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Trish Williams

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, today we publish “How to File a Complaint Form” with the Federal Trade Commision, by Irene Parker.

Before we go to the article, Inside Timeshare has been receiving many emails regarding Silverpoint, from some very concerned owners. Many have been contacted by Centaurus Mediations and Fullbrook Associates, both offering to cancel their contracts with Silverpoint and getting them “compensation”, all on a no win no fee basis, but this is after they pay for the cancellation.

The worrying aspect is that they are also being told that they will get them back all the maintenance they have paid, some going back over 20 years!

As we have explained on numerous occasions, the whole point of the exercise is to get the contract cancelled, to negate the possibility of a claim going through the Spanish courts, as once a contract is cancelled then no court will accept any claim. We cannot see them obtaining any repayments for the purchase or the maintenance, they are after all working with Silverpoint who will never pay out unless ordered to do so by a court.

If you have been contacted by these companies beware, you will be throwing good money after bad. If you need any help or advice on where you stand on making a claim through the courts then use our contact page and we will gladly provide it.

Now for this weeks article.

The Federal Trade Commission’s How to File a Complaint Form

ANSWER: BUY MORE POINTS! TO QUESTIONS:

The availability is not as promised?

Buy more points! “I can’t believe that sales agent sold you so few!!!”

How can I get help paying maintenance fees?

Buy more points!

How can I sell my timeshare points?

Buy more points!

I don’t have enough points for a family of five?

Buy more points! “I can’t believe that sales agent sold you so few!!!”

By Irene Parker

Election Day in America, Tuesday, November 6

The first family to contact me was a Hispanic family in 2016.

Families already struggling with maintenance fees are often advised to buy more points to achieve the next loyalty level that will allow them to pay maintenance fees or be able to sell points. Unfortunately, the programs as described do not exist. A similar program does exist, so when the complaint is made, the company representative responds with the actual program that has nothing to do with paying maintenance fees or tells the member, “We don’t assist in selling points.”

Sylvia contacted me the summer of 2016.  Here it is 2018 and not a week goes by without more complaints, just like Sylvia’s 2016 complaint:   

Sylvia and her husband were persuaded to give up a deeded week that did have a limited secondary market, in exchange for timeshare points with virtually no secondary market. During a series of five sales presentations over a five-year period, the family accumulated enough points to elevate them to the next loyalty level in 2013. But maintenance fees increased to the point where they could no longer afford to own their points. The family soon found that they had to charge maintenance fees to their credit card in order to pay them.

Sylvia had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high timeshare loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%. Never transfer a timeshare loan balance to a third party lender.

At their last resort stay in August 2015, Sylvia said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase more points in order to achieve the highest loyalty level.  The sales agent explained that this would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only the highest loyalty members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees. However, even at the highest loyalty level, turning in all points would only contribute $2,000 towards an $8,000 maintenance fee.

Sylvia relinquished $60,000 worth of points. She is probably still paying off her home equity loan and has no vacation points. One child graduated high school that year and was starting college.

Fortunately, Sylvia did not fall for the falsehood that would have driven her deeper into debt. We have received 63 almost identical complaints from highest loyalty members. They are infuriated.

Today is November 6, Election Day in America. Lobbyists are hard at work, making sure pro-industry candidates get elected. Lawmakers have a, “They signed a contract” answer to families alleging unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. We have heard from 571 families, many financially devastated because they believed a timeshare sales agent. As always, our disclaimer is that we know there are honest timeshare sales agents harmed as well by the actions of dishonest sales agents.

Timeshare buyers who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive trade practices should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the timeshare company dismisses them with “You signed a contract.” Members should also file with the Attorney General of the state where they signed a contract. Most, if not all states have incorporated a portion of the FTC Section 5 Code that describes unfair and deceptive business practices.

Unfortunately, the FTC doesn’t make it easy to file a timeshare complaint. The timeshare tab is buried. It took me a year to find it after a timeshare member explained how he found it. It’s almost like they don’t want you to find it. This is the link to file an FTC complaint and my step-by-step instructions directing you to the timeshare tab. We probably need about 10,000 members to file before the FTC raises an eyebrow.

 https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc

Step 1 Go to the link above: Submit a Consumer Complaint

Step 2 Bottom of the form, click FTC Complaint Assistant

Step 3 Click “Other”

Step 4 Click “For more options”

Step 5 Click “Travel Vacation or Timeshare”

Step 6 Click Other

Step 7 Click Timeshare

It was announced at an industry conference that $50 million has been set aside to put timeshare exit companies out of business, as well as honest lawyers and lawyers with questionable business practices. Timeshare exit is a problem the industry created by not allowing a secondary market. They admit this in annual reports to shareholders, listing a viable secondary market as a risk to their shareholders. Meanwhile, we are inundated with timeshare buyers contacting us describing how they have experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.  

A jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent and whistle blower Trish Williams $20 million. Ms. Williams said Wyndham had TAFT days on slow sales days. (Tell them any #$%* thing). A former timeshare sales agent told me TAFT is a real person.

As private equity takes over timeshare, seeking venture capital returns, I believe this is only going to get worse. Timeshare is not the next Microsoft, disrupting a typewriter industry, prompting explosive growth. Upselling existing members into insolvency in an effort to generate 30% or better returns for investors is not the answer. The complaints never stop.   

We want more honesty. It’s a lot to ask, but we will keep asking.

Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-11/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share. These are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene, as usual you have explained it all for our readers, if you have any questions, comments or need help with this or any other matter relating to timeshare, use our contact page and get in touch, please explain where you are located, (US or Europe), so we can pass you to the relevant team.

Breaking News:

La Provincia has just published an article with the following head lines:

El director de Anfi declara en un pleito entre los hermanos Santana Cazorla

La familia se enfrenta por un delito de administración desleal de fondos de la sociedad

Translation:

The director of Anfi declares in a lawsuit between the Santana Cazorla brothers

The family faces for a crime of unfair administration of funds of the society

Inside Timeshare will bring you more on this tomorrow.

Don’t forget the book by Wayne C Robinson, Everything About Timeshares, Before, During and After the Sale, with the forward by Irene Parker, you can obtain your copy from the link below.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

 

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene, as you will see from her article this week there is certainly a lot going on across the Great Lake. For our US readers there is some very interesting information, it would seem that Inside Timeshare is certainly making an impact on timeshare consumers in the US.

On the European front, yesterday’s article regarding Anfi members complaints regarding availability, the article had a plethora of hits and likes on the associated Facebook page within the first hour. It also seems as though this topic hit home with our US readers as there were many from across the pond.

Yesterday we also had the first court ruling of the week, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Puerto Calma, declaring the contract null and void. The client in this case will be returned 16,000€ which is the purchase price, along with 3,600€ as double the deposit paid within the mandatory cooling off period. The court also awarded legal interest.

We will be keeping an eye on any latest rulings that come in and report them here, but now on with this weeks article by Irene Parker.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Proposed Committees and Support Groups

Volunt

January 23, 2018

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare is approaching 300 timeshare reader responses, responding to members asking for assistance with their timeshare concerns since we began counting late 2016. There is a need to scale up Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as we now have 44 core advocates dedicated to improving the timeshare sales process by working together as teams. We hope timeshare developers will acknowledge there are problems and work with us, to not only stop predatory backend “get you out of your timeshare” scams, but address the problem on the front end of the sale as well. Numerous calls to the FBI have been made, and they have encouraged timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, to contact their local FBI Field Office public access line to file orally, in addition to filing online at IC3.gov.

Diamond Resorts has taken the lead by launching a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department dedicated to helping timeshare members from day one if a member has any concerns about their membership or their purchase. They have also introduced CLARITY, a program designed to enhance accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

Inside Timeshare has received complaints directed against four major timeshare companies. If timeshare developers and ARDA would take the time to read the following Better Business Bureau notations of “Government Action” and “Pattern of Complaints”, it is unreasonable to keep the blinders on by claiming there are no problems with the secondary market because sales centers are forever sales centers, and members should not expect value back for their timeshare because it is a “right to use” program. That would be fine were it not for the perpetual contract, often sold by false promises made by sales agents who know there is little chance of enforcement, as there is no federal enforcement, and state Attorneys General are limited in scope.

BBB warnings for Wyndham, Diamond Resorts, Bluegreen, and Vacation Village

Wyndham

Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.

Government Action

The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.

Wisconsin – May 27, 2015 Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. entered into a Consent Judgment with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (Case No. 15CX5). The Consent Judgment to settle allegations that Wyndham engaged in the following acts or practices in the State of Wisconsin:

 

  1. Delivering a timeshare disclosure statement that fails to include all statements required by Wisconsin Statute Sec. in a format that can be immediately read and retained by the purchaser.
  2. Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
  3. Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
  4. Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
  5. Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
  6. Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
  7. Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
  8. Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
  9. Failing to inform the individual of the prize that has been awarded him or her, and then giving the individual the prize or another selected item, before beginning a sales presentation.

Wyndham consented to the Stipulation and Consent Judgment to facilitate a settlement and avoid the additional expense, delay and uncertainty of litigation. Wyndham does not admit that it has violated any laws of the state of Wisconsin.

Pattern of Complaints

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent was awarded $20 million by a jury alleging predatory practices.

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

Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties canceling vacation packages booked through Bluegreen Corporation. Consumers claim, although Bluegreen Corporation has a cancel within 30 days policy, their requests for refunds for canceled trips are denied. Other consumers feel they are victims of deceptive sales practices. Consumers claim resorts are never available when they contact Bluegreen Corporation. While yet other consumers claim the “free” vacation Bluegreen Corporation offers is not free and involve fees they were not made aware of.

Diamond Resorts:

On December 23, 2016, the Arizona Attorney General announced that the State of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with Diamond Resorts. The Assurance of Discontinuance requires the company to pay the State of Arizona a total of $800,000, of which $650,000 is for consumer restitution and $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs. The assurance also includes a Relinquishment Remedy Program, which requires the company to allow qualifying consumers to return their timeshares with no further obligations.

Many of the hundreds of complaints received by the State of Arizona claim the company used deceptive sales practices and made numerous oral misrepresentations during their presentations. Some of the misrepresentations regard:

  • Annual increases in maintenance fees;
  • Membership resale and buy-back programs;
  • Timeshare membership resale market;
  • Ability to rent timeshare vacations; and
  • Discounts on other travel needs.

The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company employees’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F

BBB files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practices issues. Specifically, several complainants have alleged that information provided during sales presentations does not match the terms and conditions in the written contracts that they are asked to enter if they agree to make a purchase following a timeshare presentation.

On March 23, 2017 BBB sent correspondence to Village Resorts requesting their voluntary cooperation in providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.

As of May 12, 2017 BBB has not received a response from Village Resorts BBB will continue to monitor the complaints for Village Resorts and update the review as needed

So where do we go from here?

TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan

January 21, 2018

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

We are grateful to our Inside Timeshare readers and timeshare members who have reported their allegations of predatory and criminal timeshare sales and marketing. Due to the volume of timeshare complaints received, there is a need for Timeshare Advocacy Groups™ to restructure, as we are experiencing normal and expected growing pains.  

Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:

  1. Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
  2. Change timeshare developer practices to allow those alleging they were defrauded to be made whole again, by not hiding behind the fine print, but to listen and learn. The enemy is not your customer. The enemy is your predatory sales agent.
  3. Reach out to military Facebook pages and websites to warn members of the military and law enforcement, due to the alarming number of complaints from law enforcement officers and all branches of the armed forces, alleging they were white-collar crime victims.  One Marine lost his air unit command and three are worried about losing their security clearance.

Anthony and Ashley Davis recorded their predatory sales presentation, which has been provided to law enforcement and regulatory authorities. This is our January 13, 2018 interview with Anthony and Ashley.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI    

Timeshare Advocacy Group needs sub committees or teams that work independently, coordinating with a central committee. Listed below are nine proposed teams and team leaders, based on their expertise and past willingness to serve.

Please let us know if you are willing to be become involved. Those alleging they have been victimized include doctors, lawyers, professors, law enforcement, the military, even a member who worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison, and many others.    

Proposed Teams

44 Core Advocates

Our Core Advocates are members or former members of Wyndham, Hyatt, Bluegreen, Diamond, Vacation Village  

Reporting: Irene (4 members)

Media/Social Media: Gay Hart-Brewer (22)

State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)

Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)

Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)

Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)

Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)

Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)

California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)

Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Advocacy team

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member supported, not industry influenced, Facebook or website.

Thank you Irene and all those who helped in this article, especially the legals who ensure that they are legally accurate.

If you require any further information on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

 

Friday’s Letter from America: End of Year Review

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.

Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.

Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.

Another firm that was the subject of our attentions was Keys Concierge, another credits based lifestyle company. It turned out that the director was one Franz Marcus Deutsch, an old associate of Mark Cushway of Silverpoint. In fact this new company was the latest product which would be peddled by Silverpoint, soon to change their name to Signallia Marketing Distribution SA.

While we are on the subject of Silverpoint, It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare. Hence the product Keys Concierge, which does not appear to fall into the realms of timeshare laws.

This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?

tribunal supremo

Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.

Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.

February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s “Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.

Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the AnfiTauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.

This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.

Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.

Another story we have been following is that of Los Claveles in Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.

There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.

In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.

This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.

This same month also saw a very big shake up in timeshare, TATOC, (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees). This was run by one Harry Taylor, who was very much a mouthpiece for the industry rather than those who his organisation purported to represent.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor for $30,000 Published May 2017

After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!

There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.

But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.

On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.

There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.

CLA Logo

Now for the year from a US perspective.

What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what

I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016

2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

By Irene Parker

December 29, 2017

Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.  

Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.  

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

Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.

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

April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.

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

This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.

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

I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.

Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016

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?

conference

 Westgate Update 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegel was seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.  

trump

Here is King David’s house

https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/03/09/the-queen-of-versailles-jackie-siegel-i-may-want-a.html

But back in 2016

“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 investigating Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

http://insidetimeshare.com/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 Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneiderman managed to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.  

Back in 2016  

Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

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

 Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.  

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.  

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

Diamond Resorts Update: A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.  

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

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.

holI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

⦁ A legitimate secondary market

⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling

⦁ Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.

Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.

 

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.  

chat

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

A Customer Service Message

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees

“who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest”.

Today we publish another article by Irene Parker, this is entitled Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message. It is a look at Jay Baer’s book of the same title, which will be available at most airport bookstores through September. Irene already has her copy, Forbes has an article reviewing the book written by Shep Hyken:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2016/02/20/love-your-customers-hug-your-haters/#6c2d2bfa1573

But first some other news.

It has been announced that RCI the timeshare exchange company,which is part of part of Wyndham Worldwide, is set to take over the Australian exchange company DAE, Dial An Exchange. This has been an independent exchange program for many years, it is popular for one simple reason, there are no annual membership fees. Owners only pay when they make an exchange, which does seem to be the fairest method, as you may pay a membership fee and never actually use it every year.

Obviously with the link to RCI, it may be that will benefit those who use DAE, as it should increase the number of resorts available to them. Many owners in the UK like the DAE system as they were rather disappointed with RCI and the annual fees on top of their ever increasing maintenance charges.

According to RCI, DAE will still be a stand alone company, with no interference from RCI, the questions is for how long?

Since the article Truth, What is Truth , was published last Thursday, Inside Timeshare has been receiving many more enquiries from confused Anfi members. It would appear that Anfi has stepped up its campaign to spread the falsehood that they are not losing cases at the Lower Courts or the Supreme Court, by contacting members and laying the seeds of doubt. What must be remembered is the simple fact these cases are public record and can easily be verified. Somehow Inside Timeshare gets the feeling that not is all well at Anfi, from our sources there may just be a rather important announcement about to be made. We will keep you informed as and when news becomes available.

Truth, What is Truth?

Next week in our Tuesday article we will be looking at the flurry of lawsuits being brought against timeshare attorneys in the US, Irene again gives the US, along with her own view on this subject. It does look as though the timeshare industry on both sides of the great lake are on the offensive.

So now to Irene’s latest contribution.

Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message

A timely message and a needed customer service handbook

catdog

http://www.jaybaer.com/hug-your-haters/

By Irene Parker

August 15, 2017

Hug Your Haters was written before the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia over this past weekend. The event was planned by white supremacy demonstrators. I was trained by a financial planner from Trinidad. He shared with me this story about knocking on the door of a white man. When the man opened the door he took a hard look at my mentor and said, “I shoot black people.” My mentor responded, “I’m not black. I’m from Trinidad.” After a second hard look this white supremacist laughed and said, “You want a beer?”

No matter the color of skin, the amount of wealth you possess, or your determination to make a sale, people are people. Even kings interacted with peasants. Jay Baer’s book could not be timelier. Communication is the key, author Jay Baer asserts. Inside Timeshare agrees.

New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer is to be the 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.

https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1951406

The title of Mr. Baer’s book, Hug Your Haters, is also the title of his keynote speech that he will deliver to developers, investment bankers, private equity firms and other capital investment firms.

Our Timeshare Advocates are hopeful, as the only response our 400 plus member supported Diamond Resort Advocacy Facebook group has ever received from Diamond was from one brave sales agent who joined the group. Basically, his conclusion was that we are irresponsible whiners unwilling to fulfill our obligations. He ultimately had to be removed for driving away already financially shattered members.

In preparation for Mr. Baer’s keynote address, I have invited him to join our Facebook hoping he may be our bridge to communication. He would at least be provided a microcosm of timeshare comments and complaints to study. I don’t know if I would call us Haters. I think seekers of accountability and transparency describe us better.

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/

We are not alone. DRIP is a website launched by over 1,000 British members trying to find a way out of their timeshare contracts.

http://drip.enjin.com/

A Club Intrawest Owners Group Facebook has over 3,400 members

https://www.facebook.com/Club-Intrawest-Owners-Group-921012087982547/

A recently launched Gold Key Diamond acquired resort Facebook

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

Acquired resorts are on a campaign to reach out to other members in an effort to convince owners not to give up their deed in exchange for non-deeded right to use points.

Eight hundred Bluegreen members call this Facebook Bluegreen Class Action

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

Wyndham lost a whistleblower lawsuit when a jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million. Ms. Williams mentions TAFT days – tell them any fxxx thing to sell points on slow sales days.

https://dolanlawfirm.com/2016/11/wyndham-vacation-whistleblower-verdict/

hater

I could go on, but clearly Mr. Baer has his work cut out for him.

The timeshare lobby organization ARDA will be quick to point out that 83% of 9,000,000 timeshare owners are happy with their timeshare. Mr. Baer I’m sure will be quick to point out that the 1.15 million who responded they are not happy with their timeshare should not be ignored, even on social media sites. Mr. Baer’s primary thesis is:

Haters are not your problem…..

Ignoring them is.

In his book, Mr. Baer goes on to say that choosing to stay silent speaks volumes. Not responding is a response that says “I don’t care about you.” He talks about how it is psychologically difficult to engage with Haters, especially when they shine a giant spotlight on their perception of your shortcomings.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, at least not for Disney owners. We published this article analyzing why Disney has so few Haters.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

As far as us chalking us up as disgruntled grumblers that don’t know how to use our points properly, here is one of our Advocates offering his analysis, previously published as a stand-alone article, why the timeshare industry has so many Haters;

It appears the industry has long depended on “self-regulation”. It has not done a great job of that but there have always been just enough companies that seem to try and deliver a quality product and quality customer experience at the same time they balance trying to make a healthy profit.

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. I am sure there are other good examples.

In the past, the actions of the bad eggs of the industry (the industry’s worst examples), the negative impact was always minimal and able to be managed before it metastasized. But the potential problem as I see it is that in the last decade it appears what may be described as large predatory financial engineering companies almost “posing” as timeshare companies have risen and aggressively worked every loophole and non-regulation to their own advantage and now are probably guilty of gross violations of their fiduciary responsibility to their customers / owners. These companies have created vast fortunes for a very small network of individuals at the top of the pyramid.

Ironically though, and looking at historical examples from other industries, it is these very companies likely to bring the whole industry into the national spotlight and to its knees eventually. Some of these appear to have walked to the edge of doing that already.

As these quasi financial engineering / timesharing companies become increasingly more brazen in chasing profits by any means possible, raising fees rapidly at the same time they are reducing owner benefits, due to their increased sheer size the public outcry will likely increase and just the odds of random probability suggests there will be a “Gotcha” moment or event that will bring increased scrutiny and increased legislation.

If the good timeshare companies try to ignore what the bad ones are doing, they may find someday that their systems and profits and share prices are negatively impacted by the future regulations forced on the industry from the egregious actions of the bad actors in their industry.

challenge

We will continue our discussion in a Part II Hug Your Haters article examining two of the eleven points Mr. Baer said customer service professionals will learn by reading Hug Your Haters.  

The two types of Haters and what they want from you when they complain.

Why you need to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time.

Finally, why am I so critical?

It all started when my husband and I attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation, lied to in order to get us to attend. We had not been happy with availability so in no way were we going to purchase more vacation points. We make due but, like many others, we feel we were oversold on availability.

Next, I learned when we tried to sell our points, because our contract said we could, not one member of the 64 member Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will accept a Diamond Resort listing, although they will accept virtually all major competitor listings.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

As I started publishing articles for TheStreet, Jim Cramer’s Mad Money Investment News Service and then Inside Timeshare, I began to hear from timeshare Haters the world over, including the Philippines and Australia. Families allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. To date I have heard from 114 families of which 101 would fall into the Hater category. The others were simply seeking how to go about relinquishing their timeshare.

You can Hug Your Haters all day long but if a timeshare company violates their trust and respect by siding with the sales agent over the customer when the customer knows what they were promised and what was not delivered, Hugs won’t help. Change will.

As our online information site Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ states,

Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens (Jimi Hendrix)

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

This certainly looks a very interesting book and I personally will be looking out for a copy, thanks again to Irene for her insight into this subject, with part two being published next week. Maybe, just maybe, the industry will take note of this.

Over the next few weeks we have some very interesting articles in the pipeline, with one article giving the results of our Timeshare Advocacy Group and the results achieved so far.

If you have any comments on any article published or need any help and advice on any timeshare related matter, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction. Inside Timeshare is committed to giving you the facts and not fake news.

Working Together Across The Ocean.

In today’s article, Irene Parker explains the work of the Advocacy Group and how it can help you the timeshare owner. Since this project has been going it has achieved some fantastic results, some that we are unable to publish, others have been and there are some to come.

This project has brought people together, ensuring that no one feels that they are alone. There is always somebody to help, even if it just to listen to your concerns. So enough from em and on with Irene’s article.

The Timeshare Advocacy Group ™

butterfly

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” Jimi Hendrix

By Irene Parker

June 5, 2017

What is the Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ and who are they?

More importantly, why are they necessary?

Timeshare Advocates, advocating on behalf of those who have fallen victim to what they consider to be deceitful sales practices, go beyond helpful Facebook posts to walk with the timeshare member until a resolution, relinquishment refund, or foreclosure takes place.

Timeshare members can contact Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ if they:

  • Can’t get out of their timeshare
  • Feel they were deceived or lied to by a timeshare sales agent
  • Don’t know where to start
  • Don’t know who to call
  • Cannot afford an attorney
  • Cannot afford maintenance fees

For too long timeshare developers have relied on the use and abuse of the oral representation clause. Of course there are timeshare companies and timeshare sales agents selling timeshares without deceit, trying to survive in a timeshare world where top producers are all too often encouraged to sell by “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch” meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Financial Institution Fraud is added to the mix when credit card lending crosses over to predatory lending.

cartoon strip

When timeshare buyers begin their complaint with – “The salesman said” – company representatives are quick to ask for proof of the allegation, a word I have come to detest. In most cases there is no proof, but some regulators are listening. After all, it’s not that unusual for someone who has committed a crime to say, “I didn’t do it.”

More and more, surprised timeshare members who feel they are victims of deceit or “bait and switch”, realizing they have signed a perpetual contract with little or no secondary market, are digging in for the long haul, filing complaints with the FBI when deceived and Attorneys General sympathetic to the cause. Not all are.

Inside Timeshare previously published “Chicken Soup for Timeshare’s Soul” simplifying timeshare attorney Mike Finn’s white paper.

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

The Florida Timeshare Division acted on only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints between April 2012 and April 2014.

Contrast this with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office acting on approximately 400 complaints filed against Diamond Resorts resulting in an $800,000 settlement and an issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance”.

The Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ works with print and broadcast media to take timeshare issues before the court of public opinion.

When Timeshare Advocate and former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts salesperson Candace Czarny learned of a May 2017 Arizona AG filing deadline for Diamond restitution eligibility, she wrote and distributed a press release to numerous Arizona publications and news networks. An Advocate who has a complaint in process was told by her reviewer that because of the publication of several articles, the AG office has received an additional 500 complaints. They wanted filers to know they need to be patient.

Hence, we answered the question, “What can one person do to make a difference.”

The Arizona Republic, part of the USA Today Network

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2017/05/18/timeshare-holders-released-contracts-following-deceptive-sales-practices/329107001/

The Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ is a group led by the following individuals who feel the time has come to take back our vacations.

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

Leading these efforts:

  • Irene Allen, TAG administrator
  • Charles Thomas, Inside Timeshare
  • Irene Parker, Inside Timeshare
  • Patrice Johnson, Advocate coordinator
  • Lisa Ann Schreier, media consultant
  • Candace Czarny, timeshare consultant
  • Diamond Resorts Member Sponsored Facebook administrators
  • Club Intrawest Owners Facebook administrators
  • Gold Key Resorts Owners Forum administrators
  • Monarch website administrators
  • Over 100 timeshare owners and members turned Advocates
  • 15 attorneys involved with various timeshare legal actions

This is where we are going. But how did we get here?

It all started with DRIP

http://drip.enjin.com/home/m/1894207/article/4099328

DRIP was launched by over 1000 British owners seeking release from Diamond Resorts timeshare contracts.

To my knowledge, Diamond Resorts has never admitted wrongdoing, but the company has introduced a program called CLARITY™ in response to the Arizona Attorney General’s actions. Is it enough? Members are wary but hope to work with Diamond to improve customer relations.

Monarch (DRI acquired) timeshare owners launched a website

http://www.monarchowner.com/p/opt-out.html

At a 2016 annual meeting, it was announced 30% of the remaining 40,000 Monarch owners have not paid their 2016 dues.

Wyndham Whistleblowers

A jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million when she exposed practices she said took place at Wyndham. According to Ms. Williams, Wyndham had TAFT days on slow sales days – Tell them any blank thing to close the deal.

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

Two additional Wyndham Whistleblowers, reported by Scott Brinkmann

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-wyndham-whistleblower-lawsuit-20170209-story.html

A former Diamond sales agent introduced me to Charles Thomas, publishing investigative timeshare reports for Inside Timeshare based in Spain. This began a lifelong collaborative effort working together towards timeshare reform.

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Group was launched February 2017

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.

advocate 1

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

Club Intrawest Owners member sponsored Facebook 3,000 members

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Club-Intrawest-Owners-Group-921012087982547/about/

Gold Key Resorts Owners Forum member sponsored Facebook

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

The following companies should be thinking about implementing their own version of DRI’s CLARITY™  based on these Consumer Affairs ratings.

The Bluegreen Corporation 1.5 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/bluegreen.html

Westgate Resorts 1 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/westgate.html

RCI 1.3 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/rci.html

Shell Vacation Club 1.3 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/shell_vacation_club.html

Hilton Grand Vacations 1.5 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/hilton_grand_vacations.html

customer service

Many of the families our Advocates have worked with have been financially devastated by tricks of the timeshare trade. The word we hear most often is “embarrassed” and “ashamed”.

All victims of crimes are silenced, whether child abuse, rape or timeshare – isolated and silenced by perpetrators. The timeshare developers and lobbyist efforts have made it difficult to be released from contracts and difficult to contact other owners. Lawmakers turn a deaf ear to members with eyes wide shut. There is virtually no member representation in the industry.

We want you to know that our Advocates and Inside Timeshare are here for you. Join our efforts and expand our network.

Line up

Timeshare companies are starting to take notice, Inside Timeshare has had reports that many are wondering when we will start to highlight them, they are right to be concerned, because by coming together your voice gets louder. When it gets louder, it gets stronger, once it gets stronger the more you can all achieve.

Irene and myself thank all who contribute to these articles, either by writing or just reading the drafts and pointing out anything that has been missed.

Part II: The Three Rs of Timeshare

After we published Fridays article, news came in from Canarian Legal Alliance, of four more sentences at the Court of First Instance in Arona, Tenerife. These were once again against Silverpoint, again this lower court applied the previous rulings made by the Supreme Court in Madrid.

In one case the court ordered the return of 85,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest, the client’s contract was again declared null and void. In another two sentences the clients were awarded with the return of over 25,000€ plus legal interest, with the contracts declared null and void. A rather expensive end to the week for Silverpoint, with no sign of these cases letting up.

The week also started on a bad note for Anfi with CLA announcing another sentence issued by the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. Once again this lower court ruled as per the precedent set by the Supreme Court that contracts over 50 years were illegal, therefore the contracts have been declared null and void.

Court Masp
Court of First Instance Maspalomas

The clients in this case have been returned with over 14,000€ plus legal interest. They are now timeshare free and are no longer bound by the rising maintenance costs. So what a start to the week for those lawyers at CLA.

So, on with today’s writings by Irene Parker, in this article she explores the three R’s, Resolution, Relinquishment and Refund.

In Spain one of the three R’s is hitting the industry, as we have seen from the opening of today’s article, many owners are receiving back their full purchase price and some, purely because the timeshare companies have sold a product that does not comply with Spanish Timeshare Law or the Directives issued by the EU.

For those who do not have a claim, the other option is relinquishment also known as surrender, unfortunately this does depend on who you own with, some are easier than others. One company that is renowned for not playing ball is MacDonald Resorts, there have over the years been many articles written and published about how they make it very difficult for anyone to get out of their contract. They say they allow a limited number out every two years upon payment of 4 years maintenance fees, this is done on a first come first served basis, so no guarantee.

Some resorts, especially the smaller independent and usually family owned resorts, just allow owners to hand back, in some cases they will even pay back something. This obviously is good for both parties, the member is released and the resort has inventory to sell. Win Win!

Part II: The Three Rs of Timeshare

Resolution, Relinquishment or Refund

Part I of the 3Rs or F of Timeshare

Part III – Two More Rs – Rental and Resale

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

travel lights

By Irene Parker

April 12, 2017

Most consumers are unaware of the perpetual nature of a timeshare contract. The combination of rising maintenance fees and a mortgage interest rate ranging from 12% to 18% if a loan is attached can spell disaster when the timeshare member can no longer afford the timeshare due to illness, unemployment or age.

We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but our advocates have also heard from the young. So far the youngest person I have interviewed was 19 and pregnant when she signed her contract just after midnight. When I explained what a perpetual contract meant, she was shocked.

“A perpetual contract in itself is not harmful,” explained timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. When you buy a house or car the contract is perpetual. The problem comes when there is no secondary market as Mike explains in his article, “The Unconscionable Suppression of the Timeshare Resale Market”.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/the-unconscionable-suppression-of-the-timeshare-resale-market

The First R: Relinquishment

Timeshare developers and the timeshare lobby ARDA seem to think voluntary exit programs are the answer. How does this help the family who has spent $25,000 to over $100,000 to purchase a timeshare, only to get hit with a life event that results in not being able to afford the timeshare shortly after purchase? Would you buy a house that could not be sold? The price of a timeshare can easily rival the cost of a modest condo or home.

Howard Nusbaum, CEO of ARDA is quoted in a June 2014 RedWeek article in reference to the lack of a viable resale market, “This is a legacy problem. People buying a timeshare today are buying it from multisite clubs that have management forever and sales teams forever, so the ability to recycle inventory will not be a problem in the future.”  Recycling inventory is the term used when a resort “takes back” your points or forecloses due to nonpayment of a loan or maintenance fees.

Timeshare companies are starting to offer voluntary surrender programs, but surrenders are evaluated on a case by case basis. The money invested in a timeshare can easily run over six figures, so walking away from that kind of money without a fight, when you feel you have been defrauded, doesn’t seem right.

The Second R: Refund

A refund is not easy to come by. Litigation takes years and if you win, there will in all likelihood be an appeal. Timeshare developers know the industry is virtually unregulated and that they are protected by the oral representation clause.

Let’s examine the most common complaints our advocacy group has heard to determine if these tactics meet the FBI’s definition of white collar crime.

Reportedly coined in 1939, the term white-collar crime is now synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals. These crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial—to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage.

These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three).

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

The most common complaints:

  • The agent said I could sell my shares,
  • Maintenance fees increase only modestly,
  • You can get airline and other travel awards but the value is zilch,
  • It’s less expensive to book online than to use my points,
  • The contract is perpetual? Who knew?
  • The interest rate is 18%!! I didn’t know till I started paying!

According to the FBI, there is corporate fraud and mortgage fraud. Corporate fraud includes accounting schemes designed to deceive investors about the true financial condition of a business entity by manipulating financial data, share price or other valuation methods.

While the definition above is most often applied to stock transactions, we can draw some comparisons to a timeshare point. Availability of accommodations, the value of travel awards can be overstated and the escalation of maintenance fees can be understated.

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of financial institution fraud known as “fraud for profit”:

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

The backend of timeshare fraud has been widely reported, but there has been little attention paid to the front end. The industry needs to stop focusing only on the backend of timeshare scams as detailed in this US Department of Justice Timeshare Scam Report and take a closer look at the front end – the timeshare sales presentation.

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

Timeshare members who begin their complaint with “the salesman said” are sadly told about the oral representation clause contained in a timeshare contract.

 Wyndham has appealed Trish William’s $20 million Whistleblower award.

In 2010, the plaintiff, Williams, reported that elderly customers were being defrauded by Wyndham salespeople, who were opening and maxing out credit cards without their knowledge and lying about reducing interest rates, maintenance fees and the ability to obtain rental income from their timeshares. She also disclosed an illegal, industry-wide practice of falsely representing that if owners spend enough money, often hundreds of thousands of dollars, Wyndham would buy back the timeshare at full value at the owner’s request.

Evidence presented at trial revealed that Wyndham employees engaged in “pitching heat,” high pressure sales tactics involving deliberate lies and misrepresentations to get people to buy more timeshare “points.” These sales practices included “TAFT” days, which stands for “Tell Them Any [email protected]#*ing Thing” days, where employees were encouraged to say anything to make a sale as long as they didn’t put it in writing. The highest selling sales agent was quoted as saying, “I sold my soul to the devil. I can say whatever I want so long as I don’t put it in writing, that’s why Wyndham has good lawyers.”

https://dolanlawfirm.com/2016/11/wyndham-vacation-whistleblower-verdict/

R3: Resolution

hope

Diamond Resorts has instituted a new consumer advocacy department to help members or owners resolve disputes. A member sponsored Diamond Resorts Advocacy Group works with members and Diamond’s advocacy department to resolve issues. There is always the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using Diamond points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We just booked two weeks in Sedona for far less using our points than we could have by booking online.

We wish all complaints could be resolved by better understanding the resort’s program, but that is not always the case.

Our complaint format is included in this Inside Timeshare article. Inside Timeshare readers can use this form when contacting Inside Timeshare or their resort when problems arise. Of course there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare year after year. Those owners don’t need us, yet.

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-post-look-past-week/

Our Diamond Resort Advocacy Group:

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

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

Let’s keep working together to improve the industry.

Inside Timeshare is here to listen and respond.

fix prob

Related story

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=hoa+collections

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who help to make these articles, especially Mike Finn of Finn Law Group, who helps Irene with the legal aspect of her writing.

If you have any questions or comments on any article published, contact Inside Timeshare and we will try find you the best answer or solution. You can also join our facebook pages and join the discussions. It is through these that we all find out what is going on.

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

 

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

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

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

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

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

Non timeshare organisations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

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

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

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

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

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

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

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

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

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

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

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

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

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

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

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

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

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

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

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

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

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

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

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

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Business Bureau BBB

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

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

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

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

Summary and Conclusion

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

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

success

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

GET INVOLVED!

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

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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

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