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letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker asks the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, What about us? Ms Bondi seems to have a reputation for backing big business rather than the consumer, but more of that in Irene’s article. As usual we begin with what is happening in Europe.

CLA Logo

Some news which was breaking yesterday has now been confirmed, Canarian Legal Alliance issued a press release informing us of the latest Supreme Court victories.

Legal history has now been made with CLA achieving their 60th victory in Spain’s highest court, we say legal history as this is unprecedented. No other law firm has ever managed to get this number of cases through the Supreme Court. This is a fantastic achievement since their first victory in March 2015, in the past two and a half years they have not only made history but have also made law.

Their latest victories have been against Silverpoint, in sentence number 59, the court ordered the return of over 65,000€ plus the payment of First Instance legal fees and legal interest. The client’s contract was also declared null & void, which now makes them timeshare free with no more ongoing maintenance fees.

With sentence number 60, the same court ruled that the contract be declared null & void, ordering Silverpoint to return over 92,000€ plus Appeal Instance legal fees and legal interest. This now makes a total of 21 judgments from the Supreme Court against Silverpoint alone.

Then the following day, the Judge at the High Court Number 3 in Tenerife, followed the Supreme Court rulings declaring another client’s contract with Silverpoint null & void. The judge also ordered the return of over 11,000€ plus legal interest.

Not only must the clients be celebrating, but I will wager there was some celebrating going on in the Lawyer’s office!

amador-galeca-300x191

Following the publication of yesterday’s article on the new fake law firm Amador Galeca Abogados, we received an email from a reader who has already been taken in by them. Unfortunately they have already paid the Procurator a fee, but at least it was not a large sum, yet something prompted them to start checking the internet for information before they paid them next amounts.

As we said yesterday it would only be a matter of time before we found out the new name of the Procurator and the bank account they are using, here it is:

Procurator: Graham Ingum Gorrin

Address: C/ Layanva, Edif Colmenas, Oficina 2223, 38003, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Bank: Deutsche Bank Sociedad Anonima Espa, C.P.A. BCN, Ronda General Mitre 72-74 Barcelona.

IBAN: ES3900190172854010033761

As for the address of the procurator, searching on google and google maps it does not exist, so any post sent there will obviously never be delivered.

This reader has also supplied some new and interesting information, Amador Galeca informed them that the directors of their timeshare had pleaded guilty in court and that all their assets had been seized, not bad, it seems that all the directors according to this group of fake law firms plead guilty!

The amount paid was for a relinquishment through the Spanish courts, which needed to be done first before they could go to court for compensation. The strange thing is, once again it seems that the jurisdiction of the Spanish Courts now extends beyond the borders of Spain and encompasses timeshare in the UK!

These readers have been lucky, they have not lost a huge amount, they have also informed their bank who is going to issue an alert to all other banks.

This does prove the point, never believe what you are told, especially when it comes to timeshare,

IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD, STOP THINK AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

homework

Now on with Irene’s article.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi – What about Us?

Irma Iniki and Timeshare

most people

By Irene Parker

Friday September 22 2017

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi expressed her outrage over price gouging during hurricane Irma. While her dismay is understandable and commendable, why has there been so little effort expended to come to the aid of Florida timeshare buyers alleging they were deceived into buying a timeshare? Nationwide there have been lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations too numerous to mention.

Ms. Bondi has been quick to investigate timeshare resale scams.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit against a company she accuses of violating Florida’s Timeshare Resale Accountability Act.

Florida has a specific law covering timeshare resales because it has so many of the properties, whose owners are often desperate to unload them.

In this latest case, Bondi sued Prime Resorts International, based in central Florida. She accuses the company of making telephone calls to timeshare owners all over the country, telling them they have a buyer for their timeshare. She says the company also claimed to be able to guarantee the deal would close.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/florida-sues-another-timeshare-reseller-031116.html

The Berkley Group

Sources tell us Ms. Bondi is investigating The Berkley Group. The Berkley Group owns Vacation Village Resorts. With a BBB rating of F, looking into this company is a start, but acting on only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014 seems underperforming at best.

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

Ms. Bondi opened this resale investigation after receiving 85 complaints.

The attorney general opened her investigation after she said her office got more than 85 complaints, claiming to have lost more than $110,000. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the company, consumer restitution, and a civil penalty of $10,000 per violation.

Inside Timeshare has received 144 timeshare complaints of which 130 allege they were deceived on the front end of the sale. The dollar amount in question concerns well over one million dollars. The 14 not alleging deceit say they seek relinquishment because they say they cannot afford the annually increasing maintenance fees. ARDA and the industry continue to ignore deception exists, and with lawmakers turning a deaf ear, the court of public opinion seems the only avenue open for families reporting how they have been financially devastated by their timeshare plan.

follow money

Timeshare revenue in Florida is a lot of dollars to tamper with.

As the state’s No. 1 industry, tourism is crucial to Florida’s economy – generating 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing more than one million Floridians. In 2011, tourism was responsible for welcoming 86.5 million visitors to Florida and generated $67.2 billion in direct economic impact.

http://www.flgov.com/governor-scott-applauds-floridas-tourism-marketing-2/

The industry will be quick to respond that there are nine million who own timeshares. What difference does a couple hundred families make? It makes a world of difference to the families affected who have contacted Inside Timeshare.

Recently, the Finn Law Group took issue with the lack of disclosure provided to timeshare buyers. If feeling deceived, after spending $5,000 to over $500,000 on a vacation plan, families are shocked to learn their timeshare has no secondary market and the contract is perpetual. Contracts are deceptive in that they often state points can be sold. Buyers are not informed about the lack of buyers should they need to sell.

LARGO, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–An administrative petition has been filed against Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation alleging that the agency’s approval of a request by timeshare developers to make statutorily mandated public offering statements available by providing an online address at the closing rather the furnishing hard copies violates Florida law.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170905006015/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Petition-Florida-Agency

Ms. Bondi appeared on Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi’s Property Man Show in 2016 explaining how the Florida Attorney General’s office worked with ARDA and the Department of Justice to shut down timeshare resale or release scams. Mr. Massi encouraged timeshare members to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association if they need to sell their timeshare. When I contacted LTRBA about selling our Diamond timeshare points, I was informed by several LTRBA members they know of no licensed LTRBA broker who will even accept a listing for our points due to secondary market restrictions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHCdcS2Ds-U

Inside Timeshare has also started hearing from Bluegreen members. One member is Lela Renea, a Bluegreen member and a detective. Lela Renea says she was deceived into buying a timeshare. If a Florida detective, allegedly reports being a victim of deceptive sales, what chance does the average timeshare buyer on the street have?

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

When I wrote an article for TheStreet, Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service, challenging what is in my opinion gestapo like tactics demanding Diamond members stay vacationed, Diamond demanded a rebuttal, stating they understood life’s changes could render their product a liability so they were introducing a program called Transitions that would allow qualified members in good standing a way out. That was June of 2016, yet the company has yet to introduce the program. “Qualified” is the key word. Most members contacting Inside Timeshare have loans, and many allege they succumbed to high interest rate loans and credit cards after hours long aggressive sales presentations. A timeshare must be unencumbered to be eligible for any voluntary surrender program.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

“Is Apollo Returning to its Junk Roots?” is the article Diamond found objectionable. Most remember the subprime mortgage crisis, but a decade earlier was the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond scandal that sent Michael Milken to jail for securities fraud. DBL founder and banker Leon Black filed bankruptcy on DBL only to reform and rebrand as Apollo Global Management, purchasing Diamond Resorts in 2016. If DBL liked junk bonds, which had some value, timeshare points that have no value the moment the contract is signed, should a buyer need to sell, must seem attractive.

Hurricanes and Timeshare

hurricane

One of the top complaints Inside Timeshare has received concerns upsells by timeshare sales agents on the US mainland selling against timeshare agents in Hawaii. This would be normal competition were it not for the fact the dueling agents work for the same company. Buyers tell us sales agents on the mainland side tell existing members they should not have purchased a Hawaii timeshare because of damages from hurricane Iniki that struck Hawaii on Kauai in 1992. They are encouraged to buy more points and transfer to US mainland points, despite Florida resorts included in their purchase. Obviously, Florida is at risk for hurricanes.

pam bondi 1      Ms. Bondi, please listen to us. The Arizona Attorney General has received over 900 timeshare complaints about Diamond Resorts:

http://insidetimeshare.com/arizona-attorney-generals-assurance-discontinuance/

Wyndham former timeshare sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million by a jury concerning overly aggressive and predatory timeshare techniques:

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

Eric Schneiderman’s $6.5 million settlement with The Manhattan Club:

http://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club/

In addition to member families,Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare has heard from eight current and former timeshare sales agents alarmed at the escalation in predatory sales. The following comment made by a former experienced sales agent mirrors the others.

“I watched every day, agents selling DRI for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them for doing it.  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, who still work at DRI, 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!”   This 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!”

(Charles Thomas, editors note: we have published on many occasions on the “stack and drop” tactic. This has been used for many years and we have seen it throughout Europe. It is used as a tool for upgrading or poaching other companies members. The consumer then believes they have had value for their other purchase).

It is our hope Diamond Resorts will listen and respond, along with Wyndham, Bluegreen and others, to improve timeshare sales today after the rise of “right to use” programs. In my opinion, such programs leave wide berth for misrepresentation and deceit.

The following are self-help Facebook pages representing over 1000 timeshare member families:

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

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

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

A few of the 144 families who have contacted Inside Timeshare:

Marsha, Ann and Marjorie

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-18/

Bonita Hill

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-review-clarity/

Eron Grant ARDA’s Code of Ethics

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Irina Allen

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer June 30, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-australia-no-read-correctly/

Alan Callner

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

Detective Lela Renea

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

David Franks Chapter 4

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

Karen Garello Secret Shopper June 22, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Romeo and Lily

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-9/

Dr. Jeffries

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-7/

Angela Johnson

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy-group-update/

Neina Orrillo

http://insidetimeshare.com/diamond-in-the-news-again/

Barclaycard and Member stories May 17 2917

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-barlcaycard-us/

Marjorie Menacker

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Eron Grant May 12, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-4/

Barclays Bank Charles May 11, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-finance-barclays-hot-water-high-court/

Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

A Filipino Family April 13, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

Laurie Sabbagh March 17, 2017 Clarity Review

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

A Military Family March 6, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

The Hurleys January 25, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Irina Allen January 13, 2017

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

Kathie Old December 6, 2016

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

Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award December 5, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndham-whistleblower-update/

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles November 7, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Sylvia Saldana and the Barclaycard October 25, 2016

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

Hug Your Haters! By author Jay Baer on the importance of Social Media

http://insidetimeshare.com/customer-service-message/

need you

Will anyone listen? Author Jay Baer is to be keynote speaker at the upcoming October Interval International Shared Ownership Investment Conference, attended by developers and private equity firms. In Hug Your Haters, Mr. Baer strongly urges companies to listen. Members are hopeful, but doubtful, developers will listen to him.

Thank you Irene and those that proof read your article and gave advice, timeshare is a crazy world, which is such a shame as it is a great idea, with many who have enjoyed it for many years. There are some very good developers and resorts, but the reputation of the industry is being spoilt by a few.

Have a great weekend.

weekend-picard

         

 

midweek

The Mid Week Slot: Another New Name along with an Article by Michael Kosor

During our usual morning search of various websites and forums, we came across this from Mindtimeshare, it is our old friends Litigious Abogados with a new name to add to their ever increasing family.

amador-galeca-300x191

Amador Galeca is the new name to look out for, the address is one that has been used before with one of their other incarnations:

Calle de V. Sanz, N14, 16, 38002, Santa Cruz De Tenerife

With the freephone number: 0800 802 1223

Email: galeca_ukclaims@consultant.com

Website: http://amadorgaleca.com/

They also have some new names, which are variations of those that have been used before, and what looks like a few new faces in the photographs of the “lawyers”.

amador-malodan-galeca-243x300
Amador Malodan Galeca

Once again it is going to be the same old story, we are taking your timeshare company to court, it is scheduled for trial within the next few weeks, pay ex-amount and be part of it. Then suddenly you are told you won, as the director, (we’ll bet it is Keith Baker or Keith Balker again) has pleaded guilty.

We will be publishing a fuller post on this when we have done a little more research.

On the subject of legal action against timeshare companies, those lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance have once again got another result from the Supreme Court. That now makes 58!!

This one from reports is against Silverpoint, with the court declaring the contract null and void with the return of over £63,000 plus legal interest and legal fees. They also had another win against Silverpoint at the Court of First Instance in Tenerife. Again the contract was declared null and void and the return of over £59,000.

So now on with the article which was supposed to have been published in last Friday’s Letter from America.

Timeshare and Asset-Backed Security Products

cash

By Michael Kosor

September 20, 2017

There has been an increase in defaults for some timeshare companies concerning timeshare loans packaged in their Asset-Backed Securities (ABS) products. The average consumer will recall the devastation its sister security, the Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS), created that triggered financial collapse. Consumers and regulators should pay attention to the timeshare product today so similar to the products of 2007 that led to financial devastation.

I believe this is clearly and directly related to the increase in litigation by these particular developers, targeting consumer advocates and the legal community. While there definitely are attorneys practicing questionable business practices, “Kill all the lawyers” is not the answer. Every citizen has a right to legal representation if they feel they have purchased a product sold by deceit.

Developers are rightly hypersensitive to any bad press that points to increases in loan defaults as they are sure to negatively impact ABS rating/pricing. The ABS product and the associated market are by nature complicated, not part of our public market system, so limited to sophisticated players. As such, it is not a part of mainstream news. To that end, watch a very short video published by Allison Bisbey, Editorial Director, Capital Markets Newsletter.  

https://asreport.americanbanker.com/video/diamond-resorts-abs-under-pressure-from-companys-sales-tactics

Some developers are experiencing an elevated level of defaults. In the case of Diamond Resorts, it has reached a point the rating agency for DRI, KBRA (Kroll Bond Rating Agency) recently saw fit to issue a note on the issue, albeit not surprisingly, a reaffirmation of KBRA’s original rating.

https://www.krollbondratings.com/announcements/3705

A timeshare ABS is a security whose income payments, and hence value, is derived from and collateralized or “backed” by a pool of underlying assets. Contrary to popular opinion, “hard” assets do not serve as the primary collateral – only the contractual obligation to pay. However, hard assets do provide secondary security and impact overall price/return.  

Today, the vast majority of timeshare loans are not backed by any real property interest. Timeshare ABSs sold today are little more than securitized consumer loans. Yet when I talked to the Moody analysts just a couple weeks ago about their most recent Wyndham ABS rating, they stated they use criteria established in 2003 – when a timeshare loan was typically still attached to a real estate interest.

In rating an ABS, comparisons with historical loan default rates are critical. Timeshare ABSs, notably a different underlying product than the one packaged today, report very limited/zero defaults.  This is not because the consumer default rate is or was low – to the contrary. Rather, DRI (not unlike Wyndham) uses ABS structure options allowing them to repurchase or substitute all of its defaulted loans. As a result, the ABS reports defaults as 0% while actual consumer defaults are much higher. (Note a 6% – 8% default rate for “aged” loans is informally used, if any pre-option rate is reported or available at all). Aged loans have a proven repayment history of 6 months or more. The “aged” number does not include what is certainly a much higher total consumer default percentage of timeshare loans when early defaults are included.  

The repurchase and substitution option in an ABS is typically capped at around 15% of the total. More importantly, the rating agency should not (but appear to nonetheless) give credit to the option to repurchase or substitute defaulted loans. Gross loss expectations are increasing also. It is reported in the investor literature as 11 – 12% in prior years to 13-14% today; dangerously close to underwriting limits.  

Wyndham and DRI would like its debt investors to believe the increase in defaults is due to an uncharacteristically high number of borrowers being solicited by lawyers and “scammers” offering to get consumers out of their timeshare. Thus, we see the rise in Cease and Desist letters and litigation targeting consumer “friendly” legal providers.

What is more, ABS investors, thus the developers selling timeshare ABSs, are hypersensitive to cash flow. Admittedly a bit desensitized since 2007, they will nonetheless respond when issues or news challenge a specific ABS or a class of ABS, such as timeshares.

Timeshare regulators (assuming any exist and/or pay attention) also need to be reminded that in 2007 investors experienced losses because they made decisions on bogus ratings, guarantees from mono-line insurers, and a blind faith in historically real-estate prices.  Simplistically, people ignored the quality of the contractual cash flow, relying instead on history (home price appreciation in the case of the MBS). This sounds analogous to timeshares today.  

With the rise in Social Media, timeshare members are more and more expressing increased owner unrest, disturbed by a rise in consumer complaints, as evidenced by Mark Brnovich’s issuance of Diamond’s Assurance of Discontinuance AOD fueled by over 900 consumer complaints. Is anyone paying attention?

I spoke to a Wyndham executive last month at my VOAs annual meeting. He saw this issue as a problem caused by lawyers seeking timeshare members and a major problem. With an aging population of original buyers who no longer want or need their timeshare, many don’t know where to turn when there is no secondary market and the contract is perpetual.

On a similar line, most all ABS, to include timeshares, are supported by significant “credit enhancements” to protect the investors from higher than anticipated (historical) default rates. Overcollateralization (issuing less debt than total assets held) is a particularly valued credit enhancement technique used. However, overcollateralization becomes tricky, even suspect, when the assets held by the seller have no explicit face amount/market established price as with the non-viable timeshares resale market. My impression is most agency raters, while sophisticated financial types, are not educated on the underlying change of the timeshare product pool being securitized, as most are reliant on the developers for their information and understanding.

Finally, as I noted earlier, reported default rates are zero. As a result, most rating agencies, I argue to retain clients, and many investors, dependent on industry reporting, do not dig any deeper. Both sides see no news as good news – once again analogous to the 2007 mortgage back securities fiasco. This needs to change.

risk1

Thank you Michael, not being of a financial mind, the article has been a bit of an education, I just didn’t know these things went on.

There we have it, look out for the article on Amador Galeca, more important beware of any calls or emails promising that you have money waiting for you. The truth is you haven’t, all they want is your money, so stay safe, keep your money in the bank and do your homework before parting with it.
homework kid

letter from australia

Friday’s Letter from Australia

We start September with another Friday’s Letter from Australia, just to give our American cousins a rest. Today Justin Morgan, looks at the the role private equity plays in timeshare, with the introduction and comments by our very own Irene Parker. But first a little from Europe.

europe

Earlier in August we said that it tends to be a quiet month, well this was not the case this year, as our roundup of the month article yesterday showed. We also mentioned that September usually sees the start of new companies, changes of name or even resurrected ones. Well they have started to surface already.

Doing our usual daily rounds of the internet, one site, mindtimeshare, since the beginning of August has published the names of 6 that have come to their attention. 3 of these were published yesterday. We begin with:

Appointing Consultants, with the following website, which was only registered on the 14 August, as usual, the registrant is hiding under a privacy service.

http://appointingconsultants.co.uk/

According to the website, they are a company that offers the following services:

  • Appointment Setting; We can provide your business with qualified appointments for your sales team.
  • Lead Generation; We can offer bespoke leads from both websites and telemarketing operations.
  • Customer Service; Create the best customer services team for your business.
  • Online Marketing; Run an online marketing campaign. We can help you with SEO or e-mail campaigns.
  • Data Sourcing; Source the best possible data to make your business thrive.
  • Sales Training; Teach your team with one of our professionals to be the best. (Their spelling mistake)

The thing is they are informing timeshare owners that they have grounds to make a claim, which for a telemarketing company making appointments for another company is a little worrying.

They also do not appear on any company house records.

The next one is Barlow & Scott, with the telephone number 01904 501 389 which is a York number. When checking on who is calling, one name comes up First 4 Legal, there was a company of this name registered in London, but it was dissolved in February 2012.

There is no mention of a website and they seem to be contacting Club Class members, stating that they are a solicitors office and that there is money being held for the client by the courts in Spain!

They claim that the purchase of membership was never completed as the client never had an NIE Number, no problem for £500 we can get this for you then you can get your money back.

This is however untrue, you do not need an NIE number unless you are going to live in Spain or for any of the following:

  • Open a bank account
  • Buying, selling or insuring a property
  • Arranging a mortgage or credit
  • Pay taxes
  • Being employed
  • Registering with employment agencies
  • Registering to study
  • Applying to start a business
  • Registering with social services, receiving social security benefits
  • Applying for a driving licence
  • Inheriting assets

The NIE is a Spanish Tax Number for foreigners. So beware these types of claims.

The next is called Stapleton Consultancy. Once again they claim that the Spanish courts are holding money owed to the consumer from a previous fraud. Now to get this money paid out Stapleton Consultancy will need to be paid in order to do the work. There are no contact details available, so very little is known.

There is a company called Stapleton Consulting Limited, but they are chartered building surveyors, so absolutely nothing to do with timeshare. As and when new information comes to light, we will publish it here.

This really does show that you must do your homework before dealing with any company that calls you out of the blue, especially when they inform you that you have a payment waiting to be released by a court!

homework1

Just to finish off the month of August, Canarian Legal Alliance announced yet another sentence from the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, once again it is against Anfi, who still deny that they have any cases against them.

In this particular instance the court declared the contract null & void, the infraction was again a contract over the stipulated period of 50 years. The court awarded this consumer over 23,000€, they also awarded over 4,000€ as double the amount that was taken as a deposit within the mandatory 14 day cooling off period.

If August was a quiet month, what will the next few months bring? Keep an eye on these pages and you will see.

So here we go to the land down under and this weeks article from Justin.

What Role Does Private Equity Play in Timeshare?

we the corporations

By Justin Morgan

Introduction and comments by Irene Parker

September 1, 2017

Private equity firms, traditionally providing capital to fund high growth start-ups, may be shortchanging timeshare consumers in their quest for returns typically targeted to reach higher returns than those of the public market.

Timeshare in general has been facing increased pressure due to overly aggressive sales tactics. This warning about escalating default rates was published February of this year by American BankerDiamond Resorts and Wyndham under pressure due to aggressive sales tactics. Wyndham is a publicly traded company. Diamond is owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Diamond Resorts ABS under Pressure from Company’s Sales Tactics

https://asreport.americanbanker.com/video/diamond-resorts-abs-under-pressure-from-companys-sales-tactics

The question is – how are higher returns for private equity investors won?

Is timeshare even an appropriate venue for private equity investment? Can higher returns be earned without strangling the timeshare consumer with excessive maintenance fee increases, reduced availability and other unsavory tactics driven by such demands?

Former Diamond CEO David Palmer explained this concept to investors at a September 2014 conference, according to a transcript, “Anything that is put in the budget that gets expended on an annual basis, we get our 15 percent fee, That is basically a 100 percent profit business.”

Meanwhile, timeshare members received this notification:

“Timeshare owners of the Grand Beach Resort, a 192-unit property in Orlando, Fla. … learned in a letter in September that their annual maintenance fee would rise 14.9 percent this year.”

I asked Advocate Justin Morgan, our Australian Contributor, his thoughts:

This is the ‘Super Profits’ issue that I questioned years ago… I pointed out that retail prices for vacation points were sometimes four to six times retail value across Asia and Australia. But the real focus involves turning vacation ‘currency’ into more fiat currencies at super profit level. In my opinion, they are not interested in member value at all. It’s an early version of cryptocurrency! My sentiments are no different today…even worse.

In my case, I found my Diamond Resorts account terminated for renting, although my contracts clearly gave me in writing the right to rent. If they changed the rules, that’s unfair, but virtually all timeshare contracts state the rules can be changed at any time for any reason.  It is now apparent we were ‘all-in’ against the Vegas House that takes all it can get.

Irina Allen agrees. Irina is a professional who ended up with 139,000 Diamond points alleging she was up-sold to that level by deceit. Inside Timeshare previously reported on how Irina’s account was suspended for posting one ad on RedWeek. Rental ads for Diamond points on RedWeek abound.

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

The timeshare point’s product is a cryptocurrency that offers no backing other than your promise to keep paying ‘whatever it is this year’ maintenance fee increases. Some timeshare companies force maintenance fee increases for any reason…They can then pick up default points.

Timeshare developers pocket millions and millions this way. Most members are not allowed to leave. It’s like ‘Hotel California’s’…you can check in anytime you want, but you can never check out.

“Last thing I remember, I was

running for the door

I had to find the passage back

to the place I was before

“Relax, “said the nightman,

“We are programmed to receive.

You can check-out any time you like,

But you can never leave!” The Eagles

It doesn’t matter much whether they are public or private, though I feel private equity firms have far less scrutiny. The problems lie in the legal structuring of these entities, and how they can basically bill members for whatever tab that they find is allowable. If they control the HOA, and therefore budget approvals, the rest of the structure is usually just a financing and ‘dividend’ pay out model. Wages can be like a hidden dividend, if they are simply looking to pull money from members over to those they seek to pay out:  i.e. usually management, vs the actually financiers, who are often at the back of house in the financing structure.

In my opinion these private equity firms are targeting the timeshare industry now because they understand that they can raid them by simply jacking up maintenance fees by 20%, or even their required rate of 30% return, by simply hiding cost allocations within their structure, or simply paying their executives directly from the Club. There’s no stopping what they can do under some structures. It is a license for them to take what they want.

dollar man

As reported by Business Wire, “A class action lawsuit has been filed against timeshare developer Diamond Resorts International, timeshare owners associations Bali Condominium Association and Parkway International Owners Association, and auditor RSM U.S. L.P. alleging breaches of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and professional negligence over billing practices for maintenance.”

The plaintiffs allege that the language addressing maintenance and management fees in the condominium association’s governing documents were outdated and ambiguous. The outdated language allowed the defendants to include subsequent amendments to:

  • Charge inappropriate maintenance fees.
  • Inflate management fees.
  • Hide inappropriate fees.
  • Charge costs unrelated to the maintenance and management of the timeshare development including an “indirect corporate fee.”

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

Bluegreen is exploring a possible Initial Public Offering. I asked Bluegreen member and Economics Professor Michael Nuwer if Bluegreen BBX Capitol falls into this private equity category.

http://www.otcmarkets.com/stock/BBX/news?id=167811

BBX Capitol is not a private equity firm. Alan Levan has had a significant ownership interest in Bluegreen since at least 2008. Something like 85% of BBX revenue and 75% of their income comes from Bluegreen.”  

squiggle

What falls from the mouths of timeshare company public relations departments in their message to the investment community often sounds like a foreign language to beleaguered timeshare members. New York, Tennessee, Colorado and Arizona Attorneys General settlements against timeshare companies are but the tip of the iceberg.

Thank you Justin, we look forward to more from our Australian cousins and your insights into this worldwide product called timeshare. No matter where you are, the story seems to be the same, you are the UP’s, you have the money and we will take it from you, but give you nothing but hassle in return!

It now just leaves us to say thank you to all who contribute to Inside Timeshare, a very big thank you to all the volunteer advocates of our advocacy group, who do a splendid job of helping others with their problems. Have a great weekend and we’ll be back again next week with more from the murky world of timeshare.

BBQ chef

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we continue with another chapter from our traveling writer David Franks, this week it is entitled Miami Vise, edited by Irene Parker. But as usual we begin with some news from Europe.

eu news

Back in May Inside Timeshare reported on some very nasty events in Tenerife, this involved the former Wimpy resort Los Claveles, which was subject to a management buyout by Ivan Pengelly in 1998. Over the years the resorts operated by Wimpen (Wimpy Pengelly) had very good relationships with the owners and the owners committee, this all changed when Pengelly sold out to the Ona Group. (see previous articles).

But there may just be a glimmer of hope on the horizon, it was announced this week that the arbitration process has completed and a judgement has been made. It is in total favour of the owners committee, that the Ona Group, Wimpen and the FNTC, are all in the wrong. The owners committee is legally constituted and has all the rights to run the resort. This means everything must be handed over to the committee, that Wimpen (Ona Group) have no right to collect or demand maintenance fees.

It now just needs to be seen if these companies comply with the Arbitrator, if not the committee will then have to resort to the Spanish Courts to enforce the judgement. We wish them all the very best and hope that this sorry tale will be over very soon. More on this as and when new information comes in.

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-return-bad-days-timeshare-tenerife/

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-battle-goes/

http://insidetimeshare.com/horror-weekend-los-claveles/

Now for some news which is proving to be rather disturbing.

Justice4 the claims company owned by Lee Roy Pallister, which went bust recently but re-emerged as Hello Consulting and Tucola Ltd, with his wife as named director, has been taken over. Could this be good news for all those clients who paid Justice4?

Unfortunately that may not be the case, the take over is by ABC Lawyers, yes, you did read that correctly. Mark Rowe of Monster credits, Hollywood Marketing and Jive Hippo fame is now owner of the former Justice4!

http://insidetimeshare.com/monster-credits-associated-companies-summary/

Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare

The TCA (Timeshare Consumers Association) whole heartedly endorse this, not surprising considering the TCA is also owned by Mark Rowe.

What also has to be remembered is Mark Rowe was at one time a senior sales manager for Resort Properties / Silverpoint under Mark Cushway, now look at the history of that company! Also Lee Roy Pallister is another ex-timeshare salesman. We leave it up to you the reader to decide what the implications of this will be. We think we already know what they are likely to be!

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published an article about Anfi, just after publication, news came in of a sentence which had been issued by the court, it would seem that even though it is August some people are still working.

Another loss for Anfi, at the moment we do not know the infringements ruled upon, but it is more than likely the usual, either perpetuity, floating weeks or points. In this case the ex-member has been awarded 37,224€ plus the legal fees and the court also awarded back all maintenance fees that had been paid.

Do you still believe what Anfi say, that they are not losing any court cases?

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

Our DRI Misadventures

Chapter Four: Miami Vise

miami

By David Franks

August 11, 2017

For background, you might wish to read the first three chapters:

Chapter 1: Vegas, Baby! — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/

Chapter 2: Missouri Loves Company — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-10/

Chapter 3: Stand Back. These People are Professionals  —http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-12/

(You might not. The annoyance is epical.)

April 2016 arrived. Never mind the showers; my lovely wife and I were going on a Diamond Resorts International Dream Holiday to Miami, Florida and the western Caribbean!

We started the adventure on Tuesday, April 5. I shall note at the outset that it was road and bridge construction, not DRI that turned the drive to the airport into a slightly mobile parking lot.  XNA in Bentonville, Arkansas is a lovely little airport.  It is expensive to fly in and out of XNA, but the cost was covered in the Dream Vacation package.  Score two for DRI.  Keeping their intervention to a minimum works wonders.

We arrived in Miami without incident, unless changing planes at the Houston airport is an incident. We made our way to the Penguin Hotel in Miami Beach, a nice old place on Ocean Drive in the historic South Beach Art Deco District. We had selected the hotel because of its age, and because it was possible (though not easy – see Chapter Three) to get an ocean-view room.

We arrived at the hotel to find that we did not have a room there. Somebody from DRI had decided to “upgrade” us to a brand-new room in the President Villa, a newly-remodeled building. We talked to a couple of hotel managers, met a couple more concierges, and confirmed that our reservation for an ocean-view room was in underlined capital letters in their reservation book.  Having been made aware of their faux pas, the helpful DRI people attempted to mollify us with a $100 certificate for dinner at a rather nice little bistro (double the regular value of $50). We were not mollified, but we accepted the certificate.

Unfortunately, we would not be able to have the favor of their “upgrade” corrected immediately, as there were no rooms available in the Penguin until the next day. So, guided by a helpful DRI minion, we excursed from the Penguin along a dismal alley route to the President Villa, a former office building next to the President Hotel on Collins Avenue. The conversion to residential use was not impressive. Our room was so awkwardly designed as to be uncomfortable; the bathroom would not have been even adequate for a modern resort guest. The ocean view I had struggled to get was of course not available, and the slight smell of fresh paint was no compensation. When we compared the President Villa to the Crescent Resort – and even to the dinged-up but charming Penguin – we felt that we were being treated as second-class guests.

On the other hand, the President Villa – despite its lack of accoutrements consistent with a nice hotel – did offer, under the same roof, exotic car rentals and the services of a psychic/fortuneteller.

gypsy

While we were unable to see the ocean, we were able to see from our window an endless stream of people taking selfies standing next to or sitting in Ferraris and Lamborghinis, presumably with permission.  We declined the opportunity to have a tarot reading, as we already suspected that our future with DRI was not becoming less bleak.

We trundled back over to the Penguin the next morning and took possession of our ocean-view room in time to attend a luncheon provided by DRI prior to a mandatory “buyer update” meeting that afternoon.  The luncheon, set up in the lobby of the Penguin, was actually rather pleasant (DRI managed to not interfere), and we met a few Diamond Resorts members who made a good show of not seeming like victims.

We eight or so members then went next door to the Crescent Resort and up to the penthouse, where over the course of a couple of hours we were told a couple of things that started out interesting but have since turned out to not be true: that, as Gold and Platinum members, we would be receiving a tablet computer preloaded with DRI-related software, which would enhance our owner experience; and that DRI was looking at adjusting maintenance fees based on actual resort usage, which would reduce some members’ fees (“Like ours?” I asked. “Like yours,” they said) because there’s no need to pay so much to maintain facilities one doesn’t use. Oddly enough, they didn’t try to get us to buy more membership, but they did make us stand around on the roof deck for quite some time for no apparent reason.  Particularly given the lack of veracity of the “buyer update”, we would have been better off using the afternoon thus occupied for sightseeing instead.

[Note from Irene: Maybe they read Chapters 1, 2 and 3?]

Our only interaction with a DRI concierge as such was an attempt to find the nearest Walgreens where we could get a prescription filled. He didn’t know, and he guessed wrong.

We had a good time during the remainder of our stay in Miami Beach. We had a nice bus tour, visited Calle Ocho, and enjoyed the meal at the bistro, which ended up costing a little over $100. The Penguin is a perfectly good hotel if your expectations are in line with what an old hotel has to offer. The room was fine – its ocean view was just as good as from a newer hotel – and its cafe provided a good breakfast. As it turned out, we were not charged for the upgrade to an ocean-view room. I hope the Penguin didn’t end up eating a loss caused by DRI’s interference.

group

Important points this week:

  • Although I will not attribute the change in our room reservation to malice or perversity (but what’s left?), I will note that I had explained at some length our interest in the Penguin as a historic hotel as well as our interest in an ocean-view room to everybody I talked to, and our reservation had been emphatically logged.  Calling the change an “upgrade” was a little perverse, however.
  • The Crescent Resort is a DRI property. The Penguin Hotel and the President Hotel are “Club Affiliated” properties.  DRI does not mention the President Villa at all; apparently they prefer to surprise unsuspecting guests with it.
  • Renovation tip: never hire DRI to oversee or approve of a building makeover.
  • Except for the meddling in Miami – which was the only real opportunity DRI had to screw things up –  the Dream Holiday, once underway, went well, despite the fact that it involved a seven-day Carnival cruise (which, apparently amazingly, came with an ocean-view stateroom).  My lovely wife and I thought the Dream Holiday was a good value at 7,500 points, and we saw no need for DRI to misrepresent the potential retail value of the hotel room.
  • Subsequent mentions of the tablet computers and the purported maintenance-fee adjustment to DRI customer service indicated that DRI had never discussed them with the front people at all.  Upon escalating the issues, it turned out that the tablets were supposedly an inducement for brand-new members, rather than an amenity for existing members.  One of the people I talked to said it sounded like I should get a tablet, and he would check into the matter and get back to me. (He never did.)  Based on several reactions at escalated levels of customer service, the supposed maintenance-fee adjustment was a total fabrication.
  • More concierges!  (DRI seems to be a tad lenient in bestowing the title of “concierge”, if my understanding of the office is correct.)

plane

Well, there you have it. David Franks, our intrepid travel writer, is safely back home no doubt planning his next Diamond adventure. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your Airbnb, Diamond, Bluegreen or Wyndham travel experiences. Canadian postings tell us Diamond is allowing some users to use their Diamond points to book AirBnb. As they say, if you can’t lick them, join them. More on that as we investigate further.

Contact Inside Timeshare or Diamond and Bluegreen member supported Facebooks if you would like to become an Inside Timeshare contributor.

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

This Bluegreen Facebook page of 1,670 members, Sales Team Reviews & Update/Sales Presentation Experience, is for the benefit of the members, corporate Bluegreen personnel and sales agents working towards a more honest and transparent sales process.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1718664518412381/

This Bluegreen Facebook page seems to be a sort of self-help Facebook for members helping members.

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

So there it is, the end to another week, Inside Timeshare again thanks all contributors to the articles, we also thank those who have sent in details on their dealings with some of the companies that have featured. Without that information it would be difficult to give you the facts.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week for more news and truthful facts on the murky world of timeshare.

weekend02

volunteer quote

What a Volunteer Does for Nothing!

As usual the industry attacks those that highlight their failings, this time it is the turn of our main writer and colleague Irene Parker.

In today’s article Irene’s husband Don, who knows her better than anyone else comes to her defense, like the knight in shining armour. Inside Timeshare has seen these sort of tactics many times in the past, the industry trying to discredit those who are doing some good, letting you know what they upto.

If the industry and the industry trade bodies, not just ARDA in the US but the RDO in Europe, focused on the failings of their own members instead of attacking and making snide comments about others, then maybe, just maybe we would have an industry that we could believe in.

For too long the industry has been riding roughshod over you the consumers, allowing their sales agents to lie to you just to get the sale, continually upgrading when you don’t actually need it. Collecting maintenance fees yet giving you nothing in return.

Then comes along someone like Irene, who gives all and expects nothing in return, take a leaf out of her book. She is known as the Peasant of Venice, as opposed to the Queen of Versailles (madam Westgate). Irene is an inspiration to many, she has pulled together many others who volunteer their time to help others all for no personal gain other than satisfaction that they have helped and made a difference.

We now leave the stage to Don.

ARDA, Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen

Irene does not get paid!

volunteer

By Don Parker

July 19, 2017

On more than one occasion, my wife Irene told me there are those at ARDA and at Diamond Resorts convinced Irene is receiving compensation from timeshare members who contact her asking for assistance after they explain how they feel they were victims of deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.

While I understand it might be difficult for those earning high salaries to comprehend why someone would forfeit their retirement opting to spend 40 to 50 hours per week advocating for others, people that know Irene and have worked side by side with her in previous advocacy efforts will vouch for her credibility.

Irene and I have been together for 35 years. Here are a few examples of Irene’s past efforts:

n Jersey seal

In New Jersey Irene ended up at the Drop-In Center for Aids patients in Newark. One Sunday we heard about an Aids Awareness Day at a Catholic Church in New Jersey where we lived at the time. Diocese wide, 90 volunteers were recruited. The problem was the Diocese did not expect that level of interest. They had no program. Having sent the Diocese a letter presenting her volunteer experience, the Bishop requested an interview with her. He sent Irene to meet Brother Joe McAlister at the Newark Aids Drop-in Center. When Irene told Brother Joe the Bishop recruited 90 volunteers to help with the 8,000 cases of Aids in New Jersey, Brother Joe replied, “We don’t need any fxxxing Florence Nightingale’s here.” After a staring contest, Irene asked Brother Joe, “Do you need money?” He wavered. Irene reached into her purse, took out her checkbook and wrote a check for $35 to buy a coffee maker for one patron and an iron for a Hispanic man who liked to iron his shirts. After that Brother Joe, the Drop-In Center patrons and Irene became the best of friends. I helped out too and have to say I learned a lot from those brave souls. That was about 30 hours per week unpaid.

Hawaii

In Hawaii Irene worked with the Salvation Army and was a founding mother of the Waimea Salvation Army Board on the Big Island. She worked about 10 volunteer hours a week helping the Army find appreciable assets for their Charitable Remainder Trust program. Hawaii has a high tax rate and Irene had several clients who could use the tax benefits provided by a Charitable Remainder Trust. She and their development director also gave presentations around the islands.

Irene came home from work one day with a Korean baby and mom. Irene had learned dad was alcoholic and addicted to heroin. He was a Harvard graduate and fellow Rotarian. Before I knew it we were at the Korean Embassy in Honolulu arranging to fly mom and baby back to South Korea so they could get out of Dodge before the baby was placed in foster care. Mom was here illegally since Dad never married her. Salvation Army Major Ganot advised us on how to handle this situation which led to Irene’s Salvation Army involvement. Major Ganot could be a major in anyone’s army. She worked 26 years in Haiti.

mich

Irene got really mad in Michigan. By now she had retired from the brokerage business and had been hired as a pipe organist and Music Director for a Catholic church. One day there appeared in the paper an article about how a few bad apple nuns sexually abused 120 Indian boys from the 1st to the 7th grade back in the 60s and 70s. Just like timeshare, our Priest said there is no evidence this happened, despite a four part article with the surviving victims interviewed by an Indian working on her Ph.D.

Before long, Irene and I were at the tribal headquarters meeting with the Chippewa Peacemaker (judge) and about a month later we were with Peacemaker Paul at the Diocese meeting with the Bishop demanding an apology. That’s all they wanted. But, just like timeshare, an apology is a tall order as it really is an admission of guilt. This was a good Bishop who listened and did offer an apology to a group of people and in print media. Irene calls them Indians because the root of the word means In-Dios, in God, and American means Amerigo Vespucci who contributed to the destruction of their land and people.

wku

Kentucky was another state where Irene worked full time for free as a CASA volunteer, advocates on behalf of children in foster care. After about a year, Irene raised enough money to fund a “Fostering Futures” program assisting teens aging out of foster care, who had agreed to extend their commitment for educational purposes. This population of youth “aging out” is probably the highest risk population in the country. Since Kentucky was the last state we lived in, there are many at CASA who will vouch for Irene’s efforts like Debbie Harwood and Andrew Wollin who wrote a grant in order to hire Irene to be a full time paid CASA Supervisor writing and editing court reports for children in foster care. CASAs also attend all hearings and trials.

Debbie can also vouch for the effort Irene put into selling ads for the Ombudsman program housed at legal aid. Ombudsmen advocate on behalf of nursing home patients. Irene put in about 20 volunteer hours per week on that one for several months.

Last, but not least, Irene became a Volunteer Enactus Advisor at Western Kentucky University helping Burmese Karenni refugee women, not literate in their own language, sell beautifully woven scarves and bags at the Farmer’s Market and was able to introduce them to a few stores. Irene convinced me I should teach a few of the Burmese how to drive (on our car). Enactus is a worldwide organization partnering major corporations with universities worldwide to improve impoverished populations. She completed a WKU graduate course on “Teaching English as a Second Language” concentrating on pre-literate learners. The Burmese speak over five languages. They are not dialects.

croc

That brings us to Florida where we live now. While we were in between houses, waiting for our home in Venice to be built, we attended a predatory timeshare presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach Resort in Orlando. The reason I say it was predatory is because I was 77 years old at the time. The last thing I needed was vacation points. I remember Irene asking three times if we would be paired with a commissioned sales agent as we were only interested in long term care plans at this stage of our life. Told no because there had been so many complaints, we were held for over three hours by bad and worse cops that left Irene so angry she wrote to Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi of Fox Business Property Man. Out of all the viewers who responded to a show about Westgate Timeshare called “The Queen of Versailles”, Irene and I were selected for an interview because the producer told her she was the only respondent who wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives concerning timeshare. Irene has called herself “The Peasant of Venice” ever since.

love

I hope this answers the question, “Does Irene get paid to assist timeshare members who are angry, confused, overwhelmed and desperate?”  

Instead of worrying about whether Irene gets paid or not, I hope ARDA, Diamond and Bluegreen will think about the harm being done to so many consumers. Instead of attacking my wife, I think they should track down the sales agents using unscrupulous tactics and drain the swamp of them, instead of always saying the sales agent didn’t say that.

I am the first person to read Irene’s articles and the articles submitted to her written by other timeshare members. I’ve heard and learned a lot about timeshare. Not all presentations are predatory. We are actually not unhappy with our Diamond points. I don’t know that I would use the word happy, but our first two sales presentations before 2015 were professional. It seems the escalation in aggression has really ramped up over the last two or three years.

When Irene and the member run into a dead end with the timeshare company, she does refer to a variety of lawyers. She receives no compensation from any attorney unless you consider the time a few of them give for legal editing.

By now, if you are still reading, you might be asking why Irene is so determined to find and assist victims. When Irene was 24 years old her best friend, Jayme Simmons, asked if she could live with her because she was afraid of her husband. Jayme and her two year old daughter left after two months. A week later her husband John Moore shot her in the face three times in front of her daughter. He served only seven years in a California prison. That kind of an event can have a lasting effect. You could say Irene has channeled that anger into advocacy.

I hope others volunteer to help write timeshare reports because there has been an increasing number of callers and emailers. We hope someday, somewhere, a lawmaker or regulator or AARP will either stop the predatory behavior or enough public exposure alerts the public to buyer beware.  Irene knows there are also a lot of Wyndham members who complain, but they have not been calling – yet.

Contact Inside Timeshare or Irene if you have a concern about your timeshare purchase, but I kindly ask that you call between the hours of 1 to 5 PM Eastern Standard Time as that is a good time to call. Irene writes reports and articles in the mornings.

peasent of vinice card

There you have it, that is what it means to be a VOLUNTEER, something these businesses fail to understand. It is not all about money, it is about doing what is right.

In Spain we are seeing the industry on the run, their failure to abide by the laws because they believed they were above the law, is now starting to bite them back. Millions of Euros are being awarded back to consumers by the courts. Other European countries are looking at Spain to see how they can protect the consumer from these timeshare giants.

The industry needs to take note, carry on running it like you do, then there will not be an industry left. Consumers are getting wise to your tactics, Inside Timeshare will publish what you do wrong, but we will also publish when you get it right. We would love to publish more positive articles, timeshare could be a good product, but your greed has destroyed what was once loved by many.

time for change

       

 

get-involved

Timeshare Advocacy Group: Update

Today Inside Timeshare welcomes a new writer and contributor from across the Great Lake, Angela Johnson. Firstly Irene Parker gives an update on our Timeshare Advocacy Group, with a new Secret Shopper Programme being launched. We certainly look forward to reading some of the reports from this project.

At the end of the article, we give a summary of the latest Class Action against Diamond, which we published in Friday’s Letter From America. The summary has been published as a PDF attachment, due to the length, just click to read.

On now with today’s article, firstly Irene followed by Angela.

The Results of our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Pilot

“If you build it they will come” Field of Dreams

pointer

Introduction by Irene Parker

Don’t Give Up Your Gold Key Deed

By Angela Johnson

The Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Pilot now has a team of leaders that will assist timeshare owners and members in distress over timeshare problems they have not been able to resolve through their own efforts. Any timeshare problem can and will be resolved through the “3Rs or F of timeshare” – Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure. The class action complaint at the end of today’s article (attached as a PDF) details what members facing this last unfortunate option must endure.

Many highly educated, professional people who have contacted our Advocacy Group, almost all with 800 credit scores, are facing foreclosure for the first time in their life. I found line 77 of the class action complaint particularly appalling:

That Defendant continued to place several dunning telephone calls to Plaintiff’s cellular phones using an automated telephone dialing system and/or a pre- recorded or artificial voice.

77. That Plaintiffs were charged for the phone calls made by Defendant to their cellular phones.

Clearly people who have lived their entire life financially untroubled, need support and direction during this most discomforting foreclosure process.

 

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has also launched a Secret Shopper program – a real one.

Laurie Sabbagh was our first secret shopper. Many timeshare buyers fall victim to the oral representation clause. Many contracts, not just timeshare, contain a clause that states “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” Timeshare has for years been notorious for using and abusing this clause to get a prospect to sign a contract to buy vacation points by fabricating reasons for purchase that venture far afield from reality. Laurie reports her experience, offering prospective timeshare buyers valuable advice in regard to the value of travel awards.

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Our two newest additions to our Leadership Team are Angela Johnson, Advocate Coordinator, and Karen Garello, Secret Shopper Coordinator. Angela shares her Advocacy experience this week and next week Karen Garello will tell us what happened to her and why she has volunteered to become more involved.

Angela went through Diamond Resort’s Advocacy Department to air her grievance against Diamond’s Williamsburg Virginia sales center. In all fairness, although never admitting wrongdoing, Diamond has helped several families. Angela was not in that fortunate group so she reached out to our member sponsored Diamond Resort’s Advocacy Facebook.

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

I should add that my husband and I purchased points in Williamsburg. Both sales agents were courteous and professional. We hope our advocacy efforts will support timeshare sales agents trying to sell timeshare points in a non-deceptive way without resorting to a “bait and switch” as Angela alleges in her article.

A Warning: Don’t give up your Gold Key Deed!

By Angela Johnson

June 12, 2017

woman

My complaint was long and complicated, but I felt it was important not to leave out any details. After submitting a 2,000 word complaint to Diamond’s Advocacy department, my mom and I were told we were stuck with the timeshare points we didn’t need and didn’t know we had bought until we got home and opened the first bill.

After being declined a refund, I reached out to the member sponsored Diamond Advocacy Group. After reviewing my complaint, we reduced my accusation from 2000 to 37 words, thinking this would make it easier to understand. While I did get an immediate call back, I was told I was going to be assigned to another Diamond Advocate team member. I gave up at that point because my complaint had already been investigated. My 37 words were so simple there was no need to start over.

My mom and I met with Diamond sales agent Eursla Giles-Jones at a Diamond Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia. What happened, simply put, was this:

Angela: “I cannot afford two loans.”

Eursla: “We are going to combine the two loans.”

Angela: “But I did a credit card balance transfer to reduce the high interest rate.”

Eursla: “We can still combine them. I can make it happen.”

Then the dodge began. My mother was with me when we bought the points. We both heard what Eursla said. I have since learned about the oral representation clause allowing timeshare sales agents to say anything since often there is no proof. We did not have proof. I ended up with two loans instead of one. There is no way I can afford both loans. I did not know about this until I started receiving the bills long after the period when I could have cancelled the contract.

I feel there is a need for timeshare members to be able to have an organization to turn to before taking the drastic step of calling a lawyer. Given I have double loan payments, I can’t afford a lawyer. I had not even thought of contacting the following organizations that I now know exist thanks to the Timeshare Advocacy Group ™. Contacting the following organizations is my next step.

  • The FBI, due to alleged deceit and “bait and switch”,
  • ARDA for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics,
  • Attorneys General where we signed our contract, where we live and the state where the resort is domiciled,
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option and the bank that financed our loan or issued the credit card,
  • Federal Trade Commission for violating “The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 which outlaws unfair methods of competition and outlaws unfair acts or practices that affect commerce.”
  • State Real Estate divisions against the agents. as most states require sales agents to be real estate licensed (the agent’s ID number is helpful)

My mom and I were Gold Key owners holding a deed, but we gave up our deed so we are now Diamond point members. As members, we don’t own anything. We deeply regret this decision. I have since read several posts on our Advocacy Facebook warning Gold Key owners not to give up their deed. I have joined this cause hoping to warn others to check the facts before you sign.

signing contract

Thank you to Angela for sharing her story. Let us know if you need assistance or would like to share your story.  

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ will be scaling up the Pilot to three satellite programs at the request of many. Thus, our most recent US Inside Timeshare article was about a Wyndham owner.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-8/

The article lists what I find to be the salient parts of Diamond’s new CLARITY™ program issued in response to the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance. If just those points are abided by and enforced, there would be no need for timeshare Advocacy Facebooks.

Next week: Secret Shopper Coordinator Karen Garello rolls out Secret Shopper

***

ExcerptfromClassActionDiamond (1)

Things are certainly moving, owners / members are mobilising in a way not seen before, they are starting to realise that together they can achieve more. Through groups such as our Timeshare Advocacy Group you now have a voice along with others to share with and also offer sound advice.

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, contact us through our comments section. If you have been in contact with any company, be it resale, claims or any other offer and you are not sure about them, contact us and we will put you in the right direction.

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

Welcome to this week’s Letter From America, from Irene Parker, as usual in her own style she explains what is happening across the Great Lake, but first a look at the week’s news in Europe.

Inside Timeshare is receiving many questions about the Anfi SGM and the vote to change the constitution, it seems to be causing a lot of confusion. No one seems clear as to what it is all about, so in a nutshell here it is.

Voting on Resolution 1

To establish occupancy periods for a maximum of 50 years duration, with an option to extend for further recurring occupancy periods of 50 years.

This will bring the contracts in line with the 50 year rule established in Spanish timeshare law, but it allows you to extend voluntarily to another 50 years.

Voting on Resolution 2

To limit the duration of the Timeshare Scheme to a maximum of 50 years.

The same as resolution 1 without the option to extend to another 50 years.

Voting on Resolution 3

Total change of Timeshare Scheme to adapt to Spanish Act 4/2012.

This adapts the contract to  “Rotational Enjoyment Rights” Anfi explains it thus:

“Every current holder of a membership certificate shall be allocated a number of rotational enjoyment rights, equal to the number of membership certificates they currently hold and which will entitle them to enjoy the same week of use as they currently hold”.

It will not make any difference unless you accept the new contract and sign them, it will however affect any new sales and those contracts.

As usual it is framed to confuse, why is it that anything to do with timeshare is made complicated, confusing and difficult for mere mortals to understand. Well, quite simply that is how they sold it to you in the first place!

The courts in the Canary Islands have been busy again this week, with many cases against timeshare companies being heard. Some of these sentences have yet to be announced, but as usual, we think we all know the outcome!

It has also just been announced that another ex-Anfi owner who won their case some time ago, has now received into their bank account the awarded amount. Their contract was declared null & void and now they can enjoy the 15,531€ as well as being timeshare free.

We have also been inundated with enquiries into several “claims” companies, all offering claims on a no win no fee basis. Then comes the crunch, they want several thousand pounds upfront! Obviously this is to relinquish the timeshare then the claim will be pursued, this claim is more than likely to be under the Credit Consumer Act 1974, Section 75. Which as we have stated before will not get paid out as the purchase was more than likely over the 6 year limit, (limitations act) or the fact that they will say you have received the goods and services as you have used the timeshare.

Again it pays to be cautious, so on with our Letter from America.

A Tina Timeshare Pinocchio Tale

Told by a Wyndham owner, possibly foreclosed by now, Mr. Patrick

pinocchio

By Irene Parker

June 9, 2017

Wyndham member Gene Patrick was one of several Wyndham owners to go to the trouble of making a YouTube about his timeshare trouble, continuing on with our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” series.

Comments ranged from “this is the most boring video I’ve ever watched” to “this is the most informative video I’ve ever watched.”

Mr. Patrick is a videographer. I side with the latter, although the video is long at 45 minutes. Mr. Patrick is also an effective storyteller, but for those who would rather read a short article than watch the video, here are the seven lies (allegations) he described. He seemed to lose count after three, but I believe I found seven. Mr. Patrick did provide a disclaimer stating these were his opinions or allegations, a word I have come to detest in that, even if only half the highly educated and professional people asking Inside Timeshare for assistance with their timeshare troubles are telling the truth, Timeshare has a problem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q218fyTmYpc

The back and forth comments among the 244 respondents sound familiar. Timeshare Facebooks that maintain a quota of happy vs angry members, admonish the angry members as irresponsible suckers that should have known better. Lawmakers and timeshare developers seem to agree with those hurling insults.

A Timeshare Tale

bloke

Gene and Melissa Patrick used his mom’s RCI points to stay at a Wyndham Resort. He was told he had to attend a member update or he would be charged $77 for a gift. He should have stopped right there, but like so many of our readers, he continued on.

We will call the sales agent Tina Timeshare as the sales agent in the video is like so many others we have reported on. As we always say, we know there are those trying to work fairly and honestly in timeshare, but the proportion of bad apples seems to be higher than even the proverbial used car salesman. Watch the video, but give it a chance. It seems boring in the beginning but the plot becomes more interesting as it thickens. For now, we will just itemize the allegations mentioned.

#1 A timeshare is tax deductible

This is a gray area, so we will defer to RedWeek and TimeSharing Today. Tax laws change, so a date would have been helpful. Apparently, in Mr. Patrick’s case, his timeshare was not tax deductible.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/articles/timeshare-tax-deductions

#2 Jim Cramer of Mad Money said Wyndham is a good investment.

Yes, Jim Cramer has been known to tout timeshare stocks, but that is not the same as saying buying a timeshare is a good idea. Mr. Patrick learned that the television clip he was shown was about Wyndham stock. Fifteen insiders made over $600,000 million on the Apollo buyout of Diamond, but that doesn’t mean buying the timeshare is a good idea. Mr. Patrick feels timeshare stock investors make money at the expense of so many who are duped into buying a timeshare.

One of our readers reported that he was shown a clip of the Ellen DeGeneres show at his Mystic Dunes presentation and told Ellen bought “hundreds of thousands” of Diamond points. Inside Timeshare is following up with Ellen on that one.

This is a good time to slip in the article I wrote for Jim Cramer’s investment news service, TheStreet, about timeshare contracts. At least Cramer allows opposing views.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13653117/1/the-timeshare-industry-has-improved-its-reputation-but-still-faces-scrutiny.html

Tina advised Mr. Patrick that he had to promise not to sell the membership to someone for a higher price than what he had to pay. It was at this point Mr. Patrick began to lose track of the lies. “The pace of the deceit was so fast I could not keep up,” he lamented.

#3 Wyndham has a buy-back program

Mr. Patrick said his job had just been cut to 32 hours from 40 and he was unsure about his employment stability. “Not to worry Mr. Patrick! Wyndham has a buy-back program,” Tina assured him.

#4 The 90 minutes presentation was heading into its eighth hour

My favorite is #5

#5 God wants you to buy a Wyndham timeshare! He wants you to enjoy life.

Mr. Patrick might have been confused at this point because Tina probably meant “God wants me to enjoy life.”

#6 Your credit is Golden!!!

Melissa raises an eyebrow. “Our credit is golden?  Our credit score is less than 650. Our credit is not golden.” Mr. Patrick might have been confused here as well, because 650 is no problem whatsoever for a timeshare purchase so in that sense, his credit was golden, at least for the sales agent.

#7 is a sin of omission. Maintenance fees go up.

It wasn’t until the eighth or ninth hours, with pens in hand, were the Patricks told about maintenance fees and at that point they were about to collapse from exhaustion it seemed. The kids were getting a little tired too.

the end

That’s the end of our article, but we don’t know the end of the story. We do know that after Mr. Patrick lost his job he learned the hard way Wyndham did not have a buy-back program.

Which side are you on?

Like timeshare sales agent Chuck used to tell us on our timeshare Facebook, we’re all irresponsible suckers and should have known better. Lawmakers, timeshare developers and some Attorneys General seem to be on Chuck’s side.

ARDA says nine million own timeshares and 83% are happy with them. That leaves 1,530,000 not happy with most complaining about being sold by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. I’m on the side that thinks timeshare needs greater disclosure.

Diamond Resorts agrees too as they have launched a CLARITY™ program that, if followed, and that’s a big if, does provide accurate statements about their program. Inside Timeshare has heard stories reporting when CLARITY™ has worked and when it hasn’t.

The consumer is not off the hook here. I don’t blame the buyer for not reading word for word an 81 page contract, but the CLARITY™ forms ARE easy to read and are written in English rather than legalese. Items in bold are in bold on the form. I would have bolded what I have underlined. There are 20 items to be initialed on the legal size single sheet including:

I have reviewed the chart of Maintenance Fees for past years. I understand annual increases are normal.

The purchase of additional points will not decrease my maintenance fees.

Diamond does not offer a buy-back program and makes no representation regarding tax deductions, refinancing opportunities, or that there will be a secondary market for the sale of Points. Points do not typically appreciate in value.

I many not engage in any commercial rental activity to rent out Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public and understand that my membership may be suspended or terminated if I do.

My membership is perpetual and may transfer by gift, or intestate succession upon my death. However, the transferee is not obligated to accept the transfer.

Redeeming points for reimbursement of travel services does not provide the best monetary value for my Points and is typically not lower in cost than spending cash for the same arrangements.

Non-Platinum Loyalty members cannot redeem Points for Maintenance Fees. Only Platinum Loyalty members may use Points to pay part of their annual Maintenance Fees, but that is not the highest and best use of Points. There is a $100 transaction fee and the redemption value per Point is currently $0.04 per Point and a maximum of 50,000 points can be redeemed.  

That about covers what Inside Timeshare has heard from readers asking Inside Timeshare for assistance with their Diamond complaints. I fell for two of the above.

So the moral of this story is not “Don’t buy a Timeshare” but “Timeshare Buyer Beware” and talk to a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare to compare the cost of buying resale or from the developer and the benefits or lack of benefits for doing so. Some may specialize in one resort or another like David Cortese of Magical Realty who specializes in Marriott Vacation Club, or Judi Kozlowski of RE/MAX who likes Hilton Grand Vacations, feeling Hilton has the most consumer friendly secondary market.

Contact Inside Timeshare or our member sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook to join the discussion.

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/

There we have it, another week over and time to enjoy the weekend, breakout the BBQ’s, open a few tinnies or some vino and as our Aussie cousins say “Stick another shrimp on the barbie”!

Have a great weekend and as we always say before engaging with any company that either contacts you or you contact with anything to do with timeshare, it pays to do your homework!

stop press 1

Just as we were getting ready to hit the publish button this latest news has just come across The Great Lake from Irene Allen.

Lawsuit: Diamond Resorts ‘Harasses’ Timeshare Owners

 

https://www.classaction.org/news/lawsuit-diamond-resorts-harasses-timeshare-owners

It tells of a huge class action filed on 10 May 2017, so it looks like Diamond are being hit on both side of the lake!

 

weekend02

 

us-eu-coop

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.

cards

Timeshare and Barlcaycard in the US

The Barclay MasterCard and US Timeshare Lending

By Irene Parker

May 17, 2017

Inside Timeshare published an article about Barclays Bank and the predatory nature of timeshare lending. Author Charles Thomas asked me to provide some input on how timeshare credit card lending works in the US.

Barclays Bank article by Charles Thomas May 11, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-finance-barclays-hot-water-high-court/

Linked in the article, Money Marketing reported the following March 2017:

Barclays Bank consumer credit arm Clydesdale Financial Services is being sued for more than £1.5m by 106 consumers over a holiday home timeshare scheme.”

According to Consumer Affairs, the Barclay Card is rated one star out of five based on 63 ratings out of 585 reviews (May 15, 2017).

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/credit_cards/barclays.html

Charles provided the following figures as an illustration of how imprudent it is to finance a vacation at 17%. The cause: Sales agents extremely well trained and consumers suffering from a relaxed vacation brain.

These are the figures from one loan agreement over 15 years Inside Timeshare has been given for a 1 week timeshare, it is from Barclays:

Cost of the timeshare                   £10,900.00

Credit facility fee                           £65.00

Interest                                             £18,465.00

Total amount payable                  £29,430.00

Interest rate                                    17.6%

APR                                                     17.7%

 

Timeshare is certainly not the only industry that has led consumers into credit card debt up to their eyeballs. As a former investment representative working with approximately 1200 families, looking back, I would say about 10% of the families I worked with managed their money properly. Certainly, rule number 1 should be:

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION AT 12% TO 19%

Wyndham and Diamond both use the Barclaycard as a means to finance a timeshare. Just to compare ratings, Consumer Affairs gave Club Wyndham a one star rating based on 74 ratings out of 495 reviews.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/wyndham_vacation_resorts.html?page=3

As if the interest rate isn’t bad enough, consumers also must worry about falsified information used to open the card.  Lisa Etienne, a Diamond Resorts buyer, found herself in hot water claiming the company added a 1 before her actual annual earnings, as reported by Amanda Porterfield, CBS58 Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

http://www.cbs58.com/story/35376892/milwaukee-woman-says-timeshare-company-scammed-forged-her-documents

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from timeshare owners claiming the Barclaycard was used in a predatory fashion. Actions speak louder than words, so I took the time to review the complaints we have received. Out of about 70 complaints, almost half involve a claim of deceptive and predatory lending. Most said they purchased because they were offered buyback or maintenance fee redemption programs that do not exist.

Michael Nuwer, on our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Facebook, posted the following in answer to one member’s query. Over and over we receive complaints about a 30 cent per point maintenance fee redemption program that does not exist. Members are upsold, told they have to be at a higher loyalty level, often through the Barclaycard, in order to gain access to the nonexistent program. Historically Diamond points have sold for $2 to $4 per point.

“Platinum members can pay a portion of their maintenance fees using their points from November 1 through to the annual bill due date at the current redemption rate of $.04. The non-refundable processing fee is $100.00.” (Page 23 Benefits Guide)

This is an excerpt from the very first complaint I read. Stunned, I vowed I would do something to warn consumers. Since this first complaint, Inside Timeshare in the US and the EU has received dozens of complaints concerning the same tactics described below. Dozens may not sound like a lot, but given how difficult it is for members to contact other members, clearly a pattern exists as you will see later on.

“I am at the Cancun resort in Las Vegas and went to a breakfast where they said they would simply update me about the changeover to Diamond. I was told that I should have been invited to a dinner where I would have been given options due to their (Monarchs) bankruptcy. I have been looking to get out of Monarch for over a year. They said that was not an option and as an owner, I was proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. I am already in severe debt. They claimed when they ran my credit though that it looked better than most and assured me I qualified for financing. I would have to basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now. I am really scared though. Please help!”

As Diamond is not able to be sold through a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, and relinquishments are evaluated “case by case”, members find themselves stuck, running in the “hamster wheel” timeshare trap. The member is foreclosed and points are then resold to the next consumer at full value. Even if a relinquishment is granted, when the purchase is recent, but regretted due to abuse of the oral representation clause, families can find themselves financially devastated.

I revisited the cases of members who contacted Inside Timeshare. We have many complaints about the tactics used at Diamond’s Polo Towers Resort in Las Vegas. Diamond has resolved issues for some of the members, but we continue to receive complaints about this sales center. Sales agent Rick Casper even made the RipOff Reports in 2015.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/diamond-resorts-international/las-vegas-nevada-89123/diamond-resorts-international-rick-casper-vacation-counselor-we-were-told-that-we-would-1269511

Other Complaints

Plaintiffs Gisele Fournier and Rejean Fournier of Riverside County, California May 12, 2017. Their credit card was allegedly charged $2,000 for the membership upgrade, and the upgrade caused their monthly membership dues to nearly double, according to the Diamond Resorts class action lawsuit. They claim they were pressured again into purchasing a membership upgrade and were reportedly mocked by Diamond Resorts’ agents because they did not bring a credit card to the meeting.

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/670995-class-action-diamond-resorts-pressures-buyers-timeshare-contracts/comment-page-1/#comment-439596

Kathie Olds on December 6, 2016 reported being told she could redeem points for 50 cents a point to pay maintenance fees. The sales agent promised the Olds they could open a Barclaycard to pay maintenance fees without explaining the reimbursement was on only 1.5%.

barclaycard1

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

Fast forward to May 12, 2017 Kathie reported:

Yesterday in St. Martin sales agent Riza Young and her manager said that through travel services we could cash in 20,000 points for $.30 per point to pay for $6,000 in maintenance fees. We were also told at Grand Beach Resort in Orlando that if we bought 10,000 more points for $38,000 we could cash in 20,000 points for $10,000 to totally cover our maintenance fees of $8500 +. Both are total lies! She told us she “hates it when agents lie to us.”

Oddly enough, the Better Business Bureau rates Barclays Bank Delaware an A+, given out of 43 reviews, three were positive, one neutral and 39 were negative. There were a total of 988 complaints.

https://www.bbb.org/delaware/business-reviews/banks/barclays-bank-delaware-in-wilmington-de-22002677/reviews-and-complaints

Our readers warning other readers

Inside Timeshare Chronological Articles

Marjorie Menacker – Marjorie says her Diamond timeshare sales agent said she would not have to pay maintenance fees anymore thanks to a one day secret offer.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Eron Grant May 12, 2017 reported she was told about a non-existent 30 cent buy-back program.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-4/

Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017 reported she was not aware until she returned home $17,000 had been charged to a Barclaycard to buy $143,000 of Diamond vacation points. She said she was told to open the card because it would help pay maintenance fees. Polo Towers Resort

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

A Filipino Family April 13, 2017 reported they are in foreclosure.  At a meeting, the sales pitch was, we need to completely get rid of our Monarch points by buying more Diamond points in order to prevent the increase in maintenance fees due to less and less people owning Monarch. Four Barclaycards were opened. Cancun Resort in Las Vegas

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

A Military Family March 6, 2017 reported “Jose, the Supervisor, recommended we buy more Points as that would lower our Maintenance fees by taking back the Sampler. We were also financing the Sampler, so he said they could keep my monthly payment the same”.

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

Irina Allen January 13, 2017 reported she must pay $2,400 a month in mortgage payments at 18% and $29,000 in maintenance fees while her account is suspended. She was accused of posting an ad on RedWeek to rent her points. She was also accused of opening an AirBNB accounts. Irina has never had an AirBNB account.

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

Sylvia Saldana October 25, 2016 reported being told to open a Barclaycard to pay maintenance fees and to buy more points. The Saldana’s gave back $60,000 worth of points and still have a $33,000 home equity loan which their sales agent advised them to take out to reduce Diamond’s high interest rate.

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

The Hurleys, a retired Canadian military family January 25, 2017 reported their struggle with maintenance fees having been convinced to invest their entire life savings thinking they were buying something better than a second home.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Related articles

The Arizona Attorney General issues an “Assurance of Discontinuance”, essentially placing Diamond under state supervision March 1, 2017  

http://insidetimeshare.com/arizona-attorney-generals-assurance-discontinuance/

Our Diamond Member Sponsored Advocacy Group February 15, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/owners-coming-together-help/

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/

Chicken Soup for Timeshares Soul February 7, 2017 on how to file a complaint

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

Billion Dollar Lawsuit filed against Diamond Resorts February 1, 2017

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

Shawbrook and Barclay Bank Inside Timeshare July 11, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/shawbrook-bank-announce-irregularities-timeshare-loans-similar-activities-usa/

Sometimes it is hard to focus on the positives when it feels like the battle is all uphill. All we can do is reach out to those who feel like they are lost and alone to let them know Inside Timeshare and our Advocacy Groups are there for them to reach an outcome, whether positive or negative, through the 3Rs or F of Timeshare – Resolution – Relinquishment – Refund – Foreclosure –

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

Once again thank you Irene, this article is just one in a long line of how the banks are colluding with timeshare developers and sales agents to line their own pockets at the expense of you the consumer. This type of lending does and has caused endless misery and financial difficulty for many.

In some respects, we believe that this is verging on the criminal, with no thought or concern for those who are affected.

If you have been a victim of this type of operation contact Inside Timeshare or our Facebook Advocacy page.

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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/

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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 F@#*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

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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.

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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.