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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article by Irene Parker explores the Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics. A Code of Ethics is meant to be lived by. In timeshare, a Code of Ethics has been something to write and post on your website, but never seem to be followed. It doesn’t help that 200 or so of our readers who have reported violations in ARDA‘s Code of Ethics have been dismissed by the very executives that sit on their board. We take our hats are off to Whistleblowers of America for taking a Code of Ethics seriously. But then Whistleblowers are not in it for the money.

Hollywood Mirage Club

Inside Timeshare has been asked by an independent member of the committee at Hollywood Mirage Club for members to make contact with him as soon as possible. He and one other will be standing for election to the full committee at the AGM at the end of June. The unfortunate thing is that they have been told that there is “no mechanism” for them to contact other members with the Secretary stating he will not allow it under the GDPR (The EU General Data Protection Regulation). A move obviously designed to control the voting, but Article 47 of the GDPR “fully considers the right of members of groups (clubs) to communicate with each other”.

To make contact directly with this member who is standing please use our contact page and we will send you his contact details privately. It is in your interest to get together and have your say.

Now for Irene’s article.

Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics

As Applied to Timeshare Support Mentors

Information about the 8th Annual WhistleBlower Summit and Film Festival to be held in Washington D.C. July 28 – August 1:

http://whistleblowersummit.com/

By Irene Parker

Friday, June 7

A Whistleblower is normally a person associated with a corporation or government agency that blows the whistle on wrongdoing as it pertains to waste, fraud and abuse, medical errors and wrongful death. You would not think an old lady crying from the rooftops of Florida about vacation plans would qualify, yet the harm done to veterans and active duty service members on the receiving end of a fraudulent timeshare sale has financially, emotionally, and physically, harmed many. Of the 841 families who have reached out to us, 106 are veterans and active duty.

We are asking for your signature on this petition for reform. You don’t have to be a timeshare member to sign.

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

A grown daughter contacted me on behalf of her Bronze Star recipient father. She could not answer all my questions about the timeshare, so I told her to ask her father about it. He had a heart attack when they were discussing it, and at the ER, the doctor noted he had a heart attack two years prior when asked about his timeshare. Her parents are the kind of people who saved up and paid cash for cars, He and his wife had been upsold to the point he had to take out a reverse mortgage because he could not afford the timeshare loan payments. He said every time he walked in the front door, he felt like he was losing his home. A Navy veteran declared bankruptcy. He had been upsold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments, living on his letter carrier’s pension, charging to a number of credit cards before his grown daughter found out.

Whistleblowers of America’s Code of Ethics spoke to me. I thought to myself, “Guilty as charged!” as I read through them.

It’s not easy to live in a state of constant anger, moved by the voices of those desperate and deceived. The only thing that keeps me going is hearing the voice turn from a desperate voice to an empowered voice.

From the Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics:

  • Counter-balancing dysfunction responses to wrongdoing with informed advocacy and resilience, skill building is the cornerstone of interactions,
  • Understand legal processes and procedures, a guide in problem solving and decision making to overcome toxic tactics.

I employ skills I learned at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) writing court reports for Family Court judges and interested parties to make a determination as to the best outcome for a child in state care.

I learned an important lesson from my husband Don, a pharmaceutical researcher. The first thing a pharmaceutical company will do if they don’t like a lab’s answers, that would allow the launch of a billion dollar a year drug, is to blame the lab. Don told me to fight with data, not words.

A mentor needs to know their boundaries.

I don’t know if I speak for all whistleblowers, but I think there is a tendency to become over-involved, breaking through necessary boundaries. I will share an example of how I overstepped mine, but in the heat of the battle, we bend rules.

A Harvard graduate and fellow Rotarian turned out to be a brute holding a Korean lady hostage. Thankfully, another fellow Rotarian was our chief of police. He helped me rescue the mom and their toddler. Major Ganot of the Salvation Army was also in my Rotary Club. She could be a Major in anyone’s army after spending a couple decades in Haiti.

Mom and child stayed with us before we returned them both back to Korea. Mom had been a manager of Duty Free shops in Korea before coming to America. Her parents were math teachers at a university. The first night at our house I heard the child screaming. I went to ask mom what the child wanted. Mom replied, “Irene,” the child grabbed my neck and clung. Dad also had child porn on his computer. The police chief found THC in the refrigerator which mom said he used to put on his pancakes. He had DTs and once dropped the child at a Rotary function.

The advice Major Ganot gave to me is the advice all mentees and mentors should heed. “You are less effective if you become part of the storm.” Doctors call this intellectualization, in that if they went into a tailspin every time they lost a patient, they would lose effectiveness. This doesn’t mean the doctor doesn’t care. It means he or she must put their role is perspective.    

In psychology, intellectualization is a defense mechanism by which reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress – where thinking is used to avoid feeling.[1] It involves removing one’s self, emotionally, from a stressful event.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectualization

Whistleblowers of America Code: Ethical Standard #2

Shared Experience Rapport

I appreciate more than ever the fidelity of “Semper fi” that exists among those battling a common enemy. Lifelong friendships have blossomed and grown. Once a timeshare dispute has been resolved, we encourage the person made whole, or as whole as possible, join our efforts to respond to others.

The moto of Whistleblowers of America is Speak Truth to Power. I would like to add to that the headline this reporter used in his investigative report about ALEC, a powerful lobby. The television reporter led with “Holding the powerful accountable” and I see “Holding the powerful accountable” as the next step after speaking truth to power.

Ethical Standard #5 Non-judgement A mentor needs to be reflective and inquisitive, but not judgmental. A mentor does not adjudicate. They facilitate problem solving rather than solve the problem.

An obstacle to resolving any dispute is getting your opponent to listen, as opposed to just hearing what the other person is attempting to communicate. Callous customer service representatives “hear” the complainant and respond, “You signed a contract.”

They don’t listen. Leadership coach Stephen R. Covey said it best:

11. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

https://www.inc.com/dave-kerpen/15-quotes-to-inspire-you-to-become-a-better-listener.html

My collaborator Michael Santos at Straight-A Guide, teaches how self-advocacy can overcome struggle. The outcome may not be what you expected. It may not be the outcome you wanted, but staying the course with determination, and making the most of available resources, is part and parcel of advocacy and self-advocacy. A Whistleblower needs both as they must advocate for their cause, and they must advocate for themselves.

Ethical Standard #11Self-care

The words “disengage when necessary” hit me like a dagger. I hear from one to five infuriated timeshare members a day, seven days a week. The unhappy emails outweigh the “we did it!” emails. Resiliency is a word often mentioned in whistleblowing. Hurtful potshots from our opponents can weigh us down or sharpen our sword. Author Carlos Castaneda, a student of Yaqui Indian Don Juan, described them as petty tyrants.

I have a friend in Sedona by the name of Pete Sanders, a Navy veteran. A technic I learned from Pete, during one of his Free Soul sessions, taught me how to find my brain’s Limbic Center and Joy Center. As I understood Pete’s lecture, you can shift your negative thoughts by employing Pete’s techniques.

The limbic center is somewhere behind the eyes and between the ears. It’s kind of a negative thought center. Think about a time you were so angry that you were acting out in front of your spouse and kids. All of a sudden the doorbell rings and you snap into normalcy. According to Pete, you have shifted negative thoughts from your Limbic Center, to somewhere in the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, the Joy Center, a compartment that holds positive thoughts. I took a class in head and neck anatomy and two semesters of A & P, but I’m getting out of my depth.  But trust me; even if I have botched the explanation, it works. I swear that I can feel the “half empty/half full” feeling before and after shifting the same thought.

Pete Sanders of Free Soul

Pete Sanders is an honors graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with principle studies in BioMedical Chemistry and Brain Science. Accepted to Harvard Medical School, he chose instead to pursue independent mind/body potentials research. That quest led to a revolutionary discovery: how to directly stimulate the brain’s natural mood-elevation mechanisms.

This technique provides a natural alternative to using alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or overeating for coping with life’s challenges. It gives you a method to enhance your feeling of well-being without being dependent on achievement or relationship success.

I look forward to this year’s Whistleblower Summit. I didn’t attend the Whistleblower Summit last year because I thought I was a whistleblower. I attended on behalf of the veterans and active duty service members harmed by timeshare. An active duty service member can lose his security clearance and his career over a mortgage foreclosure, so don’t think timeshare is a silly topic. One Marine lost his air unit command over a timeshare loan foreclosure.

There are laws protecting traditional whistleblowers, but not individuals. I’m alone. But an individual is alone only if they don’t reach out to other whistleblowers for help and support. Rosa Parks was one person who committed a courageous and dangerous act. She sat in the front of the bus. It was a small act, but possibly inspired by the actions and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was not so naïve as to think he was going to resolve racial divide once and for all. He knew this problem would not likely be solved in his lifetime. That did not deter his efforts.

One financial journalist called me a gadfly. “You’re nothing but a gadfly to this timeshare company,” he sneered. I looked up the definition.  

The original definition was an insect that stings cattle. Somewhere around the Middle Ages, in England, the meaning of gadfly morphed into “an annoying person who spurs others to action.”

I’m okay with being a gadfly. When I told my Free Soul Florida mate, attorney Mike Finn, that the journalist called me a gadfly, Mr Finn suggested an adjective, “How about the Green Gadfly?” “Like the Green Hornet?” I responded.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to explain to the attorneys who deposed me for six hours why Mr. Finn calls me gg. The deposition serves as an example of retaliation. I enjoyed explaining to my interrogator lawyer why I am called gg. Gallows Humor, or Humour, as my British collaborator would spell, should be included as a defense mechanism to Ethical Sandard  #11 Self-care . Humor really can be our best medicine.

Thank you to Whistleblowers of America for your support because this is not easy. My twilight years are anything but relaxing.       

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

Excerpt from report:

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

Although WoA recognizes that it is not inherent within the VA mission to protect veterans from fraud and scams that could cost them their benefits, it suggests that it could be assistive in educating veterans against these unscrupulous tactics. For example, WoA has had multiple complaints from veterans related to timeshare deceit and bait and switch tactics, which are defined by the FBI as fraud for profit.  Often elderly veterans are mentioned as being targeted by the Timeshare Advocacy Group, TM which fights for active duty and retired military who fear losing their security clearance, career, homes or other assets.  Foreclosures and financial distress because of these misrepresented investments are happening every day to elderly disabled veterans and their families. In the past, VA has cooperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over mortgage and other loan scams that caused financial hardships for veterans.  Home loans and timeshare loans are identical as both are reported as foreclosures. WoA asks that Congress consider a role for the VBA Employment and Economic Initiative (EEI) could play in cooperation with CFPB to educate and protect veterans from unscrupulous financial predators and fraudulent practices.

Thank you, Irene, for all your hard work in getting these articles ready, along with all the work you do helping those with problems, you are a thorn in the side of the timeshare industry, as well as a Green Gadfly, but you are our thorn and our Green Gadfly!

Paramount – Club Paradiso Tenerife

Information has been received by Inside Timeshare that the resort known as Paramount – Club Paradiso has closed. Those with bookings have been refused entry on arrival and moved to other resorts such as Hollywood Mirage and Beverly Hills Heights.

The telephone is on constant voicemail and the website is no longer working

Telephone: +34 922 787 650

https://www.clubparadiso.com

If you have purchased any product such as standard timeshare, investment packs, company participations or Keys Concierge use our contact page and get in touch. Inside Timeshare will explain your options and point you in the right direction.

That is all for this week, join us again on Monday for Part Two of Exclusive Breaking News: The Truth Behind Silverpoint Exposed.

Have a great weekend.

Wise old dog

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Friday edition of Letter from America, today we welcome the Madden Family with their “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this time it is Orange Lake in Orlando. It is another story of deceptive sales practices by sales agents working on behalf of the timeshare developer and the lack of a secondary market. It is a story we are all too familiar with at Inside Timeshare.

A TRUE STORY by an Orange Lake Timeshare Buyer

May 31, 2019

By the Madden Family

We recorded our Orange Lake experience on YouTube hoping to prevent others from making the decision we unfortunately made. I’m told Orange Lake is no worse than several other timeshare companies. Buyers who no longer can use the timeshare are held hostage with no choice but to walk away due to the lack of a secondary market.

Our YouTube

We purchased an Orange Lake Resort Timeshare in Orlando, Florida in 2014. It was the day after Christmas. After hours of mouth flapping, winning smiles, scribbled notes in illegible writing, we were fairly pliable and ended up signing a contract we now know is worthless. This has been a source of massive stress.

Here are the unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices we experienced which readers will have heard countless times: The sales agent told us that we were making an investment that would appreciate like any other investment. Timeshares are worthless.

  • The sales agent said the timeshare had built-in equity from a prior owner. There is no such thing as equity when it comes to a timeshare. Timeshares are a liability. The sales agent said that since this had been owned by a prior party, we had to buy “today” or the price tomorrow would be without equity, so full price. This was nonsense.
  • The sales agent said we could easily refinance, replacing the exorbitant 26% financing provided by Orange Lake. This was not true. Banks don’t finance timeshares because they are not an asset.
  • The sales agent said there was a resale market. We tried that market but were scammed the same way we were scammed into buying the timeshare.
  • The sales agent said he wasn’t a salesman, just there to help timeshare owners find buyers. He was a salesman.
  • The sales agent said an Orange Lake timeshare is like any other property. You can deduct mortgage interest. You can’t deduct timeshare loan interest.
  • The sales agent said we could cover the cost of owning the timeshare by renting it out. He said he would help us rent. He didn’t.
  • The sales agent said we could book wherever we wanted easily. We wanted to book west coast Florida but were told it was unavailable and would be unavailable through the next year. We tried to book Cape Canaveral, Panama City Beach Resorts or Galveston, but that was unavailable. We ended up in Las Vegas as a last resort. We were never able to book with the ease the sales agent promised.

The moral of our story is that you can’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. I know there are timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare, but there are also thousands and thousands of complaints. Before buying, check the happy and unhappy buyer sites. Weigh each side, because your only discernable truth will come from those who bought timeshares, not from those who sell them.    

We tried reaching out to Orange Lake with our concerns but were ignored. The lack of communication from Orange Lake made us feel like they have no cares whatsoever for their customers, or about the deceptive claims their sales agent make, as long as they get their money. They were never in a hurry to answer our concerns, but have invested considerable time to call us daily, repeatedly, to collect money.

When we filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Orange Lake responded with a copy of our contract. Surely signatures do not exempt a company from promising a diamond but delivering a piece of coal. Where is the Federal Trade Commission?

We intend to tell our story in as many places as possible to warn others. Too many families are being financially harmed so that sales agents can earn commissions and timeshare companies can report profits at the expense of hard-working citizens. Citizens harmed spent a lifetime buying cars and houses, relying on the integrity of the seller, integrity that, based on our experience, does not exist in timeshare.

Join our efforts!

Contact Inside Timeshare to join this family’s efforts to help others. Following are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

Bluegreen Facebook

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

Wyndham Facebook

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/  

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Thank you to the Maddens for sharing the experience of your own “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, many of our readers will recognise some of the tactics and deceptions from their own experiences. Is it not time the timeshare industry reigned in these unscrupulous sales agents, then they may have a product which does not court controversy, complaints and above all misery to consumers. It is only through you the readers sharing your stories and coming together which helps others to see that they are not alone, together you do have a voice that can change the industry.

If you would like to share your own “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” or have a happy story to tell of good sales practise and consumer protection, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

Are you a European owner of a timeshare in the US and want to get out, are you a US owner of a timeshare in Europe especially purchased in Spain and want to know how Spanish law protects you, then use our contact page and lets us know, we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish the final report by Irene Parker on the Platinum Protest in Orlando which was held on 17 to 19 May. This report also includes their brief stories which helps to explain why they are protesting. In the case of Patty and her story, we have received many complaints which have named the same sales agent. Inside Timeshare has read these complaints and it is surprising that for people who have never met how close their stories are. This can only lead us to conclude there is something very wrong in what this sales agent is doing.

What Happened at the May Platinum Member Protest in Orlando

Save the Date for the next Platinum Protest in Arizona:

Veteran’s Weekend November 9 – 11


From left: Anna, Cindy, Sheilah and Patty

By Irene Parker

May 24, 2019

Many have expressed admiration for the efforts of four Diamond Resorts Platinum families protesting on behalf of 85 Platinum members who have reported that they were told to buy additional timeshare points for reasons they say do not exist. Of the 85, 43 reported that they were told they would be able to offset maintenance fees only if they purchased additional points. Others report they bought points told that they must buy additional points to be able to sell points.

What happened to Sheilah and Gad (a protestor not pictured), is why Friday’s location was at the Florida state building housing the Florida Attorney General’s timeshare division, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).  Sheilah, Gad and a third buyer all bought from the same Daytona agent.  They each have their “pencil pitch” which is what agents scribble as they talk. Near the top of Sheilah’s three-page pencil pitch appears:  

8631 (Now) – 8631 (Save) = 0

What could be clearer?

1) (Now) (Save)

2) Redirect savings to help offset costs (to 0)

The complete explanation is in Sheilah’s article:

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-11/

Diamond Sales Agent pencil pitch

Diamond’s response, from the company promoting a CLARITY promise of “Clear, concise, accountable and transparent information” was, “We admit this was confusing, but it was not illegal,” according to Sheilah.

“Talking to the Florida Timeshare Division DBPR was the same as talking to Diamond Resorts,” Sheilah said. At first, I was dismissed with “We don’t know if you were given this evidence or if you took it.” Their point I believe was that evidence obtained illegally is not admissible. When I questioned the logic of this statement, the reviewer called back several days later reporting that she spoke with Diamond’s attorneys. “I didn’t understand the program either until I spoke with Diamond’s attorneys, but now I do,” she reported to Sheilah. It’s not difficult to understand why someone would be so angry they would fly 1,000 miles to protest.

Florida’s DBPR has dismissed all our readers’ complaints with, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.” While Arizona, New York, Tennessee and other states have launched timeshare investigations based on a volume and pattern of complaints, Florida will not. When Sheilah asked why, the DBPR supervisor responded, “How they do things in other states is not how we do things in Florida.” By their own admission, Florida dismisses timeshare complaints, despite a volume of complaints. The timeshare lobby ARDA has been quoted as saying, “Timeshare is a highly regulated product.” Apparently regulation means dismissing all complaints.

Florida’s dismal statistics:

As reported at a Florida legislative workshop 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 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.

Nevada is another state that dismissed all our readers’ complaints with, “You have no proof.” At least in Nevada, you can record a conversation without the other person aware. Florida is a two-party state meaning it is illegal to record without the other person aware.

How in the world is a timeshare buyer expected to obtain proof?

Three of our protestors were able to speak at length with one individual inside the state building. In fear of retaliation, we will not identify this person, but their advice was to have the protestors protest every Friday. Logistics preclude this, but we appreciated their support and knowledge of unfair and deceptive practices.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 831 families describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. ARDA and Diamond’s CEO Michael Flaskey argue that the vast majority of timeshare buyers are happy with their timeshare.

Fair enough, so I checked facts and figures. I contacted law firms and timeshare exit companies throughout the United States. There are many. Two exit companies reported that each receives 3,000 to 3,500 calls per month. They accept less than 200 as clients. Just two of the many law firms and exit providers receive over 6,000 calls per month from families seeking timeshare release! An entire industry of law firms and timeshare exit providers has sprung up catering to timeshare members waking up to the realization that the timeshare they were told would be easy to sell, or sell if they bought additional points, has no secondary market.

I have to admit I was not looking forward to a weekend of sign holding, but the reward we felt by the number of horn honks, thumbs up and, especially on Sunday, a steady stream of members stopping by to express their concerns, made it all worthwhile. Here we met Platinum member #84.

I’m not a Platinum member, but wanted to support the Platinum Protestors’ efforts. Patty and Cindy have their stories. The second day of the protest I heard from a Diamond member who contacted me infuriated. She had bought points from the same agent Patty bought points from, becoming #43 of 85 Platinum members who say they were pitched maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. This will make six complaints against Patty’s agent; the third complaint against this agent was from a couple ages 79 and 80, the husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We even have a recording of the agent provided by a veteran from over a year ago who experienced a similar up-sell.

Rather than show concern for 85 of their highest loyalty members who have reported unfair and deceptive practices, Diamond and the timeshare industry as a whole insists there are few complaints. There is not enough space in an article to list all the law firms, timeshare exit companies, lawsuits, including whistleblower lawsuits, and Attorneys General investigations concerning timeshare sales.

All protest participants had been timeshare owners and members for decades. They liked timeshare. The Platinum members had purchased points a number of times, so with the ensuing trust did not expect to be blindsided by programs that they say do not exist.

We’re not saying there are not honest timeshare sales agents trying to make a living selling timeshare points properly. But when top liars, who eventually get fired for pitching too much heat, are put up on a pedestal for new hires to emulate, the result fosters deceit.    

Many have wondered if this industry could exist without deception. One timeshare insider reported that Diamond Resorts has the highest loan loss provision of all major timeshares. As reported by Wall Street:

Diamond Resorts International Inc. Downgraded To ‘CCC+’ On Very High Anticipated Leverage, Outlook Negative

The negative outlook on Diamond reflects our expectation for minimal cash flow generation and very high leverage in 2019. The outlook also incorporates our belief that the company is vulnerable to possible future operating missteps or an unexpected downturn in the economy over the next two years, which may render its capital structure unsustainable despite our assessment of adequate liquidity.

https://www.ademcetinkaya.com/2019/04/diamond-resorts-international-inc.html?fbclid=IwAR0N7Sc0Dld_LFlK8F2sv0-t4gIzAr-yd5HngEyWb6JLnVcW_OA0hfvSPPU

Many of the 85 Platinum members have resolved their dispute, but resolution required several rebuttals and regulatory filings. Some relinquished their points, meaning they walked away from all the money spent. Diamond points sell for around $4 per point so we’re talking about Platinum members with 50,000 points or more walking away from $200,000 or more. A recorded QA closing is routinely used in the dismissal, but recording the sales session is not allowed. As mentioned, recording without the other person aware is legal in some states, but not Florida.   

Given a reluctant regulatory environment, the Courts of Public Opinion seem the only courts open. Holding up signs is not easy, but the rewards are great. A realtor stopped by clearly upset that he could not sell a Westgate timeshare for his client. I gave him my contact information. Within a few hours, his client called from Brazil. Out of about 60 licensed timeshare resale brokers, only one I am aware of will accept a Westgate listing. If there are no takers, I advised the member to speak Portuguese when the maintenance fees collectors call. He can no longer afford the timeshare. Fortunately, there is no loan outstanding. His relief at hearing straight answers was palpable, even from that far away.    


Grateful listeners

Two new Facebooks have been launched by Wyndham and Starpoint Sapphire Inside Timeshare contributors. Through Social Media and grassroots protests we little by little are letting the consumer know timeshare sales can be a quagmire of debt and deceit. These are the support groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

Bluegreen Facebook

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

Wyndham Facebook

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/  

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Thank you Irene and a very big thankyou to those who were able to make it to the protest, also thanks must go out to all those who showed support in whatever way they could. The next Platinum protest is scheduled for 9 to 11 November which is Veterans Weekend in the US and is being held in Arizona. If you are able to make it, you will be most welcome.

That is all for this week, use our contact page if you have any views or comments on any article published, or if you just need a little help or advice we are here to help.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.


Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s edition of Letter from America, following on from our previous articles on the timeshare bills put forward by Florida and Nevada, Attorney Mike Finn submits his thoughts on this subject with the introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

But first, a reminder that today is the first day of the Platinum Protest in Orlando, even if you can’t make it, please enter your support for them on the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy page on Facebook. We hope to bring you a report from them next week.

Lawyers and Their Important Role in Consumer Protection

By Attorney Mike Finn

Why You Should Sign our Petition asking a lawmaker to sponsor a Bill in 2021 requiring that timeshare buyers be offered 24 hours to review a perpetual timeshare contract before signing.

By Jordan Raskin

May 17, 2019

Our petition preparing to launch:  

https://www.care2.com/?fbclid=IwAR3w3tungUxAWYjY3fSro_WJBRUKB9pe99LiJ_9ur8T5WZOyC9wHsyswqZc

Provide the timeshare consumer 24 hours to review, at least think about, their decision to sign a lifelong perpetual contract, with no secondary market, often without even having tried the product, and often not allowed access to the booking site until after the rescission period.

This offer could be waived if the buyer chooses, either due to the certainty that the buyer wants the product, or the need to sign because the vacation is ending soon.

This offer should not be buried in the electronic fine print. It should be a separate disclosure presented and signed before the sales presentation. The price per point offer would be required to be maintained for 24 hours.

What’s so unfair about that?  

Introduction by Irene Parker

Never mind a lawyer! We’d settle for our mom, dad, son, or daughter!

Both the Florida and Nevada Bills referenced in Mike Finn’s article below, asking that timeshare exit providers provide buyers 24 hours to review their contract before signing, died in committee: Florida HB 2639 and Nevada SB 348 bill are dead  

SB 1430 Companion Bill to Florida HB 2639 Vacation and Timeshare Plans

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/01430

SENATE – Died in Innovation, Industry, and Technology

How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? There are legitimate lawyers and lawyers with questionable business practices. I have contacted a number of exit company providers to inquire about the volume of calls they received. Two of the major exit companies say they receive between 3,000 to 3,500 calls each month from timeshare buyers desperately seeking release from timeshares they were told would be easy to sell. Each company only accepts less than 200 callers as clients, as the member must meet specific criteria of unfair and deceptive sales practices.  

Before we begin with Mike Finn’s article,  

If you are going to be in the Orlando area this weekend May 17-19 Friday – Saturday, please support our Platinum Protestors. Locations and dates provided: https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-49/

Now onto:

“Why Kill All the Lawyers?”

By Attorney Mike Finn

“Add to that advantage the fact that the purchaser purchases on the same day they’ve been introduced to the product with no ability to consult with or review the multipage purchase contract with their own legal representative and you can begin to understand the owner/purchaser’s situation years later when they ultimately seek to terminate their arguably lifelong contractual obligations contained within their timeshare purchase contract.”

It’s hard to say anything about lawyers that haven’t already been said. They are both revered and reviled as staunch proponents and champions of justice or as avaricious opportunists. The profession is comprised of all types, from the most learned jurists to the slightly seamier side of humanity. We lawyers share the same spectrum of positive human qualities and negative frailties as the rest of our species.

The import of this article is less related to the issues of lawyers individually, but rather to the role of the attorney as consumer advocate within the legal system. I speak to the issue of what removing lawyers, or significantly diminishing their role to effectively represent their consumer clients, does to strengthen or weaken consumer protection in general, as a matter of national policy.

Currently, there is pending in at least two states with a significant timeshare presence, Nevada and Florida, House and Senate Bills sponsored by ARDA, the timeshare industry’s trade association. Ostensibly, per the statements made by ARDA’s political arm, ARDA-ROC (American Resort Development Assoc.-Resort Owners Coalition), the primary intent of these Bills is to enhance consumer protection. However, to some of us on the consumer side of the equation, we suspect there may be a darker, more industry serving purpose. These Bills seek to regulate two separate and quite distinct groups, lawyers and timeshare exit companies.

There can be no argument that some regulation is warranted, specifically in regard to the unlicensed and unregulated timeshare exit companies; however, this ‘shotgun style’ approach of lumping-in lawyers with this proposed legislation will if passed, create some chilling and decidedly consumer-unfriendly impacts on the timeshare consumer/owner.

To further distinguish these totally disparate entities, lawyers are already both licensed and extensively regulated by their respective State Bar Associations. Additionally, as lawyers, (and unlike exit companies) we are specifically trained and educated to handle matters involving contract disputes, as well as debtor/creditor rights issues and other relevant matters that may well arise in the course of a controversy. Without getting too far into the weeds, I think it’s fair to state that the pending State Bills are clearly designed to severely limit and restrict the involvement of both timeshare exit companies and, from my perspective, more importantly, lawyers, in terms of their ability to provide services to timeshare owners seeking third-party assistance in terminating or modifying their timeshare purchase contracts.

To summarize the owners’ plight, many owners didn’t realize that their purchase contracts did not include a way to terminate their contract when they could no longer utilize their timeshares because of life changes, like aging, job loss, divorce, death of a spouse, or other major life changing events. This issue wouldn’t be so troublesome if it were not for the fact that there exists little to no resale value or market for these timeshare interests, trapping owners who cannot continue to derive any benefit from their ownership, but remain legally bound by their purchase contract, subject to annual rising maintenance fees and other contractual liabilities.

The ‘timeshare exit’ industry sprang into existence to fill the market void created when the timeshare developers themselves were unwilling to offer owners relief from essentially ‘lifelong and perhaps beyond’ contracts. This exit industry includes lawyers who focus on consumer timeshare owner issues as part and parcel of their law practices, and exit companies, non-lawyers who claim industry knowledge and apparent ability to act on behalf of timeshare owners in their negotiations with timeshare developers or property owner associations.

The focus of this article will remain on the lawyer and not the exit company. It’s important to distinguish between these two different kinds of organizations and avoid comparing the two. They are completely and totally unlike and should not be combined or grouped together in these Bills. It’s impossible to make any logical form of comparison beyond stating that each seek to represent the consumer timeshare/owner in dealing with the respective owner’s timeshare situation. Combining the two and treating them as equals in proposed legislation is grossly inaccurate and inappropriate. It only adds to consumer confusion!

Attorneys have undergone extensive education and training and have prepared for and passed a state mandated Bar examination in order to prepare themselves for dealing with contested and controversial legal issues. Our legal system is by definition adversarial in nature. Justice involves a process by which parties on each side of a controversy present, through their selected legal representative, their respective position to an impartial determiner of the facts in order to produce a just outcome. Indeed, our very symbol of justice is a robed and blindfolded woman holding a scale aloft in her hand.

Each side, through its appointed legal representative, presents its best case to the referee, hearing officer, or judge and jury. At the end of the contest, the winning side, through presentation of evidence and persuasion, tipped the scales in its favor. This is our legal system, or at least the portion of it that decides controversies. Add to our justice system the requirement that each side starts off with a level playing field. Neither side has gained an unfair advantage prior to the contest commencement. As a condition of fundamental fairness, may the side with the most compelling case for justice win!

What can skewer the ‘level playing field’ aspect of the justice model, is if one of the players gets to the game before the other side, gaining a one-sided advantage. Arguably, that’s exactly what the Timeshare Developer has been able to do. Since the state requires the Developer to register and apply for a license to market timeshares within that particular state, the Developer has prepared its purchase contracts and other disclosure documentation and submitted them to the appropriate state agency well in advance of its initial sale. It’s probably fair to suggest that these purchase agreements were prepared by an able team of lawyers with the Developer’s best interests in mind. In fact, the only remaining task for the Developer’s sales team at the time of consumer purchase is to fill in the blanks on the preprinted purchase contract with the purchaser’s name and other pertinent information.

Add to that advantage the fact that the purchaser purchases on the same day they’ve been introduced to the product with no ability to consult with or review the multipage purchase contract with their own legal representative and you can begin to understand the owner/purchaser’s situation years later when they ultimately seek to terminate their arguably lifelong contractual obligations contained within their timeshare purchase contract.

Now that you can envision, from the consumer’s perspective, the un-level playing field that the consumer finds themselves on at termination time, and add to that the circumstances that would exist if the Timeshare Developers are successful in passing these new laws. These Bills, if passed, would further restrict the consumers’/owners’/members’ ability to seek justice within the legal system, if the lawyers’ ability to represent the consumer is constrained and restricted.

From where I sit, as lawyer representing timeshare owner/consumers, it appears that the timeshare industry is dissatisfied with its already existing unfair advantage over their consumer and still seeks to tilt the field further in their favor. My advice to them (not that I anticipate them appreciating any of it) is to show a kinder, gentler aspect to your loyal owners by either recognizing and permitting an easier contract termination, or, at minimum, not further attempting to restrict their right to effective legal representation as they seek relief from their onerous timeshare purchase contracts.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael D. Finn, Esq.

Thank you Mike and Irene for this week’s edition of Letter from America, these articles are certainly helping many timeshare owners see exactly what is going on in the murky world of timeshare.

If you have any views or comments on any article published then use our contact page we would love to hear from you. Do you have a story to tell, be it a positive one or a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, which you would like to share, then contact us and we will help you to submit an article.

Well, that is all for this week, remember the Platinum Protest and show your support, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, this week Inside Timeshares Irene Parker reports on day 1 of the trial she attending in Orlando, Florida. This is a case between Diamond Resorts and Aaronson Law Firm, this is yet another law firm being taken to court by the timeshare industry.

So unlike our usual Friday editions, we will forego news from Europe and go straight to Irene’s report.

Diamond Resorts v Aaronson Law Firm Trial

Day 1 of 6: Jury Selection and Opening Arguments

Anatomy of a Timeshare Trial

By Irene Parker

May 3, 2019

Having recently experienced Part I of a deposition that lasted six hours against another law firm that provides timeshare exit assistance, I was motivated to attend a six-day timeshare trial in Orlando District Court that began Tuesday, April 30. The cost of a deposition or a six-day trial is staggering. Ultimately, the timeshare member pays. It’s too bad we can’t just sit down and talk to each other, but I guess attorneys have to make a living.

Diamond Resorts International Inc., Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, Hawaii Collection Development LLC, and Diamond Resorts Management Inc, filed a lawsuit against Austin N. Aaronson and Aaronson, Austin, PA.

Case No. 6:17-1394-ORL-37-DCI

Attorneys Richard W. Epstein, Jeffrey A. Backman, and Olga M Vieira of Greenspoon Marder LLP are plaintiffs’ attorneys. Mr Aaronson is represented by Charles J. Meltz of Grower Ketcham, Eide, Telan & Meltz, P.A.

As reported by ABA Journal January 30, 2018:

The Florida suit was filed against Orlando lawyer Austin Aaronson and his firm Aaronson, Austin. In a Jan. 26 ruling, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. of Orlando tossed RICO and malicious prosecution claims by Diamond Resorts but allowed claims for false advertising under the Lanham Act, tortious interference with contract, trade libel and deceptive trade practices.

Diamond Resorts had claimed Aaronson and his law firm solicited timeshare members in an advertising campaign that weaves a false narrative, causing timeshare members to stop contract payments and subjecting Diamond Resorts to baseless arbitration proceedings.

Aaronson had claimed his firm’s advertising was not false or misleading because it constituted opinion or puffery.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_refuse_to_toss_suits_claiming_law_firms_interfered_with_timeshare_co

Opening day started with jury selection. Six of the eighteen potential jurors reported a negative timeshare experience:

  1. Lots of pressure from a timeshare presentation in the 80s,
  2. Purchased Marriott 30 years ago, lots of pressure,
  3. Westgate was difficult to exchange and was unsellable. An attorney was contacted. The attorney said Westgate is not sellable. Timeshare is a waste of money.
  4. Negative experience,
  5. Agents are pushy and don’t give up,
  6. An engineer said he had a negative bias.

Judge Dalton explained that Plaintiffs are required to convince the jury that Austin Aaronson is guilty by a preponderance of evidence. Criminal trials require a stricter standard – beyond a reasonable doubt.

The four claims against Austin Aaronson are:

  1. False advertising that harmed the reputation of Diamond Resorts and caused damages,
  2. Tortious interference,
  3. Intentionally publishing disparaging information on a website,
  4. Deceptive and unfair practices.

There are a total of 134 joint exhibits.

Mr Epstein, attorney for Diamond Resorts stated that there are few complaints against Diamond Resorts. He alleged Aaronson accused Diamond of wholesale unsavoury conduct.

Mr Meltz, attorney for Aaronson, reported how maintenance fees had more than doubled from 2007 to 2015 from $.07 per point to $.145 per point and that there is no secondary market for Diamond points. He explained how Diamond Resorts controlled Board of Directors hires Diamond Resorts managers to manage Diamond properties. As to the claim that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees, both sides will bring in accounting expert witnesses to prove or disprove how maintenance fees were misappropriated.

In a lighthearted moment, Judge Dalton asked one of the Plaintiff attorneys if she was chewing gum. She was. She was asked to leave the courtroom to dispose of her gum.

Judge Dalton instructed the jury not to read newspapers, Facebook posts or blogs about the case. He said in the old day’s reporters attended the trials, but these days they just talk to those who attended as they exit the courtroom. He said he was amazed that when he reads an article about one of his trials, how little of what was reported actually happened in the courtroom. I was proud that Inside Timeshare will be in attendance for the duration of the trial taking copious notes.

Inside Timeshare and our readers just want the timeshare industry to admit that unfair and deceptive sales practices exist on the front end of the sale. I have always said half a problem goes away when confronted, but I doubt this will happen.

I have contacted four timeshare exit providers. Two of the larger firms report receiving 3,000 calls a month from members desperately seeking release from a timeshare contract. These firms only accept 100 to 150 cases as they require a strong case of unfair and deceptive practices. This stay vacationed or else strategy has created a timeshare exit industry timeshare developers want to crush, but Social Media is not going to put this Pandora back in her box. The lack of a secondary market is financially devastating family after family.

Greenspoon Marder contends all is well because Diamond Resorts has 460,000 timeshare members with few complaints. I feel 6,000 families reaching out to just two timeshare exit providers monthly is a real problem. There is no other product that has spawned an entire industry devoted to responding to customers with nowhere to turn, desperately seeking release from unused and unwanted timeshares. Many report they learned they were duped just days or minutes past the rescission period.

In Florida, timeshare division reviewers received 1,600 complaints in 2017 and 1,600 complaints in 2018, mostly about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors. The AG engaged 42, mostly about timeshare resales. That means 1,600 families annually feel they were duped by a timeshare, there is no secondary market, maintenance fees doubled in seven years for at least one timeshare company, and this is not a problem.

Yes, it is.   

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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/

Than you Irene, we look forward to further reports on this trial and I’m sure that all Inside Timeshare readers are hoping that the outcome will be in Favour of Aaronson. One thing is certain, Diamond does not like criticism, but Inside Timeshare will continue to publish the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories of our readers, be they Diamond or any other timeshare company.

In Spain, Diamond has lost in the courts for selling illegal contracts, along with other timeshare companies, many of them are the big players in Europe. Spanish timeshare law is based on the European Timeshare Directives but has been strengthened to protect consumers of unfair, misleading, predatory sales tactics and illegal contracts. It leads the way in Europe and we may see other countries following suit.

If you have any comments on this or any article or have a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story of your own, then use our contact page and get in touch we look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.  


Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today Irene Parker sets out instructions on how to file complaints with the FBI and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). Unfortunately, many of the requests for help Inside Timeshare receives fall into the category of fraud, yet the industry still does not recognise that they need to change.

Before we start a bit of news from the Spanish Courts.

The lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have been at it again this week with a resounding 25 sentences issued against timeshare companies.

These have been broken down as 3 issued from the High Court and 22 from the Court of First Instance. With Anfi receiving 24 judgements against them and Club La Costa receiving 1. The Club la Costa case was heard at the court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga and is the very first case to involve one of CLA’s Spanish clients. (Click on the PDF below for the court sentence).

The other cases were clients from the UK and Scandinavia, with most receiving double the deposits paid and the return of legal fees, all contract were also declared null and void.

The total amount awarded in all these cases is a staggering 828,329€. So congratulations to the clients and also the entire legal team at Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now for our Letter from America.

Timeshare Accountability Group™

FBI and FTC Filing Instructions and Talking Points

April 26, 2019

By Irene Parker

When timeshare members feel they have experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, the member should first reach out to their resort in an attempt to resolve the dispute. If informed, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” file a Better Business Bureau complaint and file a complaint with the Attorney General from the state where you signed a contract.

Unfortunately, some timeshare complaints meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. If the complaint is of a nature that meets the following description, file with the FBI at IC3.gov or file orally by contacting an FBI field office.

# 1 IC3.gov

Timeshare fraud falls under White Collar Crime/Mortgage Fraud/Financial Institution Fraud/Fraud for Profit. click on the link below to read about mortgage fraud. The general definition of white-collar crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, and bait and switch.”  

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry.

Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners.

The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/mortgage-fraud

To file a complaint with the FBI, select IC3.gov from the three choices available. It’s confusing because IC stands for Internet Crime, but it doesn’t have to be about internet crime. That’s just the name of the portal. You can file a complaint on behalf of someone else. At the end of the form it will ask if you are filing on someone else’s behalf.

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Some of the information that the IC3.gov online form asks for is not necessary – fields like routing numbers, bank addresses. Don’t worry about having all that information. They are not required fields. Victim bank is the bank from where you made payments or the credit card company. Subject bank is where you send your payments.

If you receive additional information after filing an original complaint, there is a handy box to check that asks, “Is this an update to a prior report?” Start the complaint over, but check that box to add the new information.

Step #2 File an oral FBI report 24/7

You can also file orally by contacting an FBI field office. Contact the field office where you signed a contract. Members have reported some agents have spent one or two hours on the phone with them. One member met with her FBI agent!

When you call the field office, select “Submit a Tip” then wait for the white-collar crime prompt. One person ended up in the wrong pew of the right church told they had to have lost a million dollars or more to file a complaint. That’s not true.

Members report the FBI has been responsive, but the FBI agent needs to be convinced getting a lawyer will do nothing to stop the problem of timeshare fraud for profit. Timeshare companies have armies of lawyers and they can drag a proceeding on forever until the member is broke. It is an understatement to say timeshare attorneys don’t look favourably on the arbitration process.

In Florida call the Tampa Field Office

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/

Whether filing at IC3.gov or orally, you can provide the name and phone number of other victims, especially if you are aware of similar complaints. That way the FBI can look up other reports directed against the same repeat offender sales agent.

Sheila Brust’s article, “Just the Facts, Ma’am” is about her experience reaching out to the FBI. Sheilah worked for New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. The FBI advised Sheila to file with the Secret Service because her allegation also involved credit card fraud.

www.secretservice.gov                                                       

Don’t expect to hear back from the FBI. They don’t work like that. That doesn’t mean they are not listening. It takes volumes of complaints and a pattern of complaints to launch any investigation, whether with the FBI or with an Attorney General.

Filing your own complaint requires dedication and perseverance. Resolutions can be accomplished, empowered with information the member needs to take matters into their own hands. Thinking beyond their own dilemma, members can become one of our volunteer Supporters to help others.

Our Complaint Instructions were revised by a millennial timeshare buyer who followed our complaint instructions to resolve her dispute.

How to File a Complaint revised January 25, 2019

Timeshare member complaints tend to start out convoluted and confusing. We suggest having a friend or neighbor, not familiar with timeshare, read your complaint to see if it makes sense. Provide examples. Expect to be denied. Read the reason for dismissal and respond with a rebuttal.

Saying things like “I can’t afford this” is useless. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say “I can’t afford my home mortgage” and expect them to take your house back. You signed a legally binding contract. If there was no deception, you are bound by the contract, although it’s possible to request a contract cancellation due to medical or financial hardship.

We refer to a lawyer about one in ten times when all else fails, or the member does not have the time or energy to follow our process, which is admittedly timeshare consuming. A list of reputable law firms is provided upon request.   

#3 File with the Federal Trade Commission

The FTC online form has a “Timeshare Sales” option. It’s not easy to find. Instructions are in this article. Don’t be discouraged by receiving only a “Here’s some timeshare tips!” response. https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-13/

Extra Talking Points

You must inform the FBI agent why you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices. The agent you speak with may know nothing about timeshare basics. Explain the contract is perpetual, there is no secondary market, and when members complain, the company often hides behind the oral representation clause.

Your mission is to convince the FBI that this is not about only a few complaints. This article “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders” lists just a few of the Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits, and the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report tells consumers what to watch out for:

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders

St. Louis BBB report

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

Why doesn’t the government do something about this?

  1. There is no federal enforcement,
  2. Timeshare Attorney General Investigations and settlements are usually mere financial speed bumps, comparable to fining an NFL player $10,000. One exception is The Manhattan Club settlement. https://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club
  3. When a member complains, they are shown their initials on the fine print,
  4. Retaining an attorney will not stop unfair and deceptive business practices,
  5. Litigation is time-consuming and expensive,
  6. Arbitration is widely known to be pro-industry. If you lose you can end up paying the resort’s arbitration fees. The resort hires the arbitrators.
  7. The CFPB has been rendered ineffective. Even in the CFPB heyday members could not file a complaint because the borrower often doesn’t even know the name of their lender. You had to select a financial institution from the dropdown menu and timeshare companies are not a choice.
  8. Some lawmakers may be influenced by lobby dollars, as reported by The Daily Courier. https://www.dcourier.com/news/2019/apr/16/opt-out-provisions-timeshare-bill-no-longer-table/
  9. Some state AGs turn a blind eye. At a Florida legislative workshop in Tallahassee March 12 of this year, the spokesperson for the Florida AG reported their office received 1,600 annual timeshare complaints in 2017 and 2018, mostly about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors, of which the AG engaged only 42 of the complaints, mostly about resales. This spells no enforcement. The Nevada Real Estate Division responded to all our readers with a “You have no proof letter.”
  10. Timeshare members give the ARDA ROC Political Action Committee approximately $5 million dollars annually, often “Opt-Out” donations. We have heard from over 800 timeshare members. Not one could tell us what ARDA ROC even stands for. ARDA ROC vigorously opposed recent proposed pro-consumer changes in Arizona.  

Let us know if you are active duty military, law enforcement, a government worker or a veteran, as we are supported by WhistleBlowers of America. They added timeshare fraud to their March 14, 2018 report before the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has since been all but dismantled and we changed our name from TS Advocacy to Timeshare Accountability Group):

United in Speaking Truth to Power

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org @whistleP2P

601 Pennsylvania Ave, South Tower, Suite 900 Washington, DC 20004

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

House and Senate Committee Members:

Whistleblowers of America (WoA) was incorporated in 2017, as a newly focused nonprofit service organization providing peer support to whistleblowers, so we are honored to be able to share our concerns with you today. The majority of our contacts are with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees or veterans who have identified waste, fraud, and abuse, medical errors, denials of care or benefits, discrimination, harassment or bullying.  For doing so, they have suffered reprisal and retaliation. From the report:

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

Although WoA recognizes that it is not inherent within the VA mission to protect veterans from fraud and scams that could cost them their benefits, it suggests that it could be assistive in educating veterans against these unscrupulous tactics. For example, WoA has had multiple complaints from veterans related to timeshare deceit and bait and switch tactics, which are defined by the FBI as fraud for profit.  Often elderly veterans are mentioned as being targeted by the Timeshare Advocacy Group, TM which fights for active duty and retired military who fear losing their security clearance, career, homes or other assets.  Foreclosures and financial distress because of these misrepresented investments are happening every day to elderly disabled veterans and their families. In the past, VA has cooperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over mortgage and other loan scams that caused financial hardships for veterans.  Home loans and timeshare loans are identical as both are reported as foreclosures. WoA asks that Congress consider a role for the VBA Employment and Economic Initiative (EEI) could play in cooperation with CFPB to educate and protect veterans from unscrupulous financial predators and fraudulent practices.

Consider a donation to Whistleblowers of America if you have been helped by Timeshare Accountability Group™

It’s remarkable that a timeshare member must go through this many stressful hoops concerning a product that was sold to be stress reducing. If you have skills that could help others, consider becoming a Supporter. Contact TAG.

Related articles:

3Rs or F of Timeshare

The Timeshare Tax Trap, February 26, 2019

Arizona HB 2639, March 1, 2019

Arizona HB 2639, March 5, 2019

Florida HB 435, March 15, 2019

Florida HB 435, March 19, 2019

Nevada SB, March 22, 2019

Arbitration October 24 2017

Member self-help groups

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, this information should prove a great help to many of our readers, it is just a shame that we have to resort to this type of action. One day the industry may just realise that it is through their own greed that they are on the receiving end of so many complaints.

Once again the weekend is upon us, whatever you are doing and wherever you are, have a great weekend and join us next week for news and information on the murky world of timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, over the past few weeks we have been publishing various articles on Bills which may have a detrimental effect on timeshare consumers. This week Irene Parker shares how she sees the legislation being proposed.

A Legislative Scorecard – Nevada Florida and Arizona

How to Connect Lobby Dots

By Irene Parker

April 12, 2019

VOTE “OPPOSED” TO NEVADA SB 348 UNLESS THE BILL IS AMENDED TO OFFER TIMESHARE BUYERS (NOT JUST THOSE RETAINING EXIT SERVICES), 24 HOURS TO REVIEW A TIMESHARE CONTRACT.

Review means an offer to be able to review a contract 24 hours before signing.

This offer should not be buried in fine print. Timeshare buyers who wished to waive the requirement could do so.

Rescission Period means the 3 to 10 days a member has to review after signing.

Nevada has an easy method to comment on the legislation. Select SB 348 and oppose the bill unless amended to allow a timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a contract:

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/

Why would the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), an industry-supported PAC, and ARDA ROC, (Resort Owners Coalition), be so opposed to offering timeshare buyers 24 hours to think about their decision to sign a perpetual contract with little to no secondary market?

A recent complaint received by Inside Timeshare:

The timeshare member is single, over 70 years old. From 2015 to 2018 the member was ping-ponged back and forth seven timeshare times told, “You should not have bought Hawaii points,” and then “You should not have bought US Mainland points,” until up-sold into insolvency. The member has lost their entire retirement savings that were worth almost $400,000. The member also suffered tax consequences due to liquidating a retirement asset.

The timeshare member identified six timeshare sales agents, of which five are repeat offenders, names well known to Inside Timeshare. The sixth is an up-and-comer who up-sold the senior in Hawaii at a prior update. On a subsequent visit to Hawaii, a family member accompanied the senior to a March 2019 “mandatory” meeting. The sales agent informed the senior that there is going to be a huge Special Assessment in the US program so the member needed to switch back to Hawaii from the US program for the eighth time in four years. If agreed to, this would have cost the senior over $60,000, pushing the loss to more than $400,000. The sales agent also told the family member and the timeshare member that he has a broker they could retain to rent and get money back and at some point in time, the points could be sold back. They added that purchasing these additional points would also allow the member to use points to pay maintenance fees.

I am 100% confident the timeshare company will tell the member that they signed a contract. They will file a complaint with the Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED). NRED will provide the senior with a “You have no proof” letter.

ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson has been quoted, “The state should not be concerned with those who did not bother to understand the product.”

I wish the member’s story was unusual. At the Florida legislative workshop and at the Arizona hearing, lawmakers themselves reported how they had experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

An overlooked Nevada bill:  

Nevada Assembly Bill 438: Vacation and Timeshare Plans

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6835/Text

An OPC is a bird dog, if you will, hanging out at strategic locations, offering incentives to hear about something. NV AB 438 has no single sponsor. Many times I heard a member complain that they were not told it was a timeshare presentation. Nevada Assembly Bill 348 is an act relating to timeshare, providing the following:

Section 1 states:

1. The Administrator may impose a fine or suspend, revoke, reissue, subject to conditions, or deny the renewal of the registration of any representative if the representative has, by false or fraudulent application or representation, obtained a registration or is found guilty of (a) Making a material misrepresentation; (b) Making any false promises of a character likely to influence, persuade or induce another person to attend a timeshare presentation; (d) Must disclose that the promotion is for solicitation of timeshares.   

Florida HB 435: GENERAL BILL sponsored by freshman Representative Wyman Duggan profiled on LobbyTools.

Effective Date: 7/1/2019

At a Florida legislative workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee, the Florida Attorney General’s spokesperson admitted Florida received 1600 timeshare complaints annually in recent years, 700 so far this year, the bulk concerning the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors. “We engaged 42, mostly about resales,” they added.

This is good news for perpetrators as they can be assured oral representation will be dismissed, despite a volume and pattern of complaints.

Arizona ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson assured those who attended the Arizona HB 2639 hearing that unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices are minimal because Arizona only received 250 complaints in a year arguing that allowing a buyer 24 hours to review a perpetual contract is not necessary.

The Arizona House Bill 2639 was aimed at alleviating unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The bill included allowing a timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a perpetual contract. ARDA was able to get this item in the bill thrown out.

I wrote “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders” so members foreclosed can explain to their lender how when “pitched heat” by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents, they can lose $100,000 or more in a week, one second after the rescission period ends because the resort can fall back on the oral representation clause. By their own admission, Florida’s timeshare division DBPR will fall back on it too.  https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

From AZ HB 2639

Buyers often enter into timeshare contracts when on vacation, are encouraged to review documents after they return home from vacation, sometimes long after the rescission period has ended – leading to confusion, anxiety and costly fees that can last years.

The timeshare lobby ARDA and the timeshare industry have yet to acknowledge unfair and deceptive sales practices exist on the front end of the timeshare sale. The amount of money lost to timeshare exit companies pales in comparison to the amount of money timeshare members say they lost because they believed a timeshare sales agent, according to our 800 readers.  

When timeshare members receive their maintenance fee invoices, they are asked to make a $3 to $10 donation to ARDA ROC. Timeshare members collectively give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year. I have yet to meet the timeshare member who can tell me what ARDA ROC even stands for.

Timeshare members that have contacted Inside Timeshare are not trying to weasel out of their contracts because they can’t afford them. They allege unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Our readers include doctors, lawyers, two private investigators, mortgage loan officers, professors, MBAs, war heroes, law enforcement professionals, criminologists (one a PhD), a detective who worked economic crimes under cover, and a contract specialist for ConEd, all alleging unfair and timeshare sales practices. What chance has the vulnerable?

All we ask is make it a level playing field, by providing disclosure, alerting the consumer – you cannot believe a word timeshare sale agents say because they could be “pitching heat.” Unscrupulous sales agents also harm honest sales agents trying to sell the product honestly. We’ve heard from a lot of them.       

The American Legislative Exchange Council

The reporter in this YouTube describes how lobbyists sit at the table with legislators filling in the blanks crafting desired bills tailored to their wishes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MHYOB5uptc

Our volunteers answer questions about regulatory filings when members complain of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Many members have resolved disputes by filing regulatory complaints. Too many families have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare, a product advertised to reduce stress.

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/

Other related articles:

Arizona HB 2639

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-florida-timeshare-tactics-scott-maxwell-20150411-column.html

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/diamond-resorts-still-cant-explain-why-it-sold-250000-worth-of-timeshare-points-to-an-88-year-old-032919.html

https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/3310015002

Thank you Irene, all we can hope for is that these Bills do not get through, timeshare consumers need protection not just from unscrupulous resale and exit companies but also from the industry as a whole. We have often stated that timeshare could be a good product, but as we know it is the way it is sold and the unfair conditions consumers have to put up with that are the problem.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker replaces the original article scheduled for today with her take on Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run by Women Who Money.

Latest news on the Nevada SB 348, the bill has been pulled possibly for a couple of weeks, this is due to the efforts of consumers. From our efforts 35 timeshare members posted comments, lets keep this going and increase that number to 350!

Unless timeshare buyers are given 24 hours to review a contract as ARDA is demanding from timeshare exit providers, we will continue to see consumers being pressured into purchasing there and then. As they say, what is good for the goose, is good for the Gander.

In the lawsuit against Marriott Vacation Club, a Florida Judge has sustained central claims in the class action against Marriott and their points based system. According to the article (see link below), “Consumer Deeds are invalid because they lack any cognizable legal description of a real property interest being conveyed as required by Florida law.”

https://www.nyrealestatelawblog.com/manhattan-litigation-blog/2019/april/florida-judge-sustains-central-claims-in-suit-ag/?fbclid=IwAR2wlVr8NIPBZj9Mcg8vVQI7_yHJvTHkIWTU4NdT9XEC8QANg0rfR9wmZrs#.XKZAISFvVH0.facebook

This is very similar to the reasons that points and floating weeks systems have been deemed illegal under Spanish timeshare law, they lack any substance, allowing only for the right of use, subject to availability.

Could this be the start of points based systems becoming illegal in the US, well we shall have to wait and see. Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Women Who Money

Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?

What Timeshare Regulations?

By Irene Parker

April 5, 2019

I enjoyed reading “Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?” published by Women Who Money.  I agree with the article’s major points, with the exception of the author’s comment about “regulations being in place to protect timeshare consumers.” Having heard from timeshare members how easy it is for a timeshare sales agent to dodge a contract rescission period, I wonder if there is any foolproof way to prevent being scammed. Some things, like actual availability, cannot be discerned by reading the contract. Also, my contract said, “You can sell your points. We will not assist you.” The part about no buyers was left out.  

House, Senate and Assembly Bills are flying across the country. On Tuesday we published a summary of proposed legislation and asked timeshare members to oppose Nevada Senate Bill 348, unless it can be amended to say timeshare buyers will be allowed 24 hours to review a contract, not just contracts with exit service providers.

There is no need to propose a bill requiring those who seek to buy a car be allowed 24 hours before signing a contract. Typically when buying a car, you shop, and a tag team of three against two doesn’t gang up on you for hours. We ask timeshare members to voice their opinion on NV SB 348 following the link in Tuesday’s article. Timeshare buyers should be at least offered 24 hours before signing a contract.

Timeshares are regulated by states. Since timeshare buyers typically buy a timeshare in a state other than their state of residence, lawmakers have little incentive to react to non-constituents. Lawmakers need to listen to those who bought a timeshare in their state, not just those who reside in their state. While some state Attorneys General seem to be on the side of the consumer, other states follow the mantra, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

I found the Woman Who Money article, “Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?” on Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Crusader blog. Having worked in the industry for years, Lisa’s knowledge brings a lot to the table.

From Women Who Money   

Regulations now exist to help protect consumers from high-pressure sales tactics. If you buy a timeshare and quickly regret it, you may have options for getting out of the signed contract.

The most important things you can do if you’re considering a timeshare purchase is to take time to read every word in the contract. You’re given a mandated legal rescission period ranging from 3-10 days.

https://womenwhomoney.com/timeshares-worth-money/?fbclid=IwAR0bYNP97–z3c_zLuiKII59MamwEsSaCA6exdi6GdNOspnL26F88c09eeg

Timeshare expert and author of Timeshare for Dummies Lisa Ann Schreier agrees:

“While it is true that each state has a legally mandated rescission period, the fact of the matter is that 99% of purchasers will not read the contract within that time frame. The days of relying on the sales person for good, solid information are over. Consumers must go into these timeshare sales pitches armed with a litany of questions and be prepared to walk out without purchasing anything if they don’t receive answers that can be pointed out within the contract.”

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/

My husband and I used and enjoyed our timeshare for 25 years with no complaints, questions or Facebook posts. The points-based product does offer greater flexibility and the elimination of additional fees imposed by exchange companies. We’re not saying timeshare isn’t good for many, and there are not honest sales agents, but I am convinced, in speaking with timeshare members, current and former sales agents, managers and even an executive or two, “pitching heat” is on the upswing. Having sold everything from pianos to Charitable Remainder Trusts, I have never encountered a term as revolting as “pitching heat” as the industry itself describes the employment of unfair and deceptive sales practices.

Timeshare buyers should record their timeshare sales sessions in one-party states where legal. I would recommend not buying a timeshare in a two-party state. If you can’t record your presentation, proof will be hard to come by. One of our Supporters, Sheila Brust, has in her possession her “Pencil Pitch” that clearly denoted:

$8,631

-8,631

0

There was an arrow pointing to 0 and the word “saved,” indicating she would be able to cover all her maintenance fees using a program that unfortunately did not exist. A second buyer who bought from the same sales agent was also dismissed by the Florida timeshare reviewer. The Florida reviewer told Sheilah that she did not understand the program either until she spoke with the company attorney. What chance does the average consumer have if a Florida timeshare reviewer, who has reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of timeshare contracts, did not understand the program until she spoke with the company attorney?

“Hear no evil, see no evil” seems the norm in some states. As far as proof, 78 Platinum members, who don’t know each other, reported similar to identical complaints, often against repeat offender sales agents. I’m told that constitutes proof as it is a good faith investigation and a reasonable conclusion.  At the very least if Florida demands proof, make Florida a one party state.

Contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help group if you have questions or concerns about your timeshare.

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 for coming up with today’s article at such short notice.

Do you have any comments or views on any article published, if so use our contact page and let us know, we welcome your views.

Have you a problem with your timeshare, you don’t know where to turn or who to trust, again use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction. Remember there are many bogus companies out there, promising the earth and delivering nothing, do your homework before engaging with any company.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

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

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.