Browse Month

January 2018

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, the last one for January, hard to believe that the first month of the year is almost over.

We started the week with a report about disgruntled members being unable to book weeks they want, even 10 months in advance, despite just having paid the maintenance / management fees for 2018!

In this case the culprit is Anfi, but we have also heard from other “points and floating week” members that they also have trouble booking, Diamond owners from both side of the Great Lake are having the same problem. Well we all know what the reason is, more members than weeks available.

Sticking with Diamond for a moment, they are in the process of sending a letter out to their members, (just like Anfi has) regarding making claims against them for illegal contracts. In their letter however they point to a website to get information on companies that their members have had contact with. This is timeshare business check, an arm of Kiwkchex alon with Timeshare Taskforce and financed by the RDO and the industry in place of mindtimeshare and the enforcement program.

This company is directed by Chris Emmins, who is what can only be described as a serial failed director. (See the link below). This company purports to be a leading investigation and verification service which provides “accurate” information about online businesses. They contact businesses and ask questions, these businesses have no legal obligation to respond, as Kwikchex and timeshare business check have no legal mandate to demand any answers.

Obviously if a business fails to respond an inference is then made on the website which is negative, especially if the business in not a member of the RDO! We leave it for you to decide how accurate they are.

http://insidetimeshare.com/kwikchex-chris-emmins/

This then brings us on to Thursday’s article, regarding “Trade Bodies”, although it started with a little bit of a “mickey take”, it was however a very serious article with information timeshare consumers need to know. Timeshare is built on deceit, just think of what you were told when on the presentation, being bamboozled for several hours with promises which in the end never materialised. So is it any wonder the industry is still trying to pull the wool over your eyes?

So now on with our Letter from America by Irene Parker.

January Report

32 Reader Timeshare Complaints Received in 2018

jan rep cover

By Irene Parker

Friday January 26, 2018

No one is disputing there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. It’s true those that do are not the timeshare members that contact us. However, the number of timeshare complaints Inside Timeshare has received is alarming and the nature of most allegations criminal. Of the 32 complaints received as of January 25, six would be eligible to be a Nightmare on Timeshare Street article.

On a positive note, those working in law enforcement, especially those who have timeshare complaints, have been helpful. One member of the military was able to record their fraudulent sales presentation. This past Tuesday’s article described nine Timeshare Advocacy Group™ teams and those teams have been hard at work.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-7/

One of the teams is working on technological support, as I am technologically challenged, and the other is our timeshare exit scams team that has been in overdrive as they learned two out of five “let us get you out of your timeshare” entities reported this week exhibit criminal tendencies. Two others are suspect, but the team could find no concrete evidence of criminality.

progress

32 Reader Complaints received

  • Complaints #1, #3, #10, #12, #15, and #20 were against the same sales center. This makes 40 complaints received against the sales center,
  • Five are active duty military, retired or served in the military,
  • Four are disabled,
  • Three are in, or were, in  law enforcement,
  • #6 is the fourth member to direct a complaint against the same sales agent.
  • #1, #2, #3, #6, #10, and #11 meet the criteria for Nightmares on Timeshare Street.

Due to the increasing number of complaints, we request you schedule a call at either: 1, 2, 3, or 4 PM EST rather than just call between the hours of 1 to 4 EST if you have questions about our complaint form.

The Cliff Notes version of the complaint process.

  1. Write out your complaint and send to the timeshare company.
  2. If you are denied, write a rebuttal and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau if you feel services provided were not as described, or have a complaint about sales and marketing practices. 
  3. File complaints with the Attorneys General of the state where you live, where you signed, and the headquarter state of the timeshare company.
  4. Although weakened, complaints can still be filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  5. If you feel you meet the definition of white-collar crime defined as “deceit concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”, file with the FBI orally by calling your local field office through the FBI public access line, and with IC3.gov online. “They promised me a cruise but it cost $1000” is not enough of a crime to report to the FBI. Any of our Nightmares on Timeshare Street members would qualify. Scroll through those articles for examples.
  6. File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent, if you complaint is directed against an individual agent.     

Thank you to our 46 core advocates (two more have been added since we published Tuesday) as we stick together and work together to be made whole again. Too many families contacting us are financially devastated, some taken advantage of because of their disability, as in the case of parents caring for a three year old diagnosed with cerebral palsy, on a feeding tube, a little guy that earned the privilege to be a case study at Stanford.

There is no federal enforcement, state enforcement is spotty, and so the hamster wheel of recycled inventory, as one former sales agent describes it, rolls on. Sometimes it does feel hopeless, but like #metoo, also silenced and isolated by non-disclosure agreements, we will fight around it and we will not stop. Thank you to the members of the armed forces and law enforcement who have my back.

US mil seals

Charles Thomas, also a veteran, over a beer with one of our readers, said Irene sounds angry. While the soon to reach 300 complaints I have heard doesn’t seem to bother customer service representatives, our advocates and I are astonished at the frequency and level of deceit. Repeat offenders continue to flourish. Pay the fine and move on. I haven’t been quite the same since I learned of a Marine who lost not only his security clearance, but his air unit command as the result of a timeshare foreclosure due to his allegations of fraud.

As always, contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member sponsored US support group, if you have a question or concern about your timeshare.

mission

We seek to provide timeshare 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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

 

Thank you Irene for that report, it is actually quite staggering that we are only at the start of the year and yet there have been that many complaints received. It certainly prove a point that the industry does need a major shake up.

 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your timeshare or need information on any company that you may intend doing business with, Inside Timeshare is here to help.

Friday is here so have a good weekend.

friday dog

 

 

A New Member to EGTBW (Rewritten)

Back in June 2016 Inside Timeshare published the following article, it started with a “Spoof” Trade Body which Inside Timeshare had just become a member of. Due to some of the articles we have published recently it was decided to republish this article as a warning that even “Trade Bodies” cannot be relied upon to give consumers the best advice or even tell the truth. (The article has also been amended from the original).

Although the article starts with some humour the message is very real, we hope that you enjoy reading it.

Inside Timeshare is proud to announce that it has been invited to become a member of the prestigious trade body EGTBW. This is the European Guild of Timeshare Blog Writers, it is affiliated to the IATBWG, the International Association of Timeshare Blog Writers Guilds.

Becoming a member means that Inside Timeshare must adhere to the Code of Conduct and Ethics of this Organisation.

  1. Members must not attack, make detrimental comments or otherwise demean any organisation that is a member or affiliated to EGTBW or IATBWG.
  2. Members must adhere to the laws of the EU, or the country of registration. Unless we can get away with it.
  3. The EGTBW and IATBWG will not mediate in any dispute between a member and non-members.
  4. If any organisation or entity has a complaint about a member of this organisation it must be taken directly to the member concerned.
  5. Any member may lie or spread false information about any non-member, citing freedom of speech and expression.
  6. If any action is taken against a member, both organisations will fully support that member, no matter what it has done wrong.
  7. Members may display both the EGTBW and IATBWG logos on all promotional material, correspondence and websites.

This Logo is a sign of quality and is a kite mark of excellence.

So there we have it Inside Timeshare has paid its £20,000 a year membership fee for the full protection and backup of these prestigious organisations. It now means we can do what the hell we like, so there!

If this was not a joke it would be farcical but unfortunately this is all too real in timeshare. On a daily basis we see owners and members being treated in the most disrespectful manner, we have also seen numerous court cases against the timeshare industry for breaking legislation.

There is an organisation that is supposed to be the trade body of this industry The RDO, (In the US it is ARDA), but it is its own members that are breaking the rules. What do they do about it? Not a sausage.

rdo-logo

This organisations own code of conduct states that members should adhere to any legislation and laws regarding the sale of timeshare. Yet we see illegal contracts still being sold, deposits being taken on the day, all in breach of EU Directives which are supposed to be in each member state’s laws.

The industry funds this organisation and it does its bidding, it will not even investigate its members when a complaint is made by an owner or member. They say that you must deal with your own resort/company.

They also believe that the press does not research the stories they publish, creating even more of a slur on the industry. Following is a direct quote from their own website under why join the RDO:

“Vacation ownership has been the victim of poorly researched press attention. These articles and broadcasts can cause serious and lasting damage to the reputation of the industry. RDO works on behalf of vacation ownership companies to clear up any misinformation, accusations of sharp business practices and to actively encourage the education of journalists and travel bloggers.”

“We believe that this work directly benefits all businesses in the industry by maintaining buyer confidence in holiday ownership. Additionally, RDO members have the added marketing advantage of being able to display the RDO logo on their marketing material. The RDO logo is a Kite Mark of quality for the holiday ownership industry and enables RDO Members to offer additional peace of mind to their customers.”

So a prestigious journalist such as Tony Hetherington has poorly researched his articles. (It must be pointed out that MacDonald Resorts have not been RDO members since 2005, but these articles highlight a problem that is rampant throughout the industry).

tony hetherington

thisismoney

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-2346500/TONY-HETHERINGTON-I-escape-nightmare-sun.html

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-2698355/TONY-HETHERGINGTON-Even-death-not-rid-timeshare.html

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-2527546/TONY-HETHERINGTON-Timeshare-boss-relents-spite-fighting-talk.html

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-1323162/TONY-HETHERINGTON-Death-doesnt-bring-end-timeshare-fee.html

So these are poorly research are they?

On another point, there have been numerous rulings made by the Spanish Supreme Court regarding the timeshare laws, Anfi (an RDO member) have been on the receiving end of these rulings, having contracts declared null and void and huge amounts having to be repaid to consumers. Anfi believe the court has got it wrong, the RDO it seems agrees with them!

For many, timeshare has become a burden, the membership base is aging, new younger members are not being attracted to the concept, hence many sales offices are closing and staff being laid off. Yet those that want to get out of their membership are being held to “ransom”, they can’t sell (no resale market) and can’t get out without paying huge amounts for the privilege.

What does the RDO do about this problem of getting out of the timeshare?

It enhances its “Code of Conduct” for so-called “legacy” cases, or those sold in perpetuity. The rules are not really very helpful and are as follows:

  • In the event of the death of a joint owner, the surviving owner can surrender their timeshare if they wish and additionally, the beneficiaries of a will are not obliged to take on the timeshare if they do not wish to do so.
  • A timeshare owner who has been declared bankrupt may hand back the timeshare without charge.
  • If a sole owner or either of the joint owners is suffering from a long-term illness that prevents them from travelling to their resort for the foreseeable future, the timeshare interest may be surrendered.
  • In all other cases, an owner may surrender their timeshare interest at any time, subject to the agreement of the RDO member. In such cases any surrender fee shall not exceed a sum equivalent to 3 years current maintenance fees.

(Notice it states “Subject to the agreement”)

As the industry trade body, should not the RDO back up these owners and make sure their members act in an ethical manner.

What of TATOC in all this?

tatoc logo

No surprise here, they back the RDO plans to the hilt, after all they are funded by RDO members who pay them to be members of TATOC, all so they can display this organisation’s logo. Oh sorry, it is another sign of prestige, you can trust us we are members of The RDO and TATOC; just look at our logos!

Since this article was first published TATOC has now been totally discredited and forced into bankruptcy. (Search TATOC in the search bar for previous articles). For years this organisation run by the infamous “Harry or is it Henry” Taylor, duped timeshare owners into believing that it was a credible organisation out to protect timeshare owners. It has now been proven that this was not in fact the case, in fact TATOC’s backing of MacDonald Resorts move to transfer their fixed week owners to the infamous points system and become members of a vacation club rather than owners, is a prime example.

We started this article with a spoof, the only thing is this spoof is real when it comes to timeshare. The industry is in decline, its reputation has been sullied, it only has itself to blame, the past greed and belief that they could get away with anything has finally caught up with it. Consumers no longer believe the “sales pitch”, they can see it is not value for money, members see their resorts being rented out to non members on the internet, usually for less than their maintenance fees. Yet the industry and the Trade Bodies cannot see the writing on the wall because they still believe they are right!

Inside Timeshare will continue to highlight any bad practice and report any news within the world of timeshare. If you have any questions regarding your ownership/membership, or need to know which company to deal with, contact Inside Timeshare and we will get back to you.

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

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

Volunt

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.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

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.

BBB warnings for Wyndham, Diamond Resorts, Bluegreen, and Vacation Village

Wyndham

Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.

Government Action

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:

 

  1. 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.
  2. Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
  3. Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
  4. Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
  5. Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
  6. Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
  7. Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
  8. Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
  9. 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.

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

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.

Diamond Resorts:

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

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

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:

  1. Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI    

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.    

Proposed Teams

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Advocacy team

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.