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.


4 Comments

  • Francine Dygulski

    March 19, 2019

    Great article. !!

    Reply
  • Timeshare Insider

    March 19, 2019

    This comment is from Mavo senior moderator of timeshare users forum which is a UK based group.
    https://www.timeshareusersforum.com/node/1220

    The situation with ARDA in America is similar to the one we have here in Europe with RDO and so it is important to recognise their primary function which is the protection of their members. That said all their members and affiliated members are developers or those who have a vested interest in the welfare of developers. Consumers, clients or customers, call us what you will, are not allowed memberships of either organisation.
    So it is an us versus them when it comes to expecting assistance in complaints against any of their members and in any complaint against any of the membership the first thing they will do is to favour their membership at it is the membership who fund the existence of these organisations.
    We have also to take into account that the officers of such organisations are placed in position by the developers themselves and often the main source of income for such officers is derived from the developer who employs them and they are secconded out to such as ARDA and RDO on an ad hoc basis.
    So in the absence of any enforcing agencies or any strong and worldwide consistent legislation it becomes a matter of trying to press the right buttons. Not just finding the buttons to press but finding the right time to do so. This is then the present conundrum for timeshare consumers.
    At present the developers are as vulnerable as they have ever been, due to the absence of any real timeshare wide exit strategy. They have created a huge downturn in replacing old consumers with new ones. This has led to a desperation to “sell at all costs” which in turn has led to a vast amount of negativity towards timeshare products and a total loss of trust between developers and many existing owners and consumers. What we are now beginning to see here in Europe is what some will describe as a “fire sale” of apartments which are sold out of timeshare inventory as real estate, never to return.
    The short term gain is now turning into a final sell off in some instances and it would probably have been far easier and better to have relied on natural consumer wastage and the retention of goodwill so that handed back timeshares within an exit strategy could be ethically recycled once more.
    Is it too late? Has too much damage already taken place?
    One thing is for sure. It cannot continue as it is and something has to give and the sooner the better for all involved.

    Reply
  • Irene Parker

    March 19, 2019

    Thank you Mavo for your comments. Over here in the US we have heard of a EURO ROC being formed if you can let us know what you have heard. Of the 738 US families that have reached out to Inside Timeshare, not one could tell me what ARDA ROC stands for, yet collectively gives ARDA ROC $5 million a year, most are opt-out “voluntary donations” and it’s not that easy to opt out. One year my $7 was transferred to another account and reported as a delinquency when I requested it be removed. It took a second call and a supervisor to remove.

    In response to today’s article, I received an email from US attorney Mike Finn who echoes your sentiments about the lack of a secondary market. With his permission, his comments:

    That being said, most clients come to me, at the earliest, several months after their purchase and at the latest, several years after. As you know, no purchaser is permitted to actually utilize their purchase until a goodly amount of time has elapsed, so even a 30-60 day cancellation period will be largely ineffective as there is no incentive to rescind until there’s a reason, and there’s no reason until there’s an attempted use that fails.

    The other, longer term reason for wanting out is learning there’s no resale value and/or maintenance fees have done up significantly over time, or there has been a capital improvement assessment (which no one ever seems to know about until the assessment hits). With these situations the only thing that would help is a secondary market. s

    Reply
    • KEITH HURSR

      March 21, 2019

      The only way to solve the resale problem is for the developers to accept that it is a problem of there own making and to offer a resale program and to stop there current type of sales programs. Then then perhaps when they are approached for help there best reply would not be HAVE YOU TRYED EBAY.

      Reply

Leave a Reply