Welcome to this week’s edition of Letter from America, following on from our previous articles on the timeshare bills put forward by Florida and Nevada, Attorney Mike Finn submits his thoughts on this subject with the introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.
But first, a reminder that today is the first day of the Platinum Protest in Orlando, even if you can’t make it, please enter your support for them on the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy page on Facebook. We hope to bring you a report from them next week.
Lawyers and Their Important Role in Consumer Protection
By Attorney Mike Finn
Why You Should Sign our Petition asking a lawmaker to sponsor a Bill in 2021 requiring that timeshare buyers be offered 24 hours to review a perpetual timeshare contract before signing.
By Jordan Raskin
May 17, 2019
Our petition preparing to launch:
Provide the timeshare consumer 24 hours to review, at least think about, their decision to sign a lifelong perpetual contract, with no secondary market, often without even having tried the product, and often not allowed access to the booking site until after the rescission period.
This offer could be waived if the buyer chooses, either due to the certainty that the buyer wants the product, or the need to sign because the vacation is ending soon.
This offer should not be buried in the electronic fine print. It should be a separate disclosure presented and signed before the sales presentation. The price per point offer would be required to be maintained for 24 hours.
What’s so unfair about that?
Introduction by Irene Parker
Never mind a lawyer! We’d settle for our mom, dad, son, or daughter!
Both the Florida and Nevada Bills referenced in Mike Finn’s article below, asking that timeshare exit providers provide buyers 24 hours to review their contract before signing, died in committee: Florida HB 2639 and Nevada SB 348 bill are dead
SB 1430 Companion Bill to Florida HB 2639 Vacation and Timeshare Plans
SENATE – Died in Innovation, Industry, and Technology
How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? There are legitimate lawyers and lawyers with questionable business practices. I have contacted a number of exit company providers to inquire about the volume of calls they received. Two of the major exit companies say they receive between 3,000 to 3,500 calls each month from timeshare buyers desperately seeking release from timeshares they were told would be easy to sell. Each company only accepts less than 200 callers as clients, as the member must meet specific criteria of unfair and deceptive sales practices.
Before we begin with Mike Finn’s article,
If you are going to be in the Orlando area this weekend May 17-19 Friday – Saturday, please support our Platinum Protestors. Locations and dates provided: https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-49/
“Why Kill All the Lawyers?”
By Attorney Mike Finn
“Add to that advantage the fact that the purchaser purchases on the same day they’ve been introduced to the product with no ability to consult with or review the multipage purchase contract with their own legal representative and you can begin to understand the owner/purchaser’s situation years later when they ultimately seek to terminate their arguably lifelong contractual obligations contained within their timeshare purchase contract.”
It’s hard to say anything about lawyers that haven’t already been said. They are both revered and reviled as staunch proponents and champions of justice or as avaricious opportunists. The profession is comprised of all types, from the most learned jurists to the slightly seamier side of humanity. We lawyers share the same spectrum of positive human qualities and negative frailties as the rest of our species.
The import of this article is less related to the issues of lawyers individually, but rather to the role of the attorney as consumer advocate within the legal system. I speak to the issue of what removing lawyers, or significantly diminishing their role to effectively represent their consumer clients, does to strengthen or weaken consumer protection in general, as a matter of national policy.
Currently, there is pending in at least two states with a significant timeshare presence, Nevada and Florida, House and Senate Bills sponsored by ARDA, the timeshare industry’s trade association. Ostensibly, per the statements made by ARDA’s political arm, ARDA-ROC (American Resort Development Assoc.-Resort Owners Coalition), the primary intent of these Bills is to enhance consumer protection. However, to some of us on the consumer side of the equation, we suspect there may be a darker, more industry serving purpose. These Bills seek to regulate two separate and quite distinct groups, lawyers and timeshare exit companies.
There can be no argument that some regulation is warranted, specifically in regard to the unlicensed and unregulated timeshare exit companies; however, this ‘shotgun style’ approach of lumping-in lawyers with this proposed legislation will if passed, create some chilling and decidedly consumer-unfriendly impacts on the timeshare consumer/owner.
To further distinguish these totally disparate entities, lawyers are already both licensed and extensively regulated by their respective State Bar Associations. Additionally, as lawyers, (and unlike exit companies) we are specifically trained and educated to handle matters involving contract disputes, as well as debtor/creditor rights issues and other relevant matters that may well arise in the course of a controversy. Without getting too far into the weeds, I think it’s fair to state that the pending State Bills are clearly designed to severely limit and restrict the involvement of both timeshare exit companies and, from my perspective, more importantly, lawyers, in terms of their ability to provide services to timeshare owners seeking third-party assistance in terminating or modifying their timeshare purchase contracts.
To summarize the owners’ plight, many owners didn’t realize that their purchase contracts did not include a way to terminate their contract when they could no longer utilize their timeshares because of life changes, like aging, job loss, divorce, death of a spouse, or other major life changing events. This issue wouldn’t be so troublesome if it were not for the fact that there exists little to no resale value or market for these timeshare interests, trapping owners who cannot continue to derive any benefit from their ownership, but remain legally bound by their purchase contract, subject to annual rising maintenance fees and other contractual liabilities.
The ‘timeshare exit’ industry sprang into existence to fill the market void created when the timeshare developers themselves were unwilling to offer owners relief from essentially ‘lifelong and perhaps beyond’ contracts. This exit industry includes lawyers who focus on consumer timeshare owner issues as part and parcel of their law practices, and exit companies, non-lawyers who claim industry knowledge and apparent ability to act on behalf of timeshare owners in their negotiations with timeshare developers or property owner associations.
The focus of this article will remain on the lawyer and not the exit company. It’s important to distinguish between these two different kinds of organizations and avoid comparing the two. They are completely and totally unlike and should not be combined or grouped together in these Bills. It’s impossible to make any logical form of comparison beyond stating that each seek to represent the consumer timeshare/owner in dealing with the respective owner’s timeshare situation. Combining the two and treating them as equals in proposed legislation is grossly inaccurate and inappropriate. It only adds to consumer confusion!
Attorneys have undergone extensive education and training and have prepared for and passed a state mandated Bar examination in order to prepare themselves for dealing with contested and controversial legal issues. Our legal system is by definition adversarial in nature. Justice involves a process by which parties on each side of a controversy present, through their selected legal representative, their respective position to an impartial determiner of the facts in order to produce a just outcome. Indeed, our very symbol of justice is a robed and blindfolded woman holding a scale aloft in her hand.
Each side, through its appointed legal representative, presents its best case to the referee, hearing officer, or judge and jury. At the end of the contest, the winning side, through presentation of evidence and persuasion, tipped the scales in its favor. This is our legal system, or at least the portion of it that decides controversies. Add to our justice system the requirement that each side starts off with a level playing field. Neither side has gained an unfair advantage prior to the contest commencement. As a condition of fundamental fairness, may the side with the most compelling case for justice win!
What can skewer the ‘level playing field’ aspect of the justice model, is if one of the players gets to the game before the other side, gaining a one-sided advantage. Arguably, that’s exactly what the Timeshare Developer has been able to do. Since the state requires the Developer to register and apply for a license to market timeshares within that particular state, the Developer has prepared its purchase contracts and other disclosure documentation and submitted them to the appropriate state agency well in advance of its initial sale. It’s probably fair to suggest that these purchase agreements were prepared by an able team of lawyers with the Developer’s best interests in mind. In fact, the only remaining task for the Developer’s sales team at the time of consumer purchase is to fill in the blanks on the preprinted purchase contract with the purchaser’s name and other pertinent information.
Add to that advantage the fact that the purchaser purchases on the same day they’ve been introduced to the product with no ability to consult with or review the multipage purchase contract with their own legal representative and you can begin to understand the owner/purchaser’s situation years later when they ultimately seek to terminate their arguably lifelong contractual obligations contained within their timeshare purchase contract.
Now that you can envision, from the consumer’s perspective, the un-level playing field that the consumer finds themselves on at termination time, and add to that the circumstances that would exist if the Timeshare Developers are successful in passing these new laws. These Bills, if passed, would further restrict the consumers’/owners’/members’ ability to seek justice within the legal system, if the lawyers’ ability to represent the consumer is constrained and restricted.
From where I sit, as lawyer representing timeshare owner/consumers, it appears that the timeshare industry is dissatisfied with its already existing unfair advantage over their consumer and still seeks to tilt the field further in their favor. My advice to them (not that I anticipate them appreciating any of it) is to show a kinder, gentler aspect to your loyal owners by either recognizing and permitting an easier contract termination, or, at minimum, not further attempting to restrict their right to effective legal representation as they seek relief from their onerous timeshare purchase contracts.
Michael D. Finn, Esq.
Thank you Mike and Irene for this week’s edition of Letter from America, these articles are certainly helping many timeshare owners see exactly what is going on in the murky world of timeshare.
If you have any views or comments on any article published then use our contact page we would love to hear from you. Do you have a story to tell, be it a positive one or a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, which you would like to share, then contact us and we will help you to submit an article.
Well, that is all for this week, remember the Platinum Protest and show your support, have a great weekend and join us again next week.