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The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another of our Secret Shopper Reports, coordinated by Pete Gibbes, these articles have proved to be very popular with our many readers. One thing they all comment on is how similar to their own experiences these reports show.

“Thank God It’s April 15 Day!”

For those in the US, the 15 April is the day when many members will receive a tax liability bill if a loan is cancelled. For us, in Europe, we find this very strange, especially for loans linked to timeshare purchases. At least our European members don’t get a tax bill when their loan is cancelled.

Inside Timeshare has directed many back to their CPA to dispute this tax bill for “phantom income” as the former has not been enriched by the cancellation of the loan as they have retained nothing of value.

Now before we go on with our Secret Shopper article, a little news on the legal front from the leading European law firm in timeshare litigation, Canarian Legal Alliance.

With the Easter Holidays now upon us, the lawyers at CLA are having a well-deserved break, especially after the past two weeks of court cases.

In the past five days alone, there have been 25 trial and 20 sentences issued, many of these were pre-trials, with the judges once again confirming that there was no need for the case to go to a full trial. The reason being, these cases are based on documentary proof, they are based on contracts which according to Spanish timeshare law contain illegalities. This is obviously very damaging for the timeshare companies but very good news for the clients.

So to recap, in the past 2 weeks, there has been a total of 26 victory sentences with 24 against Anfi del Mar, all heard in the Court of First Instance, San Bartelomé de Tirajana, Gran Canaria. With 2 High Court, Santa Cruz de Tenerife against Silverpoint. The total amount awarded is a staggering 931,229€ plus all contracts being declared null and void.

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

How do you define a “Bad Apple” Sales Agent?

It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

By Secret Shopper

Tuesday, April 16

We have all heard stories of outright deception and deceit employed by timeshare salespeople. Many complaints are from those who were convinced to give up their deeded timeshare week and convert to the points-based timeshare.

Fixed week timeshares may lack the flexibility of points, but if you like knowing what you own, a guaranteed stay may mean more to you than flexibility. With a points program, you can stay more or less than a week and book other resorts at other times of the year. However, many have complained that after giving up their deed, they were not able to access even the resort they had vacationed at for years.

Timeshare companies will say that salespeople who use scare tactics represent only a few “Bad Apples” so are not typical. Timeshare Accountability Group has heard from more than a few members that were frightened into giving up their deed, told their children will be burdened because of their parent’s decision to buy a timeshare. We’re not lawyers, so we defer to timeshare attorney Mike Finn to fill us in on what happens when you inherit an unwanted timeshare. It’s a topic many are interested in, especially as baby boomers age.

Some of the tactics sales agents use to coerce an “owner” to give up a deeded timeshare week to become a “member” are downright predatory and constitute practicing law without a license. This is what happened to Phyllis, age 67, in her own words (unedited):

I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare forever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them (the new company) or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry.  I was tired. In order to get out of there, I signed under dearest. I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BARCLAYS BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018, to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. DRI sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

(Submitted to Inside Timeshare)

Our Secret Shopper Experience        

In mid-summer 2018, we went on a “mandatory” update after attending a Diamond Resorts event in Virginia Beach. We are well versed in timeshare methods and had our “ears up” to catch any of the standard tactics they might use to persuade us to convert our two deeded weeks into points.

Despite being ready for the worst, I will openly admit that our salesperson never told us any OVERT lies during our two-hour presentation. He was friendly, polite, and had a long history with Diamond Resorts at various locations throughout the country. He told us where he lived in Virginia Beach (a very expensive waterfront area).  He did not lie to us.

That being said, his words were very carefully chosen, and of course, what he didn’t tell us was even more carefully chosen. At a minimum, his pitch was misleading, confusing, full of half-truths, and in my opinion quite diabolical.  When someone commits a “material omission” is it a lie? That sounds like a question for attorney Mike Finn.

Let’s see how the game is played

Our salesperson pushed two major discussion points:

1 – Vacation Options:

Our sales agent demonstrated what would happen if we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased 5,000 points. He showed us a world of amazing Diamond Resorts locations on his computer screen. He explained these resorts would be available to us with the 15,000 points in total we would have if we gave up both deeds.

He showed us availability on HIS computer. He said things like “Here, let me show you on MY account” and “the system shows ME availability for these vacations for only 3,000 points… look at all of them!” Yes, many were available on many different dates. Wow, the world would be our Oyster.

Now, all that is technically true, but he presented it in a manner to imply that if we converted to 15,000 non-deeded points, we would see the same availability and options we were shown… but he never actually said that. His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).

If the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract has been executed, you would not see actual availability at your loyalty level until after the rescission period had passed.

If you knew what to listen for, the agent chose his words incredibly carefully to sidestep the issue. This would have misled us if we were not informed shoppers. In my opinion, it was a shameful sales tactic that almost anyone would likely fall for.

I know that none of the locations available under his sales account would be available to someone with only 15,000 points, especially summer weeks in Virginia Beach, which he was asking us to give up. He repeatedly showed us that Turtle Cay was only 6,500 points for a week vacation in July… which is accurate… if you are one of the handfuls of people in the US with status and connections to get access to that level of availability. It is unlikely at the Silver loyalty level we would ever be able to stay there again even if we were to convert to points. He didn’t mention that.

He also gave us pamphlets describing Diamond Dream Vacations (DDV), also known as Holiday Vacations, which we could take advantage of anytime for 3,000, 7,500, or 15,000 points. Each DDV included two airfares at top-notch accommodations. One package included four days at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes resort along with a five day Caribbean cruise for only 7,500 points.

For those not familiar with points, maintenance fees for Silver level are about $.20 per point so if the Dream Vacation requires 7,500 points, the trip would cost $1,500. Multiply 7,500 points times $.20. Always do your timeshare math. Four nights at Mystic Dunes, two airfares and a five day Caribbean cruise for two for $1,500 is a GREAT deal! It even included rental car discounts.

After submitting this article, Pete explained that these great deals really do exist. I thought they were completely bogus. He said that since these packages are for the purposes of selling points, they are available to anyone who purchases as a “sweetener” or to existing members in an effort to sell more points.  

Apparently, tremendous bargains are always promotions. Our sales agent never said Dream Holidays were promotions that would require a sales session. He said “These packages are available anytime” to use his exact wording. Again, he didn’t lie… he just didn’t present an important fact.

2 – Financial Justification:

He presented a very complex 10-year financial analysis showing how it would cost us far less over ten years if we converted to points, even though he wanted us to drop more than $75,000 for 15,000 points, which would have included giving up our two deeded summer weeks. He did not know that I used to be a financial analyst with IBM. I worked on billion-dollar transactions. His spreadsheet was malarkey, and even I couldn’t follow it. Once again, he was not lying; his analysis was just crappy… which is quite common as financials go. Of course, we were not given a copy of any of his figures. When we tried to take it, he whisked it away.

All told, I doubt other salespeople would consider our sales agent a “Bad Apple” as he didn’t tell any lies. He did not mention any bogus programs (e.g. “you can pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point”) or other false claims. In fact, our sales agent is probably a shining example held up for other salespeople to emulate: nice, amiable, well dressed, 6.5 feet tall with 12 extra teeth in his smile.

After we firmly said no and started to leave, we were sent to a manager to “check out.” This person was quite reprehensible. He showed us further discounts off the $75,000. He spoke about the “investment” we would be making, what our “Equity” would be out of the gate, and how our “Equity” would grow over time. Our “investment” would only go up in value.

I got quite angry and blew up at him at this point, calling him out directly on those misrepresentations. His eyes flew open wide as he backtracked, “When I say Equity I mean your equity in future vacation time and how your vacation time would become more valuable as you learn how to use the system wisely.”

He claimed he never said he was speaking about a financial investment and not to put words in his mouth but he actually said these things with no qualifiers until he was pressed to do so . My wife loudly told him off and we got up to walk out. He asked why she was being so rude. In a sick sort of way, it was funny, really.

As our experience shows, a “Bad Apple” is in the eye of the beholder.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a story to share. Our standard disclosure is that we know there are honest sales agents selling the product honestly. Deceptive agents harm honest sales agents too. Our concern is the number of agents “pitching heat” to sell points could lead to a decline in sales unless acknowledged and addressed.

Contact Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes through Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.

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/

Thank you to our secret shopper and to Pete Gibbes the coordinator for this week’s report, these do help others to be aware and of what to expect when they attend any presentation. As the old saying goes,  “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

One thing is certain, purchasers of timeshare in Spain do have the full protection of the law, misrepresentation of the product is not tolerated. We also know that many other European countries are reviewing their own timeshare laws in accordance with EU Timeshare Directives designed to protect consumers, many are also looking to Spain and may just adopt their legislation. For too long the timeshare companies have had the upper hand, but the tide is turning.

If you have any comments or would like to share your experiences use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Do you have a problem with your timeshare membership, or need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found?

Again use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

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.

Mid Week Roundup

Over the past few weeks Inside Timeshare has been highlighting the growing rise in EZE Group customers being contacted with stories of companies being “appointed” or “retained” by the courts to help them get their money back.

Well, it hasn’t stopped, Inside Timeshare is still receiving many enquiries from concerned coustomers who have been contacted. Today we published the company names and adresses along with some of the names that have been supplied from our readers.

First we begin with Money Advice Limited, this company is newly registered at Company House, being incorporated only on 30 January 2019, so it is not even 2 months old. Company Registration Number 11796746 with the registered address:

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

Telephone number 061 505 0398

Names of callers supplied are: Mark Spalding, Thomas Jones and Irene Golding.

Again the story is the same, they have been “appointed or retained” by the High Court in Madrid and can get back the money, but a processing fee of £725 is required. One reader was also told that they had to travel to Tenerife and get a “Spanish Tax Number” which would cost £1595.

The next one is Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, Company registration Number 06832938

Ty Glen, 1 Brecon Court, William Brown Close, Llantarnam Industrial Park, Cwmbran, NP44 3AB

Tel: 02920099129

This particular company has also gone one step further, they highjacked a genuine company name to give themselves credibility, Claims Advice Bureau (UK) Ltd, with the Company Registration Number 05518043 and the registered address:

128-130 Whitworth Road, Rochdale, OL12 0JJ

This company was informed and have reported this to the authorities.

The next one on our list is Egerton Advisory Limited, Company Number 10286171 and the registered address:

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

With an alternative location address registered as:

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

Telephone number 0203 745 2315

The directors are named as: Victoria Noland Carter Egerton and William Luke Le Beward Egerton, both registered the New Street Square address. With the caller being named as Sarah Elliot.

One reader was emailed by Sarah Elliot within an hour of speaking with Mark Spalding of Money Advice Ltd, in her email she reiterated what Mark Spalding had told our reader, although she did refer to him as Mr Smith.

So it is obvious these are all working together, either they are ex-employees of Eze Group or have purchased the data from an employee.

The courts do not “appoint or retain” private companies, plus the trial against Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly was at Birmingham Crown Court and nothing to do with the High Court in Madrid.

If you are contacted by any company with a similar story, then it is going to be a scam, use our contact page and let Inside Timeshare know, that way we can warn others.

Staying with the courts, Canarian Legal Alliance has this week 25 cases being heard in various courts around Spain, that is an incredible 5 per day.

We have also just received the news that so far this week they have received an astounding 14 sentences, full details have yet to be released but we have been told of these three:

Court of First Instance, Maspalomas, Anfi have been ordered to return over 5,775€ plus the contract has been declared null and void.

At the same court Anfi once again has been ordered to repay over 117,000€ plus double the deposit and the contract being declared null and void.

The same Court of First Instance has also ruled that Anfi repay over 7,000€ plus double the deposit and another contract declared null and void.

Again the truth is the timeshare companies are losing despite what they and the industry report, consumers now have the backing of the law and the courts. If you have been sold a timeshare in Spain after 5 January 1999, it is for a period greater than 50 years or known as perpetuity, you have floating weeks, points or fractional and you also paid any money within the cooling off period and you would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

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

Canarian Legal Alliance: Benalmadena Office Interview

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

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

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

The Benalmadena Office of CLA

Here is what Sean had to say.

Inside Timeshare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sean Thacker indicating a Supreme Court ruling against Silverpoint

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

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

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

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

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

The Tuesday Slot: More on Florida House Bill 435

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

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

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

More on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held March 12

In response to ARDA ROC and Wyndham’s testimony:

How Timeshare Sales Agents can Dodge a Rescission Period

Why Reading the Timeshare Contract does not Always Help

Why the Delay in Reporting Fraud

By Irene Parker

March 19, 2019

The Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why reading the contract does not always help:

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

Why there is a delay in reporting fraud:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No for Irene’s report.

Florida House of Representatives

Business and Profession Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12

Florida House Bill 435

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

By Irene Parker

March 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

Shannon Zetrouer, Outside Counsel, Reed Hein and Associates

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

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

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

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

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

2016        1200 complaints          600 reported misleading information

2017        1300 complaints          700 misleading information

2018        1300 complaints          700 misleading information  

2019        700 complaints            300 misleading information

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Kimball addressed the problems associated with fraudulent transfers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would happen to the primary housing market if:

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.     How rescission periods are easily dodged

2.     Why reading the contract does not always help

3.     Why the delay in reporting fraud

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


Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

Contact Inside Timeshare to let your voice be heard.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Silverpoint, Nordic Consulting and the Farhouds

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

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

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

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

Alex Farhoud

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

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

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

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

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

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

They obviously had many questions they wanted answers to.

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

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

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

Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL

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

Ali Farhoud

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start the Week: Do I Have a Claim?

Over the past few months, Inside Timeshare has received many enquiries regarding claims and legal action against timeshare companies. As we know there are now many firms contacting timeshare owners informing them they have a claim against their timeshare company. Most are not even law firms, but companies setup to get on the bandwagon of claims since the Spanish Supreme Court strengthened the laws.

Spanish Supreme Court Madrid

From the enquiries received, it would appear that everyone has a claim, unfortunately that is not the case, although the purchase may have been in Spain, unless it can be proved that there is a link to a Spanish entity i.e. an SL or SA company, there may not be a viable case.

For example, one reader contacted Inside Timeshare about a Marriott purchase in Mallorca, the company who contacted them was adamant there was a claim and they could take Marriott to court. This reader contacted Inside Timeshare as they were suspicious that what they were being told was not correct, how could they know there was a claim just by the conversation on the telephone?

This reader sent copies of their documents, unfortunately for them there was no viable claim, all the documentation and payments went via Marriotts Florida headquarters. There was no Spanish link, so no Spanish court would have accepted the case. The contract even though purchased in Spain was essentially a US contract, so it was not covered by Spanish law.

We have even had enquiries from readers who have purchased in the UK, being told they have a valid claim. With many of these they have been told they can do this on a no win no fee basis, then are told they must first pay for the contract to be cancelled. The no win no fee is the enticer, the claim is unlikely to ever be paid out.

Spain has the strongest laws regarding timeshare in Europe, by comparison the UK laws are weak and favour the timeshare companies, it is a fact that the EU has issued directives on the sale of timeshare, but these are not law, they are directives pure and simple. It is down to the individual state to place the basic guidelines into domestic law.

The basic criteria for a valid claim against a timeshare contract in Spain is one or a combination of the following:

  • The purchase must have been made in Spain after 5 January 1999;
  • The contract is over the permitted 50 year duration, i.e no end date known as perpetuity;
  • Contains floating weeks or points systems which also includes fractional and “investments”;
  • Any payments made within the 14 day cooling off period, this is extended to 90 if other infractions such as any of the above are present.

These have been reinforced by the Supreme Court and all lower courts must now follow suite, they have no choice. These are civil cases and it is all down to contracts. Other laws may also be invoked, this is usually done on a case by case basis when the lawyers are preparing the case. They may include Civil Consumer Law and Mercantile Law.

The Supreme Court has also recently ruled that in the case of any payment made during the cooling off period (which includes the 90 day extension) this must be paid back double.

What would be the claim?

  • Double the deposits paid within the 14 day cooling off period, the balance only if paid after, this is the minimum claim amount. If paid within the cooling off period then double that as well. (All double if 90 day invoked), this is the maximum claim amount.
  • Added to the claim will also be the return of legal fees (this is at the judges discretion), but also legal interest is paid from the time the case is presented to court.
  • Maintenance fees may be added to the claim, but again it is the judges discretion if he awards the return.

Obviously, to enable a case to be brought, a competent and genuine lawyer is required, they also should be registered to practice in Spain and have knowledge and experience in this field.

Legal fees are also required to be paid for the work and case to be carried out, these fees are broken down as follows:

  • Translations of all documents into Spanish, interpreters if the client is required to attend court;
  • Lawyers fees, for the preparation of the case and representation in court;
  • Procurator fees, (barrister), they work alongside the lawyer and is responsible for filing the case, submitting and retrieving documents at court;
  • Court fees and taxes.
  • Notary fees for Power of Attorney, if signing in Spain this is included. If the POA is signed in the UK then that must be paid separately by the client.

The fees are calculated on the minimum claim amount, which is the purchase price, they are a one time fee, so if the case has to go to an appeal court, no further fees are requested. This system enables the client to know the cost of bringing a case in advance, unlike most systems in the UK where the legal bill for a civil case is not known until the conclusion.

They do not operate a no win no fee system, in fact even in the UK, no win no fee is not what it seems. This system usually involves a litigation funder who pays the legal bills for the case to be brought. You could say they are gambling on the case, if successful, they will take around 40% of the compensation awarded. If you lose, you could be liable for the oppositions cost, which has happened in several timeshare cases in the UK High Courts. One aspect of these no win no fee offers is they do not advise you to take out a litigation liability insurance in case you lose.

As for the prospect of losing in the Spanish courts on these cases, as long as the correct law firm is employed, which has the experience in these cases and this field of law, that possibility is very remote. Plus the correct firm would not take on a case unless it fulfilled the relevant criteria and breached the laws.

If you would like further information Inside Timeshare would be happy to help, also if you would like to have your case checked as to whether you have a valid and viable claim Inside Timeshare can arrange that free of charge and without obligation.

The documents needed would be scanned copies of:

  • Purchase agreements;
  • Terms & conditions;
  • Any finance agreements if these were provided by the sales staff at the point of sale.

If any finance was taken out and is still being paid, then if you do bring a case this still needs to be continued. Once a ruling and sentence on your case has been issued, then the finance company can be approached to have the contract cancelled and all interest returned. This can only be done at the conclusion of the case, the reason is once the court finds in favour of the client the contract is declared null and void on the grounds it is illegal, therefore, the loan agreement was used to finance an illegal product. A claim for interest may be possible if the loan has been cleared.

Once you know for certain that you have a valid and viable claim, Inside Timeshare can then make a recommendation for the best law firm for your case, they would then be able to go through costs and procedure.

Also if you do not have a case which can be taken through the Spanish courts, but have a finance agreement which you are now finding to be a problem, Inside Timeshare may be able to recommend a firm which specialises in this field.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please use our contact page and we will get back to you.