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The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the first Tuesday Slot with Irene of December, this week Irene gives an update on an article from October, but first some important news from Europe.

Last week Inside Timeshare had some unconfirmed news on a raid in Tenerife, which we did not publish, this was against the offices of Mark Rowe’s enterprise there. This week news came out of raids at his businesses in the UK By Trading Standards, so this could just verify the Tenerife news.

This raid follows an investigation by the “Scambuster Team” of Trading Standards, offices of around 22 Mark Rowe companies were searched, employees questioned and documents removed for further investigation and as evidence if any criminal charges are brought.

trading standards

Among those raided were ABC Lawyers, Glenmore Consultants, Monster Rewards, Jive Hippo (replacement for Monster Credits) and apparently the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association). The raid in Tenerife would most likely have been Hollywood Marketing SLU.

It looks like we will have to wait until the new year before we know the outcome, this follows the news last month of another enterprise EZE Group, where the directors and owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates of “Aggressive” sales tactics and “Coercion” with their product EZE Credits. They are to appear at Crown Court on 15 December, whether they will be sentenced then or just remanded on bail until the New Year remains to be seen.

Now on with the article from Irene Parker.

TARS – Timeshare Advisory and Resolution Services

An Honest Timeshare Exit Program – Who knew?

TARS Limited Term Deed Program – A Monthly Update

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By Irene Parker

December 5, 2017

In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARS TIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program.  “Consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits,” announced TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-24/

The limited deed/limited fun program is geared toward fixed week resorts, but the same strategy could be implemented by major timeshare point sellers, solving the problem a timeshare owner faces when life changes and now they own a vacation product they don’t want, they can’t afford, and can’t sell. TARS could eventually neutralize resale and listing scams. Scam revenue would turn into new buyer revenue which would be a win-win for everyone except the scammers.

https://search.justice.gov/search?affiliate=justice&query=timeshare+report

Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 223 readers (176 when the October 26 article was published). Members sometimes describe catastrophic financial distress when denied a release.

I asked Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberté Management Group of Companies and Chairman of TARS to provide an example of how the limited deed works. “The TARs program offers the member an option to purchase a limited term deed for five or ten years. The term will be the decision of the Associations, but we would not recommend any term less than three years. We feel the five year plan best suits the Association and the owners. The design is to utilize the units’ maintenance fee costs with an increase annually to make the tax repercussions better for the Association – a major savings, but each unit in each resort would be different,” Dennis explained.   

All Seasons Vacation Resort in Madeira Beach and the Voyager Beach Club Treasure Island are the first to launch a TARS program. TARS had just signed up their first sale when we first talked to Dennis and he said other owners told him they would be glad to sign up when they returned home.

The example Dennis provided was for a Voyager unit with an annual Maintenance fee of $510. A five year limited deed could be purchased for $6,000. The now former perpetual deed owner becomes a limited deed owner. At the end of five years the term is up and the unit reverts back to the HOA.         

At this point skeptics raise their eyebrows. Wait! A $510 annual maintenance fee turns into $1,200 a year or $171 a night for a seven night stay? The Liberté website offers a one bedroom gulf view for $1,053 a week. So the limited deed would cost the member $735 ($1,200 – $1,053 = $147 x 5 years).

One timeshare insider suspects it’s a crafty upfront scam. I know Dennis and Martin Kandel so I have no concerns there. Another insider I contacted voiced a concern about what would happen if TARS went out of business. Liberté has been in business 35 years managing seven fixed week resorts and brokers resales and rentals as well. Liberté is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

Dennis received a great congratulation from one timeshare advocacy organization, told this can be a huge positive change for the industry. Dennis also spoke with Robert Follis at the Florida Attorney General’s office who also saw the program as a solution to many problems.  

When I called Voyager, I spoke with M J Hassall, also with Liberté, who expressed great enthusiasm. “Every owner is unique so we provide a one on one presentation. One obstacle is convincing owners this is not just another ruse to get them to buy more weeks. This really is important information they need to know about. We have presented the plan to about 15 members with about 50 percent in favor of the program,” explained M J.

“In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an a la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. One of the partners is Let’s Go N Travel,” M J added.

This led me to Let’s Go N Travel which will be the subject of January’s monthly TARS update. I spoke with Chip Langdon at Let’s Go N Travel. Chip described Let’s Go as a Vacation Club boasting 450,000 members. More on how this fits in with TARS later.  

https://www.facebook.com/4life4less/

TARS provides a new way to address old problems (www.tarserv.com) in an effort to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program. This would seem a concept owners need to wrap their heads around, as they may not have yet thought about an exit or even if they need one.

Thank you to all at TARS for their help as we learn more about this evolving program. As a former deeded fixed week owner, I can see spending the extra money on something I enjoyed for 30 years, paying an extra $735 spread out over five years to be done with it without the hassle of dodging scams or waiting for an over supplied product to sell. As with any product, if it meets the needs of the consumer, it will sell itself. Timeshare does not sell itself. It is product that has to be “sold” and often requires six to eight hours of brow beating, “pitching heat” and deceit, according to 220 of our readers. We hope, working with developers, such tactics will diminish. We know there are good timeshare sales agents out there selling the product the way it should be sold. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney for their scarce complaint record.

Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to follow along as TARS progresses. I still need to call my favorite fixed week timeshare people at Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.

 Liberté

At least this provides a positive topic members and developers can agree on – the need for an honest timeshare exit to shut off the scam valve.  

http://resorttrades.com/timeshare-advisory-and-resolution-services-llc-tars-and-the-liberte-management-group-join-to-expand-services-for-legacy-resorts-and-owners/

Irene will be keeping us updated on a monthly basis on TARS Limited Term Deed Program, could it be that there is some honesty in this industry called timeshare? Only time will tell.

Other news coming in from the US is the link up between ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) and Europe’s RDO (Resorts Development Association). It has been rumoured for sometime that the RDO is what you might call “strapped for cash”, well they have this year lost one of their major members, Silverpoint. Could this link up be the saviour of them?

Kwikchex has also laid out the scope of its new mission, running the “Timeshare Helpline”, on behalf of the RDO, which replaces the disgraced and bankrupt TATOC. As we know TATOC was supposed to be an independent body representing timeshare owners through their committees, but under the leadership of Harry Taylor, they did the bidding of their benefactors. These benefactors were the industry and RDO members.

So the question is if the new helpline is run by Kwikchex and the Timeshare Task Force, paid for by the RDO, how can it be independent and on the side of the consumer?

Have Trading Standards and other Authorities been taken in by them, the same way as Citizens Advice Bureau were taken in by TATOC?

Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to draw your own conclusions.

Remember

“Non enim videtur”

“Not all is as it seems”

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.

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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.

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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.

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Kwikchex and Chris Emmins

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because no one sees it.

Mahatma Ghandi.

 

Who and what is Kwikchex, well it seems that no one really knows, It purports to be a WORLDWIDE REPUTATIONAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY. Big words for a company that has only two directors and has been registered for just under 6 years. It has been given the contract to run the Timeshare Task Force and improve the reputation of the Timeshare Industry in Europe by The RDO.

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The company is headed by Mr Christopher Anthony Emmins, a position he has held for 5 years and 4 months. Director I.D. 904358976 and born in June 1957, the entry on Director Check for nationality shows unknown.

 

He has resigned from 4 companies and held 17 appointments at 17 dissolved Companies. It is alleged that the dissolved companies has left unpaid creditors with around £500,000 of debt.

 

The following are the companies he has been associated with:

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