Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene, as you will see from her article this week there is certainly a lot going on across the Great Lake. For our US readers there is some very interesting information, it would seem that Inside Timeshare is certainly making an impact on timeshare consumers in the US.
On the European front, yesterday’s article regarding Anfi members complaints regarding availability, the article had a plethora of hits and likes on the associated Facebook page within the first hour. It also seems as though this topic hit home with our US readers as there were many from across the pond.
Yesterday we also had the first court ruling of the week, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Puerto Calma, declaring the contract null and void. The client in this case will be returned 16,000€ which is the purchase price, along with 3,600€ as double the deposit paid within the mandatory cooling off period. The court also awarded legal interest.
We will be keeping an eye on any latest rulings that come in and report them here, but now on with this weeks article by Irene Parker.
Timeshare Advocacy Group™
Proposed Committees and Support Groups
January 23, 2018
By Irene Parker
Inside Timeshare is approaching 300 timeshare reader responses, responding to members asking for assistance with their timeshare concerns since we began counting late 2016. There is a need to scale up Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as we now have 44 core advocates dedicated to improving the timeshare sales process by working together as teams. We hope timeshare developers will acknowledge there are problems and work with us, to not only stop predatory backend “get you out of your timeshare” scams, but address the problem on the front end of the sale as well. Numerous calls to the FBI have been made, and they have encouraged timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, to contact their local FBI Field Office public access line to file orally, in addition to filing online at IC3.gov.
Diamond Resorts has taken the lead by launching a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department dedicated to helping timeshare members from day one if a member has any concerns about their membership or their purchase. They have also introduced CLARITY™, a program designed to enhance accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.
Inside Timeshare has received complaints directed against four major timeshare companies. If timeshare developers and ARDA would take the time to read the following Better Business Bureau notations of “Government Action” and “Pattern of Complaints”, it is unreasonable to keep the blinders on by claiming there are no problems with the secondary market because sales centers are forever sales centers, and members should not expect value back for their timeshare because it is a “right to use” program. That would be fine were it not for the perpetual contract, often sold by false promises made by sales agents who know there is little chance of enforcement, as there is no federal enforcement, and state Attorneys General are limited in scope.
Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.
The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.
Wisconsin – May 27, 2015 Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. entered into a Consent Judgment with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (Case No. 15CX5). The Consent Judgment to settle allegations that Wyndham engaged in the following acts or practices in the State of Wisconsin:
- Delivering a timeshare disclosure statement that fails to include all statements required by Wisconsin Statute Sec. in a format that can be immediately read and retained by the purchaser.
- Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
- Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
- Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
- Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
- Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
- Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
- Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
- Failing to inform the individual of the prize that has been awarded him or her, and then giving the individual the prize or another selected item, before beginning a sales presentation.
Wyndham consented to the Stipulation and Consent Judgment to facilitate a settlement and avoid the additional expense, delay and uncertainty of litigation. Wyndham does not admit that it has violated any laws of the state of Wisconsin.
Pattern of Complaints
BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.
This Business Is Not BBB Accredited
Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent was awarded $20 million by a jury alleging predatory practices.
Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report
Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties canceling vacation packages booked through Bluegreen Corporation. Consumers claim, although Bluegreen Corporation has a cancel within 30 days policy, their requests for refunds for canceled trips are denied. Other consumers feel they are victims of deceptive sales practices. Consumers claim resorts are never available when they contact Bluegreen Corporation. While yet other consumers claim the “free” vacation Bluegreen Corporation offers is not free and involve fees they were not made aware of.
On December 23, 2016, the Arizona Attorney General announced that the State of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with Diamond Resorts. The Assurance of Discontinuance requires the company to pay the State of Arizona a total of $800,000, of which $650,000 is for consumer restitution and $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs. The assurance also includes a Relinquishment Remedy Program, which requires the company to allow qualifying consumers to return their timeshares with no further obligations.
Many of the hundreds of complaints received by the State of Arizona claim the company used deceptive sales practices and made numerous oral misrepresentations during their presentations. Some of the misrepresentations regard:
- Annual increases in maintenance fees;
- Membership resale and buy-back programs;
- Timeshare membership resale market;
- Ability to rent timeshare vacations; and
- Discounts on other travel needs.
The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company employees’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.
Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F
BBB files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practices issues. Specifically, several complainants have alleged that information provided during sales presentations does not match the terms and conditions in the written contracts that they are asked to enter if they agree to make a purchase following a timeshare presentation.
On March 23, 2017 BBB sent correspondence to Village Resorts requesting their voluntary cooperation in providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.
As of May 12, 2017 BBB has not received a response from Village Resorts BBB will continue to monitor the complaints for Village Resorts and update the review as needed
So where do we go from here?
TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan
January 21, 2018
Time to Take Back our Vacations
We are grateful to our Inside Timeshare readers and timeshare members who have reported their allegations of predatory and criminal timeshare sales and marketing. Due to the volume of timeshare complaints received, there is a need for Timeshare Advocacy Groups™ to restructure, as we are experiencing normal and expected growing pains.
Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:
- Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
- Change timeshare developer practices to allow those alleging they were defrauded to be made whole again, by not hiding behind the fine print, but to listen and learn. The enemy is not your customer. The enemy is your predatory sales agent.
- Reach out to military Facebook pages and websites to warn members of the military and law enforcement, due to the alarming number of complaints from law enforcement officers and all branches of the armed forces, alleging they were white-collar crime victims. One Marine lost his air unit command and three are worried about losing their security clearance.
Anthony and Ashley Davis recorded their predatory sales presentation, which has been provided to law enforcement and regulatory authorities. This is our January 13, 2018 interview with Anthony and Ashley.
Timeshare Advocacy Group™ needs sub committees or teams that work independently, coordinating with a central committee. Listed below are nine proposed teams and team leaders, based on their expertise and past willingness to serve.
Please let us know if you are willing to be become involved. Those alleging they have been victimized include doctors, lawyers, professors, law enforcement, the military, even a member who worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison, and many others.
44 Core Advocates
Our Core Advocates are members or former members of Wyndham, Hyatt, Bluegreen, Diamond, Vacation Village
Reporting: Irene (4 members)
Media/Social Media: Gay Hart-Brewer (22)
State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)
Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)
Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)
Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)
Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)
Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)
California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)
Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks
Contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member supported, not industry influenced, Facebook or website.
Thank you Irene and all those who helped in this article, especially the legals who ensure that they are legally accurate.
If you require any further information on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.