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The Manhattan Club

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Another week over and another Friday’s Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a very quick look at two cases announced this week.

Silverpoint have once again been on the receiving end of another Supreme Court verdict. They have declared the client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £43,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

In this verdict the court stated that the contract lacked specific information required by law, such as a specific apartment number, date and location. It is quite clear that the Supreme Court has on more than one occasion clarified the law.

In another case heard at the Court of First Instance in Palma de Mallorca, Altres Vacances have been ordered to repay the client over 58,000€  plus legal fees and interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

This court has followed the Supreme Court rulings on the length of the contract, the law is very clear on this point, the contract must be no longer than 50 years. They must also contain specific information as required by law.

abogados-ag-250

Once again, we have to warn about the “fake” law firms operating out of Tenerife, part of the Litigious Abogados family, another reader has been in contact with the new firm Abogados AG, with Armando González Areca named as the main “lawyer”.

They state that following a “groundbreaking ruling on “Tuesday 19 March 2015” (very precise date), against Diamond Resorts International SL, one of the the directors, once again Andrew Cooper, has pleaded guilty to the indictment of the Spanish Civil Code. They also state that the High Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife have declared 28 of their clients contracts null and void, seizing all the personal assets of Mr Cooper in Spain and the Canary islands.

Now according to this “law firm” they will be lodging the case against Diamond Resorts International Sl and Mr Andrew Cooper on the 7th November 2017, this will heard on Tuesday 21st November, very quick indeed, they must be very well in with the judges!

In the case of our reader, they no longer own any timeshare with Diamond, they got rid of that years ago, so there is no basis for any claim. Beware the claims that you have a case, if you no longer own you don’t, even if you do own you may not have a valid claim. Before engaging with any company that states you do have a claim, check and check again.

See the full letter below, pdf.

Abogados AG

So now on with this week’s letter.

Another Bluegreen Member Alleges a “Bait and Switch”

Sometimes Called “Pitching Heat”

cross fingers

By Irene Parker

November 3  

Back in July, Inside Timeshare published an article by Lela Renea, a detective who alleged she was deceived by a Bluegreen timeshare sales agent. Camyell Pratt, another Bluegreen purchaser, alleges she and her husband were also deceived.

The FBI definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud, is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Inside Timeshare has received 179 complaints from readers, of which 164 allege they were victims of a timeshare bait and switch. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

Lela Renea is a detective. Camyell understands bad debt. She assists in collecting back taxes for a Virginia County government office and understands the repercussions when someone does not pay what they owe. But what if the contract agreed to was purchased under conditions of fraud?

In timeshare, that doesn’t matter thanks to the clause that appears in every timeshare contract – “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” In other words, any complaint that begins with “The salesman says” can be conveniently dismissed.

Bluegreen is certainly not the only timeshare company Inside Timeshare has reported on concerning questionable sales tactics by some agents:

A jury awarded Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent, $20 million. Ms. Williams described TAFT days – tell them any blank thing on slow sales days.

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

Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against The Manhattan Club. Of note, The Manhattan Club admitted wrongdoing, unusual in corporate America.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a $6.5 million settlement with the owners and operators of the Manhattan Club, a timeshare in Midtown Manhattan, over the sponsor’s repeated false promises to potential and current share owners.

The settlement is the largest in recent history for the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau. Under the terms of the settlement, the operators of the Manhattan Club, acknowledge that they repeatedly misled shareowners about the club’s reservation process, their ability to sell back their shares, and the details of the club’s state-approved offering plan.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Missouri Attorneys General took action against other timeshare companies.

As we’ve said before, the abnormal becomes normal, whether it be predatory timeshare sales or sex abuse in the Catholic Church or Hollywood. Victims are messengers to be beheaded or silenced and isolated through non-disclosure clauses. To my knowledge, except for The Manhattan Club, timeshare developers have not even acknowledged deceit on the front of the timeshare sale, despite thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits too numerous to mention.

Current and former timeshare sales agents and managers are also speaking out. As one manager explained:

I watched every day, agents selling for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them.  The maintenance fees statement about buying more and using that to pay your maintenance fees was a practice that was encouraged but be careful.  Some of the agents would sell the program for $98k when it was only in the 50k range.  One of the guests came back to cancel but the agent said no worries I have it packed 40k but I’ll give then 15 off and still make a killing!   It made me sick because these particular guests were in their late 70′ early 80’s.  I asked the agent if he had a conscience and he just laughed…if you can get them to pay more you’re a hero!!  They have the money!!  Deception actually goes back further than that.  We were told to pack the price for a trade in and imply that it was what they got back for their TS… we sold it for the regular price….they got nothing for their TS!

Some companies are trying to do the right thing. Bluegreen has been listening and taking appropriate action in some cases. Diamond Resorts has opened a Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department that pledges to help members from day one and has launched a program called CLARITY which promotes accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

Instead of beheading the customer’s, legitimate attorneys, volunteer advocates and journalists, why won’t the timeshare developer not identify and drain the swamp of predatory sales agents? After receiving 179 complaints from our readers, at times we can guess the agent by the con.         

cartoon fraud

Camyel and Jayson Pratt

Camyell and her husband Jayson endured an eight hour Bluegreen timeshare sales presentation at Harbor Light in South Carolina. They were promised:

4000 points plus 6000 points plus two RCI weeks

Availability to a variety of resorts

What was delivered?

For 4000 points, according to one of our Advocates, also a Bluegreen member, the member can book a studio in winter on the wrong side of the weather report.

After filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Bluegreen did offer to credit Camyell the additional 6000 points promised. Camyell declined, deciding she did not want to have anything to do with a company that would resort to such tactics. Nevertheless, Bluegreen credited the family 6000 points anyway.

Camyell said they were given no paperwork after they signed the contract, told the contract needed to be processed. They were given a booklet about Bluegreen and the timeshare exchange company RCI.

Let’s see how Camyell’s complaint compares to Lela Renea:

  • Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  • Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  • Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  • Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  • Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  • Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  • Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Timeshare members have had enough. Timeshare has been employing tactics former timeshare sales agents call “Pitching Heat” or “No Heat No Eat” for too long.

Like so many of our readers have complained, Camyell was not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract rescission period. When she did finally gain access, she was informed she was not within the booking window and did not have enough points to book the stay she desired and says she had been promised.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always be targeting your best interest.    
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. File with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby dollars. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to act.
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The ⦁ BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation.  

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If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help Facebooks:

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

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

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

 

There we have it, Friday is here, the weekend is about to begin, have fun and don’t forget, do your homework before you deal with any company. If you are in any doubt, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

friday cat

end month

End of August Roundup

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.

gc-seprona

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!

loyalty1

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.

Another new contributor from the US made her debut, Bonita Hill. Her article was on the question of Diamond’s Clarity Programme, regarding the Oral Representation Clause. This was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

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!

Attorny_General_Eric_T_Schneiderman
NY AG Eric T Schneiderman

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!

didgeridoo

Links to some of this month’s articles.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-uk-news/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-latest-development/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/28/trouble-in-paradise-the-canary-island-beach-accused-of-illegally-importing-sand?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://insidetimeshare.com/loyalty-no-thing-timeshare/

http://insidetimeshare.com/truth-what-is-truth/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-15/

http://insidetimeshare.com/manhattan-club-6-5-million-settlement/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-in-the-press/

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

 

6-pillars-with-text

Hug Your Haters Part II: A Customer Service Message

Today’s article by Irene Parker is part II of her Hug Your Haters, which we published on 15 August,

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=customer+service+message

But first some of the latest in Europe.

At the end of last week, even though the courts are closed for business, another sentence against Anfi Sales SL and Anfi Resorts SL was published. This was issued by the Court of First Instance Number 1, based in Maspalomas, the court ruled according to the precedents set by the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Court Masp

In this case, the court ruled that the contract be declared null & void with the return of over 13,279€ plus legal interest. In this case the infraction was the length of the contract was greater than the 50 years allowed by Spanish timeshare law 42/98, which came into effect in January 1999.

Again this flies in the face of Anfi’s assertion that their contracts are legal and that they have not lost any cases, see the article “Truth, What is Truth?”  Published on 10 August.

It is not just Anfi who deny these facts, Silverpoint have been doing so for years, they have even left the RDO and claim they no longer sell “timeshare”. So what are they now selling?

Well, we do know one product is Keys Concierge, a so-called “Lifestyle Credits” product, which promises a great deal but does it actually deliver? Another ploy by Silverpoint is the move to transfer the blocks of timeshare weeks they sold to clients (with the promise to sell in 2 years for a profit), into what is euphemistically called a “Company Participation Scheme”. Not much is known at present, a lot more research is yet to be done, but it appears that clients sign a document at the notary which makes them shareholders of the company Club Paradiso. If this is the case, then all liabilities of the company will fall squarely on those clients shoulders. More on this when the research is complete.

Now on with Irene’s article.

Hug Your Haters Part II

My Marriott Customer Service Experience

testimonials

By Irene Parker

August 29, 2017

Customer Service is a Spectator Sport, according to Hug Your Haters author Jay Baer. Although Hug Your Haters was written primarily for the providers of customer service, users of Customer Service can benefit from the book as well. Social Media has dramatically changed Customer Service in a way many timeshare companies have yet to acknowledge. The Marriott hotel chain seems to have gotten the message and has adapted to the new world order.

 

Mr. Baer discusses in his book the difference between onstage and offstage Haters. Many of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received are from offstage Haters, unfamiliar with Social Media. Sometimes offstage Haters need an onstage Hater to plead their case.

Disney Vacation Club seems to have bucked the timeshare trend, refusing to fall back on the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which translates to the customer is always wrong. Disney has few timeshare complaints so it’s not surprising to find former Walt Disney theme park executive Lee Cockerell, author of The Customer Rules, mentioned in Hug Your Haters. Mr. Cockerell explains in his book how he would encounter employees blaming the customer:

“From time to time over the years, a customer would complain to me that a frontline employee had been belligerent. When I asked the employee what happened, I’d usually be told the customer was wrong about the facts, or had been abusive, or trying to cheat the company. Most of the time, the employee believed it was better to lose a bad customer than appease one.” p. 115

A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies

Another Hug Your Hater example is Pella Windows and Doors, VP of marketing Elaine Sagers. “Monthly, our executives call a random selection of unhappy customers to talk about their experiences with us…..We’ve also played recordings from the call center so you can hear the emotion in our customers’ voices around what’s been happening with jobs and their homes.” p. 120

Having listened to 133 timeshare complaints, mainly about maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to sell points when no secondary market exists, it’s hard to understand how companies can so often ignore or dismiss allegations, especially when a volume of complaints (119 out of 133) meet the definition of white collar crime – “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch” – painting a compelling and compounding picture of trouble within a company or within the timeshare industry as a whole. I challenge any timeshare executive to listen to the tone of the voices of families devastated financially by their vacation plan. “Well you signed a contract,” is not the appropriate answer. I’m sure Mr. Baer would agree.

Mr. Baer makes another important point I have often stated when it comes to offering a customer wronged an apology. “In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’” Mr. Baer quotes Michael Lasky, an attorney and litigator with the Davis & Gilbert law firm in New York City. Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125

marriott rewards

Page 138 of Hug Your Haters discusses the importance of rapid complaint response time. My husband and I have been Platinum Marriott Rewards members for several years. About a decade ago I complained about something I can’t remember at a Marriott Hotel front desk. I was just complaining, not asking for compensation, yet the company responded with an automatic adjustment in reward points. Every 20 or so stays, something might happen that I would complain about had it not been for the times the company responded rapidly and appropriately.

Right out of the Hug Your Haters playbook, I posted a comment on the Marriott Facebook about how a trainee and a manager patiently and pleasantly changed our room three times to address our concern about highway noise. I posted this experience on Marriott’s Facebook and they almost immediately responded, “Irene, we would like to share this on our comment site if that’s alright with you.” As Mr. Baer explains, onstage Haters (or Lovers) don’t expect to be answered. When they are, they are taken aback, astonished that a company as large as Marriott would care.

I can’t speak for Marriott Vacation Club, the timeshare company, because I am not a member, but one of our Advocates, a senior manager with a Fortune 500 company, also a Marriott Vacation Club member, made this comment about Marriott in Part I of our Inside Timeshare article Hug Your Haters, “I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also, while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience.”

Onstage Haters compared to Offstage Haters – Chapter 7

Some companies respond to negative comments by expanding their advertising budget. “Advertising is a tax paid for being unremarkable,” is a quote Mr. Baer said is usually attributed to Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad,  but he rephrases the comment appropriately, “Advertising is a tax paid when you’re poor at retaining your current customers.” p. 18

“Listening is the ability to pay attention to what the sounds means and understanding it. We hear noise, but we listen to music. That is because noise falls on our ears without any effort at our end,” said an anonymous writer explaining the difference between hearing and listening. Too often customer complaints are dismissed as noise in the form or automatic denials to a complaint filed against a timeshare sales agent (s).

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These are but a few timeshare Advocacy Facebooks and websites of members helping members because company complaints so often fall on deaf ears. They are closed groups, but all would welcome corporate representatives bold enough to listen and learn. We hope timeshare industry executives, ARDA and lawmakers will take the time to not just hear, but listen.

Bluegreen and Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebooks

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/

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

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently sent a message in the form of a $6.5 million settlement against The Manhattan Club timeshare accused of restricting availability for members who paid thousands of dollars for a timeshare while allowing access to those booking online. The settlement response was a reaction to a chorus of timeshare members mobilized and action orientated. All timeshare owners are grateful because a victory for one is a victory for all. Lack of availability is a universal complaint.

change

Thank you Irene, once again you have given us a look into the world of “Customer Service” or in some cases lack of. It is one of the main complaints that Inside Timeshare does receive, in many cases the sales staff are only intent on getting more money from you, rather than helping to get the best from your membership.

If timeshare is to flourish, developers and resorts really do need to look at this aspect and change their practises. Disney is a very good example of this as we showed in a previous article by Irene, “Disney Vacation Club Vs The Timeshare Industry”, published in July’s “A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies”.

If you have any questions or comments Inside Timeshare invites you to contact us, your views are important, it will help to change the industry for the better.

Have you been contacted by a company you have never heard of, or want to know more about but don’t know how to start, again contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

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victory-1

Manhattan Club: $6.5 Million Settlement

It would look like the long drawn out battle between the New York State Attorney General, Eric T Schneiderman and The Manhattan Club is finally over. It was back in July 2014, that AG Schneiderman announced he had obtained a court order halting the sale of timeshares at The Manhattan Club.

As AG Schneiderman put it in July 2014 “Purchasers Duped Into Paying Tens Of Thousands Of Dollars To Become Owners; Later Denied Benefits Of Ownership In Alleged Bait-And-Switch Scam”.

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

They were also subjected to ever rising maintenance fees and unable to book as there was according to the hotel “no rooms available”. It transpires that rooms were being rented out over the internet to non-owners, even though they were told it was for the exclusive use of timeshare owners. This is not an uncommon problem that timeshare owners face, we see the same practice at resorts in Europe.

As part of the settlement, the Manhattan Club owners are not only being forced to sell, they must also give up management control and will be barred from the timeshare industry. This must go out as a warning to other timeshare developers, times are changing, if the industry itself cannot improve itself, then we can see more AG’s taking up the fight on the behalf of owners.

manhatton club

It must also be said that Eric Schneiderman is only one of a hand full of Attorney General’s who actually sides with the consumer, there are many more who are in bed with the industry. This is a list of those who are on the side of the consumer:

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance following a probe of Diamond Resorts. A settlement of $800,000 has been awarded for restitution:

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

Other Attorneys General have come down on the side of timeshare owners, including:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, as reported by Business Den reporter Amy DiPierro, concerning Highlands Resorts in Colorado and Sedona Pines in Arizona:

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III settled with Festiva timeshare for $3 million:

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

One AG that is conspicuous by her absence is the Florida AG Pam Bondi.

http://insidetimeshare.com/news-across-pond/

Others that need to be congratulated are the following coalition that worked with the Manhattan Club Independent Owners Group and the NYAG,  they are: NTOA, RedWeek, Sharket and Attorney Douglas Wasser. This goes to prove that by working together nothing is impossible.

Images from meetings of the Manhattan Club Independent Owners Group

image1 image3 image4

Follow the original article by Alison Fox published in amNEWYORK

am new york

http://www.amny.com/real-estate/the-manhattan-club-settlement-includes-6-5-million-in-restitution-ag-says-1.14048559

Article by Inside Timeshare’s  Irene Parker originally published in TheStreet back in September 2016

thestreet

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13653117/2/the-timeshare-industry-has-improved-its-reputation-but-still-faces-scrutiny.html

In Europe we are seeing Spain leading the way for timeshare consumers, the Spanish Supreme Court has now made 57 rulings against the industry, this is unprecedented. This has been largely due to the efforts of one law firm, Canarian Legal Alliance who continue to make Spanish legal history and help consumers to gain justice.

If the timeshare industry is to continue and prosper, it must take note and change the way it sells the product. The owner / member should be the priority, not huge profits for the sake of profit, (could they be the Ferengi from Star Trek)?

ferengi_profit_by_aweswanky-d5du6p4
Timeshare Developer

We have said this before, timeshare is a great concept, it does provide quality resorts, it does suit some, but it also becomes a burden to others.

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments, if you have a story to share or just want information or advice, contact us and we will try to give you the best answers possible.

 

 

 

abc

The Secret World of Timeshare Sales.

Following on from the many articles on timeshare in the US, Inside Timeshare today publishes the story of a former sales agent with Hyatt and Diamond Resorts. Her story is one that will resonate very clearly with many people who attended timeshare sales presentations, not just in the US but also in Europe, although in Europe it must be said, most of the industry especially Diamond have cleaned up their act. Much of this is down to the adverse publicity in the press and the ongoing litigation in the Spanish courts.

The many sales reps that I personally know and have known through the years are decent and honest people, the problem came in the way the industry was run during the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000. It was and still is with some companies, on a commission basis only, you don’t sell, you don’t eat. For many they were also tied into company apartments, so if they did not reach their targets and were fired, they also ended up homeless.

For those who did get a “basic wage”, it was usually twinned with “On Target Earnings”. Again if targets were not met your basic was reduced or not paid. Another factor which is well known in the European model was the so-called “drip feeding”, this was a method by which companies held on to staff who did deal. Basically, the company would tell the rep that the client had not completed, then that pay would be held back, this forced the rep to stay, knowing that if they left they would never get paid.

It was also not uncommon for some unscrupulous companies to claim that the client had cancelled, when in fact they had completed. For some this meant a “claw back” of the pay they had received from the commission and the “spiff” they received for dealing, (the spiff is an incentive payment, paid in cash at the morning meeting the following day).

So it is not difficult to see how normal decent folk would say anything to close the deal. That being said, yes there were and are some who are just out and out “blaggers”, having no sense of conscience or morals. Many companies loved these type of reps, as they would do whatever the managers tell them.

So now to the story of Candace, where she explains her time and experiences as a timeshare sales agent.

Former Timeshare Sales Agents Strike a Blow against Timeshare

By Candace Czarny – February 9, 2017

ethics

Several current and former timeshare sales agents, management and employees have joined forces with timeshare owners to take a stand against timeshare companies, including Hyatt Corp, Westgate, Wyndham, The Manhattan Club, Marriott, Highland Resorts, Sedona Pines and Diamond Resorts.

It’s a modern day David & Goliath story. Timeshare companies employ armies of attorneys in their effort to suppress the seedy side of timeshare. While many owners use and enjoy their timeshare year after year, others fall into deceptive and fraudulent sales presentations ending up with a vacation dream that sometimes turns into a nightmare. Others have called it a timeshare trap.

Now we are beginning to see a powerhouse of attorneys and regulatory agencies on the side of the timeshare consumer in an effort to expose selling strategies that incorporate psychological manipulation, omissions, deceptions, and fraud.

I am a former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent. While at Hyatt I was advised by management to order a copy of the CIA Guide to Interrogation and Human Manipulation. Some timeshare companies employ these strategies, designed to intimidate and confuse hardworking consumers worldwide, in order to generate profits and earn wildly inflated executive compensation. Honest sales agents, previously able to earn a good living with reputable timeshare companies, find themselves subtly maneuvered out of this new more sinister timeshare business.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to work in the timeshare industry because my family owned one and used it every year.  Our family created unforgettable memories every year using this property.

It was only after working in the industry as a sales agent that I came to see and understand the complicated strategy of greed from the inside.  Like Trish Williams, awarded $20 million in a recent Wyndham Whistleblower case, I am one of the single individuals not willing to be a pawn perpetuating a scam against hard working people trying to create a happy life for their families. Three former Hyatt sales agents are year five into our Whistleblower case.

At some resorts, dramatically rising maintenance fees turn a family’s vacation into a money pit with no way out. Voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed, so owners not able to keep up with annual fees and assessments fall victim to listing and transfer agents. Many owners with loans, not eligible for a “voluntary surrender” are forced into default or must obtain legal help in order to have their timeshare loan cancelled. This just adds to their existing financial burden.

This complex and convoluted strategy for wealth and power is like a hamster wheel. The timeshare company generates profits from selling the same timeshare over and over and over again. To arrive at a solution one must arrive at the cause and in the case of timeshare, the cause begins with corporate greed at the expense of the individual employee and the consumer.

Timeshare companies hide behind carefully and strategically worded contracts intended to shield them from responsibility and litigation. This leaves the owner feeling hopeless and angry with no recourse. Timeshare companies rely on the burdened owner not being able to withstand a costly and lengthy legal battle.

A new age is dawning where individual owners, in partnership with regulatory agencies and lawyers, are banding together to fight back against timeshare corruption.

huddle

The Arizona Attorney General has put a stake in the ground and alleged that Diamond employee’s’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Diamond Resorts Corporation has settled with the Arizona Attorney General for $800,000 in a case involving allegations of customer deception and was issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” (linked below).  This is just one of an avalanche of lawsuits and investigations exposing a minefield of corruption, fraud and deceit perpetuated at the highest levels of corporate timeshare.

While New York, Colorado, Tennessee and Arizona Attorneys General are making some progress, more needs to be done. There has been a notable lack of concern from many state and federal regulatory agencies. Lawmakers have demonstrated a “Well, they signed a contract” attitude. Such lawmakers have no concept of the depth of deception some timeshare companies go to in order to “close the deal”.

Based on ARDA’s estimates there are over 9,500,000 timeshare units in the United States.  To give you an idea of how profound this corporate culture of greed is and how the courage and bravery of single individuals are making a difference in the name of what is right, listed below are just some of the settlements, judgements and lawsuits against these timeshare giants.

  • Hyatt Corp is sued by three former Hyatt timeshare agents alleging deceit and fraud. They are in year five of a Whistleblower case alleging deceptive practice.
  • Tennessee Attorney General announced a $3 million settlement with Festiva, a network of vacation and timeshare companies, for alleged violations of the federal Telemarketing Act, federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
  • 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
  • Colorado Attorney General  is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.
  • Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices in a Whistleblower case.
  • The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club is proceeding. The motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to March 31, 2017 because the sponsor appears to have engaged new counsel, Gibson Dunn – the third set of sponsor attorneys in this matter. This motion is for request to release monies previously frozen by court order to pay the sponsor’s attorney’s fees.
  • The Marriott racketeering lawsuit as of February 7, 2017 is still waiting for a decision on motions to dismiss and is engaged in discovery, according to attorney Jeffrey Norton.
  • In Spain there are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euros, These cases are being brought by Canarian Legal Alliance.
  • A billion dollar lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts International.
  • Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond Resorts International.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations.

If you feel you are a victim of deceitful timeshare sales or are an employee whose livelihood has been threatened by refusing to participate in deceptive and fraudulent tactics, I encourage you to tell your story. Alone we perish under the weight of power and greed. Together we can overcome and thrive.

Diamond timeshare owners worldwide, who purchased a timeshare in Arizona since 2009, have until the end of April 2017 to file a claim of relief with the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

Instructions on how to file a complaint are included in this press release:

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

Thank you Candace for writing this article, Inside Timeshare welcomes articles from anyone with a similar story, or even from those who have been on the receiving end of the sales presentation. It through these article we might just see a change in the industry that will benefit not just the consumer but the industry as well.

For information about pending litigation or questions on how to file a complaint, contact Inside Timeshare either through email, by posting a comment, or finding us on Facebook. Please state if it is a US or European timeshare. We’re here to help.

https://www.facebook.com/insidetimeshare/

3 men

 

chickensoup

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 admin@insidetimeshare.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags

advocacy

Timeshare Advocacy

On Monday 23 January we published “And So It Begins”, it was about freedom of speech and the press. This was in response to Irene Parker being banned from the Diamond Resorts Members Facebook Page, which is a members page for Diamond owners. Irene is a long standing Diamond owner. She campaigns for greater clarity in the sales process and for the secondary market, also for those who wish to surrender their ownership. In this she has engaged with Diamond in meaningful dialogue and has achieved some results.

Irene did managed to sneak in one Diamond owner’s testimony before she was banned from her Diamond Members Facebook page.

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

Irene caused an escalation in negative comments so was banned from the Diamond Members Facebook page, although the charge was because she posted our Inside Timeshare article about Attorneys General in the US working for timeshare owners, compared to Attorneys General who seem to be on the side of the timeshare developers. She was told she had been warned. When she posted her previous article on this topic, the article had been removed, but protest resulted in the article being re-posted. Irene erroneously  interpreted this as an approval of free speech.

The article banned and reposted was about timeshare dividing down party lines with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halting sales at The Manhattan Club for a “bait and switch” scheme, compared to Attorney General Pam Bondi seeming to be on the side of the timeshare developers.

President Trump has a golf resort in Belmedie in Scotland with plans for around 900 timeshare apartments, which is set to double under new plans. In America this was reported to be only a golf course, they had no idea of the plans for timeshare to be built along with a 450 room hotel and 500 homes. Not to forget a second 18 hole course. We will of course be closely following developments in Belmedie and President Trump’s new golf and  timeshare resort.

Irene was accused of being political. Most timeshare owners don’t know that their voluntary $7 donation to ARDA ROC goes toward the timeshare developer’s lobby efforts. Lobby efforts in 2015 resulted in a law being passed making it more difficult for timeshare owners to be released from contracts due to “immaterial errors” as reported by the Orlando Sentinel. Is this not “political”? We reported on this in the October article “More News from Across the Pond”.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html

For today, free speech still exists in Spain, Europe and in America. Free speech will always exist at Inside Timeshare or we will die trying. Without it you a will not know what is happening.

Today Irene´s article is about “Advocacy”, even Diamond agree this is needed and they have created a “Consumer Advocacy Department” to resolve consumer problems.

How Timeshare Advocacy Works

Update on Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”.

 Retired Canadian Army Family’s Diamond Resorts Advocacy Experience.

By Irene Parker January 24, 2017

Support

For years timeshare owners and prospective owners have been clogging the complaint sites, complaining about what the Arizona Attorney General’sAssurance of Discontinuance” or AOD describes as Diamond Resorts:

Deception, deceptive or unfair acts or practices, fraud, false pretenses, false promises, misrepresentations or concealment, suppression or omission or material facts violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has issued Diamond Resorts an Assurance of Discontinuance and announced an $800,000 settlement.

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

Diamond Resorts, while not admitting wrongdoing, despite hundreds of complaints filed, takes owners concerns seriously. The company has announced a new Clarity program. Next week we will publish an article on Clarity offering owner feedback as to how they feel about the new program. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

Diamond has also created a Consumer Advocacy Department. It is my belief that owners need an advocate not employed by Diamond, interacting with Diamond’s Advocate until the owner’s concern is resolved or the decision is made to seek legal recourse.

In today’s article we examine one family’s advocacy experience. Terry and Roxanne Hurley were prepared to sign their Diamond relinquishment papers until they got to the part about not being able to say anything negative about Diamond.

“We put everything we had for our retirement into this, and we are gutted to know our many years in the Canadian Military (Army), planning and saving for our retirement over 40 years, is most likely lost,” said Roxanne.

Not knowing where to turn, the Hurleys contacted me and asked if there was any way they could recover any of their life savings. Most people would have contacted an attorney, but we contacted Diamond’s Advocacy Department. The reason they invested all their savings was because the Diamond sales agent (Vacation Counselor) said buying Diamond vacation points was like buying a second home. He neglected to tell the family it was like buying a second home without a secondary market.

The Hurleys chief complaint was availability. “Ash painted a beautiful picture of Diamond and even gave us a beautiful book and said these were all the places we could go. He said we would have access to over 2500 resorts through Interval International,” Roxanne explained. “We were getting ready to retire from the Canadian Army and we thought what a wonderful way to spend our retirement! He showed us a beautiful suite we would be able to get if we wanted to stay at Mystic Dunes.”

Terry and Roxanne Hurley recently retired from the Canadian army.

Hurley

Terry and Roxanne twice bought Diamond vacation points from DRI sales agent Ash Hanting at Mystic Dunes in Orlando. They bought points a second time when they discovered they did not have enough points to book the following year after their first purchase. The Hurleys have spent 50,000 Canadian for 15,000 points.

Armed with 15,000 points, they tried to book Myrtle Beach but it was not available so they had to book through Expedia. Booking one year out they were able to book Arizona.

 Terry and Roxanne approached Ash on a third visit to Mystic Dunes asking how they would go about selling their points because the vacation plan they bought was not turning out to be what they had been promised. Ash told them they would need to get a broker.

Unfortunately, not one member of the 64 member Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will market Diamond points because they feel Diamond points are worthless on the resale market due to restrictions Diamond places on points purchased resale. LTRBA members will buy and sell any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts; although I’m told only one of the members will market Westgate.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

The Hurleys told Ash the level of quality of their current accommodation was nowhere near the standard of what they were showed when they were sold their initial points. Their complaints were ignored. Roxanne wrote to Founder Stephen Cloobeck and Victor McElroy about what they felt were deceptive business practices, but no one responded.

The Hurleys are coping with Roxanne’s mother who is very ill and who lives about 2000 miles from them in Ontario. “It is very difficult to scrimp up the money to get to her. And my husband is dealing with medical issues as well,” Roxanne added.

I contacted Maya Pogoda, Diamond’s Public Relations Representative helping to launch Diamond Advocacy and Clarity. While the Hurley’s concerns about availability and the burden of rising maintenance fees, exacerbated by the Canadian exchange rate, have not been resolved; Diamond’s Advocate was able to offer the Hurleys a little “time out” in the midst of the family’s medical crisis in order to allow the family some time to weigh their options. I had suggested someone from Diamond contact the Hurleys to see if someone could help them find better availability. That is not the role of the Vacation Counselor, so Mr. Hanting cannot be of help.

Timeshare Needs a CASA,  

CASA

Court Appointed Special Advocates, (CASA) is a national association in the United States that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes.[1]

The CASA is a volunteer who need not be an attorney, whose role is to gather information and make recommendations to the judge.[3]

Judge Soukup in 1977 formulated the idea that volunteers could be dedicated to a case and speak for children’s best interests.[5]

Fifty volunteers responded to his idea, which started a movement.[7]

A Proposal for our Attorneys General

Appointed Special Advocate for Timeshare Owners (™)

Here to help

CASA provides a voice for the voiceless. The Hurleys are not alone. I have talked to dozens of owners who don’t know where to turn or who to talk to.

Other advocates pictured above include Sylvia Saldana. The Saldana family is left with a $33,000 home equity loan and no vacation points.

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Kathie Olds and her husband were told to buy more points because Apollo would be coming up with a new program that would allow them to “cash in” points at $.50 a point to pay for maintenance fees. Points sell for about $2 to $4 a point.

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/#more-1397

BL, Our Devil’s Advocate saying positive things about Diamond having signed a non-disclosure statement.

Roxanne Hurley

Irina Allen (featured in last week’s article)

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

As a former CASA supervisor, I wrote court reports and attended hearings and trials on behalf of foster children and teens aging out. Victimized timeshare owners need a voice for the voiceless. Just like foster care, there is a need for advocates who understand the system. The Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance” is 37 pages long. It’s a lot for me to plow through.

Here is one reason why the Arizona AOD has encouraged DRI agents to stick to the script rather than make oral representations offering benefits not in existence. DRI Sales agent Wajdi’s promise below wandered far afield:

We (C and P) purchased an additional 60,000 points from Wajdi at Cancun Resort on July 25, 2016 based on our ability to sell half of our points back to DRI to pay maintenance fees. We have contacted Wajdi a few times, but still do not know how to pay our MF with points.

Through advocacy, C & P’s concerns were resolved. They will remain Diamond Platinum members because of their positive outcome. They ceased legal action.  

A lot is happening in Timeshare.

get-involved

This is what freedom of speech really means, without it nothing will change, Inside Timeshare will report what it finds, whether it is good, bad or ugly. We will continue to publish Irene´s articles on what is going on in the timeshare world in America. We also hope to start publishing news from timeshare owners in Australia in the very near future. The problems facing timeshare are not confined to Europe or America, they are worldwide.

Inside Timeshare welcomes those with news and views on timeshare worldwide, we will endeavour to publish and keep all informed on events and news which affect you the owners.

 

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Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

Today’s article just happens to coincide with a rather important day in the USA, it is the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America, so what has this to do with timeshare?

Well it is actually quite simple for those in Scotland, back in 2008 there were some very heated debates over Mr Trump’s plan to build an 18 hole golf course and resort in Balmedie Aberdeenshire. This met with considerable resistance from the local people, but eventually Trump won through.

The original plan was to build a 450-room hotel, a second golf course, 500 luxury homes and 900 timeshare apartments along with a second 18 hole golf course. In a recent article in The Guardian newspaper these plans now intend to double the number of homes and timeshare apartments.

According to The Independent Newspaper there appears to be a conflict of interest, although Mr Trump or should we say President Trump, has stated that his company will do “no new foreign deals” during his presidency. But as The Independent puts it he has left this “new” and “deals” open to interpretation.

The Independent article goes even further, it also brings in the fact this proposed expansion coincides with the need for the UK to negotiate a trade deal with the US after the Brexit vote. As The Independent puts it “who would deny a permit to the President of the United States?”

Well, we in the UK and especially those people in Aberdeenshire will just have to wait and see.

In Irene Parker´s article she explains the US side to the question what will happen under the Trump Presidency and the effect to owners.

Links to the Independent and The Guardian articles.

https://www.google.es/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=/amp/www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-organization-golf-links-resort-scotland-aberdeen-conflict-interest-a7534596.html%253Famp&ved=0ahUKEwjEiL656M7RAhUGQBQKHVZkDe8QFghQMAY&usg=AFQjCNEGkuZV4A3k8BIvt65PzkVLNLQbHQ&sig2=oX4Sg73mYZ_Gfsi1hw9UJw

https://www.google.es/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/22/planners-reject-donald-trump-revised-plans-scottish-golf-resort&ved=0ahUKEwjSkM6q6c7RAhWCxRQKHVVfCfEQFghZMAc&usg=AFQjCNGSyvxRBMaAVBigvOxsbSyrpCkAKQ&sig2=sSbmK7N4TgzLUVG1YI-PHQ

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

By Irene Parker

January 17, 2017

Presidetial seal

There are a couple of movements under way in America, so why should Timeshare be different? Timeshare owners who have been victimized by rogue sales agents are as far apart from the actions of timeshare developers and lobbyists as Trump is from Bernie. Through covert action, timeshare owners have circumvented laws developers supported to jokingly protect our privacy, and began to contact each other. What we have learned from each other’s experiences is shocking.  

http://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/timeshares-refuse-to-share-owner-lists

Four Attorneys General have taken action to protect timeshare consumers and prospective buyers.  Noticeably absent from this list is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, considering Florida is a timeshare mecca center. The timeshare developer lobby organization ARDA will be quick to point out Bondi’s effort to shut down fraudulent timeshare resale scams – vibrant due to little or no secondary market for owners seeking to sell their timeshare. Bondi explains on a FOX Bob Massi Property Man segment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6bZDA6pL0o

Resale scam artists are like squirrels. Take out two and four more will arise tomorrow. I received two calls just this week. Of course shutting down 41 fraudulent resellers is a good thing, but did this just clear out the clutter for developers to have a clear path to “legitimate” transfer agents.

When a timeshare company refuses a request to surrender a timeshare contract, never fear! The beleaguered owner can go to a transfer agency with good names but questionable business practices like Redemption and Release and Resort Release. For sometimes as much as $5000 or more, transfer agents will offer a guaranteed “deed-back”, if legitimate, then bundle 25 to 50 contracts and sell back to the developer. Sound similar to the sub-prime mortgage business? It is.

On the other side of the FOX Celebrity fence are Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham endorsing Resort Release. In a FOX news interview Dave Ramsey said timeshare has a 98% dissatisfaction rate.

Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, offers her opinion in her Open Letter to Dave Ramsey and Laura Ingraham:

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-dave-ramsey-and-laura.html

lecturnSo what does this have to do with Politics?

Pam Bondi made headlines with her handling of the Trump University investigation after asking and receiving a $25,000 donation.

Trump U victims are eerily similar to timeshare victims. CNN reporter Drew Griffin interviews top Trump U sales agent Dave Harris:

https://www.rawstory.com/2016/07/cnn-reporter-hammers-trump-u-instructor-is-that-called-ripping-off-an-old-couple/

There has been a noticeable shift in lobby efforts. Extravagant events designed to curry favor for legislative efforts used to be directed towards politicians and lawmakers. That’s changed. More and more, campaign contributions, lobby sponsored conferences and events are aimed at Attorneys General like Pam Bondi, as pictured, and reported by the New York Times:

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

However, efforts to influence politicians have not gone unrewarded. Timeshare owners and advocates were outraged over timeshare laws passed in 2015 making it more difficult for timeshare owners to be released from contracts.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html

Attorneys General working for us:

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance following a probe of Diamond Resorts. A settlement of $800,000 has been awarded for restitution:

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

Other Attorneys General have come down on the side of timeshare owners, including:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, as reported by Business Den reporter Amy DiPierro, concerning Highlands Resorts in Colorado and Sedona Pines in Arizona:

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann halted sales at The Manhattan Club in 2014 and is still engaged in an ongoing legal battle:

http://insidetimeshare.com/news-across-pond/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III settled with Festiva timeshare for $3 million:

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

Alongside AGs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau conducts an ongoing investigation of Westgate timeshare as reported by Matthew Zeitlin at BuzzFeed:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.dwoQKVw3QQ#.doJ0ka1K00

Diamond Resorts default rate is the highest in the industry. The rate has increased to 19% over 13% from the prior year, according to National Mortgage News. Diamond credits this to lawyers targeting owners. I like to think of it being caused by owners talking to other owners.

http://www.nationalmortgagenews.com/news/secondary/newly-private-diamond-resorts-tests-securitization-market-1090005-1.html

So what side of the political fence stands the timeshare developer? Pictured to the left of our new President, the King of Versailles and owner of Westgate timeshare David Siegel:

Trump

Thank you to Inside Timeshare for providing a forum that now reaches from England to Australia and to our Diamond member sponsored Facebook page:

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

Globe flags

Inside Timeshare hope that this article has explained to our European readers the problems that US timeshare owners face, and what it may mean to them in the future. Your comments to this article are more than welcome.

If you have any questions about any company that you may be thinking of dealing with or have been contacted by, contact Inside Timeshare and we will find the answers for you.

 

end-year

2016 End of Year Review

So here we are at the end of another year and what a year it has been, it started with the relaunch of Inside Timeshare, bringing you truthful information and news you would otherwise not get.

One of our first articles explained what fly buys are, the fact you would get a cheap holiday but be subject to attending a presentation. At this you would be pitched a holiday product of some sort, be it a holiday club or timeshare. The article also warned of the pitfalls of not attending the presentation, either being charged the full accommodation price and in many cases being removed from the resort.

We also highlighted many “scams” that timeshare owners have been subjected to over the years including many new ones. The latest being the article on Litigious Abogados (see links). We also showed how some of the so-called resale companies operate, giving you the reader the information to make an informed choice.

http://insidetimeshare.com/1059-2/

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-update/

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-latest-information/

CLA Logo

Another theme Inside Timeshare published was the on-going woes of Anfi, the first article titled: “The Great ANFI Battle of the Partners”, explained the story of the two partners in the Anfi empire, the Lyngs and the Cazorlas. We then published the story of legal history being made with the very first Supreme Court ruling, this was the case of the Norwegian lady, Mrs Tove Grimsbo and her battle with Anfi. The case was brought on her behalf by Canarian Legal Alliance.

Since that auspicious occasion, Canarian Legal Alliance has gone from strength to strength, securing 36 rulings from the Highest Court in Spain, 29 of these have been against Anfi. Others have been against TasolanPalm Oasis and Holiday Club Puerto Calma, with the ruling against Puerto Calma confirming the Fractional did indeed come under Timeshare Laws. This resulted in around 243,000 Euros being returned to a British client.

There have also been 24 High Court and 21 Local Court rulings against various timeshare companies including Resort Properties / Silverpoint and Club La Costa. Some of these Courts have been in Maspalomas, Arona, Barcelona and Fuengirola. There are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euro, with 117.208.00 Euros reclaimed per month, there are on average 2 to 3 cases per week being heard.

(These figures are what we have on file, there have obviously been more cases, but we have yet to receive an update).

This is certainly an impressive achievement by this law firm, who has in the past suffered from some very negative press instigated by the industry itself. Inside Timeshare congratulates the whole team at Canarian Legal Alliance, including the clients who in some cases have waited years for these results.

Another series of articles have been about MacDonald Resorts and the ongoing battle of Mrs B, now known as Mrs Price. It is a case that has riled us at Inside Timeshare, who are fighting on her behalf. The story revolves around MacDonald Resorts refusal to accept that she no longer owns a timeshare at Dona Lola in Spain, continuing to harass this 87 year old via a debt collecting agency Network Credit Services. This harassment has included threats of court action to recover a debt that is not owed, this case has been referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Inside Timeshare will continue to highlight this case until MacDonald Resorts abandon the chase for money. It must also be noted that the RDO, which is the industry trade body has also washed their hands of this company.

In the April article “The Resurrected” a warning was issued about an old company from Fuengirola had come back to life. It is the story of Ramirez and Ramirez, who several years ago were very active in deceiving many timeshare and holiday club members out of thousands for bogus claims. It must be said that very little has been heard of them since.

Mark of excellence

We have also had a few light hearted moments, although they did come with a serious message. In the spoof article “A New Member to EGTBW”, it explained about the trade bodies for the timeshare industry operate. This was extremely fun to write and gave many people a good laugh, the only problem was that it was actually based on fact.

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-member-egtbw/

Back in July we started to publish the ongoing story of the Tauro Beach Project, the fact that irregularities had been uncovered and an investigation had been started by the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA). As the story unfolded the Head of The Canarian Coastal Authority had been dismissed and is now awaiting trial for wrong doing in public office and forgery of official documents. Then in August we published the story of the local inhabitants and their homes being flooded, this instigated further investigations which also include the local mayor. The story continues. (search Tauro Beach for further information).

We also teamed up with Irene Parker in the United States, she has provided some valuable information and interesting articles on the world of timeshare across the Great Lake. Below is her latest article.

What Timeshare Owners Can Look forward to:

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker,  December 26, 2016

2017

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:

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

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:

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

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?

round-table

Westgate

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

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

Another US Attorney General Exposes Deceptive Tactics.

Wyndham $20 Million

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

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.

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

The Manhattan Club

Attorney Douglass 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

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

Marriott Racketeering

“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.

 http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

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.

holidays-are-hereI 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. Human leverage and a clearinghouse of information exchange is the answer.

inside final small

So that is the end of 2016, we hope you will join us in 2017 and also help us to get the news out to others. Without your information many of the articles, particularly on possible scam or bogus companies will not be published. So from the Charles and Irene, we wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

happy-new-year

colerado-seal-ag

Another US Attorney General Exposes Deceptive Tactics.

Timeshare is not having a good time right now, in Europe and especially Spain the industry is reeling from very costly litigation. This is costing resorts and developers a fortune in returning money for purchases made which have gone against the laws put in place to protect consumers.

In the United States the industry is also under fire, most recently a former sales agent has been awarded $20 million for unfair dismissal by Wyndham. She had been branded a “troublemaker” after she complained about unfair and dubious sales tactics being employed.

We have also seen the NY Attorney General close down the sales operation at The Manhattan Club, due to allegedly fraudulent sales practices involving a “bait and switch” scheme. Manhattan Club buyers learned there was a lack of availability for those who purchased memberships, while the general public could easily book online. A court battle that began in 2014 continues today.

The following article by Irene Parker explains the most recent news coming in from across the Great Lake.

Colorado Attorney General Scores a Goal for Timeshare Reform

By Irene Parker

December 12, 2016

keep-calm

All timeshare owners and buyers want is honesty and a fair price for their timeshare, along with reasonable maintenance fees and a legitimate secondary market. Now a third US Attorney General scores a goal for timeshare reform by exposing deceptive timeshare business practices.


There is something flawed if a product cannot be sold, if it is not sold same day. Even car shoppers are allowed to think about it, and many timeshare purchases cost as much or more than a luxury car. There are first day pricing incentives and consumers are told they cannot buy in the future.


According to Highlands Resorts’ sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in the lawsuit, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”


http://www.businessden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/5B3AF6808EF5C.pdf


Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman has sued Highlands Resorts at Christie Lodge in Avon, Colorado for deceptive trade practices in Denver County Court. The state is also suing sales manager Greg Penrod and twelve other defendants. Several were outbound telemarketers.


Sedona Pines Resort in Arizona was also named in the lawsuit. I spoke to a former Diamond sales agent. Diamond agents cannot disclose any company policies or procedures due to a “CNDA” sales agent agreement they are required to sign. It stands for “confidential non-disclosure agreement” discouraging Whistleblowers. Not all agents are dishonest, so the sales agent who realizes something very wrong and harmful is being done to consumers, wants to tell their story.

In this case, the former sales agent said Diamond Resort owners, desperate to be released from rising maintenance fees, went to presentations at nearby resorts hoping for alternatives. Some Pines brokers would inflate the price of the Pines program to make Diamond owners think they were getting something for their Diamond points or weeks as a trade-in. A dollar amount would be added onto the purchase price as a “trade-in” if the consumer purchased a Sedona Pines program.

The Colorado lawsuit provided an example of fake pricing. “A fake price sheet itemized costs totaling $25,224, which included $6,995 in RCI upgrade points. If the buyer purchased today, Highlands promised to pay the $6,995.  However, Highland did not pay the $6,995. They only paid $179 in RCI dues instead of the $6,995 for RCI points.”


Amy DiPierro is a reporter for BusinessDen. She writes:


According to the state, “Highlands Resorts and its owner, Telluride resident Todd Herrick, “intentionally deceived, misled, and financially injured consumers” using high pressure selling tactics. Highlands Resorts is one of a larger group of timeshare companies controlled by a resort called Sedona Pines in Arizona. On its website, Highlands Resorts says it operates one resort in Durango and two resorts in Arizona.   


The state, which is represented by the office of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, is seeking payments of $325,000 from those four defendants and a permanent injunction that would stop them from, among other things, advertising timeshares without displaying fees and conditions. A spokesperson did not respond to a message seeking comment.

http://www.businessden.com/2016/12/07/ag-sues-timeshare-firm-for-deceptive-tactics/


Similar deceptive and misleading sales and marketing tactics are outlined in other lawsuits. Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt sales agents filed a class action Whistleblower lawsuit against Hyatt timeshare. Candace is seeking Hyatt owners who feel they have been deceived by misleading and deceptive tactics.


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


A jury awarded former Wyndham timeshare sales agent Trish Williams a $20 million Whistleblower award. Wyndham issued a statement saying the tactics used are not representative of their company policy, according to the NY Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=1


The Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III recovered $3 million for Festiva timeshare victims.  


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


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the second year of a Westgate timeshare investigation.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-probe-westgate-resorts-tactics-20160318-story.html

It’s getting harder to believe these practices are not representative of timeshare.

 

whos-next  Who’s Next?

 

 


Part II of this article will examine the fourteen defendants charged with violating the “Do Not Call” list to offer vacation incentives they proclaim are valued at $1,900. The lawsuit claims these certificates cost the developer $40.

I personally received a call from Fort Lauderdale yesterday. When I mentioned I was on the DNC list, he apologized and proceeded with his pitch. This is outbound telemarketing, so there is no way to contact the person or company that called.

We’re up to three Attorney Generals who have sued the timeshare companies. Timeshare developers figure in the cost of owner lawsuits as part of their annual budget. They do not figure in the cost of an Attorney General suing the company.

In the case of Christie Lodge, the resort is open but the sales program is not operational.

get-involved

So the question that must be asked is when will the industry wake up and change how it operates, not just in the USA, but in Europe and the rest of the world?

Inside Timeshare once again thanks Irene for her contribution, without her efforts we would not be able to bring you the news from across the water, bringing consumers together in a cause that affects all timeshare owners. Honesty, integrity and fairness are the elements that are missing in this industry, it must be said that not all are guilty of this, there are some who do work by these principles, but it is those who don´t that give it a bad name and reputation.

If you have any questions or comment about this or any other article published, use the comment section to send us a message. If you have a story or information that you would like to share, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you.

  weekend

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