Timeshare is not having a good time right now, in Europe and especially Spain the industry is reeling from very costly litigation. This is costing resorts and developers a fortune in returning money for purchases made which have gone against the laws put in place to protect consumers.
In the United States the industry is also under fire, most recently a former sales agent has been awarded $20 million for unfair dismissal by Wyndham. She had been branded a “troublemaker” after she complained about unfair and dubious sales tactics being employed.
We have also seen the NY Attorney General close down the sales operation at The Manhattan Club, due to allegedly fraudulent sales practices involving a “bait and switch” scheme. Manhattan Club buyers learned there was a lack of availability for those who purchased memberships, while the general public could easily book online. A court battle that began in 2014 continues today.
The following article by Irene Parker explains the most recent news coming in from across the Great Lake.
Colorado Attorney General Scores a Goal for Timeshare Reform
By Irene Parker
December 12, 2016
All timeshare owners and buyers want is honesty and a fair price for their timeshare, along with reasonable maintenance fees and a legitimate secondary market. Now a third US Attorney General scores a goal for timeshare reform by exposing deceptive timeshare business practices.
There is something flawed if a product cannot be sold, if it is not sold same day. Even car shoppers are allowed to think about it, and many timeshare purchases cost as much or more than a luxury car. There are first day pricing incentives and consumers are told they cannot buy in the future.
According to Highlands Resorts’ sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in the lawsuit, “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.”
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman has sued Highlands Resorts at Christie Lodge in Avon, Colorado for deceptive trade practices in Denver County Court. The state is also suing sales manager Greg Penrod and twelve other defendants. Several were outbound telemarketers.
Sedona Pines Resort in Arizona was also named in the lawsuit. I spoke to a former Diamond sales agent. Diamond agents cannot disclose any company policies or procedures due to a “CNDA” sales agent agreement they are required to sign. It stands for “confidential non-disclosure agreement” discouraging Whistleblowers. Not all agents are dishonest, so the sales agent who realizes something very wrong and harmful is being done to consumers, wants to tell their story.
In this case, the former sales agent said Diamond Resort owners, desperate to be released from rising maintenance fees, went to presentations at nearby resorts hoping for alternatives. Some Pines brokers would inflate the price of the Pines program to make Diamond owners think they were getting something for their Diamond points or weeks as a trade-in. A dollar amount would be added onto the purchase price as a “trade-in” if the consumer purchased a Sedona Pines program.
The Colorado lawsuit provided an example of fake pricing. “A fake price sheet itemized costs totaling $25,224, which included $6,995 in RCI upgrade points. If the buyer purchased today, Highlands promised to pay the $6,995. However, Highland did not pay the $6,995. They only paid $179 in RCI dues instead of the $6,995 for RCI points.”
According to the state, “Highlands Resorts and its owner, Telluride resident Todd Herrick, “intentionally deceived, misled, and financially injured consumers” using high pressure selling tactics. Highlands Resorts is one of a larger group of timeshare companies controlled by a resort called Sedona Pines in Arizona. On its website, Highlands Resorts says it operates one resort in Durango and two resorts in Arizona.
The state, which is represented by the office of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, is seeking payments of $325,000 from those four defendants and a permanent injunction that would stop them from, among other things, advertising timeshares without displaying fees and conditions. A spokesperson did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Similar deceptive and misleading sales and marketing tactics are outlined in other lawsuits. Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt sales agents filed a class action Whistleblower lawsuit against Hyatt timeshare. Candace is seeking Hyatt owners who feel they have been deceived by misleading and deceptive tactics.
A jury awarded former Wyndham timeshare sales agent Trish Williams a $20 million Whistleblower award. Wyndham issued a statement saying the tactics used are not representative of their company policy, according to the NY Times.
It’s getting harder to believe these practices are not representative of timeshare.
Part II of this article will examine the fourteen defendants charged with violating the “Do Not Call” list to offer vacation incentives they proclaim are valued at $1,900. The lawsuit claims these certificates cost the developer $40.
I personally received a call from Fort Lauderdale yesterday. When I mentioned I was on the DNC list, he apologized and proceeded with his pitch. This is outbound telemarketing, so there is no way to contact the person or company that called.
We’re up to three Attorney Generals who have sued the timeshare companies. Timeshare developers figure in the cost of owner lawsuits as part of their annual budget. They do not figure in the cost of an Attorney General suing the company.
In the case of Christie Lodge, the resort is open but the sales program is not operational.
So the question that must be asked is when will the industry wake up and change how it operates, not just in the USA, but in Europe and the rest of the world?
Inside Timeshare once again thanks Irene for her contribution, without her efforts we would not be able to bring you the news from across the water, bringing consumers together in a cause that affects all timeshare owners. Honesty, integrity and fairness are the elements that are missing in this industry, it must be said that not all are guilty of this, there are some who do work by these principles, but it is those who don´t that give it a bad name and reputation.
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