their claims of false promises made to sell them timeshare points, which they call lies, are being met with “You signed a contract” or “We’re not responsible for what sales agents say.”

That’s fine if that is the official position at  some timeshare companies, but the public needs to be made aware of the FACT that their complaints, in almost all of the 483 reported (as of the end of 2nd quarter 2018, were met with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.”

The last thing we want to do is throw out the baby with the bathwater, lumping a fine timeshare company like Disney, into the tub of timeshare companies we feel need to improve sales and marketing practices.  

Please take the time to read decorated Marine veteran, John Collick, 100% disabled, his bio, and ask yourself “Who should I believe?”  

Now on to our U.S. British 4th of July edition of Inside Timeshare, submitted by John Collick and by Irene Parker.

Introducing Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Military Team Leader John Collick, and Military Team members:

George Yamada

Teresa Laird

Angela Sandstede

July 3, 2017

By John Collick, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired), and Irene Parker

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, the day Americans celebrate Independence from …. England. England and the US were once enemies, but now allies and friends. If two countries can resolve their differences, maybe timeshare developers can heal their relationship with 483 angry timeshare families that have reached out to Inside Timeshare for help. Like freedom, customer relationships must be daily earned and refreshed.  Four veterans share their allegations of deceit and frustration over the lack of timeshare enforcement.

There is no federal timeshare enforcement on the front end of the timeshare sale, and little to no enforcement in states where the Attorney General also falls back on the oral representation clause. Some Attorneys General conducted investigations based on members’ reports, but others, like Florida, mimic the timeshare developer’s response to complaints, “You signed a contract.”

Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s (DBPR)

The department’s response to all complaints we have directed to DBPR

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  

This is exactly why we need a media outreach campaign to let the consumer know how any complaint that begins with “The sales agent said….” will be received. In essence, the Florida Timeshare Division, DBPR, does little to stop the deceit. False verbal representations made by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents are allowed to continue unchecked. Repeat offenders receive awards.   

The Florida DBPR demands proof. What would be the proof? Florida is one of only a few states that require both parties be aware of a recording of an in-person sales presentation. Most states allow a consumer to record an in-person meeting without the other participant aware.

http://www.diligentiagroup.com/legal-investigation/private-investigator-tips-is-it-legal-to-record-a-phone-call-or-conversation/

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helped Wells Fargo victims, but timeshare members, even in the CFPB’s heyday, could not effectively file a CFPB complaint. This was because borrowers filing a CFPB complaint are required to select a lender from the CFPB menu. Many timeshare borrowers don’t even know who the lender is, as the timeshare company services their loan. A timeshare company is not a choice on the CFPB’s drop-down menu.

We know there are millions who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but 483 families have described to Inside Timeshare how they were deceived by false statements and promises. Such tactics are illegal in the eyes of the FBI, described as white-collar crime – deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.          

It is particularly disturbing to hear reports from 51 veterans, active duty military and law enforcement members. Several active duty military are worried about losing their security clearances due to timeshare foreclosure. Recent victims #50 and #51 are a police officer and a deputy.

John Collick, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired), 100% disabled, shares his timeshare experience. John is working on an article about his timeshare experience that he intends to submit to the DOD Inspector General and to the Military Times newspapers: Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Times.   

Several other veterans and members of veterans’ families have come forward to assist John in his efforts, including:

  • George Yamada, Vietnam Army veteran 70% disabled due to Agent Orange,
  • Teresa Laird, her dad Raymond Mori, a two time Purple Heart recipient, alleging he and his wife were up-sold into timeshare foreclosure,
  • Angela Sandstede, her dad a Navy veteran, up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments, living on his letter carrier’s pension, now facing foreclosure.

John’s bio

John has a long and distinguished career as an Intelligence Specialist, both as a Marine and a federal employee. John was a Terrorism Analyst for the Navy in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; later became the Coast Guard’s Senior Threat Analyst, where he wrote a protocol for identifying risks and threats in the maritime domain. When this was implemented in the Port of Boston, it saved the city, state, and federal governments several million dollars. The port recently used that protocol while conducting a live shooter drill, with success.

John held a Top Secret SCI clearance for over 35 years; in addition to those identified above, he was also a Supervisory Intelligence Specialist at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Senior Intelligence Research Specialist, responsible for developing a process for vetting Syrian refugees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Department of Defense HUMINT Issues Manager for Yemen. In this position, he was responsible for coordinating all classified activities concerning U.S. interests in Yemen.

Timeshare and the Military

Using his experience as a Marine First Sergeant, Mr. Collick advised that the Navy Criminal Investigation Service, Army Criminal Investigation Division, Air Force Office of Special Investigation and Coast Guard Investigation Service are responsible for investigating crimes against their service personnel, especially if it appears endemic. Although it is usually accomplished at the base commander level, any of the military service headquarters have the authority to place any business on the “off limits” list if it appears that their business practices are hurting military personnel. If endemic throughout the country, the Joint Chiefs could do the same. John has been reaching out to active duty members and others, gathering reports for his research and articles.

John is married with four kids; a 31 year old daughter, also a disabled veteran; a 27 year old son, an active duty Army officer; a 15 year old daughter in high school; and a 13 year old son, with Downs Syndrome, who has the mentality of an 18 month old.

His personal awards from military service include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Arctic Service Medal, Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Combat Action Ribbon. He was also awarded the Navy’s Civilian Commendation Medal, for his role in translating documents and identifying previously unknown terrorists in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

By John Collick

It is my intention to reach out to the military and others in an effort to warn the military and the public at large that timeshare sales agents are, according to our experience, encouraged to make any false claim necessary to sell vacation points. We purchased our timeshare in Florida.

We were told by a Diamond Resorts sales agent, that we needed to purchase Diamond vacation points to ensure our weeks owned at The Colonies in Williamsburg VA timeshare didn’t lose value. The salesman, Mr. Stephen Kim, stated this was necessary because Diamond Resorts was in the process of acquiring The Colonies. We had recently upgraded to four weeks at The Colonies, so had no intention of making further changes in our vacation program until we received this false information. Mr. Kim said the points would be much cheaper if we purchased before Diamond acquired The Colonies because after the acquisition, the price per point will increase significantly. It wasn’t until a year later, after we purchased a Platinum membership at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes in Florida, we learned The Colonies was not to be acquired by Diamond Resorts – or any other company.

I filed a complaint with Diamond requesting the contract be rescinded. Diamond’s Hospitality agent responded, “Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.” The FBI agents I spoke with, and attorneys have confirmed, hiding behind fine print is not legal, but with no enforcement, deception continues unchecked.   

We attended a mandatory orientation presentation at Mystic Dunes after our first purchase of Diamond points in Williamsburg VA. I asked sales agent Rida about Mr. Kim’s statement that Diamond was in the process of acquiring The Colonies. She said that she hadn’t brought it up because it hadn’t been made public.

We were also told we could use our Diamond points for amusement parks, concerts, the theatre, airplane travel, etc., only to learn airline travel was the only item mentioned for which points could be used, but even that was of little value.

All our timeshare experience has been with The Colonies of Williamsburg. They always told us the truth, not what they wanted us to believe. We have no desire to ever sell The Colonies of Williamsburg timeshare, but have every intention of ridding ourselves of Diamond Resorts.

Other veterans facing timeshare foreclosure, George Yamada, Roy Simmons, Raymond Mori  

George Yamada

Vietnam Army veteran 70% disabled

I work as a pension administrator. I was told the timeshare points I purchased were an investment. The first few purchases I made were based on the vacation experience but there is no question the last purchases were made because I was told the price per point had appreciated and was expected to continue to appreciate.

Angela Sandstede

My father, Roy Simmons, is a Navy Veteran. He had been happy with his timeshare points, but was up-sold to the point we are concerned about my parents losing their home if they have to file for bankruptcy. We made a YouTube hoping someone would listen and we will be reaching out to our Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson. My dad retired on a letter carrier’s pension. My parents were up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payment.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-13/

Teresa Laird

My father, Raymond Mori, also a Marine veteran, earned two Purple Hearts. My parents were sold a trial package, despite being timeshare members of this company for years. When I asked the company to cancel the purchase, they would not talk to me, insisting they had to talk to my parents. They “fixed” it by selling them 17,000 more points. When I went with them to Las Vegas, the agents there tried to sell them $234,000 in additional points at age 83, while my dad was dozing off in his wheelchair. Had I not been there, I feel they would have signed.    

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-42/

Whistleblowers of America reviewed several timeshare complaints reported by veterans and active duty personnel. They presented our timeshare fraud report to the Joint Committee of Veteran’s Affairs March 14, 2018.    

Anyone helped by our advocacy efforts is encouraged to make a donation to WoA.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Thank you John and Irene, the number of complaints that we have received from military and law enforcement personnel is only the of the proverbial iceberg, there are many more who have had the same experience but have as yet not found who to go to.

Inside Timeshare will continue to publish these stories, they may not be popular with the industry, but the 4th July is about the freedom to express yourself, if you believe you have been wronged then is in not your right to speak up?

To all our friends and readers in the United States we from Europe wish you a very happy 4th July.

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Fridayyyyyyyy! So welcome to another Friday’s Letter from America, Irene once again looks at Customer Service, this time with a positive outcome. But as usual a quick round up on timeshare news in Europe.

One of our long standing readers has sent in the following information, it concerns a long running dispute many owners have been having at Club Jardines del Puerto in Puerto Banus. Costafield Management have pulled the plug on the club 3 years early. It will close on 31 December 2017, after this no members will have any right to occupy.

It looks as though FNTC will be selling off the properties, they will also have to comply with the constitution which demands a 50/50 split between members and the developer.

Our reader also asks this question, How can a small thriving club in the centre of one of the most popular prestigious resorts in Europe become “financially unsustainable”?

More on this as we get the news.

The same reader also asked if we knew anything about MRL (MacDonald Resorts Ltd) taking owners to court for alleged unpaid maintenances fees in Manchester. At present we have found no reference to this in the press, although it must be said that cases of this nature do not tend to be publicised. But knowing the reputation of MacDonald Resorts, we would not be surprised in the least.

Further to the article about Anfi, yesterday saw 2 new sentences from the courts against Anfi.

At the Court of First Instance No 2 in Maspalomas, the judge declared the Anfi contract null and void. He also ordered the return of over 32,000€ plus legal interest.

The second sentence from the Court of First Instance No 1 in Maspalomas, also declared the contract null and void with the return of over 19,000€ plus legal interest.

So contrary to what Anfi say, the courts are finding against them, invoking the Supreme Court rulings, of which there are now 77, 32 against Anfi.

On the story of Los Claveles, there are now some very interesting comments being posted. These are measured and put forward opposing arguments in a sensible manner. Inside Timeshare welcomes these, but will not tolerate abuse or accusations against named people, especially ones of a criminal nature. Inside Timeshare has given a neutral forum for this debate, in the hope that an agreement can be reached. It is up to you the members to come to this agreement.

Now for this weeks Article from Irene Parker.

Grandview at Las Vegas – a Vacation Village Resort

A Positive Customer Service Outcome

cust serv

By Irene Parker

December 8, 2017

Was this a customer service representative showing compassion towards a former Marine, or a willingness on the part of Grandview at Las Vegas to support their customer over their own sales agent? Either way, it was a first for me in the way Grandview handled a timeshare owner alleging they were victimized by deceit and “bait and switch”, which may allow this timeshare buyer to put a wrong decision in the rear view mirror. Grandview is part of Vacation Village/Eldorado Corporation owned by The Berkley Group.

Jeff Diehl contacted Inside Timeshare asking for advice concerning his two bedroom unit at Grandview in Las Vegas purchased January 2017, alleging he was fraudulently sold by a sales agent making exaggerated claims. What was unusual about Jeff’s report is the specificity. Many complain saying they were told they can rent their unit or points for income, but Jeff knew the name of the sales agent, Marylou G, the specific amount promised – $2,000 to $2,500 per week for his fixed week and for eight more weeks using their equivalent 80,000 points. Jeff had told Marylou this was the only way the family could afford the week. After researching on TUG, there was no evidence to support a rental price of $2000 to $2,500 per week.

Rather than leave it at what Jeff had been told about renting, I advised Jeff to do a little research by checking TUG Timeshare Users Group to find out what a Grandview week would bring in rental income. Jeff found only one rental ad for $525 that had been listed since March 26, 2017, with no response.

After Jeff wrote out his complaint, I called the number listed on Grandview’s Better Business Bureau’s report and spoke to a Grandview representative. At this point, I am usually told the resort cannot talk to me so I was surprised the agent asked if I had a loan number and a phone number for the owner. I did. When I explained all of the above to the representative, she said she would call Jeff. I emailed Jeff and told him the name of the representative who said she would call. What usually happens next is one or two weeks of being ignored passes, prompting Better Business Bureau and other regulatory filings.

wow

A first! The representative called Jeff the next day informing him his loan would be cancelled.

As I mentioned, Jeff is a former Marine. He is also disabled. The specific data Jeff provided made it difficult to deny the sales agent told him something that was not true. This would not have prevented any timeshare resort from pointing to the oral representation clause found in the fine print of a volume of documents that allows a sales agent to say anything under the sun to close a deal. To soften the blow, some are told, “If something was important to you, you should have had it added to the contract,” perpetuating the hamster wheel called recycled inventory, as described by one former timeshare sales agent.

Jeff should not have to proceed to the next step which would have involved filing complaints with any or all of the following:

Jeff had initially included predatory lending in his complaint saying,

“Just a quick note to say that the reason I included predatory lending in my complaint, is that the definition of this type of lending says, that when a lender makes a loan to a consumer who cannot afford the loan, in order to benefit themselves, but harms the consumer in the process, this is predatory lending. So, I believe you misunderstood why I included the 17.9 % loan rate.”

I informed Jeff that all timeshare sales agents sell timeshare in this fashion so making this part of his complaint was meaningless.

Jeff also is demanding monies paid be refunded as he alleges the timeshare was sold by deceit, violation of trust, and “bait and switch” meeting the FBI’s definition of White Collar Crime Financial Institution Fraud. At the time of publication, Jeff had not yet heard if his monies paid would be returned, as he would have to contact the corporate office, which Jeff plans to do.  

Before we place Vacation Village up there with Inside Timeshare’s favorite timeshare, Disney, more due diligence is required.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F. Two sources tell us The Berkley Group is being investigated by the Florida Attorney General’s office. According to Berkley’s LinkedIn page, “The Berkley Group is a private timeshare resort development firm owned by more than 2,000 company employees. Under its Vacation Village Resorts and Affiliates brand, The Berkley Group has generated a worldwide owner base that exceeds 500,000 families.”

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/vacation-village-resorts-in-fort-lauderdale-fl-4003645/reviews-and-complaints

Grandview at Las Vegas, owned by Eldorado/Vacation Village has a BBB rating of B, so maybe this resort is trying to improve its customer service.

https://www.bbb.org/southern-nevada/business-reviews/resorts/grandview-at-las-vegas-in-las-vegas-nv-66863/reviews-and-complaints

Remember: BBB ratings are not a guarantee of a business’s reliability or performance.  BBB recommends that consumers consider a business’s BBB rating in addition to all other available information about the business.

https://www.bbb.org/council/overview-of-bbb-grade/

Inside Timeshare has heard from 227 timeshare member readers, of which 212 allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. If you need help or just the support of others in your situation, here are some member sponsored self-help groups:

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

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

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

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

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

roundabout

Thank you Irene, at least this is one family that has had a positive outcome.

On Tuesday we will publish another article from Irene, this is titled:

Another Military Family Wages War against Timeshare

Will Bluegreen Honor those whose sacrifice is so great?

This is a short but hard hitting article, it shows the disgusting lengths sales agent will go just to “close a deal”. For those who are ex-serviceman or those who support them, you will find this article will make your blood boil.

That’s it for this week, if you have any comment about this or any other article published, Inside Timeshare invites you to send it in.

If you need help with any timeshare matter, or just need to know which firms you can trust, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

friday dog

 

The Friday Post: A Look at the Past Week.

It’s Friday, the end of another week in the murky world of timeshare, and what a week it’s been.

The RDO and TATOC announce that Silverpoint has withdrawn their membership from these two organisations, with Silverpoint announcing they will no longer be selling timeshare. One can only speculate as to the reasons behind this, but it does look like they may just be looking to develop another product which circumvents the timeshare laws. Rumour has it, this may be a “leisure credits” type of product.

There is also a lot of speculation as to a probable name change to the company, again this might just be to deflect any further litigation. After all Silverpoint did try and argue that they were not Resort Properties at one point, but the courts threw this out stating they are one and the same entity.

Inside Timeshare also announced in a previous article the sell off at Beverly Hills Heights, with owners being moved to other apartments or to Hollywood Mirage. We saw this at Beverly Hills Club a couple of years ago when this resort was sold off. It is now used as a hotel. Palm Beach Club owners also had the same thing happen, when the top 3 floors were sold. Again they were moved to other apartments or resorts.

Silverpoint’s woes do not just stop there. This week alone, the Canarian law firm, Canarian Legal Alliance announced 6, yes 6 court judgements against Silverpoint. All of these were delivered by the Court of First Instance in Arona, they all followed the 50+ Supreme Court rulings.

All the contracts were declared “Null & Void” with over £120,000 awarded to the clients, including legal interest and legal fees. This is quite a staggering amount to have to pay out in just one week, with many many more in the pipeline. It makes you wonder how long Silverpoint can hold out with these figures being awarded against them by the courts. So they may just need to come up with a new product pretty damn quick!

Again this week we have had new information passed to us about the Litigious Abogados family, these “law firms” are hitting many timeshare owners with false promises of cases against their timeshare resorts / companies being lodged at court. One which we highlighted this week was a gentleman who had a narrow escape, luckily he found previous articles and never paid them.

The new “firm” Abel Garcia Abogados, told him his case had been lodged with the court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on 4 March, the case was due to be heard on 25 April. Under 2 months to get the case heard, this is astronomical, even CLA take around 2 years and they are the most experienced in this field.

The only problem is he did not own anything, the “club” he purchased and the marketing company selling it, were dissolved many years ago so no longer exist. They were also UK based and the sales were conducted in the UK, so how could a Spanish court have jurisdiction?

These “law firms” have a very sophisticated operation, all the documents look genuine to those who do not ever see the real thing. The story is also very plausible, then coupled with the high amounts being “awarded” by the court, along with copies of the cheque waiting to be sent to the lucky client, it is easy to see how people can be taken in.

Irene Parker, our US colleague, has also been busy, getting ready for her “starring role” in the Fox News programme Property Man with Bob Massi. Today’s article from the US is an update on Timeshare Advocacy Groups.

This is becoming a very big project, attracting more and more owners to the various facebook groups, it is also stimulating a lot of dialogue with the industry. Could it be the industry is now starting to realise that without you the owners / members, there would be no industry?

Well thats enough of that, on with Irene’s Friday piece.

Update on Timeshare Advocacy Groups

cartoon

Irene Parker

April 6, 2017

Our consumer advocates have heard an earful, so we are encouraging those who feel they have been victims of deception or fraud, review ARDA’s code of ethics and email ARDA ROC to express your concerns.

The biggest complaint our Advocacy Group members have expressed is lack of a secondary market.  ARDA ROC needs to know when there is no secondary market for a timeshare, at least not through any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

If you are looking for information on selling your timeshare, please note that ARDA-ROC is not a resale organization, however we can point you in the right direction. Visit

http://www.ardaroc.org/tips-to-exit-your-timeshare.aspx

for more information on the timeshare resale process as well as a link to resale companies who are members of ARDA.

Ethics Code of the American Resort Development Association adopted by the Board of Directors April 7, 2014

  1. Conduct.  All  Member Activities with customers, clients, other Members, business or community partners, regulators, legislators or government agencies shall be honest, legal, ethical, and in accord with standards of fair business dealings, professionalism, integrity, dignity and propriety. Members shall not denigrate the Vacation Property business, but instead shall use their good faith efforts to promote the Vacation Property business.

woman phone

Timeshare narrative can get confusing fast, especially when there are multiple contracts that span several years. To make it easier for the resort and for our members, here is a blueprint members can follow.

How to File a Complaint

Name

Phone Number

State of Residence

Number of points currently owned

Current Maintenance Fees

Original Loan Amount and stated interest rate

Current Balance

Resort where purchased and sales agent’s name

If you are claiming deception or fraud, list how you feel you were deceived.

Deception 1

Deception 2, Etc.

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment? If your investment is $20,000 or less and you owned your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment.

Are you sure you know how to use points and the program correctly?

Why do you want relinquishment?

Is it due to Deception, Health, or Financial Burden?

Availability – There are many who are happy with availability but there are those who have been oversold on availability. For example, we were told to buy more points because NYC properties were being added. Because these are affiliated properties, like in San Francisco as well, they are never discounted and never have 59 days or fewer rates. On average, year round, it costs $5000 to $10000 in maintenance fee equivalent dollars what could be booked online in New York for $2500 to $3500 for a week. Great Wolfe Lodge is similar.

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

Remove numbers from your testimony. It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint.

ALWAYS include the name of the sales agent (s). Refer to your contract if you don’t know.  Provide the sales agent’s ID number if you can.

How Advocacy Works

Email your sworn testimony. Raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Start writing.

Send to intake volunteer who will review, edit and return to you.

Position open: Volunteer report writer. No experience necessary.

An email will be sent to the resort, public relations and you.

Owner or member takes it from there unless there are questions or concerns along the way. Owner or member will report back with positive or negative outcome. Due to the mutual release, terms and conditions will not be discussed. If negative, complaints to be filed with:

Attorneys General where you signed, where you live and Nevada.

Our Advocacy Group

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

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

It’s a lot of work but it is the only way to change business practices is through an organized lobby effort targeting legislators and regulatory agencies that may be sympathetic to owners or members, and media outreach targeting the general public.

What to expect from regulatory agencies:

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

Send us your comments or articles! New voices are needed.

need you

So there we have it, the end to another week, but as we say, timeshare never sleeps more news will break over the weekend so watch this space for next week’s articles.

Have a good weekend and enjoy yourselves.

weekend cat

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

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

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

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

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

Non timeshare organisations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

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

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

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

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

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

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

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

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

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

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

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

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

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

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

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

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

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Business Bureau BBB

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

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

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

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

Summary and Conclusion

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

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

success

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

GET INVOLVED!

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags