Browse Month

March 2017

End of the Week Review.

We started this week with Irene’s article on Consumer Protection Week in the US, we end with another.

While in Europe and especially Spain, we have seen more news coming from the Supreme Court. At the start of the week it was announced that Silverpoint formerly Resort Properties, have been ordered to pay back 169,000€. This was announced in the Spanish newspaper El Diario (see link), the Spanish press have been very fast to publicise these rulings, which have gone virtually unnoticed in the UK press.

http://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Varapalo-Supremo-timesharing-comercializado-Canarias_0_619088490.html

In another case, the Supreme Court ruled against the same company for infringements of the timeshare laws for a German client. In this particular case the court again stated that the client was a consumer not an investor as Silverpoint had claimed. The client’s contract was declared null and void and awarded over 30,000€.

These cases have been brought by the Canarian law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, who so far since the first Supreme Court ruling 2 years ago, have secured over 3 million euros for their clients, with over 1.2 million euros already in the accounts of the clients.

CLA Logo

To celebrate the 2nd birthday of the first ruling, the Norwegian lady who made legal history visited the lawyers who fought her case. Mrs Tove Grimsbo, had an epic battle which lasted several years, her case was highlighted extensively in the Scandinavian press, but through the perseverance of her lawyers she eventually won through.

 

http://insidetimeshare.com/meredith-pritchard-new-exit-claims-company/

So on to Irene Parker’s End of Consumer Protection Week article.
End of Consumer Protection Week March 5 – 11

By Irene Parker

satisfied

Consumer Protection Week ends today. Here are some tips on purchasing and owning a timeshare. Timeshare is a good product for some but it does not work for everyone.

“Buyer Beware!”  The psychological methods used by some timeshare companies and agents are designed to wear the consumer down – difficult to overcome even by the strongest individual. “My personal opinion, working as a sales agent for Diamond Resorts and Hyatt, convinced me that greed and making the sale at any cost is the corporate culture. I saw manipulation, threats, deceit and fraud used to make sales. When you have a good product, these methods are not necessary to make the sale,” reported one former timeshare sales agent.

Do your homework. Few will buy a house or car without some comparison shopping. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to compare developer versus secondary market prices and benefit or lack of benefits when buying a “used” timeshare.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Ask yourself if the “FREE GIFT” is really worth signing a perpetual contract, accompanied by perpetual maintenance fees, in a same day sale, with little or no secondary market.  Most timeshare companies do not offer buy-back programs and voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed.

If you are a timeshare owner who feels you were lied to or deceived in your timeshare purchase, and if resolution is not achieved after contacting your resort:

File a complaint with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract, where you live, and where the resort is domiciled.

http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php

File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage).

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

In some states the standard of fraud is as simple as dealing honestly and fairly. In such states, if you were lied to, the contract is fraudulent.

We should begin now planning for Consumer Protection Week 2018. Consumer Protection Week should provide a benchmark as we set goals today that can be measured next year. Goals that can determine where and how timeshare business practices have improved.

As Irene said, do your homework, anything to do with timeshare is a minefield, from first purchase, to resale companies and then to all the so-called legal and claims companies that are now proliferating, especially in Europe following the rulings made by the Spanish Supreme Court.

There are so many companies jumping on that particular band wagon, some are very sophisticated operations, such as Litigious Abogados (see link for the last article, or search Litigious Abogados in the search box for all articles).

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-plot-gets-thicker/

Another facebook group has also got off to a flying start (see link below), it is a closed group but welcomes new members. It is a forum for dialogue and debate, taking a different approach to many of these groups that use social media, by encouraging opposing views. They have even welcomed a Diamond sales agent, who has even agreed with some of the owners views on sales practices. This is what is needed if timeshare is to change.

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

So there we have it, thank you to Irene and all the contributors in the US, also to the readers who have supplied information on some of the companies we have researched. It is your information that is helping others to negotiate this murky world of timeshare. Have a good weekend.

friday-again

Consumer Protection Week USA

Consumer Protection in Europe is governed by the EU Commission, each country within the EU also has their own consumer protection laws in their own legislation. Much of this comes from directives laid down by the EU Commission, the same way as the EU Directives on Timeshare.

In the UK, the Trading Standards Institute has an annual National Consumer Week, this has been running since 1989. It is a consumer education campaign run by the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP) and is usually at the end of November to the beginning of December.

Each year it focuses on different themes from buying a car to the quality of goods and customer care. The main focus is to educate the public on their rights, how to deal with complaints and who to turn to for help.

There are also many other avenues where consumers can receive help and advice, one of the most notable is “Which”, they have for many years published a magazine giving advice on various goods and highlighting major recalls. They produce many other publications free of charge including very simple guides on using computers, lap tops etc.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is also another well known place for help and guidance. Most towns have one and they will cover many areas of concern from benefits, problems with employers to financial problems. They tend to be run mainly by volunteers, but have experts such as lawyers and financial advisors on call.

In the field of timeshare there is a great lack of real advice, it is unfortunate that the 2 main organisations that give consumer advice will send consumers to TATOC. As we have highlighted in the past, this organisation is funded by the industry and is virtually run by them. Take a complaint about your resort, you will be told to contact them, as they will not intervene. Not a very good way of giving advice, sending a complaint to the ones that are the cause of the complaint.

In the Article by Irene Parker today, she highlights servicemen who have fallen foul of the high pressure selling tactics. In the UK several years ago there was a company that was preying on servicemen and their families, they set up a vacation club or what we know as a discount members club. It cost upwards of £6000 to join, with many servicemen taking up the offer.

As with many of these clubs the servicemen did not get what they paid for, with the so-called discounts being far more expensive than what was available on the highstreet. Many complaints went to the MOD, and this company has not been heard from since. Luckily many of those who paid did so on their credit cards and were able to retrieve the payment from the card provider using the Credit Consumer Act.

It is a very sorry state, when servicemen who put their lives on the line in defence of their country are treated in such a way. The most annoying aspect of the above example was many of the sales reps were themselves ex-servicemen, using this as a tool to gain trust.

Inside Timeshare hopes the following article will be of help to those caught foul some of these unscrupulous tactics.

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/index_en.htm

https://www.tradingstandards.uk/practitioners/events/national-consumer-week
Consumer Protection Week March 5 -11

Who needs protecting? The elderly, the ill, the divorced, the unemployed, the Army and the Navy

man cash

By Irene Parker – March 6, 2017

Consumer Protection Week in the US is sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). More than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations will participate in the 19th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held March 5-11, 2017. NCPW is a nationally coordinated campaign to inform Americans of their consumer rights while providing them access to free consumer-related resources.

Do Timeshare consumers need protecting? One need only review the 15 page Department of Justice report on Timeshare scams to answer with an unequivocal “Yes!”

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

What questions should people ask before buying a Timeshare? Should you make a $20,000 or more decision the same day without comparison shopping? Should you believe a word a sales agent says? Should you finance your vacation plan?

Timeshare Tip – Take your eye off the finger pointing to the low monthly payment, raise your head and ask, “At what Interest Rate?”

It’s surprising how many we talk to who did not know the interest rate they were paying until they started paying. I was two hours into our sales presentation, mesmerized by the numbers, before I thought to ask.

Today we use the example of a family who failed to ask these questions and are now devastated by a vacation plan that has turned into a nightmare. I use Diamond Resorts as an example, but they should not be singled out. I am a Diamond member so in contact with other members. Many Timeshare companies have complaints.

We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but in one week I heard from four military families. One is a Veteran, one family has a son in the military, and two are on active duty. We’re hearing a lot in the US press these days about how Veterans have not been treated fairly so a story about a Navy family is timely.

As the family has been referred to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, and an outcome is yet to be determined, we will call this couple William and Mary. This newly formed Diamond Advocacy Department has reached out to many of our Facebook members helping owners resolve issues and better learn how to use DRI vacation Points.

William and Mary feel they have been victims of fraud or “bait and switch”. They are requesting a full refund. Let’s weigh in on whether this case meets this simple definition of fraud: Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

William, age 47 is on active duty with the Navy, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia. An able bodied seaman, William is waiting on orders to be shipped overseas.  Mary, age 43, works for the Department of Agriculture. They have two children ages thirteen and eight.The summer of 2015 William and Mary booked a week at a Diamond Resort in Virginia by renting through RedWeek. They accepted an offer to attend a sales presentation. Mary does not remember the name of the sales agent (Vacation Counselor) in Virginia, but remembers he was a former Secret Service agent. The family purchased 15000 vacation Points for $63,232 or $4.22 per point. The current balance, financed at 14%, is approximately $43,395.

“Our original 50 minute presentation ended up to be 5 hours. We were told by the Virginia supervisor, a lady with a British accent, that we would have no problem getting a lower interest rate financed outside of Diamond since William was in the service.  All we would have to do is supply the lender with “duty orders” and it would go down to 1.5% as long as he was overseas,” Mary reported. The family later learned banks will not finance Timeshares, so that option was not available.

Anxious to try out their new vacation plan, the family booked a trip to stay at a Diamond Resort in Orlando. Now an existing owner, they were encouraged to attend an “owner’s update” which is always accompanied by an offer to buy more Points. The promised 55 minute update lasted three hours.

Orlando Sales Agent Joaquin told the family that since they now lived in Florida, they would be required to transfer the Points they purchased in Virginia to Florida.

The agent might have been alluding to a “Collection” as Diamond has a US, Hawaii, California and a few other Collections. There is no Florida Collection, but the family paid $4,898 as a down payment to transfer and buy more Points.

 “Joaquin promised to help resell our Points if we needed to. When we realized we could not afford the loan, I made a few calls and emailed Joaquin for assistance, but I was just ignored altogether,” reported Mary.

William was transferred to California. A Diamond Sampler package is ordinarily sold as a trial package, but on another trip to Orlando, the couple purchased a Sampler from Joaquin hoping William could stay at Diamond Resorts in California while stationed there. A loan of $1,100 financed by Diamond at 12.99% was obtained, but ultimately the three purchases were consolidated into one loan.

In William and Mary’s own words, here is why they feel they were misled:

“During the sales pitch we were told information that we discovered later was not true.”

  1. We were told the Timeshare is tax deductible and that we could later sell for a profit.
  2. We were told we could rent the Timeshare for additional income or help offset the Maintenance fees.
  3. We were told we would be able to refinance at a lower interest rate with any financial institution.
  4. We were told the sales agent would act on our behalf as a personal representative and help rent out our Timeshare.
  5. We were told that this Timeshare was an INVESTMENT!

By now, the family realized they had made a mistake and were deep in debt. December of 2016, while living in Jacksonville, FL the family was called and invited to a dinner of owners to discuss their account and give insight to how better to use Points. (Note: Buyers of Points don’t “own” anything as it is a right-to-use program similar to a country club)

William and Mary informed the Diamond caller they wanted to opt-out and were told a representative would be there to help start the process. However, when they went to the dinner, it turned out to be another high pressure sales tactic to get them to buy more Points with Apollo.

(Note: Apollo Global Management acquired Diamond in an all cash $2.2 billion deal September of 2016, as reported by Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times prior to the acquisition.)

As of July 13, Diamond’s top executives and directors beneficially owned almost 23 million shares in the form of options and company stock. If the transaction is completed, a filing stated, those 15 people “would be entitled to receive an aggregate amount of $624,131,129 in cash. The bulk of that will go to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Diamond’s founder, and Mr. Palmer, the chief executive. Mr. Cloobeck would be entitled to $384 million and Mr. Palmer would receive $173 million.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/business/accounting-error-may-not-derail-a-deal-but-ex-director-bails-early-anyway.html

Back to William and Mary:

navy

William and Mary told their hosts that they had a life change and could no longer afford their Maintenance fees or loan payments and wanted to relinquish their ownership (membership) per the buy- back program that they said they had.  At the meeting the account representative said Diamond did not have this program.

“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. After we left the presentation I reached out a few times to our original sales agent only to be told he no longer worked there. After we purchased the Sampler, we got called about 2 or 3 times a month by different account managers. At this point I could not even tell you the person’s name, but that was the last contact,” said Windy.

Where does the family go from here?

which way

“William has had a major loss in pay and we can’t afford the loan payments.”

Part II will provide a flow chart of options the family is facing.

Diamond is fond of boasting about how 70% of sales are sold to existing owners. William and Mary’s story is not unusual. I have reported our own personal Diamond story so many times, I dare not tell it again, but I have also heard from dozens of families telling the same story told over and over – existing Diamond owners told their Maintenance fees and availability issues would be resolved by buying more Points.

Again, Diamond is not alone. Based on my research, I have opinions on which Timeshare companies are the three worst offenders and which are the best, based on a census of online complaints, but that topic is for a future discussion.

Our Arizona Attorney General Assurance of Discontinuance article provides a blueprint for honesty and contains several items from William and Mary’s fraud checklist. Let us know if you think this family meets the definition of fraud.

Diamond has implemented a Clarity program in Arizona in response to the AOD.

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

Diamond Clarity is not limited to just one state. It’s a national program that includes four new operational initiatives. One of these initiatives is recording quality assurance sessions subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training.  The company has invested in technology to ensure that these recordings can be archived and searchable. Recording sales presentations would not meet these objectives and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity program,” according to DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Maya and I have had several healthy and interesting discussions about Clarity. I am concerned about the QA recording. In my opinion, I feel it will only strengthen Diamond’s position in court. As you can see from this article, the worn down member or prospect merely nods during the QA session checklist and none of the oral representations would be in that recording. I have learned recording without the other person’s knowledge is legal in Arizona as long as it is not wiretapping by phone.

http://wilcoxlegal.com/bugging-and-tape-recording-conversations-in-arizona-is-it-legal/

At least Members are having discussions with Diamond. I think it might be a first and I thank Maya and the staff of Consumer Advocacy for their involvement and support. Inside Timeshare wants to get it right!

Coffe time

stop pressOfficial DRI Response has just been received:

“The options for any timeshare member or owner struggling to keep up with loan payments financed at 12% to 19% and rising maintenance fees are:

Surrender, Resolution, Foreclosure, Refund

A Diamond representative spoke to the family today to gather facts”.

Inside Timeshare will walk with this family along the road to timeshare recovery.

An upcoming article will take a look at the four options, the likelihood of each option, the process of foreclosure and its impact on credit reporting comparing and contrasting European and American processes.

Some resorts have the option of resale. The seller would be fortunate to recover 10% of the initial amount invested, but at least owners with this option are not solely at the mercy of the timeshare company.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contributed to Irene’s article, without your help we would not be able to highlight the problem or bring about much needed change.

On another note, news just in but not verified 100%, it would appear that Diamond Resorts Europe has now closed all sales decks which were run on a franchise basis. From reports this morning the only sales decks open and trading in Europe are those run and owned by Diamond.

With what has happened in the past few months with Diamond selling off their last concern in Mallorca, the question being posed now is are they getting ready for a major sell off?

When the news comes in we will be reporting it here, so stay tuned.

 

Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”

In today’s article from Irene Parker, we take another look at the Arizona Attorney General’s settlement with Diamond Resorts. It is a simplified version on the 37 page  “Assurance of Discontinuance”, It also goes on to explain who is eligible for thesettlement and gives details on how to claim. It also include the date of the deadline.

This article is a prelude to one that will be published later on “Consumer Protection Week” which is starts on 5 March and ends on 11 March. So watch this space.

An Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”

Is the AOD a Blueprint for the Timeshare Industry?

March 5 – 11 is Consumer Protection Week

By Irene Parker – March 1, 2017

objectives

The following Facebook groups are reaching out to those eligible for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts. Given the success of the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocate Facebook, assisting Diamond owners who face legitimate concerns, other Advocates have come forward to launch a Timeshare Advocacy Group Facebook available to all timeshare owners.

These groups go beyond helpful posts to actually intervene and assist those unaccustomed to interacting with governmental regulatory agencies and loss mitigation departments. Most are owners struggling under the burden of maintenance fees they can no longer afford.

In 2010, the board of Diamond’s PVC (Premier Vacation Club) amended the Membership Plan to allow an increase to a maximum of inflation plus 25% per year from the original maximum of inflation plus 10% per year.

Diamond’s US Collection has capped Maintenance Fees increases to 25% per year. A15000 point example and history of Maintenance Fee increases provided in the Assurance of Discontinuance:

$1,214 – 2007

$1,348.50 – 2008

$1,686 – 2009

$1,850 – 2010

$1,923.50 – 2011

$2,018.50 – 2012

$2,045.50 – 2013

$2,330 – 2014

$2,404.70 – 2015

Buyers sign a perpetual contract with virtually no secondary market.

Sales are made same day without being allowed sufficient time to comparison shop, as one would if buying a car or house. Certainly the expense and upkeep of a timeshare is equivalent to that of a major purchase.

Owners facing legitimate timeshare issues should consult the following:

Timeshare Advocacy Group

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

A Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook was launched for Diamond Members with legitimate concerns so they can seek help without fear of censor.

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook

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

Both Facebook groups provide updates on legal and legislative issues.

arizona-ag-seal

A time sensitive issue concerns Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” due to the complaint filing period which ends the end of April.

Not everyone wishes to wade through a 37 page “Assurance of Discontinuance” (AOD) so we have generalized and summarized the key points. To the best of our knowledge, this Assurance of Discontinuance is the first document of its kind to offer a prospective blueprint for timeshare as a whole. In an effort to promote timeshare reform, we encourage ARDA, lawmakers, and timeshare developers to make this a blueprint for the industry.

The actual Arizona Attorney General press release, link to filing a complaint and link to the Assurance of Discontinuance:

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

Who is Eligible for the Arizona Settlement?

A Consumer who files a written complaint against Diamond Resorts with the Arizona Attorney General, another law enforcement agency, the Better Business Bureau, or the Arizona Department of Real Estate after January 1, 2009 that is received by the Attorney General’s Office prior to the Effective Date or during the Filing Period. The Filing Period is expected to end by the end of April.

The provisions of the AOD are limited to Consumers who did business with Diamond at Sales Centers in Arizona and with Arizona-domiciled Consumers who attend Sales Presentation with Diamond outside of Arizona.

Our Blueprint Proposal

Meeting chart

A Quality Assurance Program – Independent from Sales and Marketing

Timeshare sales agents may not deviate from Sales Materials;

Timeshare sales agents may not make oral representation at the point of sale inconsistent with purchase documents:

  • Pertaining to the use of Points to book travel arrangements such as flights, rental cars, or cruises claiming such arrangements are comparatively lower in cost than if the Consumer would spend cash for the same travel arrangements, unless such representations are accurate; 
  • Claim a non-deeded timeshare interest such as Points is a deeded property or may be considered an investment in real property;
  • Claim Points appreciate in value;
  • Claim Points may be used to pay Maintenance Fees or that Maintenance Fees will be reduced by the purchase of additional Points, unless such representations are accurate;
  • Claim Consumers may rent out Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public unless such representations are true;
  • Claim the company will buy back Consumer’s Memberships unless the company offers a buy-back program;
  • Claim there is a secondary market for the sale of Points, and that such secondary market has a certain level of sales volume, or provides Consumers with the ability to re-sell Points, unless such representations are accurate.
  • Represent to Consumers that the sales agent would assist them with selling their Membership, unless a resale program exists.
  • Claim Consumers will be able to obtain a loan from a private lender to refinance a loan.
  • Claim interest paid on a points based product is tax deductible unless such representations are accurate. Vacation membership products are not considered “qualified home” according to IRS Publication 936.
  • Provide any information that may be construed as tax advice;
  • Represent to Consumers that Sales Presentations typically last 90 to 120 minutes if the norm is several hours.
  • Call a sales presentation an “informational meeting” to learn about changes to a resort if such meeting includes a Sales Presentations for the purpose of upgrading or up selling the consumer.
  • Overstate availability

What happens to the sales counselor when they do not adhere to the above?

How will Consumers know if sales agents violating the above declarations are reprimanded, suspended or terminated?

This can only be accomplished by forming viable and vibrant consumer groups reaching out to other owners. One such Diamond Owner sponsored Facebook was formed by the original owners of Club Intrawest acquired by Diamond, now known as Embarc.

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

How do Diamond owners get released from their timeshare contract?

What is the “Relinquishment Program” and is it different from Transitions?

“Transitions” is Diamond’s relinquishment program publicly announced by Diamond on May 4, 2016. Unlike the AOD “Relinquishment Remedy Program”, Diamond’s Transitions or Relinquishment Program is offered, on a case by case basis, at Diamond’s discretion and does not constitute an obligation under the AOD.

writing thoughts

Preparing a narration for a governmental agency or a timeshare loss mitigation department is difficult for some, especially if English is the Member’s second language. We’re here at Inside Timeshare and all owner groups to listen, educate, disseminate and advocate. Contact us!

Whether you are in Europe or the US, Inside Timeshare and our associates at the various facebook groups, would love to hear from you. It is only with your experiences are we able to inform others that there is help and hope.

Timeshare could be a great product, but we need to let the industry know that it has to change, by putting the members first. We call on the industry to listen and learn from your concerns, work with us to make the change.