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January 2017

Timeshare Advocacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Timeshare Advocacy Works

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

 Retired Canadian Army Family’s Diamond Resorts Advocacy Experience.

By Irene Parker January 24, 2017

Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry and Roxanne Hurley recently retired from the Canadian army.

Hurley

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

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

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

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

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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

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

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

Timeshare Needs a CASA,  

CASA

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

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

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

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

A Proposal for our Attorneys General

Appointed Special Advocate for Timeshare Owners (™)

Here to help

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roxanne Hurley

Irina Allen (featured in last week’s article)

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

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

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

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

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

A lot is happening in Timeshare.

get-involved

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

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

 

And So It Begins!!

Following on from Friday’s article Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump, it would appear to have upset a few people on a facebook page that Irene is or rather was a member of, Diamond Resorts International Members page.

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

Apparently some think it is political, well what isn’t political nowadays?

Gandhi free press

It asks the question what will happen to timeshare under the Trump presidency, a fair question considering his business background. He is a developer himself, having built a golf resort in Scotland, which includes plans to double the number of timeshare apartments.

He is all for business, fair enough, but is that going to be at the expense of beleaguered timeshare owners in the USA?

We have already seen in previous articles the predatory nature in the sale of timeshare including the continual upgrading and “lending” in order to fund this. It has been highlighted time and again that there is a lack of a “secondary market”, which ends up with owners being at the mercy of unscrupulous resale and termination companies.

Just from the actions in barring Irene from the group by a few, freedom of speech and expression is being eroded by a few, who think they know better. Are these people just stooges for the industry? Do they speak for the majority?

Voltaire free speech

Inside Timeshare thinks not, we will publish stories about both sides, whether they are “the good, the bad or just downright ugly”. Freedom of speech is the fundamental aspect of democracy, when we lose that we have dictatorship, Irene has lost one avenue for that freedom and it is to the detriment of those other members who wish to know the Truth.

Timeshare and Politics

Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech Works

By Irene Parker January 23, 2017

hand and pen

Whether we are talking politics or timeshare, media spin is usually the first line of defence. I have been banned from one of the Diamond Resorts Members Facebook page for posting the article Inside Timeshare published Friday, January 20 about US Attorneys General working for timeshare owners and Attorneys General who seem to be on the side of the timeshare developer. I was banned because the article was deemed political. I did not know President Trump was going into the timeshare business until I read the article after it was published.

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

Timeshare is all about politics. The problem is, timeshare is a one sided political game with all the muscle on the side of the timeshare developers.

Several of the members of the Diamond Facebook contacted me with their reasoning as to why I was banned. I’m told the quota of unhappy owners has exceeded its limits. Happy campers are encouraged to apply.
I worked with over two dozen of the Facebook members, several having been financially devastated by their vacation plan. I felt like I had been making real progress interacting with PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda, the newly formed Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department, and Diamond’s In-house Counsel – responding when legitimate examples of deceptive and fraudulent business practices are brought forth, similar to the Monarch example below.

Owners released from a timeshare contract cannot share their story because they are required to sign a confidential non-disclosure agreement or CNDA, agreeing not to say anything negative about Diamond Resorts. How can this Monarch owner go through life not saying anything negative about Diamond Resorts? I use Diamond as an example, but a few of the big players are just as guilty.
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, decided by a judge in a legal ruling against Monarch due to their bankruptcy. They proceeded to show me a print out that said when my current term expires in August. I would have to pay $573 per quarter to Monarch. They said that due to the bankruptcy, I would have no equity. That was option one. Pay more, have nothing. The other option they said was to transfer into Diamond at a cost of $12,000 plus and pay a yearly maintenance fee of $1,700. Less than the $2,292 I would soon be giving Monarch. They also told me that I would then have equity of $41,000 that I could sell. I was in tears. I do not have any extra money. In fact I have been looking for ways to get out of Monarch for over a year now. They said that was not an option and that as an owner, I was now proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. After reading the comments above I am even more scared. I am trying to start my own business and 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 pay off, basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now before I could look to sell. One of the reps assured me that she would put me in touch with someone who could help me sell my points. She even gave me her cell phone number to call after the sale/transfer is finalized. I am really scared though. Please help! We have to do something. It seems as though they have no qualms about lying to and robbing people for their own benefit.

bill of rights

Attempts are being made to suppress the America media. CNN has been aggressively targeted. Suppressing the media is the first step in a dictatorship. It pains me to see Anderson Cooper rattled by the absurdity of debating crowd size.

Propaganda and distraction are the means to control the message. In timeshare this is accomplished by requiring relinquishing owners sign a non-disclosure agreement. This is common in any industry, but seems harsh when an elderly or vulnerable family has turned over sometimes their life savings because they believed they were buying the equivalent of a second home. The family will receive nothing when they relinquish. The developer takes back the contracts and resells for full value. Amounts from $50,000 to $100,000 are not uncommon. I dare not show them past levels of executive compensation which I believe are wildly inflated. Is it fair to silence?

I sent our controversial article to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with this note:

I know Senators Warren and Sanders are kind of busy right now, but I really think they should know our President is going into the timeshare business and one of his best friends for the last 20 years is the owner of Westgate who you have been investigating for a couple years.

What can be done about it?

help key

There seems to be a real disdain for confronting a problem with the preference being to deny the problem exits. In the media, I have seen masterful examples of answering a question by not answering the question. I have always said half a problem goes away when confronted. How CAN the timeshare problem be confronted?

Finally, a timeshare company listened!

Diamond Resorts has created a Consumer Advocacy Department that allows owners who have been victimised by rogue timeshare sale agents to contact their Consumer Advocacy Department at:

mailto: [email protected]

Often issues are related to miscommunication. Meaningful dialogue can work wonders. The entire industry benefits although timeshare lawyers may notice a decrease in their earnings.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and his staff are working with Diamond Resorts to improve their business practices. Diamond is certainly not the only timeshare company that needs to improve.

OPC´s in Europe and the USA.

One of my favourite posts on my former Diamond Facebook was when an owner said Diamond needs to take the Blinkers off. Blinkers off? It’s a worldwide Facebook page so an American said the word we use is Blinders.

Timeshare needs to take its blinkers or blinders off and realize there is a problem with the timeshare industry and the continual conflict between timeshare developer lobbyists like ARDA, RDO and TATOC and timeshare owners and advocates. CRDA is not on this list because CRDA does have an advocacy arm. It’s called the National Timeshare Owner’s Association and it has been helping owners for over twenty years. Owners have available an “ASK CRDA” helpline that has operated without any interference from developers. But that’s Canada for you.

Too many senior citizens we used to call baby-boomers are being harmed by predatory marathon sales presentations repeatedly asking us to sign perpetual contracts with little or no secondary market.

Let’s wake up Timeshare!

The Arizona Attorney General has taken the first step by throwing out the oral representation clause in Arizona, or “license to lie” as timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group likes to describe it. For years deception and fraud has gone on unchecked because of the oral representation clause. The oral representation clause is the start of a vicious circle that ends with the widely reported timeshare resale scam industry.

Is honesty really that hard?

 

reform

Inside Timeshare will continue to publish stories such as these, without them timeshare owners around the world will be kept in the dark. If you have any comments on this or any other article Inside Timeshare welcomes them. If you have a personal story on your experiences which you would like to share, contact us and we will get back to you. You Have a voice, use it!

 

   

  

 

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to the Independent and The Guardian articles.

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

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

Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump

By Irene Parker

January 17, 2017

Presidetial seal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lecturnSo what does this have to do with Politics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General working for us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump

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

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

Globe flags

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

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