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April 2017

Friday’s Letter From America

Another week over and another Friday Letter From America from our intrepid travelling writer Irene Parker.

Before we go to Irene’s article, a little news from Europe, we begin with the never ending successes of the lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, we begin with an announcement  which came in after publishing last friday’s letter. The Court of First Instance N1 in Arona Tenerife found for the CLA client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void, this was on the basis it was for floating weeks.

CLA Logo

These contracts according to the Supreme Court are illegal, under law 42/98, the contract must specify a week, date and location. The judge in the case at Arona awarded the client the return of 26,000€ plus legal interest.

On Tuesday 25 April Anfi was on the receiving end of another judgement at the Court of First Instance N5 in San Bartelomé de Tirajana. In this ruling the Judge found for the clients on two infringements of the timeshare law:

  • Contract is over 50 years in duration (perpetuity);
  • It contained floating weeks.

Again the contract was declared null and void and the client will receive 39,413€ plus legal interest.

On Wednesday 26 April the Court of First Instance N5 in Arona found once again for the client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this case the client has been awarded over £25,957 plus legal interest, for a contract which was for a duration of over 50 years (perpetuity).

Yesterday Thursday 27 April, CLA announce another First Instance ruling against Anfi, for a contract over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of a deposit within the stipulated 14 cooling off period. Over £37,913 plus legal interest was awarded back to this client along with the contract being declared null and void.

It is certainly a case of the lower courts adhering to the ruling laid down by the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, it leaves no doubt as to the illegality of many of these contracts with case after case being won, leaving many happy ex-owners timeshare free and reimbursed with money paid.

Inside Timeshare again this week published the latest in the saga of the “fake law firm” in Tenerife, Abel Garcia Abogados, one of the many in the Litigious Abogados family. This time one lucky gentleman decided to do an internet search of this “firm”, he came across our previous articles and contacted Inside Timeshare for clarification. This has saved him from losing thousands of pounds, he also provided Inside Timeshare with the letters documents and emails he received, these have been passed to our lawyers to be included in the denuncia to the Guardia Civil.

Another “firm” was also highlighted, FHA Marketing. Very little is known about this one as there are no entries at company house and their website registrant is hiding behind a privacy service, so it is not known who is behind them. One thing is for certain they haven’t got all their facts right.

So now onto the “Travelling Writers” article.

A Reader’s Response to Nancy Callahan and our Experience at Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links

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By Irene Parker

April 28, 2017

One of our readers emailed us with a sophisticated comment in response to our article about Nancy Callahan’s extraordinary experience, unaware she and her husband had acquired a $143,000 loan to purchase 50,000 Diamond vacation points. Our reader’s comment is kind of heavy, so I’ll start by sharing our more light-hearted Friday, end of the work week comment about our Diamond Resorts, Scottsdale Links experience, post Clarity.

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

We checked into Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links in Arizona a few nights ago. Our unit is spacious and clean. We found good value using our Diamond points in that we used 6000 points to stay two weeks at a Sedona Diamond property as well. It’s surprising how many timeshare members don’t think about timeshare math, converting maintenance fees dollars into equivalent real dollars in order to make a comparison as to whether it would be less expensive to book online.

Sometimes it is more expensive to use points, but in this case, $.23 per point in maintenance fees times 6000 points equates $1,380 for two weeks or $98 per night. Online the cost was $112 per night for a one bedroom unit, but there was also a $13 per night fee and a 13% tax so we are way ahead. Of course, the initial amount we spent purchasing our points is not factored in. The older you are the less advantage buying a timeshare, as there is less time to make up that initial outlay.

We are not asked to attend sales presentations. It takes some convincing, but you can request that your name be taken off the prospect list.

Diamond’s new Clarity program is about accountability and transparency and respect for the customer. The program was recently launched in response to the Arizona Attorney General issuing an “Assurance of Discontinuance” which includes a toning down of the aggressive nature of the sales presentation and, most importantly, requires the sales agent not to deviate from printed sales material.

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

Diamond is certainly not alone among their industry peers in needing to improve the integrity and honesty of a timeshare sales presentation. In the case of Nancy Callahan, the agent went pretty far afield of actual policy, as explained by our reader.

I found only one lapse in transparency at Scottsdale Links. Of all places, it occurred at the activity center! I had asked activity representative Brandy if there were any good activities this week. “You’re in luck!” said Brandy. “We have a cowboy guitarist and singer tonight”.

The cowboy singer was Wally Bornmann. Wally started his performance singing Cowboy songs by composers no one, out east anyway, would ever recognize and worked his way up to Gene Autry. He peppered his songs with cowboy stories like when Gene Autry paid $5 for the lyrics of a song when he was traveling cross country that became famous. “It may not sound like a lot, but at $1.67 a mile, it wasn’t bad pay at the time,” explained Wally.

“Do cowboys use Facebook?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” responded Wally.

“Aren’t you a cowboy?”

“No”, said Wally. “I know a lot of cowboys, but I would be at best a cowboy looking in. I have great respect for the work a cowboy does. Only Diamond Resorts calls me a cowboy.”

As a Diamond Resorts member Advocate, I reported this lapse in transparency to Brandy.

“Wally isn’t a cowboy,” I explained. “There’s no need to call Wally a cowboy”. What Wally is, is a gifted “Cowboy Song Artist and Exceptional Storyteller.” Wally played a song he wrote that made me cry, ‘Till Morning Comes Again”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-XBdDT-GiU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVzayDyZo4

Fishin’ for Chickens was written by Hobo Jim, the Official Hobo of Alaska!

We have a lot of European readers. Arizona is a real special state that is now more Diamond member friendly thanks to Clarity. Next time our overseas friends hop over the pond, consider Scottsdale Links in Scottsdale and then head up to Red Rock Country in Sedona just south of the Grand Canyon. It’s our favorite place to hike.

The moral of my story is that Diamond has a product and if sales agents would stop overstating availability, understating maintenance fees and loosen the restrictions on secondary points so an owner could sell the darn thing if they had to, through a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, members would stop complaining so much.

Now on to our Reader’s Response

group table

It is very disconcerting to see that the unfair, unethical and misleading business practices described by these Diamond members’ experiences are not isolated incidents. It is clear that it has become endemic of the entire accepted Diamond sales process, as well as with other timeshare companies.

The misrepresentation of the ‘Legacy’ program as a ‘resale’ option when it is merely a way to ‘share’ a block of points with other family members, the embellishment of the value of points earned through the Barclay Credit Card, including how many points are actually earned, what they may be redeemed for (for example, NONE of the down payment for the purchase qualifies) and the false representation of the amount that may be applied to the maintenance fee.

In addition, the common representation that points have a “Currency Redemption Value” is being made by every ‘successful’ Diamond Sales Agent and is expected by the managers of the business unit. Basically, the actual benefit described in the Member Directory allows a member to redeem “up to 30%” of annual points towards, “up to 30%” discount on travel rewards.

Specific rewards have their own restrictions, limitations, terms and conditions however; what the sales reps are telling customers is that they may redeem their points for .30¢ per point. They tell customers that using this formula that with 50,000 points they can get $15,000 back EVERY YEAR! They use this to upsell, as with these unsuspecting customers in this article; that they will be able to pay ALL their maintenance fees and costs and that actually buying more will cost them less.

It would be bad enough if this were a case of a few outlaw sales reps pitching heat, however; this is encouraged by the industry. Sales agents are coached and compelled to present the product this way and reprimanded, ostracized and eventually terminated for NOT ‘going along with the program’.

Accurately presenting the product leads to lies being discovered by the customers that they were ‘pitching this heat’. It is absolutely disgusting to me that a product that promises to deliver quality family vacation experiences is sold with such reprehensible disdain for honesty and integrity.

Inside Timeshare wants to thank our industry insider for explaining what the Legacy program is and what it is not. Sometimes we hear so many versions of a program we don’t know what to believe.

honest

If you have a question or concerns about Diamond Resorts or any timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups.

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/

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

So there we are, another week over and more news from the murky world of timeshare.

If you have any comments or question about any of the articles published or have been contacted by any company highlighted, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and to Irene, enjoy your vacation.

weekend02

 

FHA Marketing: Who are They?

Inside Timeshare was today asked to check out another company calling about timeshare claims, FHA Marketing.

Their website:

http://fhamarketing.co.uk/

There is no address given on the website only a phone number 0121 667 9401 which is Birmingham.

Shows no company information, no Company House registration number, then when searching Company House we find no record of any company with this name. The website itself was only registered on 15 March 2017, so is a very new company. The registrant is hidden by a privacy service, so there is no way to find out who is behind it.

fhamarketing_logo-01

Inside Timeshares contact called the company as they had been informed of the call by one of their own clients, when they asked about company details and registration numbers they were told “sorry I wouldn’t know anything about that I only manage the call center”. Well, surely if you are working for a company you would have all those details to hand.

They say in their email that they are working with a number of legal teams across the UK, running compensation claims against timeshare companies. They also go into some detail about the “groundbreaking” court rulings which are making this possible.

Their “legal actions” are processed by “claims assessors” who collate information for a claim on a no win no fee basis. These assessors offices are in Redditch with a satellite office in Manchester, the only company found in Redditch with an office in Manchester is RSB Legal. (So are they working with them?).

If the claim is successful it will be split 70/30 with 70% going to the client, this is the same figure for RSB Legal. Now the other factor to bare in mind is, even if the claim is successful you will still own your timeshare and be able to use it. If you want to be rid of it the assessor will give “free, independent and valuable advice on this”. (I will also wager that it will be a very hefty cost).

So it looks like they are going down the section 75 credit consumer act route.

There is only one problem with this, Inside Timeshare has not come across any case where a section 75 claim has paid out for any timeshare. After all you will have owned it for many years and been using it, so the credit card company quite rightly will claim that there is no claim as you have received the goods and services you paid for. Just because the law now says that any timeshare purchased in Spain which breaches their timeshare laws makes the contract illegal is not a basis for a claim.

The only way to claim for a mis-sold timeshare under the Spanish law is through legal action in court (which will aslo make the contract null & void) using a bona fide law firm with experience in this field. These are actually very few and far between as most law firms would not touch this area before the law was clarified by the Supreme Court. Which also brings up the point of the comment at the end of their email:

“Latest ruling from European Supreme Court in relation to perpetuity  –

EU LAW states that ‘’timeshares can only be sold for a period of between 3 and 50 years’’.

THIS IS THE LAW. PERPETUITY IS ILLEGAL”

This ruling was not from the “European Supreme Court” which does not exist, it is known as the European Court of Justice.

This ruling was made by the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, with the first and subsequent 50 rulings being secured by only one law firm, which we have mentioned here in the past, Canarian Legal Alliance. These rulings also only apply to timeshares purchased in Spain since January 1999 when the law 42/98 was enacted.

CLA Logo

The EU Timeshare Directive is not law, they are just that, “directives”, which member states should enact into their own domestic laws. Spain included the maximum term for contracts no longer than 50 years as they believe it is wrong to enter into a contract with your children inheriting a contract they never agreed to. Spain also included the “Points and Floating weeks” systems, as these did not provide any tangible product as they are a “right to use” and “subject to availability”.

So once again the point of the story is due diligence, do your homework, ask the questions, can they prove what they say? How long have they been in business? Are they registered companies? (Although this in itself does not mean they are legitimate).

If you have been contacted by any company and want to know about them or how to find the information for yourself contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction, after all that is what we do day in day out.

A Narrow Escape!

Inside Timeshare received from another reader more information on the group of fake lawyers operating out of Tenerife, these are known by various names which we have been publishing since September 2016.

LIT

Luckily for this particular gentleman he found the information about them on Inside Timeshare before he paid them any money. He was completely taken in by them, believing the official looking letters and a copy of the court document showing the case had been lodged. For some reason he decided to check the internet and came across one of our articles on Abel Garcia Abogados, after seeing this he contacted us for confirmation.

It was the images of all the other documents we have been receiving over the past 6 months or so which we published in our articles that drew his attention. After all, they were just like the ones he had received.

Court_Lodgment-page-001
Fake Court Document

Another fact was that we had highlighted the name of a director, Keith Baker, this name has been used in other documents but for different timeshare companies. These have included: Silverpoint / ; Club la Costa and Diamond. In each case he is the director and has pleaded guilty to the mis-selling of the timeshares. His personal and business assets in Spain and the Canary Islands have also been seized in order to punish him and pay back those he sold to.

It just seems strange that the same person is a director of separate and competing timeshare companies, (although in one he is named as Keith Balker, possibly a typo). Well, for a director of a timeshare company to plead guilty in court on these charges is, as far as we know unheard of.

ZT00196247 page-001
Fake Procurator

The latest letter from Abel Garcia, in the second paragraph states the following:

“As you have been informed, following a ground breaking ruling against, Resort Properties S.L on Tuesday 10th March 2015, one of the directors Mr Keith Baker pleaded guilty to the indictment of the Spanish civil code. The High Courts of Santa Cruz declared 28 of our clients’ contracts NULL AND VOID & seized Mr Baker´s assets & personal accounts in Spain & the Canary Islands.”

Now the other strange thing is, this gentleman was told by Abel Garcia in the introductory letter that the case had been lodged with the court, but he had no idea he had instituted the legal proceedings in the first place. So the question is how did this “law firm” lodge the case in the client’s name when he did not instruct them or give power of attorney to the “law firm”?

He also received two emails, first this one:

From: Abel Garcia [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: Thursday, April 6

To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Subject: Claims Department

Dear

I hereby attach a letter with some good news from one of our Lawyers Mr Ramon Quena Cinol                                            

Assuring you of our best attention at all times, we would like to send you our best regards.

Kindly confirm receipt of this Email and the attachment.

Yours sincerely

Lucia Nohemi Carlitos

Departamento Legal

PDF of attached letter: Abel letter judgement

Then around 10 days later:

 

From: Abel Garcia [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: Friday, April 21

To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Subject: Santa Cruz Claims

Dear 

We are pleased to inform you that an official lodgment has successfully been implemented. Your case can now be pursued with the Santa Cruz courts should you wish to proceed.

Our Lawyer’s office will then liaise with you every step of the way until final settlement is obtained. We have been informed that there are very strong grounds for compensation.

Assuring you of our best attention at all times, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your involvement thus far and send you our best regards.

I remain

Yours sincerely

Maria Sanchez Gotera.

Departamento Legal.

This email is confidential and intended for the named recipient only. If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately and delete the email. You must not copy, distribute, disclose or take any action in reliance on it. This email message and any attached files have been scanned for the presence of any computer viruses.

© 2013 Ilustre Colegio de Abogados de Tenerife. Todos los derechos reservados.

European Union Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC

PDF of attached letter: Abel Letter Intro

The name of the sender on the second has been seen before and is in a previous article, the second name Lucia Nohemi Carlitos is a new one.

At least this is one UK resident and timeshare owner who has been saved thousands of pounds by just getting inquisitive and doing his homework and due diligence!

We have said it before and we will say it again, unless you have personally instructed a legitimate law firm to act on your behalf, you do not have any claim waiting to be heard at court. This gentleman’s story is a stark reminder of DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND DUE DILIGENCE.

For all the articles on this group of “fake law firms” type litigious abogados in the search box.

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