Friday’s Letter from America: New Tarda Home Page

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today we publish the revised Home Page for Tarda. the Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability Inc, which was formed in 2016 by a group of volunteers. Its purpose was to provide timeshare members with straight and accurate answers to their timeshare problems, since then they have grown and gone from strength to strength. Inside Timeshare is pleased to publish their revised Home Page in order to reach more members in the US who may need the help of Tarda or just require accurate and truthful information.

Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc.

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Friday, July 9, 2021 

Why Do We Matter?

There is no true consumer voice at the legislative level. While we understand that there are millions who use and enjoy their timeshare with no complaint, there are also many who feel the industry needs fairer practices and greater disclosure. Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc. (TARDA), provides a legislative position through lobbying efforts spearheaded by current and former timeshare members. 

In 2016 a group of timeshare members and industry representatives questioned the fairness of the perpetual timeshare contract, given the lack of a viable secondary market. Original timeshare buyers, faced with age-related or lifestyle changes, can find themselves held timeshare hostage with no way to responsibly exit their timeshare. While some resorts offer responsible exits, others do not. Some resorts have no buyers.  

The evolution from an estimated 1,590 Legacy, or single-site timeshare developments, morphed into a points-based timeshare system. This created ambiguity and paved the way for over-promised availability and confusion as to what a buyer actually purchased. Many buyers reported they did not have access to their resort’s booking site until after the contract rescission period. Point buyers don’t “own” anything. The points member acquires a right-to-use product.

Through Social Media, our volunteers learned that many who felt they experienced unfair and deceptive marketing and sales practices did not know where to turn if a resort dismissed their complaint. TARDA volunteers encourage owners and members to work directly with their resort to resolve a dispute, but if dismissed, to file regulatory complaints. Filing complaints with the appropriate state and federal agencies can be confusing as states vary in their filing requirements. If there is one thing we have learned, members need support and guidance navigating this process.

TIMESHARE TALKS – An Interactive YouTube Forum 

TIMESHARE TALKS was launched May 27, 2021, to offer an interactive forum for anyone who would like to share their timeshare experience or speak directly with guest industry experts. The goals are to improve communication between developers and members and to promote a viable secondary market, essential for the health of the industry. Hosts are John Raymond, an established resale broker, Wayne Robinson, a former timeshare executive, and Irene Parker, an independent writer who volunteers her time to edit articles submitted by TARDA Supporters. In this interview, an HOA Board Treasurer explains how their policies and practices ensure long-term resort viability and worry-free vacations.

It is our belief there needs to be an improvement on both ends of the timeshare sale. The lack of a secondary market has spawned a robust exit scam industry, including organized crime rings based in Mexico. EU volunteers have reported the same. Some exit companies report that they receive 3,000 to 3,500 callers a week.

The Deficiency of State Regulation

Timeshare is regulated at the state level. While some states actively engage timeshare member complaints, other states dismiss complaints based on the oral representation clause. An Attorney General is an elected position. Elected officials are most concerned with constituents who elected them. Out-of-state buyers complain to an Attorney General that is not their Attorney General. Typically, buyers buy a timeshare in a state other than their state of residence. 

In 2019, one pro-consumer state proposed a bill that would have allowed a 24 hour “cooling off” period before signing a contract. Timeshare industry lobbyists argued vigorously against the bill. Complaints abound from buyers reporting how they were held for hours by a tag-team of sales agents, their IDs withheld, so worn down they are ready to sign anything to end the ordeal. There would be no need to propose such a requirement for consumers buying a house, a car, or a boat because buyers interested in these big-ticket items do not experience such hard-sell tactics.

The Need for Greater Disclosure

Timeshare buyers are required to be provided a Public Offering Statement (POS) sometimes called a Disclosure Statement. Consumers are instructed to read this document before signing, yet most consumers had not heard of the POS until told to look through their paperwork. If the closing session is recorded, the closing agent should present this document during the recorded closing.  

If a recorded closing is used against the buyer, in the event of a dispute, it is unfair to not allow the buyer to listen to the recording without a subpoena, and unfair to not allow the buyer to record the sales session. Many members have reported that their complaint was dismissed with, “You didn’t say anything on the recorded closing.” A frequent complaint is that agents coached them on how to “pass” the closing session.

How Do I Become Involved?

We’d love to hear from you. Contact us through our “Contact Us” tab to let us know how you can aid in our efforts. Become a TARDA Supporter by simply clicking the Donate button to make a minimum donation of $10 or more. We’ll enroll you as a Supporter. All proceeds go towards legislative efforts because we have learned only in the legislative arena can change happen.

We thank all who have contributed their time or treasure. We also thank timeshare company representatives who have made efforts to address issues and resolve disputes. Together we can make the timeshare world a better and lasting experience for all. 

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Thank you to all who have helped in proofreading and editing the new version of the Tarda Home Page, Inside Timeshare hopes that by publishing, it will reach out and inform more members of the work that TARDA does. Good luck to you all and keep up the great work.

That is all for this week, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Silverpoint Cases: What is Happening?

Although Inside Timeshare has been off-line for a while we have been keeping tabs on what is happening, especially the questions and comments sent into this publication and our Facebook pages. One theme which keeps on cropping up is Silverpoint and the total misinformation being given out by some of the more dubious cold-calling “claims companies”. These calls are causing a lot of concern among those who have cases in court with genuine law firms, the gist of the calls is to sow doubt into their minds that their lawyers are not doing their job and are just out to “scam” their clients. This cannot be further from the truth as you will see.

During these dubious cold-calls, the “client” is told a series of untruths, for those who have cases pending, which as we do know is not a quick process for a trial date to be set, the inference is that the clients lawyers are not doing anything, that the “cold-calling” company can get it done quicker.

We have been told by our readers the time scale these callers are using is a matter of 6 weeks to get the case into court, the trial conducted, and within a few weeks of the trial, payment will be made.

As we know, this is impossible, not just in Spain but in all countries including the UK, there are legal procedures which need to be conducted first. This is the simplified version for cases in Spain.

The documents first need to be translated into Spanish, then the case has to be prepared by the lawyers. These are not quick and can take a couple of months depending on the complexity of the case, the amount of documents, and of course the workloads of the translators and lawyers.

Then the case is presented to the court, at this point the defending party (timeshare company) is informed by burofax and has around 30 days to submit their case as to why the trial should not be held. Again, the timeshare companies will delay this for as long as possible and the arguments for and against can go on for a long time before the judge decides to accept the case.

Once this is done, then we can move on to the pretrial stage, again this is a formality, it is the last chance for a settlement to be made out of court and for the judge to decide either to issue a sentence or send the case for a full trial. If the case is dealt with at the pretrial stage as we have seen with Anfi, the timeshare company will immediately file an appeal.

Even once the case goes to a full trial which could be at least 6 months from the pretrial, and the timeshare company is found guilty, then they automatically have a right to appeal to the High Court. Again this can take anything from 6 months to 18 months to be heard depending on the court and the caseloads.

The other cause for concern is for those who have had cases won at the full trial stage and at appeal with the court awarding repayment of the purchase price. At this point, the lawyers will place a “provisional order of execution” to ensure that the funds are secured. This is standard for most cases, unfortunately, a spanner has been placed into the works when it comes to Silverpoint.

According to the many cold-callers doubt is being placed on the client’s genuine lawyers with claims that they can get the money paid out within weeks, again a total untruth especially with Silverpoint. The reason nothing can be paid out at present is the process of liquidating the company has not been concluded.

At present no one knows when payment is likely to happen, the reasons are very simple. First, the court-appointed administrator has to identify all creditors, he has to identify all accounts and investigate the movement of funds. Now considering the complexity of the company structure of the Limora Group which is the parent company of Silverpoint, there are so many accounts that the money has been spirited too, it is a full-time job.

As you can see from the company chart below and in PDF format, these companies have varying jurisdictions in some of the tax havens around the world. It is also a fact that the Limora Group also filed for bankruptcy in the Court of Southern New York. (See PDF below).

The movement of assets is also being conducted by the State Prosecutors Office of Tenerife, this is a criminal investigation and crosses many borders and jurisdictions. Again it is a complex investigation so is not likely to be concluded quickly.

Back in June 2019, Inside Timeshare published a six-part article titled Exclusive Breaking News: The Truth Behind Silverpoint Exposed. This series focused on the reasons behind the liquidations of the many companies which are part of the Limora Group, but also highlights the complexities the investigators are having to deal with. Links to the articles are below.

All Inside Timeshare can say to our readers who are concerned about what they are being told by the cold callers and the doubts that are being placed into their minds, is very simple, do not believe them. They are trying to influence you into signing up with them (for a huge fee) and canceling with your lawyers or law firm. This can have dire consequences for your case, once you cancel and your lawyers withdraw the case as they no longer represent you, that is that, it cannot be re-submitted to the court.

As far as the courts are concerned you have withdrawn the case, the defending party walks free and then has the right to demand that you pay their legal costs as they will file that the case was frivolous. You will also not have any claim against your lawyers or law firm for a refund of your legal fees, after all, they were doing what you paid them for, and it is you who withdrew the case.

On this point, Inside Timeshare received some time ago an email from one reader who fell for this and is now in yet another legal battle against the demands by the timeshare company for their legal fees to be paid by the client. They have now lost the money they paid to bring the case, the money paid to the “scam” company, and the new legal fees to fight the case. They have also lost out on ever getting their purchase price back and are still liable for the annual maintenance fees.

Our advice is to always contact your lawyer or law firm directly when being told any information which puts any doubt in your mind.

The Silverpoint case is one of the most complex seen in timeshare and is not going to be concluded in the timescales being given by these companies. Inside Timeshare very much doubts if this case will be concluded this year and until all investigations are concluded even those who have been accepted as “creditors” by the administrator are not likely to receive their awards.

If you have any questions or comments on this article, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Links to the six-part article on Silverpoint liquidations

Start the Week: A Slow Return

Welcome back to Inside Timeshare, we intend to begin to publish new articles but not in the number previously, the return is going to be slow with at least two or three a week. Inside Timeshare would also like to thank our US friends for their help in preparing the weekly Letter from America which has helped to keep the publication going. Today we publish a quick roundup of court news over the past couple of months.

News from the courts comes in on a daily basis, since Inside Timeshare stopped publishing the courts have certainly been very busy especially the Courts of First Instance and the High Courts of Gran Canaria. 

High Court, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

The bulk of the cases which have been concluded are against our old friends Anfi, these have been First Instance trials where the clients have had their contracts declared null and void. The courts have also ordered Anfi to repay in full plus interest the full purchase price, this includes the repayment in double any illegally taken deposit.

We are only at the beginning of July and there have already been two cases from the High Court where Anfi appealed the original sentence of the lower court. As we are all familiar with the Anfi tactics of appealing every sentence, it is clear the High Courts view this with disdain and have dismissed every appeal and confirmed the original sentence.

This case involving an English client, first went to the Court of First Instance where the contract was declared null and void plus the return of all payments. Anfi, as we have come to expect, appealed this decision to the High Court. Court Number 5 of Las Palmas again dismissed the appeal and confirmed the original sentence.

They confirmed the original award of 31,996€ plus legal interest and costs, this amount is 14,000€ more than the client originally paid and reflects the payment of double any payments taken illegally within the statutory cooling-off period.

The second appeal to be announced was once again from the High Court Number 5, where a Danish client had their original sentence confirmed once again dismissing the appeal from Anfi.

The contract was confirmed as null and void and the court confirmed the payment of 25,520€ plus legal interest and costs. Again we see the client receive 10,000€ more than they originally paid which reflects the courts following the law and ordering the repayment in double of any amount taken illegally during the cooling-off period.

Courts of First Instance Marbella

At the end of June, there were also two cases from the Courts of First Instance of Marbella involving Marriott.

Both cases are German clients who both had their contracts declared null and void with the return of their full payment.

The first client has been awarded 49,300€ plus legal interest and costs, this is 29,000€ more than they originally paid which is reflected in the doubling of the illegally taken deposit.

The second German client will receive 53,180€ plus legal interest and costs, in this case, the client receives 6000€ more due to illegally taken deposits.

These cases were prepared and conducted on behalf of the clients by the Lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance.

It is very clear from these cases that the courts are following the letter of the law, by applying the payment in double any illegally taken payment, it is also very clear the appeal courts are upholding the sentences of the lower courts. This does make you wonder why these companies continue to lodge appeals.

That is all for today, once again Inside Timeshare apologises to our readers for the lack of articles and we hope to be running at full tilt in the coming weeks.