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Update

Nordic Consulting, Company Participations: More Readers Send Information as a Warning

Further to our previous articles on the Silverpoint Participations and Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, today we publish the experiences of one reader from Scandinavia, taken from the many enquiries received in the past two days. It explains how he was sold the these “participations” and has since been contacted by Ali Farhoud from Nordic Consulting. We have slightly changed certain details to keep the identity of our reader private.

Back in 2017, our reader attended a meeting with Silverpoint Vacations, the representative was Alex Farhoud, another brother of Ali. The scheme was explained to him and he was led to believe that he was buying a specific apartment at Beverly Hills Heights, part of the agreement was that he would receive an income from the rental of the said apartment and eventually be able to sell.

After some time, he eventually signed the contract and parted with over 150,000€, along with the purchase contract was a rental contract with Silverpoint Vacations, the client left in the belief that he had a good deal.

Then in 2018, Alex Farhoud made contact, our reader was informed that the rental contract had been cancelled and new less favourable conditions had been presented. In order to fix this Alex Farhoud demanded a further 10,000€ fee. Our reader fearing the loss of his “investment” duly paid. The new rental contract was with Excel Hotels and Resorts. He received an outline of the new rental contract, which to some extent the original conditions that they had initially agreed to.

Nearly a year later he was once again contacted by Alex Farhoud, this time it was stated that the purchase contract they our reader had signed was not valid. The reason being he could not get a title for a product that was essentially made up of timeshares!

Enter Nordic Consulting and Ali Farhoud, Alex Farhoud referred our reader to this company with the proposal that Nordic Consulting would instigate legal proceedings to have the contract with Silverpoint nullified, plus claiming back what they had initially paid, but in double. Obviously there was going to be a fee for this, that was estimated at over 30,000€. Our reader has had repeated calls from both brother to pay and get the process initiated. But our reader has not done so, one reason is that he has received no explanations or clarification in writing.

Our reader has also received a letter from Silverpoint informing him that the process of obtaining title was moving on and that all units had been cleared of timeshare owners. Apparently a “certificate” confirming that all 52 weeks in the unit purchased were clear. Our reader would then be called to Tenerife to sign the title.

Our reader is now so confused, can he believe or trust Silverpoint?

Can he trust Nordic Consulting, his brothers company, especially as it was Alex Farhoud who sold him the product in the first place?

This is why our reader turned to Inside Timeshare, he had nowhere else to turn, he didn’t know who to trust. After lengthy discussions we made a recommendation and our reader is now discussing his options with a leading law firm in this field. It will be sometime before we will be able to give you an outcome, but we are sure that his problem will be resolved to his satisfaction.

Have you had dealings with Silverpoint, either the “investment weeks” or the “company participation scheme”, have you been contacted by Nordic Consulting regarding these?

Have you been contacted by JB Legal / SIM Legal and Jeroen Martijn Brussel, (See article published 28 Jan 19), along with Walker Padron Perez, with a similar story?

If so, get in touch with Inside Timeshare, let us know your experiences so that we can keep these warning going, we will also offer free and impartial advice on what options are open to you.

Start the Week: Latest News

Welcome to the start of another week in the world of timeshare, we begin with some news being passed around various forums regarding Anfi. As we know Anfi is contacting members to change their contracts, but the latest is rather disturbing.

The change in contracts is to try and bring them within the law, the new contracts will be for a maximum of 50 years, with apartment numbers and week numbers being allocated to the floating week contracts, although they will remain “floating”.

According to information received, the new contracts will also penalise the members for “early termination” of their membership. Any early termination of the contract will be seen as a serious breach of contract on part of the member, Anfi will then apply a retrospective charge on the member for “hotel Costs” of around 350€ per night for all weeks used.

They have already used this threat to members who may be contemplating legal action in regard to illegal and missold contracts. This is also the subject of an ongoing legal argument, which has yet to be finally resolved.

Another point that has come to our attention is the number of members who have just ceased to pay their maintenance, especially with the new contracts. It is reported that around 100 members in 10 countries are about to have legal proceedings made against them for recovery of the maintenance fee arrears. Plus to have the mentioned “hotel costs” charged against them.

Another point which is irritating some of the members posting on the forums is the problem of resale. According to many posters, Anfi has the right to refuse the buyer of any timeshare sold privately. Again this is to ensure that all resales go through the resale programme, which we know is not very effective and will only command a very small resale price.

As with any timeshare advertised for sale, the price you see is what the owner believes they will get, remember, when purchased, many were under the impression they were investing in property. The sales staff openly told them it would go up in value, as we know this is definitely not the case.

So what do we make of this change in contracts and the other tactics being used?

Simple, by changing to the new contract, you lose all rights to take them to court, this is what Anfi want, after all it is costing them a fortune in payouts. (Which they will deny).

The threat of the “hotel costs” with legal action against maintenance arrears and making it more difficult to sell privately, is again to stem the tide of a significant loss of membership. This loss hits them in the pocket with reduced income of maintenance fees. After all, they are not selling like they used too, people are very wary of purchasing timeshare today.

Canarian Legal Alliance has issued some figures for the last week of January and the first week of February.

At the Court of First Instance, in Maspalomas, they had 19 (nineteen) victories against Anfi del Mar alone.

There were also 2 High Court wins in Las Palmas, again against Anfi del Mar.

Again at the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Palm Oasis lost 3 cases.

Over in Tenerife, The Court of First Instance again found against Silverpoint in 2 cases.

In another First Instance hearing, Club la Costa were the ones on the receiving end of a judgement.

In all a massive 27 victories against the biggest names in European timeshare, the total amount claimed on behalf of clients is over 648,000€ with all contracts being declared null and void.

CLA have also issued this video, which shows their impressive record so far, it was made at the end of 2018.

That’s it for today, join us tomorrow for a very special article, this was received by another timeshare insider after we published the article on the Florida Bill 435, tomorrow we publish Part 1.

If you need any help or advice regarding your timeshare, about any company that has contacted you or you have found either on the internet or advert in any publication, then use our contact page. We will be pleased to help.

Also if you have any comments, views or information you would like to share with other timeshare owners, then again use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Consumer Warning: Update (Link added Sunday 10/02/19)

Further information has been received by Inside Timeshare regarding a previous article on the Silverpoint Company Participation Scheme and a company contacting consumers who have purchased this flawed product.

From the information received from an English client, he was sold “participations” in this scheme by none other than Ali Farhoud, this purchase was for over 440,000 Euros.

He received a call from Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, (Mr Farhoud’s company), the caller was, yes you guessed it, Ali Farhoud himself. In the call the client was informed by Mr Farhoud, that at the time he was selling this “product” for Silverpoint, he did not know that it was “fraudulent”, (if you can actually believe that).

Also during the call this client was told that Nordic Consulting would take his case to court and get him compensation. The cost, over 21,000 Euros, plus 25% of the awarded amount. This client felt as though he was once again being pressured into parting with huge sums of money, from the very same person who sold him the “product” in the first place.

Needless to say he didn’t fall for it on this occasion, he has decided to take legal action through a respected and experienced law firm.

Now obviously the list of clients who purchased into this “scheme” is in the possession of Nordic Consulting and Mr Farhoud, one does have to wonder how this was obtained?

It is also very obvious that the person who made large amounts of money from selling the “scheme” in the first place is now set to get what is called a “double dip”, in other words making more money out of those who were sold a defective and highly floored product in the first place.

So the warning is very clear, if you receive a call regarding taking legal action against Silverpoint (Farhouds previous employer) by Nordic Consulting, you will be lining the pockets of the one who sold it to you in the beginning.

Below is a transcript from a recorded meeting between Ali Farhoud and one of his duped clients, this was in 2013. It revolves around the “investment” weeks Silverpoint were peddling. These sales are subject to many court cases being brought in Tenerife. It must also be noted that Silverpoint were at this time members of the Trade Body the Resorts Development Organisation (RDO).

Just from this transcript alone, Farhouds claim that he had no idea that the “participations” were fraudulent is somewhat flawed. He knew he was selling a “frudulent” product long before the “participations” came on the scene.

We leave it to you the reader to decide.

The link to the transcript since publication has been removed from the TCA website. Although it is still showing on Google search.

Have you purchased into this product and now feel that you have been defrauded?

Do you want to know who you can actually trust to get you your money back and have the contracts declared null and void?

Then use our contact page, Inside Timeshare will go through it with you and point you in the right direction and to the people who can and will do the job. In the end Inside Timeshare will give you the best advice without any obligation and free of charge.

The Mid Week Report

Welcome to The Mid Week Report, today we highlight a some of the breaking news in the world of timeshare, the trial of the late  John “Goldfinger” Palmer associates at the Audiencia Nacional, National Court in Madrid, highlighted in previous articles, (links below).

It appears that the Anti Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has reduced the highest penalty of imprisonment to 24 months, a far cry from the 8 to 12 years originally called for. The reason is that the Prosecutor’s Office applied a mitigation of undue delays as the investigation which actually began 20 years ago.

However, the defendants will be liable for a subsidiary civil liability of 1,890,000 euros. A rather paltry amount considering the millions that was scammed from their victims.

The defendants in court

The largest sentences of 24 months were given to Richard Cashman, Palmer’s lieutenant, for illicit association, fraud and money laundering.

Darren Morris was hand 10 months for unlawful association, 10 months for fraud and 4 months for money laundering. He was also handed a further 1 year for a firearm with the serial number erased, which was found in his home.

Paul Murry, Keith Peter Davies, Neil Campbell Lockie and Dean Wells, all involved in supporting Palmer’s business when he was jailed in the UK, face 10 months for illicit association and 10 months for fraud.

Christine Ketley who was jailed for 2 years on 2001 in the UK along with palmer and the lawyer Ramón Solano seem to have been spared sentence.

The prosecutor had also asked for a sentence of 8 months for Jacobba Visscher who ran the headquarters of Dinastia Resorts for 44 charges of fraud, this is reduced from the 8 years originally requested.

In the end although they have finally been brought to court, somehow the victims will not think that justice has actually been served.

Link to news report in Canarias7.

https://www.canarias7.es/siete-islas/tenerife/la-fiscalia-rebaja-a-24-meses-la-pena-maxima-por-el-fraude-de-la-multipropiedad-de-john-palmer-en-canarias-IC6510831?fbclid=IwAR093WufWmxBrdd8-pAd7sbEmeubBSdeDvPviPvruPS6CgSKNNJB90rN_t8

Links to previous articles.

http://insidetimeshare.com/start-the-week-associates-of-john-goldfinger-palmer-now-in-court/

http://insidetimeshare.com/update-the-john-goldfinger-palmer-saga/

Canarian Legal Alliance has announced the following, which will be good news for their clients.

In Gran Canaria the Judges in Maspalomas have been consistently declaring there is no need for cases against Anfi to go to a full trial. These Judges have decided to pass their resolutions at the preliminary hearing, yesterday 5 January, 5 preliminary hearings took place with all 5 having results announced without the full trial. For the clients this will mean no travelling for the trial and a much speedier resolution to their case.

In Tenerife a cash embargo has been placed to the value of 44,494.20€ against Silverpoint. Great news for this particular client, as the original claim was 32,791.75€, 11,702.45€ more. They will also get legal fees and legal interest.

Back to the courts in Gran Canaria, Another embargo has been placed against Anfi to the value of 12,882.79€ on behalf of a German client. The enforcement team consisting of the lawyers Judith Diaz Pascual and Cristina Batista are obviously doing a fantastic job on behalf of their clients.

In January the state of play was:

    • 76 trials in all Spanish courts 
    • 18 appeals
    • 28 appeals from the opposition
    • 1 supreme court hearing
    • 21 provisional executions
    • 9 provoked interventions
    • 1 cash embargo against Anfi
    • 47 sentences all in favor of our CLA clients
  • 1.600.000 € in claim amounts

Once again this does go to show that contrary to some posters on various forums and websites that have an axe to grind that CLA does not do what it says and along with the timeshare resorts and RDO who deny they are losing, or that the courts have got the law wrong,  that is certainly not the case. These are all a matter of public record and can be verified.

If you have any comments or questions about this or any article published then use our contact page, we welcome the feedback.

Also if you have had dealings with any company or are about to with regards to a possible claim against your timeshare resort, but are not quite sure if it is genuine, then again use our contact page and we will give you the best advice possible.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Letter from America of February, this week we hear another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” from the Wheat family and their experience with Wyndham, edited by our very own Irene Parker. First a little news from Europe.

Yesterday, Thursday 31 January, at Birmingham Crown Court , Dominic O’Reilly, Stephanie O’Reilly and Eze Europe Limited, appeared for sentencing. As we know they had faced many charges of unfair trading practices, misleading consumers and many more. On checking the courts website this morning, nothing has yet been posted, but Inside Timeshare has emailed the court for confirmation of sentences and we are waiting for a reply. As soon as this comes in we will be publishing on these pages.

News came in this morning regarding another case involving Diamond Resorts in Tenerife, Canarian Legal Alliance originally had a case in which the Court of First Instance found in favour of Diamond. They instantly appealed this decision to the High Court

The High Court reviewed the case and ruled that the First Instance Courts decision was flawed, they immediately overruled the first court’s ruling, as per the Supreme Court rulings. They deemed that all 5 contracts were illegal and declared them null and void, they also awarded the client 100% of the purchase price, plus double the deposit paid within the 14 day cooling off period, all legal fees and legal interest. This client will now be receiving over 25,000€ and can now enjoy a timeshare free life.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

The ‘Take Away Timeshare Close’

By a Wyndham buyer

February 1

By the Wheat Family

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has heard from 671 families. Like a broken record, the member reports being told “I can’t believe that last salesperson sold you this!” You should have never bought:

 

  • So few points!
  • The wrong package!

 

Understand that this is a tried and true sales technique. I spent 30 years in sales selling in a number of industries, but can’t recall using this technique unless I felt the sales agent really did sell the buyer a wrong product. For example, as a stockbroker I would run into a young person’s 401K funded with a fixed income product. In timeshare, it’s used as a ploy. If both sides of the supposedly wrong/right product sell against each other, it means no consumer should buy the product. It’s not unusual to hear, on the same day, from two different members, Sales agent A said I should not have bought Product 1 while sales agent B said I should have bought Product 1. It’s called the Take Away Close:

The Take Away Close really takes some time to master. Though it sounds simple at first, the real secret is learning when to use it. The danger is always using the take away close and having a customer agree to purchase a lesser product when they were close to committing to a larger sale. From The Balance Careers

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-take-away-closing-technique-2918597

The Wheat Family Explains

The motive behind the ‘Take Away Close’ is to make the customer/prospect feel like they are missing out on something they should have been entitled to and then make them spend the money so they feel they are getting their money’s worth.

We experienced this sales ploy. I wonder how many other people fell for it too.

We bought a Discovery package (200,000 points) for $1,944 at Wyndham’s Great Smoky Lodge at the beginning of 2017. A credit card was opened and the purchase charged. When we tried to use the Discovery package for Florida in July 2017 it did not work. There were restrictions on when we could reserve. In August 2017 we tried to reserve in Myrtle Beach. We tried a third time at the beginning of 2018 for the Smoky Lodge. We were told it was full so we paid for two days ourselves. That is when another salesperson, JR Renteria, said they had 64 vacant rooms so we should have been able to reserve one. He said the problem was because of the Discovery package we purchased. Although Wyndham would not be able to reimburse us, they could give us a free week certificate (which turned out not to be free). Mr. Renteria advised us to upgrade so we would not have this lack of availability problem again.

With an upgrade we were told we would be VIP members and that the original credit card that was opened for our first purchase would be upgraded to a Gold credit card which we could use to reserve when and where we want to go, any day.  They said we could get 50% off cruises and restaurants. Other family members could make reservations in their names. Mr. Renteria said if we upgraded they would roll the original 200,000 Discovery package points over for the next year. Renteria gave us our documents after we signed the new contract, but told us to wait for the Gold Card and the Silver VIP card before we tried to book anything. This effectively dodged the contract rescission period. He told us we should receive the new cards in about a week. It took around three to four weeks before we received the VIP card. We still have not received the upgraded Gold Card. We were told we had six months to pay in full with no interest.

We bit and got bitten for $18,000.

Another strange thing was that Renteria said he wanted us to write a note saying the first reps, Carol Finch and Cyndy Vdaw, did not cover everything properly for the Discovery package. Maybe this was part of a scam, maybe Wyndham actually kept a copy. Either way, we wrote a note saying we did not understand everything on the Discovery package deal.

After the upgrade we tried to reserve a room to attend a wedding in Atlanta. Wyndham told us we would have to reserve two months in advance in order to use our points. (Renteria had said we could book on the day with our new Silver member status.) Wyndham told us that they could reserve a room for $188 on the day we needed it. The sad thing is we could book the same room for the same dates for $108 online.  You would think being a Silver member (VIP) we should have been able to get a better price than a non-member.

Renteria told us we could call him if we ever had any problems getting reservations and he would take care of it.  We tried to contact him but NEVER got a reply to any of our calls or texts.

We called Carol Finch at the Discovery timeshare when Renteria did not return our calls. I told Carol we were not happy and that nothing we were told was true. She said we should not have had to wait two months to reserve a room and Renteria should have combined the two timeshares. She said she would let him know and would call us back that afternoon. We have not heard back. That was the final straw. In this day and age of Expedia, Airbnb and Booking.com, don’t buy a timeshare. That’s my takeaway close.

But that’s not all!

To make things worse, after looking over the credit card application we found that the application had been doctored. There is an annual income noted under both of our names for $100,000 each.  However, $100,000 is what we may make combined, not individually. I have a copy of the credit card application as proof. My writing is very distinctive. I filled out the whole form, yet the only place that was left blank was filled in by someone with a much scruffier handwriting than mine and he wrote another $100,000 to double our annual income. We sent this obviously doctored form to Wyndham, but they did not even acknowledge it. They chose to focus on the parts of our complaint that they could reasonably deny because the lies were verbal and can’t be verified. Wyndham conducted an ‘investigation’ into our allegations of concealment and omission. We were informed, somewhat predictably, that their investigation had found that our allegations were baseless and the contract was properly executed and legally binding. I suppose I’ll go and ask the drunks to guard the bar for my next trick.

Other representations we feel were unfair and deceptive:

  • They did not say we were actually buying a timeshare. They called it a vacation ownership or something like that.
  • They said they would help us rent so we could earn a profit.
  • They said maintenance fees would never increase.
  • They said we could call every six months to continue our interest free rate.
  • They told us our purchase would give us more reservation rights than it actually did.

Do yourselves a favor and stay away from Wyndham. I imagine Wyndham is not alone, so the best advice is to stay away from timeshare altogether.

Thank you to the Wheat family for sharing their experience. Timeshare companies should want their buyers to feel good about their decision to buy a timeshare. Timeshare is not for everyone and we hope by sharing experiences, buyers will be better informed as to whether the timeshare product is right for their family.

Related articles:

Veteran family Wyndham buyer Kleen family article:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-38/

Veteran family Wyndham buyer Althage family article:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-37/

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 for your editing efforts and a very big thank you to the Wheat family for sharing their experiences with us. These real life stories that we publish do show how the industry is in dire need of reform, especially in the tactics employed by their sales agents. As we know when high commissions are the motivation, these agent will say and do anything to get the sale.

If the industry does not do anything themselves to curb these practices, then maybe like Spain, the law needs to take control in order to protect consumers. We do know that many other countries in Europe with a large timeshare presence have been watching Spain very closely and are also now in the process of enacting similar legislation.

If you have a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story that you would like to share then contact Inside Timeshare, it is through your own experiences that we hope we can make the industry listen and change.

Have you been contacted by any company with a story that sounds too good to be true?

Are you looking to do business with any company you have found on the internet or advertising in the press or magazines?

Do you want to know if they are genuine and will do what they say?

Are you able to find out for yourself or do you need help?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember doing your homework will save you not only money but also a whole lot of stress.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Start the Week: Information Received

Inside Timeshare has received information about another Cold Calling company Sim Legal Services, this in itself is not a problem provided that Data Protection laws are adhered to, the problem is the nature of the calls.

 

The company is owned by Jeroen Martijn Brussel, there does not seem to be a website attached and any searches bring up warnings to Dutch speaking owners on two different websites:

https://timesharealarm.com/sim-legal-services/

https://www.timesharestop.nl/sim-legal-services/

Unfortunately so far we have not had a chance to have these translated, but there do seem to be some very serious concerns about Sim Legal Services, with the mention of several other companies they appear to be linked with. JB Legal and Timeshare Reclaim Consulting.

As for JB Legal, again a search of the internet finds no website, although there are several companies with a similar name including a genuine law firm in the United States. This makes it very difficult for any potential client to do the necessary due diligence checks.

Timeshare Reclaim Consulting do have a website and are known to Inside Timeshare, although we have never had any concern or reason to mention them in any article.

The problem is with Sim Legal and what they are telling potential clients, one of our readers spoke with them and was very disturbed by what they were told. In the phone call they tell clients that they used to work for CLA, (Inside Timeshare has no knowledge of this), but since CLA are not doing what they promise, they are now working with a better company called TRC, all to give themselves a semblance of credibility.

The question is, are the management of TRC aware of the tactics of Sim Legal Services, the fact that they are making accusations against a competitor who is in the same vicinity and happens to be the leading law firm in timeshare litigation, in order to talk clients into signing up with them and then passing them to TRC?

If not, they will be now, as far as we are concerned, for any caller to make assertions about another company in order to “sign up” a client is to say the least a sign that they themselves cannot be trusted.

Also are they aware of how much Sim Legal are charging clients before sending passing them to TRC, according to the two Dutch websites Sim Legal are charging extortionate amounts.

All we can say is TRC need to be aware that firms such as Sim Legal Services will not do their business any favours, it will in the end come back to haunt them, they will be tarred with the same brush.

In another strange enquiry, we have been asked what is mindtimeshare doing now?

It appears that they have moved on from being a consumer association to something else. Our enquirer has told us that mindtimeshare is actively emailing those who have contacted them and recommending a firm for taking out litigation against clients timeshare companies. Apparently it appears that this company is TRC, mentioned above.

Just to recap, at one time, mindtimeshare was funded by the industry, the Resorts Development Organisation, this was under the tenure of the now discredited Alberto Garcia. Under his direction, mindtimeshare attacked any company which threatened the industry. He eventually got his comeuppance, and the RDO withdrew funding.

Since then Mindtimeshare has had to find its own way and began to change how it wrote their blogs, to be honest, they became more factual and evidence based, giving a more balance view. But obviously funds must have been a problem.

There is no problem with making a recommendation, but if what our reader has told us is true, making a deal to use your own client database to secure clients for one firm, does not appear to be conducive to the ideals of an independent consumer association. This subject was also a question that we posed in the article below.

http://insidetimeshare.com/alberto-garcia-steps-down-as-director-of-mindtimeshare/

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish revised instructions on how to file a complaint, this has been revised by one of our readers who was successful.

First a quick piece of news from Europe.

The Supreme Court in Madrid has issued another judgement, Spain’s highest court once again has defended the rights of timeshare consumers, in this case British, by declaring a Diamond Resorts contract null and void. As in all other judgements the court ruled that the contract was in contravention of Law 42/98, as the contract had no end date, known as perpetuity. The law clearly states that timeshare contracts may only be for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years.

The court also awarded the clients all money paid in the first three months in double, this reaffirmed the court’s stance on the illegal taking of deposits within the cooling off period. Along with over £11,000 they were also awarded back their legal fees and legal interest. (click on PDF below to see court document)

Supreme Court Diamond Ruling

This is yet another victory for timeshare consumers brought on their behalf by Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now on with this weeks Letter from America.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (January 25, 2019 revision)

By a Timeshare Member who Followed our Complaint Process

Step 1 GATHER INFORMATION

  1. Read Your Contract and any documents given to you at the time of signing. If your contract offers a rescission and you are still within the offered period you should take the steps necessary to rescind immediately.
  2. Educate yourself! There are many resources in place that are meant to protect consumers (most of which I was completely unaware of until I had to tackle this issue). The more you know the better you will be able to stand up for yourself.

LIST OF RESOURCES AND ORGANIZATIONS TO FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH  

a: AG: Attorney General – You will want to file a complaint with the AG from the state in which you purchased your timeshare. If you can connect with other buyers in your state of residence, file a complaint with your own state Attorney General. See instructions below. Some states, like California and Nevada, require you file your complaint with the state real estate division against the sales agent.

b: ARDA-ROC: American Resort Development Association-Resort Owners Coalition

ARDA Timeshare Consumer Protections Page : Did you receive one of the three required “disclosure documents”? Is there a rescission period? When did it begin/end?

Excerpts from ARDA Code of Ethics: Read this code and make note of any parts that were violated during your purchase.  ARDA ROC does not mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics that may be violated. The full code of ethics can be found here.

http://www.arda.org/ethics/

c: FTC: Federal Trade Commission-Protecting America’s Consumers There is a timeshare tab not easy to find. Follow these instructions: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-13/

d: BBB: Better Business Bureau: This is the organization that most people are familiar with and the link to file a complaint is found right on the homepage of their site. You may need to edit your complaint to 4,000 characters, sometimes no easy task. The good thing about the BBB is that they often allow you to log in and file a rebuttal if you disagree with the company’s answer to your complaint.

e: SEC: US Securities and Exchange Commission: You will only file a complaint with the SEC if you were falsely led to believe that the purchase of a timeshare was a good investment. The sale of an investment product must be registered with the SEC.

f: FBI: Sound serious? That’s because it is serious to report a complaint to the FBI. The definition of White Collar Crime is “Deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” File an online complaint at IC3.gov. Select Internet Crime from the three choices available. It’s confusing because your timeshare complaint doesn’t have to be about internet crime. That’s just the name of the portal.

g: Legal Action: Retaining a lawyer is something you can do after you have exhausted the above resources and still feel as though you are getting nowhere. It is a last resort option and it will cost you; make sure that the cost is worth the possible worst-case outcome. There is a compiled list of law firms that specialize in timeshare cases on one Advocacy Facebook page. Law Firms Doc You do not have to use one of these lawyers but it is recommended that you use someone who has specific experience with timeshare, and do not do business with a lawyer or a law firm you do not know. One timeshare lawyer has recently been disbarred

h: TUG: Timeshare Users Group TUG Forums: These forums are incredible for gathering information from other timeshare owners. You can search specific questions to see if anyone else has already asked and received answers.

i: Timeshare Exit Firms: BEWARE! A lot of these firms are scams. Some are not, but you can do the lion’s share of what any exit company can do. Beware especially of money back guarantees. Some companies consider foreclosure an exit. Obviously, you don’t have to pay anyone to get foreclosed. Also, it is important to note that some timeshare companies will not approve voluntary relinquishment of a timeshare if you have contracted with an exit firm.

j: Most would agree The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does not offer the consumer protections it once did, they still regulate banks. File a complaint with the CFPB if your complaint involves a credit card. Remember to dispute the credit card charge, even if the transaction extends beyond 30 days. Some companies will extend the period if you can present a compelling case for fraud.  The Secret Service also investigates credit card fraud.      

Step 2 HOW TO WRITE A COMPLAINT LETTER

    1. Create a Record of Events: The very first thing you should do is make a list of everything that you were told by timeshare representatives (i.e. salespeople, managers, receptionists, concierge services). Write down every detail that was said even if it seems insignificant; you can always weed out details that are less important later. Your memory of the event will start to warp and change over time so it is important that you write down this information as soon as possible so that every complaint you file has consistent information.
  • Organize the information:

a: Create a Timeline: Begin with when you first became involved with the company and proceed chronologically. Keep your history brief up to the point when things began to go wrong; it at this point you should be as detailed as possible.

What was your first encounter? (phone call, concierge, sales agent)

  • What resort or location did the presentation take place?
  • Date and time of presentation.
  • Names of all sales agents/managers that you dealt with (names will typically be listed somewhere on your contract)
  • How long did they tell you the meeting would last vs what was the actual duration of meeting?
  • Did they offer you food or beverages during the duration of the meeting?
  • Did they take your ID and credit card? Did you ask for these items to be returned?
  • If you feel you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, describe your experience.
  • When did you first realize your agent misled you?
  • Was it possible to learn you were deceived during the rescission period? Sometimes an agent will say a bogus program won’t be available until after the first of the year, or wait a few months before refinancing. Banks don’t finance timeshares. Sometime over promised availability can’t be determined until allowed onto the booking site, after the rescission period has expired.  
  • What steps did you take after realizing you were misled? Did you contact the agent or the company? What was their response? List dates/times if possible. Keep all emails.
  • Did the sales person ask you to apply for any credit cards/loans or take any other extraordinary measures (refinance home, equity line of credit, etc.) in order to cover costs? Transferring to a third party lender complicates things.

b: List Relevant Complaints: Here is a list of some common complaints from timeshare owners.  Certain misleading statements are more serious than others:

  • The agent said I could easily sell my points. To find out if your timeshare has a secondary market, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no upfront money to list a timeshare. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/
  • The agent presented maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist
  • The agent said I had to give up my deeded timeshare and buy points
  • The agent said I have to give up my deed and buy points or my heirs will be burdened
  • The agent told me this would be a good investment. At least 49% of the cost of your timeshare is attributed to marketing costs (source a major timeshare company’s annual report)
  • The agent said that I could rent out my timeshare for money when the company rules do not allowed renting
  • The agent overstated the value of travel awards to pay for airline tickets, or the use of a travel credit card to pay maintenance fees
  • The rescission period was dodged

Step 3 EMAIL AND SEND YOUR LETTER OF COMPLAINT

Below is an example of a sample layout with some ideas of information that you might want to include in your letter. Copy and paste your complaint into the body of an email (do not send as an attachment). Email or send to all interested parties, including customer service, ARDA ROC (if their Code of Ethics has been violated), the credit card company if a credit card is involved. You will send your complaint to regulatory agencies if your request is denied, so make sure you take the time to present your grievance clearly and factually. Have a friend or family member read your complaint before submitting to see if they understand the complaint.

Include the following information:

Name(s) of Member(s)

Phone Number

State of Residence

Today’s Date

Member Number

**List the following information for each contract you are disputing**

Date and Place Purchased

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Down Payment

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Loan Number

Current Loan Balance

Information to include in the body of the complaint:

  • What do you want? Do you seek a refund, cancellation of contract, or relinquishment?
  • Why? Is it due to Deception, Health, Age or Financial Burden?
  • This is your written timeline. Provide a chronological account of what happened during the sales process that makes you feel you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.
  • Consider citing the ARDA code of ethics and what articles of the code were violated.
  • Making emotional statements will most likely not help your case.
  • In conclusion, restate the main complaint and what it is you are asking for.

**Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded and so will requests based on not being able to afford the timeshare.

**If there was no deceit then request relinquishment. This is only an option if your Maintenance fees are current and you have no outstanding loan. Contact your resort for more information about voluntary surrender.  

HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

  1. File your complaint with the AG from the state in which you purchased your timeshare. In “Part 2” of the link below it explains how to find the correct AG and file a complaint. Some states, like California and Nevada, require you file a timeshare complaint with the state’s real estate division.   

Steps for filing an AG complaint

  1. Always send copies of important documents and keep originals
  2. If not filed online, mail your complaint via Priority Mail with tracking.

OTHER CONSUMER PROTECTION RESOURCES

  • Seniors should consider contacting the AARP Fraud Hotline. Weigh their advice as they are not timeshare experts, but it is important for them to be aware that a significant proportion of complainants are age 60 or older. Click HERE to visit the AARP site.
  • Remember to pay no money upfront without reaching out to other members, or a resource like like TUG Timeshare Users Group
  • Forward your complaint to the Association of Vacation Owners.          AVO Contact Us Page

Contact Inside Timeshare if you are interested in helping other members or have questions about the filing process. Our goal is to make consumers more aware of the financial pitfalls that can result if you buy a timeshare you don’t understand or was not presented truthfully. We know there are many who use and enjoy their timeshares and sales agents that sell the product honestly. Honest sales agents are also negatively affected by predatory sales and lending.    

Timeshare Accountability Group™

Well that is all for this week, remember, before engaging with any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or through adverts in publications, do you homework and stay safe.

Have a great weekend.

Update: The John “Goldfinger” Palmer Saga

On Monday we published the news about the start of a trial at the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s National Court, which has involved around 17 years of investigation. It centers on what is believed to be one of the largest timeshare frauds in the history of timeshare.

Then the press released the news that a former associate of Palmer, Marco Yaqout was shot dead outside his home in Marbella. He was reputedly Palmer’s right hand man in the early days in Tenerife, he went on to own a string of night clubs which also included interests in the famous Linekers bars.

The original article in The Daily Star got the location wrong.

It seems that a gunman was lying in wait behind some bins and began shooting as Yaqout drove up to his home in his distinctive Bentley. Around 20 shots were fired.

Yaqout has been linked to a host of celebrities which all revolved around his night club in Puerto Banus, TIBU. These have included the cast of the TV reality show TOWIE along with Professor Green who performed at the club.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/millionaire-pal-towie-stars-shot-13888882

At present the police have made no arrests and it is unclear as to the motive, some speculate that it was part of the nightclub “wars” on the Costa del Sol, others believe that he may have been ordered to give evidence in the trial currently running in Madrid. It is believed that he had an enormous amount of information on all the activities surrounding the timeshare fraud, along with some of the unsolved murders linked to it in Tenerife. Most of the newspaper reports do not mention the Palmer link or the trial, which is not surprising as they tend to love anything with celebrities attached.

The trial heard on Tuesday that Richard Cashman, the alleged lieutenant of Palmer, denied that he led the scam network to defraud the countless tourists who were taken in by the timeshare fraud. He did admit that he arrived in Tenerife in 1993 and worked for Palmer, again denying he had anything to do with the selling of the apartments. He told the court that he was at first in charge of security, (in timeshare language that would be “clumpers”), then went on to manage bars, restaurants and servicing of rental cars.

Palmer's lieutenant denies that he led the scam network to tourists – La Provincia

As more news emerges we will publish it here.

 

 

 

Start the Week: Associates of John “Goldfinger” Palmer Now in Court

It has been announced that the Audiencia Nacional, or Spain’s National Court in Madrid is to hear the case against the business associates of the late John “Goldfinger” Palmer. This case has taken many years to get to this stage, but at last we may be seeing a conclusion to what has been called one of the largest frauds in Spanish timeshare history.

The trial which begins today, Monday 21 January 2019, will see the following defendants appear. Richard Cashman, who is attributed to be Palmer’s lieutenant, Keith Peter Davies, head of the organisation on Gran Canaria, Dean Lawrence Wells, the promoter of the operation, Darren John Morris, Paul John Murry, Christina Ketley, Ramonón Solano Pérez, Jorge Maximiliano Gallart, Neil Campbell and Jacoba Klazina.

The case revolves around the selling of timeshare properties between 1993 and when the organisation was dismantled in 2002 by the then Judge of the Audiencia Nacional Baltasar Garzón.

In the scam which saw hundreds of unsuspecting holiday makers losing many thousands of pounds each, was based on the overselling of timeshare properties with the promise of resales for a profit. It also morphed into a non-existent holiday club set up by the organisation.

At the time of his death at his Essex home in June 2015, Palmer was on bail from the Spanish Courts, even though he had served time in the UK for similar offences.

The Prosecutor’s Office is calling for prison sentences of 8 to 12 years, plus fines of over 2 million euros as a result of its provisional findings. These are for crimes ranging from illicit association, conspiracy, fraud and in some cases illegal possession of firearms.

Although this case has taken many years, it would appear at last that justice may be done, this is may help close a very sad chapter in the lives of the victims, whether they will ever get any of their money back is unlikely.

The Audiencia Nacional is a special and exceptional high court, its jurisdiction covers all Spanish territory, as well as international crimes which come under the jurisdiction of Spanish courts. It consists of:

  • Criminal Chamber
  • Appeals Chamber
  • Administrative Chamber
  • Social Chamber

This case is being heard in the Criminal Chamber which is competent to try serious crimes such as: terrorism, money laundering, genocide, plus many more. It also makes decisions about extradition demands from foreign countries and the execution of European Arrest warrants. They may also hear appeals against rulings from the Juzgados Centrales de lo Penal, (Central Criminal Courts. Decisions by any of these divisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Links to the announcement in the Spanish press.

https://m.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Audiencia-Nacional-estafadores-Canarias-Goldfinger_0_859164155.html

https://www.laopinion.es/sociedad/2019/01/20/juzgan-red-mafioso-john-palmer/946217.html

Past articles on John Palmer, the second link includes a recording of the Roger Cook investigation.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-dirty-word-many/

http://insidetimeshare.com/press-release-from-cla-plus-a-quick-look-at-the-biggest-timeshare-fraud-in-history/

It may be some time before any news comes in about this case, but Inside Timeshare will be publishing the result when it is made public.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, today Irene Parker looks at what constitutes proof when making a complaint, this is something Inside Timeshare has heard from the many readers who have reached out with their “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”, “you have no proof”. Attorney Mike Finn also gives his view on the subject, as usual his contribution is clear and concise.

Some Timeshare Regulators Respond: You have no proof

What is Proof? Strength in Numbers

By Irene Parker

Tuesday January 15, 2019

Rule 406 – Habit; Routine Practice

Evidence of a person’s habit or an organization’s routine practice may be admitted to prove that on a particular occasion the person or organization acted in accordance with the habit or routine practice. The court may admit this evidence regardless of whether it is corroborated or whether there was an eyewitness.

There are volumes of timeshare complaints and a sizeable timeshare exit industry created by the lack of a secondary market and by the practice of “pitching heat” which is defined by the industry as the practice of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. It is a term well known and unique to the timeshare industry.

Why do some state Attorneys General pursue complaints based on a volume of complaints, while Florida’s timeshare division, the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) and Nevada’s Real Estate Division (NRED) dismissed all of our readers’ complaints with, respectively, “Verbal representations are hard to prove” and in Nevada, “You have no proof.”

Not all Attorneys General turn a blind eye. Outgoing Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen recognized the problem in Connecticut, nowhere near the hotbed of timeshare sales as Florida or Nevada. Still, any regulator speaking up to support the reduction of unfair and deceptive sales practices in the acquiring or the disposing of a timeshare is appreciated. Timeshare complaints rank second on the list of complaints at the Connecticut Attorney General’s office.  

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Timeshare-Troubles–What-To-Do-Before-You-Buy-and-Sell-504017151.html

So what does constitute proof?

After hearing from 659 timeshare members, including 94 veterans or active duty service members, the best item of proof I can determine from the illustration above is probable cause: facts and circumstances that would lead an ordinary person to believe. We have compiled a summary report of 71 highest loyalty timeshare members who all describe how they were up-sold into insolvency, believing sales agents who told them that by buying additional points they could sell points or be able to pay maintenance fees. These programs did not exist. I find it hard to believe anyone with an ounce of common sense could read this 135 page report and not conclude these previously loyal members had been duped. I have sent this report to Senators, but they seem to feel “They signed a contract” suffices. Influential lobbyists likely play a part.

I asked attorney Mike Finn about proof. According to Mike, proof is anything that a trial judge receives from the witness stand or by the introduction of a document. “It is up to the judge to decide what is relevant – the testimony can be either oral or documentary. A judge may or may not deem the testimony allowable as evidence, but don’t undersell oral testimony,” Mike explains. “As stated in Rule 406 above, is the evidence presented of a common theme or is there a consistent pattern of complaints? It may still be hearsay, which makes it less reliable or relevant, but a summary report from 71 high loyalty timeshare members, all testifying that they purchased for similar reasons, reasons that did not exist, may very well be credible. Trial judges have a lot of discretion or latitude to render a decision over what is relevant or not relevant. Oral proof can serve as proof.”

One obstacle is that about half of the 71 highest loyalty timeshare members signed a non-disclosure agreement. Does that mean they cannot share their experience in a court of law? According to Mike, “There are times when a disclosure can be made despite the witness having signed an NDA. Even if a subpoena cannot overcome an NDA, the fact that all of these people filed claims and prevailed after signing a confidentiality agreement, would present a common intent, plan, scheme or motive that encouraged unfair and deceptive sales practices. It becomes more relevant when the practice has been reported time and time again. Everything is possible, but may not be probable. Not all judges see things the same way, but common intent does follow the rules of evidence. Rules of evidence are reliable and courts use them.”

In Florida, a two party state, both parties must be aware of an in-person recording, making proof even more difficult to come by. In Nevada, only one party must be aware of an in-person recording. Members should consider recording their sales session in states where this is legal.

It seems we keep circling back to the court of public opinion. Let the timeshare buyer be informed that all complaints that begin with, “The sales agent said” will be dismissed with, “You signed a contract.” Then at least the timeshare buyer would know they cannot believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. That at least would be fair and not deceptive, a level playing field.

 There seems to be in the timeshare industry a corporate culture that promulgates deceit. The sales agent deceives, the company responds, “You signed a contract” and when this response is seconded by the state regulator, there is, in effect, no regulation. One former timeshare sales agent described this process as a hamster wheel of recycled inventory, leaving the young, the old, veterans and active duty service members in the wake of timeshare foreclosure. Families are financially and sometimes physically devastated. Many seniors have reported weight loss, inability to sleep, and in one case, a heart attack, when questioned about the financial harm caused by buying a timeshare. It is ironic that vacation plans are supposed to reduce stress.    

Another question raised is whether the buyer signed under duress, after hour’s long sales sessions, provided only a 20 minute signing period for a buyer to review a document that the best lawyer could not review in less than a few hours.

Where do we go from here?

Strength in numbers – Keep sharing your stories.

We hope regulators, lawmakers and Wall Street will not turn a blind eye. We have heard form 659 readers, and these are only the readers we have followed along with resolution or lack of. There are thousands of Better Business Bureau complaints, lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations involving thousands of timeshare buyers. Let’s hope greater awareness will at least alert the consumer, the deck is stacked against them.

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/

Thank you Irene and also a very big thanks to Attorney Mike Finn, Inside Timeshare is sure this article will help to explain to our readers the problems that many of them face when filing complaints. This is a huge problem not just in the US but also in Europe and the rest of the world. The one thing that can be said is that Spain has brought in laws to regulate the sale of timeshare, the industry had plenty of time to get their house in order, but as we know they thought they were above the law. Now they are finding the full wrath of the law and it is costing them millions.

For those who purchased timeshare in Spain, they now have the courts and judges on their side, no longer can the sales agents use misleading tactics to gain a sale. We are also seeing a very significant drop in the sale of timeshare, with many sales decks being closed down. The unfortunate side effect of this are the number of bogus claims companies getting on the bandwagon, using the law to dupe the unsuspecting owners. Many of these have been set up by former sales agents and managers and in many cases using stolen data of their former clients to “scam” them out of yet more money.

Whether you attend a presentation for a timeshare, receive a call about claiming or relinquishing or even find a company on the internet or advert in a publication, the advice is always the same, do not commit to anything until you have done your homework.