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March 2019

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, This week Irene Parker writes about Americano Beach Resort and the lawsuit that has been filed regarding Foreclosure Proceedings, but first a quick warning to our European readers.

Another warning is being issued to those clients of Eze Group, a new firm has just emerged contacting consumers stating they have been appointed by the court to manage the return of money paid to Eze Group.

This company name is Egerton Advisory Limited, Company Number 10286171 and the registered address:

Eighth Floor 6 New Street Square, New Fetter Lane, London, United Kingdom, EC4A 3AQ

With an alternative location address registered as:

Q3 The Square Randalls Way, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 7TW

The directors are named as:

Victoria Noland Carter Egerton and William Luke Le Beward Egerton, both registered the New Street Square address.

The company was incorporated on 19 July 2016, but the filing history shows very little information or filing of any accounts.

As we have stated before, the courts do not appoint private companies or third parties to manage any payouts. No money has been awarded by Birmingham Crown Court to consumers of Eze Group, the O’Reilly‘s are now subject to investigation under The Proceeds of Crime Act, which will take some time to complete.

Along with Money Advice Limited, Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, Egerton Advisory Limited are fraudulent companies, if you are contacted by them or any other company with a similar story then let Inside Timeshare know and file a report to Action Fraud.

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

A Class Action Lawsuit was Filed against ARC Daytona Americano Beach Resort Contesting Real Property Foreclosure Proceedings are being Illegally Applied to Foreclose on Personal Property  

By Irene Parker

March 29, 2019

DC Capital Law, LLP filed a class action lawsuit on November 6, 2018, against ARC Americano, LLC and Americano Beach Lodge Resort Condominium Association on behalf of plaintiffs Gerald J Sohasky and Norma J. Sohasky in the Florida Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Volusia Civil Division.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs Gerald and Norma Sohasky allege illegal practices that violate the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act and the Florida Vacation Plan and Timeshare Act by threatening foreclosure on a piece of personal property and threatening to charge up to 40% of amounts owed in collections, where the original contract or law does not authorize charging such collection fee. The ARC lawsuit contends “Floating Week” debt is consumer debt, incurred primarily for personal, household or family use.

Having read or listened to complaints from 746 timeshare members and owners, I am astonished by the level of stress caused by what is supposed to be a stress reducing product.  

Comment sent to Inside Timeshare

My parents bought into the Americano in the 90’s. Fast forward to 2017 – my 70 something year old mother, now a widow, had to pay for a service we hadn’t used in ages.

They (Americano) HOUNDED MY MOM about switching to the freedom 365 plan. She was a 13 year widow on a very fixed income and somehow we were pushed into signing for a new plan that would offer us huge hotel discounts and she would be able to stop paying after 5 years.

My mom is going broke!  Sara

My husband and I purchased an Ozark timeshare in 1985. A St. Louis native, we enjoyed years of vacations, but after moving to Florida we no longer desired to vacation in the Ozarks. I contacted the resort and talked to the manager I had gotten to know over the years. “Yeah, we had a board meeting and decided we can’t expect loyal owners who faithfully paid maintenance fees for thirty years, now older, to be held hostage,” she said. A few days later I received a one page form to be notarized, sent it back and that was that. We paid $8,000 for the timeshare in 1985. I had no regrets getting nothing in return as we had used the timeshare for many years. Like Sara’s mom, and many in my age bracket, we are losing hips, knees, eyesight and spouses. The thought of going to the Ozarks alone, should something happen to my spouse, is depressing.

Americano is demanding owners, many who have owned at Americano for decades, spend an additional $5,000 to $6,000 to join a Freedom 365 Travel Club in order to be released from their deeded weeks. Making this mandatory for seniors seems unfair. Granted, the resort is in need of funds as Americano is the only Daytona resort still not opened after suffering hurricane damage, but other developers now have voluntary surrender programs for members in good standing. There may be a fee, but the fee is less than $1,000. Don’t forget that we were all told we were buying real estate so no problem selling the timeshare should we need to dispose of it. In a statement made by ARC’s law firm, they assert they will work with owners to find appropriate alternatives but typically for seniors, a Travel Club is the last thing needed. I’m looking at long term care plans.

The issues related to property damage are complicated. When Americano owners contact me, I explain that if they bought a primary residence condo, and the condo is rendered uninhabitable, the assessment fees don’t stop. It would be difficult to sell an uninhabitable condo. I understand ARC’s argument from this perspective.

Due to pending litigation, ARC’s response is from their attorneys. I have found others at Americano willing to listen and weigh in consideration; the harm timeshare exit in general is causing especially seniors. Let’s hope continued dialog will result in some form of relief for angry and frustrated owners.

Below is the response we received from ARC’s attorneys. Contrary to the attorney’s response, this article will not be disseminated to some of the Americano owners. Some Americano owners do read and share our articles. We sent a draft of today’s article to ARC to give ARC an opportunity to correct any inaccuracies, which they corrected. Inside Timeshare is published from Spain. Following ARC comments, are arguments presented by the plaintiffs’ attorney taken from the lawsuit complaint. A legal expert weighs in. Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not respond.

Response from ARC’s attorneys submitted by ARC President Scott MacGregor:

This information is given to correct inaccuracies to be contained in a publication that will be disseminated to some of the owners.  Americano is a Legacy resort that was severely damaged due to the recent back to back hurricanes, 2016 Hurricane Matthew and 2017 Hurricane Irma. There was one Special Assessment for $4,348,109, not $15 million, which will correct the incorrect reference in the article. The Association continues to seek insurance from its carriers, but had to pursue litigation to address the claims. The Developer is seeking financing and other options for the remaining restoration of the Resort estimated to be $15 million plus. However, it is imperative that all owners pay the maintenance fees, taxes and assessments as required under the Declaration and Florida law. It is fundamentally unfair to the paying owners for other owners not to pay to operate and restore the resort.

The Association is faced with vigorously defending any lawsuit against the Association, which litigation will only increase fees and costs to all owners, as required under Florida law, at the Resort. While our trial legal counsel has stated that no comment should be made at this time concerning any lawsuits, the Americano Beach Lodge Resort is a real property timeshare under Florida law and actions taken are authorized and required under the Declaration and Florida law.

The Developer and Association continue to try to work with each owner to find appropriate alternatives as discussed before. Owners are encouraged to seek ownership and payment options through the Association and Developer.  Lawsuits against the Association will not only increase maintenance fees and assessments for all of the owners due to legal and professional fee expenses, but also may leave those owners with potentially expensive legal bills in addition to their ongoing obligations to the Association. We believe it is much better to work together to resolve the issues that everyone is facing rather than unnecessarily expend owner and Association funds and resources that are needed to restore the Resort, for court expenses.

More from Sara:

They used scare tactics to convince my mom that I would be responsible for the timeshare in the event of her passing, and my children would be responsible after I passed. I have learned this is not true.

The Freedom 365 plan supposedly offered us huge hotel discounts and would allow my mom to stop paying after five years.  We attempted to use the Freedom 365 plan. The first two times we used it we did get a good discount on hotel rooms, but after that the deep discount was no longer available. We got a good rate the first time at $93 for a Hyatt room, but when we later tried to book the same week of the year the price was $100 more, about $170 plus tax. I called and asked why it was so much more. They stated they could price match if we got a better price on another website. What good is that? You don’t have to pay any kind of upfront money, financed by a loan, to book a hotel room using an online service. We were promised the best deals. We were promised so much and at what cost? My mom is going broke! The amount financed was $6,000.

Following are allegations made in the lawsuit

Is a “Floating Week” timeshare real estate or personal property?

If the timeshare is defined as personal property, the lawsuit claims foreclosure rights do not legally exist and are in violation of the Florida Timeshare Act.

I’ve had many discussions about timeshare foreclosure questioning whether a timeshare really is real property. I found the requirements governing real vs personal property foreclosure in Texas helpful:

Comparison of Texas Foreclosure Procedures for Real property and Personal Property

Real property and personal property foreclosures are dramatically different. Real property foreclosures are conducted on the first Tuesday of each month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse door in the county in which the real property is located, with a notice posted at the courthouse door, personal notice to the debtor, and filing of the notice with the county clerk, all 21 days before the foreclosure sale. These requirements are defined by § 52.001 of the Property Code and are unique to Texas law. Personal property foreclosures are conducted under § 9.504 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which generally requires a commercially reasonable sale. The requirements of Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code are followed, with some minor variations, by all states except Louisiana.

According to the ARC lawsuit, plaintiffs purchased only the ability to make a reservation rather than ownership in real property. In the “Floating (or flex use) periods and The Timeshare Plan article of the Declaration, the Declaration makes it very clear that the Warranty deed of an “owner” who switched  to Floating time to become a member of a “Right to Use” program renders the deed worthless and provides none of the requisite rights associated with real property.

I asked an expert, as argued in the lawsuit, if switching from a “Fixed Week” to “Floating Week” would render the “Fixed Week” deed worthless.

Purchasers still own that deeded week and it can be found in land records. The purchaser simply surrendered their right to occupy that week and the use rights that went with it in exchange for a floating week use right. Their interest, however, is tethered to an actual real property ownership (even if they cannot legally possess it). If they sold their interest, they would be selling the deeded week they bought which would include the surrender and exchange agreement for a floating week. By the same token, if they are foreclosed upon for non-payment, it would be the deeded week that would be foreclosed and the agreements tied to it (i.e., the floating week right) would be rendered null and void.

As an analogy, let’s say you join a car-sharing group where everyone in the group can use whatever car is available using a reservation system. In order to get into the group, however, you are required to purchase a car to add to the fleet. You don’t buy the car outright; you finance it through the group such that your monthly dues are part car payment and part fees. Even though you hold title to one car in the fleet, you have no more right to use that car than anyone else in the group. If you fall behind in your monthly dues, you will lose your car-sharing membership (i.e., the use rights you bargained for), and the car that you added to the fleet (i.e., the tangible property you hold title to but surrendered possessory interest in) will be repossessed by the group.

Note from Inside Timeshare: Spanish Timeshare Law prohibits Floating Weeks and Points as there is no tangible product and they lack any substance.

My unnamed source is not saying the lawsuit is without merit, in that they feel the underlying real property is illusory, but they feel it may be a tough argument to win.  

Related articles:

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders     

What happens if I stop paying my maintenance fees? Timeshare attorney Mike Finn answers the question in this article:

Proprietors behind Americano are ARC American Resort Collection

www.arcresorts.com/about-arc/

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

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.

Thank you Irene, next week in the Tuesday Slot we welcome Mike Kosor with his response to the Wyndham Sr VP Jason Gamel and his testimony to the Florida HB 435 workshop.

Join us again next week and have a great weekend.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome KOALA, a new innovation in Timeshare Rentals & Exchange, with the introduction by Irene Parker.

First another word of warning for those who have had dealings with Eze Group, as we reported on Monday, Dominic O’Reilly has been jailed for 2 years 4 months, with Stephanie O’Reilly receiving 9 months & 18 months suspended for 2 years.

Since this case has been in the public domain several readers have informed us of companies claiming to be working with or appointed by the courts to help “victims” get their money back. The main one that seems to be contacting people with this story is Money Advice Limited.

The latest reader to have been contacted has been told that the money is in the Spanish legal system, that they need to pay £725 in order to get the money. Once this is paid they will receive a cheque within 10 days.

This is a scam, there is no money held by the courts either in Spain or the UK. No court appoints a private company or third party to contact victims. If you had come up in any investigation the authorities would have been in contact before any case, this would have been to provide any evidence and witness statements to strengthen any case they had.

DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM.

Now for this weeks article.

KOALA Provides a New Era for Timeshare Rentals & Exchange

Founded by a team that believes everyone has the right to decide how and when they travel, Koala is empowering owners to utilize their timeshare without limits. There are no upfront costs, no commitments and no hidden fees.

Visit the KOALA website to join their exclusive wait list

www.go-koala.com/owners

March 26, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

I met with the founders of Koala last summer when visiting our daughter in New York. Co-Founder Mike Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur and spent 10 years as a Sales Executive at Hilton Club New York. Inside Timeshare has received only two Hilton complaints out of 742 reader complaints. Mike gained valuable insight into the struggles of timeshare owners today and is committed to modernizing and improving the industry.

Co-Founder James Burbridge reached out to Inside Timeshare about a year ago. Since then the two have been laying the groundwork to launch Koala’s modernized timeshare exchange platform. James has spent over 20 years in digital media, business transformation and delivery of cutting-edge technology. He has developed multiple web solutions in the travel, retail and hospitality space.

The two founders met through James’ wife and quickly found common ground when it comes to their beliefs in entrepreneurship – solve a big problem and work with people who focus on solving that problem ethically and efficiently. These core beliefs stem through the company culture at Koala. The company has assembled a team of experts to deliver the website to the market this summer. This is the inventory build-up phase, so contact Koala to become a part of this revolutionary new service. According to Mike, “We have had a great response from our sign-up page. Many owners are signed up and ready to go.” https://go-koala.com/owners/

In a remarkable display of a lack of business ethics on the part of SellMyTimeshareNow (SMTN), when I searched for the new Koala timeshare exchange, I found a link to KoalaSellMyTimeshareNowSalesandRentals. SMTN stole our Inside Timeshare keywords too. When I searched Inside Timeshare the link was to InsideTimeshareSalesandRentals/SMTN. Inside Timeshare has received complaints about SMTN, and there is a RedWeek thread started by people who paid SMTN $1,700 to list timeshares widely known to have no secondary market. On this front Inside Timeshare supports the hotly contested Florida House timeshare Bill 435 and Nevada Senate Bill 348 feeling SMTN should not receive compensation until after a timeshare has been sold. Koala is considering a SellMyTimeshareNowSalesandRentals/Koala link.

KOALA

Koala is a secure, peer-to-peer marketplace for timeshare owners to easily rent unused time to anyone in the world. It is reinventing the way owners use their assets to Go Somewhere New whether you’re a savvy owner ready to embrace innovation, or your timeshare no longer fits your lifestyle, Koala is set to disrupt the status quo.

There is a growing demand from travelers for accommodations that offer more space than a hotel room and more safety than a stranger’s home. Koala connects timeshare hosts to those seeking the value and certainty that timeshare rentals provide.

Transactions that occur between owners and travelers are secure as Koala safeguards both parties. Technology is at the heart of this innovation, ensuring the highest level of certainty and trust.

State of the Industry  

  • Peer-to-peer technology is leading the industry in the rest of the travel sector but timeshare has seen no evolution in this direction.
  • Millions of owners don’t utilize their timeshares and are reaching for new ways to subsidize their unused asset.

Why KOALA?

  • Your Time is Valuable – Your timeshare is rented faster. We put your rental in front of all travelers, not just those looking for timeshares.
  • Free to List – Signing up and listing is totally free. Owners remain in control and can delist at any time. Fees are only charged once a rental is completed and, depending on a few variables, the fee will be 5-10% of the total rental. The fee is collected once your guest has concluded their stay. Owners always see exactly what they’ll earn and exactly what we charge before they list.
  • It’s Simple and Secure – Creating your listing is quick and simple. Our secure network ends your worries and gets the money to your pocket.
  • Safety and Security are at the core of Koala’s Company Culture

With years of timeshare and tech-industry experience, Koala’s founders were driven to build a tool that would grant owners the control and freedom they deserve. Backed by a group of industry experts, Koala is shaping the future of vacation ownership.

The next generation of timeshare buyers expects more control over their vacations. Koala will revolutionize vacation ownership using a peer-to-peer solution the same way Uber & Airbnb have for their respective industries. Koala is set to launch this summer and is currently accepting early members online.  

https://www.go-koala.com/

Be sure to check with your resort to determine any restrictions on renting.

Thank you Irene and Koala for this article, we hope that this is something that will at last be of benefit to owners.

If you have been contacted by any company that tells you money is being held by any court, use our contact page and let us know, it is with your information that we can inform others of the scams that are going on.

Start the Week: O’Reilly’s Sentenced and Others Under Investigation

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we review last weeks news from Birmingham Crown Court with the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly of Eze Group. We also look at other people and companies who are also under investigation and may just be finding themselves in court.

On Thursday 21 March at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Laurence Creed passed the following sentences.

Dominic O’Reilly, jailed for 2 years 4 months, disqualified from directorships for 9 years.

Stephanie O’Reilly, 9 months suspended for 2 years, 18 months suspended for 2 years plus, disqualified for 6 years.

Dominic & Stephanie O’Reilly (Birmingham Mail)

Inside Timeshare has received a transcript by a court reporter, which although it is not verified, it does match reports published in the press.

In the Prosecution opening statement, it was asked that the judge consider monetary harm, this was extremely high according to the prosecution, with 36 complaints, 90 in process and 45 further complaints pending.

The prosecution also explained the emotional impact, consumers were told they had no cancellation rights along with aggressive sales tactics. It was also mentioned that the defendants were told to stop these tactics including the institution of cancellation rights, but these did continue even after Trading Standards began investigations.

In mitigation, the defence for Mr O’Reilly asked for the sentence to be suspended as he did plead guilty at an early stage. He also told the court that Mr O’Reilly is now 54, in ill health and in need of a heart operation.

The fact that one elderly couple aged 68 and 69, one who had recently had a stroke, the other had diabetes including an attack during the meeting, were made to transfer money before being allowed to leave, does make the above mitigation plea a complete joke.

Miss O’Reilly’s defence used her being the mother of a 1-year-old baby which is breastfed and she is now 11 weeks pregnant. Also, she has no support structure in the UK, as her parents live in Tenerife, that her partner would have to give up his job to look after the baby if she was jailed.

In all, the 36 complaints totalled £425,000 of which only £3,813 was ever refunded, Trading Standards found another 100 complaints totalling £1.3 million. In all the company made by 2017 around £3.375 million.

Much of this money was transferred to the Tenerife company Regency Shores SL when the customers believed it was being paid to Eze Europe Ltd.

The judge also highlighted several clients, that were sent threatening letters for payments when the client wanted to cancel. One client had to call their daughter to help pay, then chased with a letter before action.

The client cases in this trial are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, there are hundreds more, unfortunately, many of these are now subject to scams due to this trail. Cold calls from companies stating they are working with or have been appointed by the courts to help them get money back which the courts are holding. As we have said before this is not true.

The O’Reilly’s are now being investigated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, The authorities have to power to seize accounts and assets such as houses and cars if it is deemed they are from the proceeds of crime. The problem now is can they link it, where is the money, are any properties in their names, or are they in his wifes or her partner’s names. If so can it be proven the money used was from the O’Reilly’s in the first place?

We can only wait and see.

If you have been a client and receive any calls regarding money being held for you, then contact Inside Timeshare. We will then explain where you stand and if you are able to get anything back.

Link to the Birmingham Mail

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/timeshare-boss-dominic-oreilly-jailed-16010172?fbclid=IwAR1HB-9OyDuv4d5Xytwk0mjX7ZmeIWIWJNGMZqUibWaE7fKXa0nR__dbnH0

Another investigation is also being conducted into several Mark Rowe companies, by the Regional Organised Crime Unit of Avon and Somerset Police, along with the authorities in Tenerife.

Mark Rowe

This investigation is very similar in nature to the one into Eze Group, it is still underway and no new or further information is yet available. But no doubt we may see a case in the courts in the near future.

Over the past few months Inside Timeshare has also been following several other names, Ali Farhoud, Alex Farhoud and Lee Burton, all linked to Silverpoint.

Ali Farhoud

In the case of the Farhouds and their company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, they now entice their old Silverpoint clients with legal action against their one-time employer Silverpoint. See the links below for further information.

We have from very reliable sources been informed that criminal denuncias have been made to the Spanish authorities against all three. Many of these by their very own clients.

Although we know that these investigations take time, especially when new complaints are likely, one thing is certain, the authorities always get them in the end.

As and when new information comes in, it will be published on these pages.

If you require any further information or have had dealings with any of the companies mentioned, then use our contact page and let us know. Inside Timeshare will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

As usual, a word of warning, before you deal with any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or from an advert, do your homework. If you are not sure then contact Inside Timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Letter from America, this week Irene Parker looks at the Nevada Timeshare Senate Bill 348, which along with Florida House Bill 435, allegedly protects timeshare consumers. But as you will see it may just prevent consumers from seeking the legal help they may need. We begin with an editorial by Timeshare Insider.

ARDA ROC responded to our Tuesday Talk article by providing their press releases strongly in support of FL HB 435. ARDA feels the bill does not prevent a timeshare member who feels they were a victim of unfair and deceptive sales practices from seeking legal counsel, but what law firm does not charge a retainer for services that are to be provided.

Inside Timeshare, especially from the EU side, spends considerable effort exposing fraudulent timeshare exit services. It is a never-ending battle which in all likelihood cannot be won without ARDA and the timeshare developers acknowledging the obvious unfair and deceptive practices that have existed on the front end of the sale. When complaints are routinely dismissed because the buyer signed a contract, and Florida and Nevada seconds the ruling by informing the buyer they have no proof, there is in effect nothing to stop unscrupulous sales agents from making up any outrageous claim to sell points.

ARDA has launched a responsible exit program.  For one timeshare company, licensed timeshare resale brokers will not accept a listing to sell the timeshare, or if the broker does accept the listing, the seller is lucky to break even. If the buyer finds they were deceived seconds after the rescission period, which Irene in her article explains can be easily dodged, there is no responsible exit. Amounts of $100,000 or more are not uncommon.https://responsibleexit.com/

We do thank ARDA ROC for responding to Tuesday’s article. It is our hope two opposing sides can come together to stop hard-working citizens in the EU and America from  being financially devastated by the words and actions of timeshare sales agents and timeshare exit service providers. In any profession there are bad apples, but in the case of timeshare sales, bad apples have a tendency to be rewarded.           

Nevada Pot Calls Kettle Black

Nevada Timeshare Senate Bill 348 Purports to Protect Nevada Timeshare Consumers – but in effect Prevents Timeshare Buyers from Retaining Legal Counsel

“What is good for the Goose…, we would love to see a 24 hour waiting period requirement on the initial timeshare sale. Members are never told of the lack of a secondary market if a timeshare member needs to dispose of the timeshare. If a wait is good for consumers on the couple thousand dollar exit contract, it certainly should be necessary for the initial $20,000 to not uncommonly over $100,000 or more a timeshare buyer spends on the initial sale.” An advocate

Proposed Nevada SB 348

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6627/Overview

By Irene Parker

March 22, 2019

In an apparent knee-jerk reaction to Florida lawmakers offering a less than lukewarm reception to Florida House Bill 435, ARDA lobbyists and timeshare developers introduced a nearly identical Nevada SB 348 on the last day a bill could be filed. Democratic Senator and Majority Whip Pat Spearman and Senator James Ohrenschall are the bill sponsors.

This bill if passed would not allow an attorney to charge a retainer if they are known to provide timeshare exit assistance as part of their law practice. Exiting a timeshare contract can take up to three years. In essence, the bill seeks to eliminate attorneys who provide timeshare exit legal advice when timeshare buyers experience unfair and deceptive sales practices or wish to dispute a contract.  

Honest attorneys and legitimate exit providers feel ARDA and timeshare developers seek to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Legitimate timeshare exit providers feel as strongly as ARDA and the developer that the myriad of scam exit companies are harming consumers, but not allowing a timeshare buyer disputing a contract to retain an attorney is overreaching, according to attorney arguments presented during the Florida HB 435 March 12 workshop held in Tallahassee, Florida.

Like the Florida bill, the Nevada bill if passed would require a 24 hour “cooling off period” that would allow a consumer signing an exit service contract time to think about their decision before signing a contract. A 24 hour cooling off period before signing the initial timeshare contract would be heralded as a huge win for consumers and would provide a level playing field for the timeshare industry and exit providers. Timeshare buyers are typically told that if they walk away from the timeshare sale of the century they will never have an opportunity to purchase at the price point offered again. The reason buyers are demanded to buy the same day is because most will not buy a timeshare if given a chance to think about it.

According to Highlands Resorts’ sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in a Colorado Attorney General investigation in 2017, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”

https://www.businessden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/5B3AF6808EF5C.pdf

Dr. Amy Gregory, an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida studied the impact of buyer regret-and-remorse on rescission decisions and determined:

A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their purchase (for money, fear, confusion, intimidation, distrust and other reasons). Forty-one percent of buyers never thought they would regret their purchase, but they did; another 30 percent were neutral prior to buying, but then regretted it.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-world-timeshare-owners

There has been a tsunami of complaints from consumers describing predatory, unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Buyers often sign a perpetual contract after being held for hours in an aggressive high-pressure sales session. I have prepared a 126 page report of 75 Platinum members who report similar to identical complaints, up-sold into insolvency by being promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to be able to sell points, provided the buyer purchases additional points. The majority of these scams took place in Nevada. Of the 75 similar to identical complaints, 20 were filed against one Las Vegas sales agent allowed to up-sell for over two years, earning $2.4 million in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017. In a lawsuit filed against the company, he alleges management instructed him to create reasons why existing members needed to purchase additional points.  

In another Nevada incident, an Iraqi veteran recorded a fraudulent sale. The recording was provided to Inside Timeshare January 2018. After the veteran asked for his ID and credit card back for over an hour, when the sales agent left the room, he recorded the second hour of a five hour ordeal that resulted in the disabled veteran, who suffers from TBI and PTSD, taking out a loan the family could not afford. Instead of being fired, ten months later Platinum member Patty Boyak and her husband Brandon, a Navy veteran, were up-sold into insolvency by the same Las Vegas agent. Just recently, an elderly couple, without access to a computer, was up-sold by the same Las Vegas agent that sold Patty. They signed off on a loan of over $100,000, promised the ability to pay maintenance fees. The husband is diagnosed Alzheimer’s and English is his wife’s second language.

If you are just now jumping into Timeshare Wars, these are the links to our articles published last week about Florida HB 435 and our members’ responses to ARDA’s assertion that the rescission period offers adequate time to cancel the contract.

Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12

Timeshare member response:

According to one attorney I spoke with, the primary problem with the bill is that ARDA has exempted attorneys in Section 12(1) and then in Section 12(2)(b) states attorneys cannot get paid until “all” services are complete. One can only assume when ARDA states “all” services, they mean getting a full release, regardless this is not clear. As attorney Wayne Halper explained at the Florida HB 435 workshop, proof of release has not always been provided by developers.

This bill creates several problems.

  1. First, attorneys bill for their time.  If attorneys cannot bill for time and can only bill upon completion of services, it is going to create cash flow problems and prevent attorneys from taking these cases, which appears to be ARDA’s intent.  Further, given the lack of clarity about what “all” services means; it appears attorneys could potentially be held criminally liable if they billed a client for work performed. The sole effect of this would be to chill representation and is completely anti-consumer.
  2. Given the confusing nature of the drafting, as soon as this bill passes all the timeshare companies have to do is refuse to settle, forcing every attorney to go to binding arbitration and the attorneys would only get paid if they win. Very few if any attorneys are going to take that risk given the deck is already stacked against them at arbitration, which is anti-consumer.  Once again, trying to keep people who have been aggrieved by the timeshare companies, or are struggling financially, from being represented by counsel.
  3. The penalty for breach of this law is a felony. This will further deter representation by attorneys. There is no other area of law, where an attorney can be held liable for a felony based on representation of a Client and the manner in which we legitimately bill. That timeshare companies are already suing attorneys all over the country civilly, to be able to subject attorneys to potential criminal sanctions, is ludicrous and highlights the sole intent of this provision, which is to prevent aggrieved consumers from being represented by counsel.

If you would like to weigh in, contact Inside Timeshare.

We support the following self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all those who have contributed to this and the many other articles published on Inside Timeshare.

Please do use our contact page if you would like to comment on this or any article published.

It is Carnival Time here in Gran Canaria so this will be a very busy weekend, we hope you all have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Carnival Gran Canaria

Canarian Legal Alliance: Benalmadena Office Interview

While attending a meeting on the Costa del Sol, Inside Timeshare took the time to drop in on the new office in Benalmadena Costa of Canarian Legal Alliance. The office manager and senior consultant Sean Thacker was very kind in spending some time explaining what they do and answering a few questions.

The office itself is situated in the center of Benalmadena Costa, a stones throw from the wonderful Parque de la Paloma and the Aquarium Selwo Marina.

It is a modern and spacious office with facilities for conference calls, with a relaxed atmosphere, which will certainly put potential clients at ease.

The Benalmadena Office of CLA

Here is what Sean had to say.

Inside Timeshare.

As we know Canarian Legal Alliance has had a presence in Gran Canaria for many years, the Benalmadena office is a fairly new branch, when did you open and why was this location chosen?

Sean: This office opened in April of 2017, the main point was we understood there were many clients who took vacations on the Costa del Sol, especially as this area is full of resorts associated with timeshare. It was felt that many of these owners would be interested to learn more about their rights and how the judicial system can protect those rights.

In the light of the publicity surrounding the timeshare industry, we believed they would be more comfortable in visiting our office and discuss their concerns in person. The other advantage is we are also able to offer the many mainland European clients who opt for driving holidays a genuine service.

IT: Have you had many clients just walk in seeking advice about their timeshares and what has been the main concern of these clients?

Sean: Yes, we were very surprised at the number of clients who passed and came in for some general advice. We offer this advice free of any charge, explaining the law in Spain and what their rights are under the Spanish Timeshare Laws.

One of the main concerns was the mounting rise in maintenance fees, along with no availability, especially for the points and floating week owners, yet they were increasingly seeing that they could book online in the high season considerably cheaper than what they pay in fees. Another concern was where clients purchased on a rental basis yet they received no rental income.

IT: Are most of your enquiries made by telephone or do you receive more via email?

Sean: Our clients, apart from walkins, are mainly via enquires from the internet or social media and we now find we have a major source from our current client referrals to other owners or even friends and family.

IT: What has been the main nationality of the clients or have they been from all over Europe?

Sean: We deal with clients from all of the major countries, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium/Holland, Scandinavia and we have now found over the last 3 months a big increase in Finnish clients who are interested to understand their rights in Spain.

IT: As you said, many of your clients are now from Finland, which timeshare company has figured the most with these clients and what type of products have they purchased?

Sean:I notice that most of our Finnish clients predominantly purchased with Silverpoint / Excel, The Company Participation Schemes seem to play a major role in most of the purchases.

IT: You mentioned the Company Participations Scheme sold by Silverpoint, would you say that these are now becoming more numerous than the old “investment packs” that were being sold originally?

Sean:Yes, there seems to be a switch from the old investment packs to Company Participation which suggests that companies are trying to look for alternative sales tools to offer to clients while always trying to circumnavigate the Spanish legal system.

IT: How do the “Company Participations” differ from the original “investment packs” and would you say that the average amount spent by purchasers is much higher than before?

Sean:The biggest difference is that customers thought they were buying an apartment as freehold. But they bought between 8 to 52 timeshare weeks, these “apartments” are “registered” as SL or limited companies, this is another ploy to remove them from the strict timeshare laws. On this point, in a recent case held in Tenerife, Silverpoint admitted in court that The Company Participations are timeshare. We are finding that our clients are spending anything between 37,000 and 250,000 euros per purchase. That is a huge amount for a product which is essentially timeshare.

IT: Would you say that most clients are nervous about taking legal action and how do you overcome this?

Sean: Everyone is always nervous in the first place to take any legal action, especially in a foreign country, the most important aspect of our work is to make sure we offer full support and transparency in how the process works, then guide the clients step by step through the whole process. It is important at all times we never apply any pressure techniques. This process is totally in the client’s hands, we are a support vehicle for them.

IT: We know there is always going to be bad press on the internet, much of it made by the industry, which will make prospective clients sceptical, so how do you overcome this problem?

Sean:Bad press is something we deal with daily, it proves to me that we do our job correctly for our clients. If you take the record of CLA and the number of case victories including over 129 Supreme Court wins, this shows to our clients that bad press is the only option certain industry members have. I personally will always go through with clients all good and bad press so they feel comfortable, as I mentioned earlier, transparency is the key .

IT: Roughly, how many cases do you think you have taken on since opening this office and would you say that those which have been to court have lived up to the expectations of your clients?

Sean: Since opening, we have delivered over 500 cases from the mainland office alone, all our client’s expectations have been surpassed using the correct Spanish Laws. Our clients who have had their cases heard have received back the full purchase price, including double the deposit paid within the 14 days cooling off period, in some cases, this has been extended to 90 days, which then doubles any amount paid within that period.

Thank you Sean, you have explained what you do and how you work with your clients, I’m sure that anyone coming into this office is going to be put at ease and be given the facts.

The Benalmadena office is certainly following the success of their parents in Gran Canaria, no doubt we shall hear more of them in the future.


Sean Thacker indicating a Supreme Court ruling against Silverpoint

Sean also pointed out that Diamond has several resorts in the area one is their flagship Sahara Sunset. Diamond has also had rulings against them from the Supreme Court, Inside Timeshare published this in December 2018. Below is a PDF of that ruling.

In another court case, this time held at the Court of First Instance in Barcelona, Restotel SA, MedHotel Group SL and ONA Group (Club Dorada SL), were found to be in breach of the timeshare laws. The contract was declared null and void with the client being awarded 112,724€ including double the deposit paid within the cooling off period. Below is a PDF of that ruling.

Inside Timeshare has highlighted the great results achieved by Canarian Legal Alliance in Gran Canaria for several years now, including all the Supreme Court rulings. Even though the facts speak for themselves, the industry is still in denial, they will not admit they are losing. There are still false statements about Canarian Legal Alliance being posted on the internet, much of it we know is from the industry itself, but the facts are these cases are in the public domain and cannot be denied.

Below are two links to previous articles published by Inside Timeshare on Silverpoint, to find more use the search box on the website.

If you would like further information on this article or any other published, use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Eze Group Clients the Target for Scammers

Over the past couple of months, Inside Timeshare has been receiving many enquiries regarding money held by the courts for “victims” of Eze Group. As we know Dominic O’Reilly, Stephanie O’Reilly and Eze Europe Ltd are due in Birmingham Crown Court on 21 March for sentencing.

The latest firm to appear with calls telling “victims” they have been appointed by the High Court to contact them to ensure that they receive the money due to them is Money Advice Limited.

This company is newly registered at Company House, being incorporated only on 30 January 2019, so it is not even 2 months old. Company Registration Number 11796746 with the registered address:

10 Adamson House, Towers Business Park, Didsbury, Manchester, United Kingdom, M20 2YY

The registered director is Joshua Rice, born April 1989, with the occupation of Financial Consultant. Also registered at the same address. He has no links to any other directorship or company on Company House records.

The address is one that is owned by Regus PLC, one of the largest office space providers. Part of their service includes rental of office and conference facilities by the day and virtual offices. The Virtual office facility provides a business address at a prime location, call answering service and mail handling. So a very convenient way to provide a company such as Money Advice Limited with the cover of legitimate company.

https://www.regus.co.uk/locations/United-Kingdom/Manchester/Manchester-Didsbury?utm_source=yext_places_gmb&utm_medium=places&utm_campaign=yext_traffic&utm_content=3775

According to our information Money Advice Limited is contacting customers of Eze Group and Regency Shores SL and informing them they are working directly with the courts. That only Money Advice Limited will be able to recover the money paid by the customer. As we know, the courts do not use third party or private companies to contact “victims”.

If during any investigation by the Police, Trading Standards or any other authority, they discover “potential victims” of fraud, it is they who would make contact. They would then be asking for information and statements in order to facilitate their inquiry into the alleged fraud.

So the question arises, how has Money Advice Limited got hold of customer details, knowing what they have purchased and for how much?

The only answers are very simple, either they are ex-employees of the company and have stolen the customer records, or they have purchased them from another ex-employee.

So along with Claims Assistance Bureau Limited and other companies, Money Advice Limited is using genuine court cases to defraud people who have already lost a great deal in the original purchase.

As we have already highlighted, Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, have hijacked a genuine company name to make their calls, all to give them credibility. (see link below)

If you have received a call or unsolicited email from any company claiming they have been appointed by or working with the courts to retrieve any money, whether it is Eze Group or any other timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare using our contact page and let us know the details. We will research them and publish our findings to warn other consumers.

Have you paid for a timeshare or timeshare related product and want to know how to get out or even if you can get your money back, use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

But do remember, you must do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you have found on the internet or advert in any publication. Only by doing this will you prevent yourself from being scammed.

The Tuesday Slot: More on Florida House Bill 435

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, we continue this week with more on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held in 12 March, once again written by Irene Parker who attended.

As usual before publication we have sent the article to Wyndham and ARDA for comment, but as always these tend to be ignored. As a matter of course we always send the proposed article as we welcome comments from the industry, as it furthers debate and it can accomplish our goals of consumer protection.

Without this debate nothing will ever be achieved and the consumer will forever be at the mercy of the industry. In this respect the lack of response only says one thing, for that we let you the reader decide what it is!

More on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held March 12

In response to ARDA ROC and Wyndham’s testimony:

How Timeshare Sales Agents can Dodge a Rescission Period

Why Reading the Timeshare Contract does not Always Help

Why the Delay in Reporting Fraud

By Irene Parker

March 19, 2019

The Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee:

At the Florida HB 435 workshop held in Tallahassee March 12, Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 timeshare complaints in 2017 and 2018, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation. There have been 700 complaints filed so far in 2019. Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale.

This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints submitted to Florida’s http://Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) were met with “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.” This lack of enforcement gives a green light to perpetrators, knowing their company will dismiss complaints with, “You signed a contract,” echoed by DBPR’s response, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

Platinum timeshare member Sheilah Brust, who designed our Timeshare Regret T-Shirt pictured above, and other Platinum members, are organizing a protest in May in Orlando, astonished at the figures reported by Florida’s timeshare division. The oral representation sentence in the timeshare contract stating, “I did not rely on oral representations to make my purchase,” buried in an 80+ page contract, gets a workout. Our goal is to alert the public that they should not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, which is not fair to timeshare agents selling the product honestly.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 735 families. Of the 735, 100 are veterans and active duty service members. Over 200 of our readers have sent complaints to the timeshare lobby and PAC ARDA ROC. ARDA ROC does not mediate complaints, but they have a Code of Ethics. All complaints sent to ARDA ROC but one were ignored. ARDA ROC responded to one complaint, “This has been resolved,” even before the member, with a top security clearance, had heard from the company. The CEO of the company sits on ARDA’s board.  An active duty service member or a defense department worker can lose their security clearance, their job and their career over a timeshare foreclosure. ARDA ROC purports to be the voice of timeshare members.    

On Saturday, March 16, I heard from Platinum member #74, told that by purchasing additional points, they would be able to sell or rent points to offset rising maintenance fees, now over $10,000 per year. A 126 page summary report I prepared of reader complaints, shows a pattern and volume of complaints, often the sales agent a repeat offender. All the Platinum members report being told of maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist or a program allowing the member to sell points, if they purchased additional points.      

Platinum report submitted by Andrea K, Platinum member #74:

Our family has been emotionally and financially devastated because of the last timeshare points purchased. By 2016 or 2017 our maintenance fees had increased. The sales agents said we were the only deeded owners left and that is why they said our maintenance fees were so high. They said they were not sure if it was too late, but they could try to get us converted to points.

In 2017 we went to Hawaii. We purchased $55,000 worth of more points. They said if we purchased Hawaii points, we could easier sell because Hawaii is so popular. He showed me a magazine listing Hawaii timeshares for sale. I still have the magazine. He also said if I have this many points I can rent, especially in January to pay for the maintenance fees. We have learned our timeshare company does not allow us to rent using the internet, and that their points are worthless on resale.  

In 2018 we stayed at Tahoe in California but purchased in Nevada. In Tahoe they said because we had not purchased at our last stay, we lost our $3 price so that we would have to pay $9 per point if we did not buy additional points that day. He said our price lock was lost, but when he checked our records, he said for some reason the $3 was still there. He said I needed to sign a paper to remove the $3 price and in the future I would have to buy points at $9. He should have told us our timeshare points are worthless on resale. These presentations have taken 6 to 8 hours, despite being told they would only be for 90 minutes.

As years have gone by, we have learned that things we were told are either exaggerated or not true.  Many of the reimbursements promised did not yield what they had said they would yield.

Twenty of the 74 Platinum complaints were lodged against the same sales agent over a two year period. According to a lawsuit the agent has filed against the company, he said he was instructed to create reasons why existing members needed to buy additional points. He reported earning over $1 million in 2015 selling timeshare points, $2.4 million in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017, before being terminated. His replacements are generating similar to identical complaints.

Mr. Ken McKelvey, ARDA ROC Chairperson, questioned why timeshare buyers wait so long to report deception. Mr Jason Gamel, Wyndham Sr. VP, Legal said exit companies are not needed because Wyndham has a hardship department to address members struggling with high interest rate timeshare loans. Both spokespersons said the rescission period provides enough time to review a contract and rescind. Our reader complaints address these objections:

How timeshare sales agents and timeshare companies can easily dodge the rescission period:

  • The buyer is told, “This is a new program, so don’t say anything to quality assurance because I could get fired.”
  • The buyer is told, “This program will be available after January 1.”
  • The buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Several buyers report being told airfare is included when booking. It’s not until they attempt to book they learn this is Blarney.
  • The buyer reports being told loans will be consolidated, but then the loan is not consolidated. The buyer does not learn this until the next loan payment, after the rescission period.
  • The buyer is told to wait a few months before refinancing.

Why reading the contract does not always help:

  • Buyers are shown a booklet of resorts, but the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Actual availability cannot be determined by reading the contract.
  • My contract stated, “You can sell points, we will not assist you.” It left out the part about licensed timeshare brokers will not accept a listing for my timeshare points.

Why there is a delay in reporting fraud:

  • The reason that it may be several years before fraud is reported is because a negative life event triggers the need to sell. It is not until that trigger occurs that the buyer, who was sold on the promise that the timeshare is like real estate, easily sold, learns their timeshare is worthless.
  • It is not until a tax preparer, attorney, or grown child of elderly parents discovers predatory actions, such as the retired Navy veteran, living on a letter carrier’s pension, up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. There have been numerous complaints involving Alzheimer diagnosed buyers.

We are hoping Marine veteran James Sherwood fell through the cracks at Wyndham, and that Wyndham will reach out to Mr. Sherwood. Mr. Sherwood’s wife broke both hips three years ago and has had a total hip replacement. He is disabled. Neither can travel. Wyndham would not accept that Mr. Sherwood was disabled. They demanded proof he could not travel. The VA provided a letter stating Mr. Sherwood could not travel. This was not sufficient. Mr. Sherwood felt it was an invasion of privacy to demand all medical and financial records, especially since he was told when he purchased the timeshare, that the transaction was a real estate transaction and could easily be sold. http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/

Timeshare members are deeply grateful to Florida lawmakers, who echoed some of their negative timeshare experiences during the Florida HB 435 workshop. For the first time in memory, lawmakers’ voices talked back to the timeshare industry and to industry lobbyists. A timeshare consumer protection Arizona HB 2639 bill is currently being debated, strongly opposed by ARDA. The Arizona Attorney General’s office received 400 complaints against just one company. After a press release announcing an investigation a few years ago, they received an additional 500 complaints, according to members who spoke with the Arizona AG’s office.  

The question I am most frequently asked:  “How do they sleep at night?”

My answer, “Bernie Madoff had no trouble sleeping at night.”

The comment I hear most frequently, “I feel so stupid.”

I answer that the following have reached out to us describing unfair and deceptive sales practices, in addition to the vulnerable:

  • Three PhD economic and criminal justice professors
  • A Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover
  • A Consolidated Edison contract specialist
  • Lawyers and mortgage brokers

Can it be, after all this time, the consumer’s voice is being heard?

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help:

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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all our advocates for all the hard work you put in on behalf of the consumer, without you there would be nowhere for them to turn.

If you have any comments or views on this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker gives her account on the workshop she attended at the Florida House of Representatives, regarding the Florida House Bill 435. As Sunday is St Patrick’s Day for all of our Irish friends, we couldn’t resist using the definition of Blarney in the opening graphic. After watching the recording of the Workshop, it seemed apt to use it, once you watch it for yourselves, you will understand why.

Before we go to Irene’s report some very brief news on the legal front in Spain.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint have been subject to a “cash” embargo, this is a result of a case brought by Canarian Legal Alliance for an execution of sentence on a recent case. Their senior lawyer Eva Gutierrez brought the order to the court to force Silverpoint to lodge the awarded amount with the court. This was done to ensure swift payment of the funds to the client, who will now receive 27,047.11€ plus legal fees and all legal interest.

CLA are now using this enforcement action as soon as the sentence is issued by the court. This stops any delaying tactics by the timeshare companies in making payment. It seems to be working very well.

It has also been published that the Fiscal Prosecutor in Gran Canaria, is looking into the accounts of Anfi Resorts and Anfi Sales, for the possible illegal movement of money to various accounts in order to delay the payment of funds to clients who have won cases against them.

For the Fiscal Prosecutor to be involved in this, shows that it is a serious matter, the full story can be read at the link below. Although it is in Spanish, use google and use the translate page feature.

https://m.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-timesharing-condenas-timesharing-insolvencia_punible_0_875612945.html?fbclid=IwAR0NGGZM0o8F8R8ZI3bD_Jsw5fS-HVuRSc0g1ed-lUJOS01GUZC48huO0_c

No for Irene’s report.

Florida House of Representatives

Business and Profession Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12

Florida House Bill 435

Does it restrict the rights of citizens to retain legal counsel?

By Irene Parker

March 15, 2019

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints about timeshare exit companies, in addition to reports from timeshare buyers describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Critics of Florida HB 435 feel if passed this bill would restrict the ability of timeshare buyers to seek legal counsel.

Due to disclosures, we will not publish the link to the recording of the Florida HB 435 workshop held March 12, but the recording can be easily found at https://thefloridachannel.org/. Search the workshop by entering 3/12/19 Business and Professions Committee. The first 1 ½ hours is about beer and spirits distribution. The timeshare workshop can be found by fast-forwarding to the session’s last hour.

A panel composed of exit company attorneys and industry attorneys answered questions from Florida state representatives, who clearly seemed on top of the issues. Panel members included:

Jason Gamel, Sr. Vice President, Legal at Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc.

Shannon Zetrouer, Outside Counsel, Reed Hein and Associates

Tiffany Kimble, Director of Underwriting, First American Title’s Vacation Ownership Services Division

Wayne Halper, Esq., in-house counsel Wesley Financial Group, LLC

K.L. “Ken” McKelvey, CPA, ARDA ROC Chairman

Boyd McAdams, from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), shed light on the number of consumer complaints filed in the last few years. Previously, our figures reported 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014. DBPR only acted on 110 of those complaints.

The approximate figures of timeshare related complaints, as I understood the figures, are:

2016        1200 complaints          600 reported misleading information

2017        1300 complaints          700 misleading information

2018        1300 complaints          700 misleading information  

2019        700 complaints            300 misleading information

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.

Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”   

Consumer attorneys matched the strength of industry attorneys. I would like to point out and dispute a few of the comments made by panel members Wyndham attorney Jason Gamel and ARDA ROC spokesperson Ken McKelvey.

Reid Hein’s legal counsel, Shannon Zetrouer, described how a buyer, typically held for hours in a high pressure timeshare sales presentation, signs a perpetual contract, often reporting that they were given misleading information.

Ms. Zetrouer argued that Florida HB 435 would infringe on a consumer’s right to seek other legal services, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or estate planning advice. She feels the bill, as currently worded, is overreaching in that it would affect timeshare buyers across the nation if they purchased in Florida.  “I specifically have concerns about House Bill 435. First, I think it will actually have a negative impact on consumers…It seems to infringe on the right of contracts and the right of companies to contract with consumers for relief that they [the consumers] are clearly seeking. Otherwise this industry wouldn’t exist,” said Zetrouer. “Simply put, if going to developers was an option for these consumers, then there would be no third party industry,” she added.

Mr. Gamel spoke of the 2012 Transfer Act that addressed disclosure, rescission, escrow and prohibited acts.

Ms. Kimball addressed the problems associated with fraudulent transfers.

Wayne Halper, Esq. described the criteria required to become a client of Wesley Financial Group, LLC. Wesley Financial receives 3,000 to 3,500 calls per week from timeshare buyers seeking relief from timeshare contracts. Of those initial contracts, only 150 to 200 per week are accepted as clients, because they must meet the criteria for fraud. Similar to the complaints Inside Timeshare receives, 100% of Wesley clients report being told the timeshare is an investment and will increase in value and 91% report the ability to rent will offset maintenance fees and provide an income stream in retirement.

Mr. Halper echoed Ms. Zetrouer’s comments, in that 99% of timeshares sold in America have a presence in Florida, and the bill as written would eliminate the right of timeshare members to seek the services of those offering exit services. Later in the discussion, Mr. Halper pointed out that being released from a timeshare contract can take up to three years. He felt it would be unfair to expect a provider not be allowed to charge for services performed until after proof of exit has been provided, proof not always provided.

ARDA ROC Chairman K. L. McKelvey said ARDA ROC represents 1.8 million Timeshare Owners. I have asked 742 families who have reached out to me, feeling they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, if they even knew what ARDA ROC stands for. Not one member could answer, yet collectively timeshare members give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year, often “opt-out” contributions.  

Mr. McKelvey described ARDA’s Responsible Exit Industry Coalition. For my timeshare, this is nothing more than media spin. I surveyed all 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Of the 64 members, 22 members responded, saying they would not accept a listing for my timeshare company, feeling restrictions the company places on points purchased on the secondary market excessive.

In response to a question asked by Representative Randy Fine (R), asking the percentage of Wyndham’s marketing costs; Mr. Gamel thought 30 to 40%.

Let’s compare this scenario to the primary housing market. The timeshare buyer sits across from a real estate agent in most states. There is an understandable assumption a buyer would think they have the same rights as a primary housing market buyer.

What would happen to the primary housing market if:

  • The Buyer paid 30 to 40% upfront in commissions,
  • The Buyer is demanded to buy the house the same day,
  • The Buyer learns licensed brokers won’t accept a listing to sell their home should they need to sell.

Committee member Representative Michael Gottlieb asked about “Adhesion” – meaning a timeshare contract cannot be changed, so why should someone need to talk to a lawyer before signing a contract, because you can’t change the contract anyway. The reason is because buyers are exhausted after an hours long high pressure sales session, signing a perpetual contract without being allowed adequate time to review copious and complicated documents. Not only attorneys, buyers are discouraged from seeking advice from a mom, dad, son or daughter. Sales agents are trained on how to defer this request, according to numerous current and former sales agents. Not being allowed 24 hours to think about a perpetual purchase, spending anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 highlights the unfair in unfair and deceptive practices.

There have been many Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits concerning unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams was awarded $20 million after reporting deceptive sales practices, and a recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed November 2018 on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents and employees, working at Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort. Buyers need to beware of potential deceptive timeshare sales practices.

Buyers sign perpetual timeshare contracts accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Often existing members are sold additional points, promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. The lack of a viable secondary market exacerbates the problem. Wyndham lists a viable secondary market as a risk to their stock market investors in their 10k reports.

Clearly, as Committee Chairwoman Heather Fitzenhagen stated, timeshare is a thorny issue. Let’s hope actual member voices can be heard in future sessions.   

On Tuesday, our reader data can easily address concerns expressed by Mr. McKelvey and Mr. Gamel:

1.     How rescission periods are easily dodged

2.     Why reading the contract does not always help

3.     Why the delay in reporting fraud

Related article: By Wyndham member and Marine Veteran Jim Sherwood, hardship appeal: http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/


Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

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.

Contact Inside Timeshare to let your voice be heard.  

Inside Timeshare did have trouble locating the recording mentioned in paragraph two of Irene’s report, so Inside timeshare has provided a direct link to it in order to assist readers, the relevant part starts at approx 1:45:50

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/3-12-19-house-business-and-professions-subcommittee/

Thank you Irene for your time in attending this workshop and writing this report, let us hope that the Florida Representatives see the need to protect consumers from the industry.

All that is left for us now is to wish you all a wonderful St Patrick’s day and to use one of their phrases

‘Bhi craic agus ceol againn’ : We had fun and music.

Join us next week for more news on the world of timeshare.

Update: Silverpoint, Nordic Consulting and the Farhouds

So here we are again, with more information supplied by our readers on the link between Silverpoint Vacations and the Farhoud Brothers, today we highlight a case a client who purchased and “apartment” via the “Company Participation Scheme” from the Silverpoint salesman, Alex Farhoud.

As we know he no longer works for Silverpoint but is a consultant for his brother’s company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, who are now making more money from the very people they sold the scheme to in the first place, this time through dubious legal action against their former employer Silverpoint.

It all began with a visit to Tenerife in 2017 and a subsequent invitation for a return visit with discounted air fares and two week stay at Beverly Hills Club. The only “condition” was they would have to attend an “information” meeting with Silverpoint.

Once they arrived they were contacted by the Silverpoint representative Alex Farhoud. They attended the arranged meeting and were greeted by the friendly Alex. He began in the time honoured timeshare “warm up”, enquiring into their health, how they are enjoying their stay and giving information on the variety of restaurants, trips and attraction that Tenerife had to offer. All designed to put them at ease.

Alex Farhoud

Eventually the conversation switched to a proposal which would be of great interest and benefit to the client, namely how they could purchase an apartment at Beverly Hills Club well below the market value, this equated to about 60% less.

He went on to explain that they would be able to use the apartment for up to half of the year and for the rest rent it out for a considerable income. Although they would have to wait a few years they would receive “compensation” of 4.5% of the the purchase price, around 155,000€

Alex Farhoud explained the business structure with the aid of the tried and trusted “pencil pitch”, (of which Inside Timeshare has a copy).  It shows the workings of the 4.5%, which would equate to 6,975€ which they would receive in the first year as compensation of forthcoming rental income.

This forthcoming rental, was also shown on the hand written “pitch” and showed the proposed income of 21,623.51€, although the amount was actually shown in Swedish Kroner. There would also be a 19% tax deducted from the amount to be paid to the Spanish Tax Authority. This note does have Alex Farhouds name on it.

For the purchase to go ahead a deposit of 5,000€ was payable at that time with the balance of 150,000€ within the next couple of months.

As they had received so much information it was proposed that they would return the following day after looking over the paperwork.

They obviously had many questions they wanted answers to.

According to the paperwork, they would not receive “title” to the property until all the “timeshares” had been freed from their owners, a process that would take approximately 3 years. The paperwork also stated that they were not purchasing “timeshare”.

Moving on to 2018 early 2018, Alex Farhoud makes contact with an important announcement, problems had arisen with the lease. He also announce that he had parted company with Silverpoint, but did not elaborate if he resigned or was dismissed. Now that he was an independent agent he would be able to restore the original terms of the Rental Program Agreement, but this would entail a payment of 2 x 5,000€, paid in two instalments.

It would also appear other “buyers” had received similar information.

Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL

Step in Nordic Consulting, as we have stated the CEO is Ali Farhoud, Alex Farhoud is the consultant. They announced they had “found illegalities” in the agreements, that what they had purchased was “timeshare”, which as we know is subject to some very strict laws in Spain.

Ali Farhoud

Nordic Consulting explained they had already taken several cases to court where the contracts were cancelled with the client receiving back full payment. They proposed that they would take on the case and help this purchaser. The cost would be over 30,000€ to be paid to Nordic Consulting.

So now we have the very people who sold the scheme in the beginning, making what must have been large amounts of money in “commissions”, contacting the very people they sold it to, claiming they had no idea it was “illegal” at the time. Now making more money from the very same people!

From information received, several formal criminal denuncias have been made against them, with apparently more in process of being filed.

We don’t know about you, but it does appear to us that something is very wrong that these brothers who sold the timeshare and the participations scheme on behalf of Silverpoint for many years are able to operate in this way.

Have you been sold Timeshare with the promise of resale and rental, the Company Participation Scheme or the Overseas Lodging Participation Programme, including by those named here?

If so, use our contact page, let us know what you have purchased, Inside Timeshare will get back to you with information on where you stand and what is open to you on the legal front. Whether you are from the UK, Scandinavia, or any other European country, we can point you in the best direction.

The Tuesday Slot: Secret Shopper Report

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome back Laurie Sabbagh with her second Secret Shopper Report, this was edited by the Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbs, with the introduction by Irene Parker. But first some Breaking News from the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

British clients being represented by lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance has just received the news that the Supreme Court have found in their favour against Club La Costa Leisure Limited. Initially their case was heard at the Court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga, unfortunately this court found in favour of Club La Costa.

The CLA lawyers promptly lodged an appeal with the High Court of Malaga, this court overturned the First Instance verdict, finding in favour of the clients. Club La Costa launched an appeal with the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

The Supreme Court rejected the case and the verdict of the Malaga High Court stood firm. The contract was declared null and void with the client being awarded over 28,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.

This is a significant case as the offending company was Club La Costa Leisure Limited, a UK registered entity. This may just bode well for other similar contracts, more news on this legal aspect as and when we receive it.

The Team at Canarian Legal Alliance

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

My Secret Shopper Report

By Laurie Sabbagh

Edited by Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes

March 12, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from timeshare members told they need to switch to a different program within the same company because they should not have purchased what their last sales agent sold them. In other words, sales agents within the same company sell against each other.

Heartbreaking is the experience of Navy veteran Roy Simmons and his wife Lillian Simmons. A retired letter carrier, living on a letter carrier’s pension, he ended up switching back and forth between programs until he reached $2,700 a month in Diamond Resorts loan payments. The foreclosure process took a tremendous physical and emotional toll on the family. They sought legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney as Mr. Simmons felt he had no choice but to charge loan payments to credit cards. Roy and daughter Angela’s YouTube explains how this happened. In her research Angela discovered the FBI website, which is why she expresses her opinion that her mom and dad’s allegations meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. Roy and Angela’s February 26, 2018 YouTube:

Roy and Lillian Simmons, ages 69 and 70, Minnesota residents published March 6, 2018

Arizona representatives proposed House Bill 2639 offering protections for timeshare consumers. My experience over the last three years, reading emailed complaints and listening to 730 families report unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, has left no doubt in my mind as to the need for protection. I wrote an article, “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders.” that foreclosed members can provide to future lenders. The article offers support to my assertion, listing just some of the Attorneys General investigations and settlements and lawsuits. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

Bill sponsor Representative Shawnna Bolick and others who supported Arizona HB 2639, thank you. The timeshare lobby ARDA opposed the bill.   

Laurie Sabbagh’s Secret Shopper Report

I can’t believe it has been two years since my first Secret Shopper report was published March 17, 2017. I attended an update this month in Arizona thinking it had gone well until I was informed that the need to switch from my current Hawaii program to the US mainland program was likely proposed under false pretenses, based on the opinion of an ocean engineer. I want to state at the outset that I enjoy my Diamond points, find good value and absolutely love Sedona. As they say, God created the Grand Canyon but He lives in Sedona.

My first Secret Shopper report:  http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Diamond sales agent Paul said that he had worked in the industry for 22 years and had previously sold timeshares in Las Vegas. Paul and a second sales agent, Justin, asked me about the Hawaii special assessment I paid for the Point at Poipu water intrusion damage, which all right-to-use point owners and deeded week owners were assessed after Diamond bought out Sunterra. I told them that my portion of the assessment was much smaller than those of deeded week owners, who ended up being assessed about $5,800 per week owned.

Later Paul tried to convince me that the beach erosion problem at Ka’anapali Beach Club (one of four resorts part of Diamond’s Hawaii Collection), is putting me at risk for another special assessment. Paul further told me that if I were to switch to the US Collection, I would never be charged a special assessment because the US Collection is part of a trust. He insisted that this provision is in writing, but I was not provided documents to backup that claim.

One of our member-sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook members is an ocean engineer. He explained why beach erosion is not the responsibility of a resort, but the responsibility of the state or federal government. In a RedWeek post, a Diamond member had been advised to switch due to a 2020 special assessment:

My suggestion would be to ask Diamond for documentation to support the additional charges. For instance, it is reasonable to ask if the funding is for future flood protection that might be afforded by a beach nourishment project. If the assessment is intended for a beach nourishment project, it is likely that arrangements are in place for cost sharing between local stakeholders and government entities.  The cost and scope of government efforts are a matter of public record, and learning the particulars is typically as easy as calling the project managers.

In addition, 2020 is too far out to predict with any sort of fidelity. Concrete financial planning numbers at this stage are unlikely. I have not heard of a federal project in Hawaii. It could be state, but most major beach nourishment projects are underwritten in part by the federal government. I have not heard of a state paying for damages from a flood.  The member needs to know what the assessment is for, in more detail than just beach erosion. Is it for protection or for damage that has already occurred? One is flood damage expense, the other is flood protection afforded by beach nourishment projects.

Justin told me that Diamond bought out Sunterra but I was still an owner of Sunterra points. Justin said that I could apply my equity in Sunterra to the purchase price of 6,500 additional US Collection points to get me to the Silver level and bring the price per point of $9.33 to about $4 per point. We went back and forth. The last offer was for 2,000 points for $5 per point. I declined.

Later Quality Assurance representative Mark told me he used to be with Sunterra until Diamond bought them out, and my Sunterra points were automatically converted to Diamond’s “The Club” points, so I was indeed a Diamond member. This contradicted what Justin told me.

Mark offered me 20,000 points to be used within 24 months at $3,995. He said this offer is only valid to Diamond members. First, I thought it odd a Quality Assurance person was trying to sell me points, and second, the Sampler is a trial product, so available to anyone.

As I said in the beginning, I use and enjoy my Diamond points. I stayed a week at the Celebrity House in Sedona, two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen, using “Point Saver” at 8,250 points. With all expenses considered, it averaged $260 per day. Best Western in Sedona during the same period was $300 per night for a standard room so this ended up being a huge bargain for me.

I am disappointed that the pressure to sell points is so great that agents feel forced to misrepresent. I feel Diamond has a product, and when sold properly, members benefit. It must be the pressure to produce sales that prompts sales agents to mislead in order to make a sale, but that is just my opinion.

We appreciate Laurie’s second Secret Shopper report.

Timeshare is a product in which the sales agents demand the buyer buy the same day, even though most have no intention of buying the product prior to the day of purchase. Unlike buying a car, there is little frame of reference, especially for first time buyers. Buyers usually sign a perpetual product without even having had a chance to use the product, except to stay at a resort property. Numerous members have reported not being allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period has expired.

Learn to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, it’s advisable to not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, based on my experience and the experience of many.

These are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Social Media is here to stay, so consumers can now share experiences. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your timeshare experience, good or bad.

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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you to Laurie, Pete and Irene for your efforts with this weeks article, we certainly look forward to more Secret Shopper Reports.

The breaking news today from the Spanish Supreme Court was very welcome news indeed, what a start to the day.

If you have been contacted by any company or found one on the internet or advert and want to know if they are genuine, use our contact page and we will help you find out.

Do you feel that you were mis-sold your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a claim, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will check to see if you have a valid and viable case and point you in the right direction. This service is done free of charge and under no obligation.

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