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American Resort Development Association

The Tuesday Slot: Arizona House Bill 2639

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker continues our articles on the Arizona House Bill 2639, with a contribution from Fran D, a Registered Nurse.

ARDA Timeshare Lobbyist Don Isaacson Opposes Arizona House Bill 2639 – A Bill to Safeguard Timeshare Buyers

ARIZONA TIMESHARE BILL PASSES OUT OF HOUSE COMMITTEE

By Irene Parker and registered nurse, Fran D

March 5, 2019

Arizona has proposed a timeshare bill to protect timeshare buyers, but this bill is being contested by timeshare lobbyists. If Arizona HB2639 passes, it would help to protect consumers from fraud and deceptive sales practices by allowing a 14 day rescission period, among other safeguards. Fran, an Arizona resident, hopes that by sharing her timeshare experience that took place in Sedona, Arizona, and Maui, Hawaii, it will help lawmakers understand what buyers face when purchasing a product improperly presented.    

Timeshare members pay $5 million in annual “voluntary” donations to ARDA ROC. ARDA is the American Resort Development Association and ROC is Resort Owners’ Coalition. Out of 717 timeshare families who have reached out to Inside Timeshare, not one member could tell me what ARDA ROC stands for.

Timeshares have little to no secondary market. ARDA ROC has launched 8 Tips to Navigate the Resale Market. I contacted 22 licensed brokers. Not one would accept a listing for my timeshare points, feeling the restrictions placed on the use of secondary points too restrictive. For the members of my timeshare company, there is no resale market. http://www.ardaroc.org/timeshare-resales-resource-center.aspx

Many of the families affected by the lack of a secondary market for timeshares have been financially devastated. The majority of our readers have reported unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

ARDA – Is this is our voice?

According to ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson:

But the bottom line, said (ARDA lobbyist) Isaacson, is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.

“You read the documents,” said Isaacson. “And unless there is fraud, you are bound to that particular purchase.”

Anyway, Isaacson argued that too much is being made of the issue. He said the 250 complaints a year to the Attorney General’s Office pale in comparison to the 600,000 timeshare units owned in Arizona.

















What Mr. Isaacson doesn’t understand, is that members are bound by the contract, despite fraud, with the vast majority of complaints alleging deception dismissed with “You signed a contract.” It’s not that buyers don’t understand the product. It’s that they understand the product as it is so often deceptively presented. Three major timeshare companies have received, respectively, over 2,000, 1,000 and 800 Better Business Bureau complaints over the last three years.

When buyers complain, they are typically told they signed a contract. How many people buy cars and houses without relying on reading every word of a contract, relying on the ethics of the real estate or automotive broker? It is only in timeshare that the oral representation clause is so abused and so overused. The industry itself calls deceptive practices “pitching heat,” a term unique to timeshare sales.

There are many ways to deceive, such as:

“This is a new program, so don’t say anything because I could get fired.”

Access to booking is not allowed until after the rescission period, so reading the contract would not help.

Wait until you make a few payments before refinancing – when banks don’t finance timeshares.

Fran’s complaint, recently sent to the Arizona and Hawaii Attorneys General, was dismissed by the company, responding that there were no misrepresentations. You be the judge. She will file complaints with the BBB, the FTC, the FBI at IC3.gov and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fran hopes ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson reads her complaint. She will be reaching out to the following Arizona representatives involved with the bill:

Excerpts from the complaint Fran filed with the Arizona and Hawaii AG offices:

  • We purchased 8500 points in Sedona Arizona April 24, 2017.
  • Purchase price: $29,955.00
  • Down payment: $6,150.00
  • Amount financed $23,805.00

Sales agent Eric told us that we were buying points at a low rate, less than $ 4 per point, and that “at this price the point value can only go up.” We could sell some points at a profit and keep the original base points for travel. Ultimately getting our entire purchase for free, he called it a “401-V”.  He said he would lock the price for one year in case we decided to get more points later to utilize our “401-V”. We have since learned Diamond points are virtually worthless on resale.

The forms were long and extensive. We asked for time to review the documents but were pressured into signing “today” or not get the price per point offered.  After seven hours, my husband got upset and left. Eric followed us to our room insisting that we sign. We thought that Eric must be telling the truth, because if he wasn’t, there would be some sort of regulation. We incorrectly put our faith in Eric.     

We were referred to ARDA. ARDA’s advice leads members to scams, as licensed brokers will not even accept a listing for Diamond points, feeling the restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points excessive.

Virginia Beach, August 2017

The sales agents in Virginia were also very high pressure. They told us what we bought in Arizona was not worth it for us and that we had to purchase another 8500 points in order to keep the price of less than $4 per point.  The agent said that after that day the price would be higher. We did not buy. Being deceived into attending the presentation, under the guise that we were getting an education toward our membership was unfair and deceptive. The insistence that we had not purchased enough points made us so angry we did not buy.      

Maui, Hawaii, February 12, 2018

We purchased an additional 5,000 points and switched our US Collection points to the Hawaii Collection to total 13,500 Hawaii Collection points.

  • Purchase price $56,510.00
  • Down payment of $2,731
  • Amount financed $47,713.00

We met with sales agent Sequan R. This again ended up being a hard sell when we told him that we were expecting more of an educational meeting. He said he would give us all the education we need as he had left the company to give independent conferences to teach people how to maximize and exit a timeshare through “Timeshare Confidential Seminars,” but said Diamond hired him back to the sell side of the industry. We were again told “You can’t travel to where you want to go with what you have.” We have since learned that 8500 points were enough points to meet our needs.

Sequan told us we could use a program called Club Combinations at least six times a year to rent out to generate income that would offset the cost of our mortgage. Sequan also told us that we are lucky that the agent in AZ locked in the price because points have already gone up to $8.00 per point so we could already sell points and double our money.  Sequan said that many more high income level people are coming into this resort for the investment which is why the company started the rental program. He said at that income level people want to see a good return on their investment. I told Sequan I did not have time to spend on rentals because I work a lot of hours. Sequan said that the company would appoint someone to help us so we could start to offset our cost right away. I asked Sequan what if they don’t help us. He gave us his cell number and said to call him if that happens. We called Sequan but there was no person by that name.

Later we called and asked how to rent out our club combinations listings.  We were told there was no such program. There was no such thing as a rental program or selling of points for a profit.

Most buyers are on vacation without funds available for a large purchase, so end up signing off on high interest rate loans.  We went into debt to invest in Diamond’s timeshare points.

We had hoped for great vacations and the ability to sell some points for profit as had been explained.  Diamond’s motto “Stay Vacationed” for us means being held hostage. This vacation nightmare has become a major stress in our lives. Filing regulatory complaints is like having a part time job. I am a registered nurse and have spent many years working hard. My husband has worked hard for 40 years. We trusted the timeshare salespeople as we would trust any real estate broker, relying on the ethics of the real estate industry. It was a mistake.

Please do whatever you can to pass this bill and not allow ARDA, a paid lobbyist, to change your minds!

Thank you to Fran for sharing her timeshare experience. Inside Timeshare sent a draft of this article to ARDA. They did not respond. Of the 717 families who have reached out to us reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, 99 are veterans and active duty service members. Several of the veterans are disabled, five Agent Orange disabled.

Proposed Florida HB 435, in which developers are worried about members deceived by timeshare exit companies, is supported by ARDA. A recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents. The actions of deceptive sales agents also harm honest timeshare sales agents.

IMPORTANT LINKS CONCERNING ARIZONA HOUSE BILL 2639

Press Release: http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-43/

To Track Arizona HB2639: Trackbill.com

https://trackbill.com/search/#/direction=desc&page=1&sort=relevancy&tracked&upcoming_hearings&type=bills&state=all&session&query=AZ%20-%20HB2639%20timeshare

Proposed HB Bill 2639

https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/1R/bills/HB2639P.pdf

Request to Speak for Arizona Residents

https://www.cebv.us/rts.html?fbclid=IwAR2784DcGDTFFg0hoQKi_WPJvhNaz7bvoPylIqRLxoBSStSdlH8Z3qGGD_o

The “Kill Bill” Guide – How it Works

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y4w31DQFznxoTDZDru86qzDoku3wuHaW/view

Coalition to Reform Timeshare









Preparing a narration for a governmental agency or a timeshare loss mitigation department is difficult for some due to age related issues or language barriers. We’re here at Inside Timeshare, along with our Supporters, to listen and educate. Contact us or one of these self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced if you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.  

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 Fran, it is now down to you the readers to do your bit and make your voices heard, this bill is to protect you the consumer, do not let the industry that has walked over you for years do it again.

In Spain, the law is on the side of the consumer, the industry is being taken to the cleaners after years of predatory selling, with many other European Countries with timeshare resorts looking to follow Spain’s lead. This is a result of the European Union issuing several directives on what timeshare is and how it should and should not be sold, which each state having to place this into their own laws, Spain was by far the strongest in its implementation. It took many years to get to this stage, but at least the consumer has the full protection of the law.

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

The Tuesday Slot: Manifesto Part 1

After we published our interpretation of Florida HB 435, Inside Timeshare received the following Manifesto written by an Industry Insider. Part I examines the history of exit companies. Of note is the mention of the role private equity plays in today’s timeshare industry. Private equity firms played a major role in the junk bond debacle of the 80s and the subprime mortgage crisis of the 90s, so it is of no surprise to find private equity firms directing timeshare today. A junk bond or a subprime mortgage had some value for the borrower, but a timeshare contract, often adding up to $100,000 or more, is worth next to nothing should the borrower need to sell.

We look forward to Part II in which today’s author hopes to, “draw public comment for a new Business Proposal to remedy and resolve the issues.”

Florida HB 435 addresses timeshare exit services

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

MANIFESTO

Timeshare Exit Companies and the Future of Timeshare

WHAT DO THIRD PARTY TIMESHARE EXIT COMPANIES (“TPE”) TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE TIMESHARE INDUSTRY?

Part 1.

By Anonymous.

Our Questions;

 

  • Are Third Party Exit (“TPE”) companies selling a product that is largely undeliverable?
  • If the product is undeliverable are all remaining TPE’s simply exhausted Ponzi schemes awaiting implosion and bankruptcy?
  • How many Customers in the last 12-48 months have paid thousands of dollars for services yet remain unresolved, un-exited, un-refunded, and are still on the hook for their timeshares?
  • How large is this Exodus?

 

In this manifesto we shall attempt to break down into layman’s terms the causes and effects on the Timeshare Industry at the hands of the so-called third-party timeshare exit companies or “TPE’s” and eventually in Part Two, draw public comment for a new business proposal to remedy and resolve some of the issues.

We shall also reminisce at some of the more notable examples of earlier ill-fated timeshare exit businesses, all of whom reveal the starkest of similarities. In doing so, we will also be commenting on the chest-beater from the Industry in the form of a Sept 17th 2018 public release. Sadly, we shall also be debating the unconventional elephant that still sits in the room.

  • Why is there such resistance to owners exiting a Timeshare?  
  • Why is there no organized, unionized, “brand supported” exit & secondary market offering that satisfies the disposal needs of owners who are aged, retired, unwanted beneficiaries of, no longer travel or are on Federal poverty levels?  

 “On Sept 17th 2108 the Timeshare industry, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) and ARDA Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC), have united to stop the misconduct of those deceiving timeshare owners into paying for illusory timeshare exit services through fraudulent means”.

I applaud the Industry on the use of the word “illusory’ as defined as: based on illusion; not real.” In what appears to be a long overdue case of karma, the timeshare industry is altruistically defending its long suffering, desperate “exiting and cancelling” owners from paying for illusory exit & cancellation services.  

(We don’t know who is more naïve; the Resorts for expecting that no one can ever get out of a Timeshare, or the deluge of Owners who paid upfront to try to get out!)

We speculate that in the last 36 months a crescendo aggregating to millions of owners had the audacity to want to end their Timeshare experience and as a result many hired Lawyers and Advocates and spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to get rid of their timeshares. Most of these fees were paid upfront, and most were promised that fees were 100% refundable if the exit contract expires and one still owns one’s timeshare assuming the Lawyer or Advocate is actually still in business!

Customers are asked to pay $7500 or more ‘upfront’ to be represented or advocated. Most marketers claim that there are magical back passages into resorts that take back the timeshares quietly in a forbidden black market open to only the special few. Marketers support this notion by suggesting that if the resorts were to publicly announce that they take back timeshares there would be an immense exodus of cancellations. No present evidence supports this tall tale.  

The Timeshare Industry is familiar with the exiting, canceling or generally getting out of a timeshare scam. As we can see Timeshares are complex and very sticky to get rid of. The Industry continues putting TPE lawyers and advocates out of business and into bankruptcy, yet the Industry cannot find a solution to the real problem – an evident immense Exodus.

Nothing, other than Moses leaving Egypt could be compared to the TPE Companies assault on popular branded timeshare owners in 2015 – 2018. All the major brands had rolled out vacation club programs with all types of new generation upsells and exchanges. Publicly traded companies in the hotel, recreation, leisure and timeshare industries had begun curiously separating their timeshare divisions into new public companies. Yet at conventions, the Resort Owners, Lawyers and Administrators all reported that their biggest headaches were the Exit firms. Their disruptive activities caused added administration issues, defaults, millions in lost revenues, angry customers all dealing with these flimsy cancellation letters from dozens of Lawyers and hundreds of Advocates interrupting contractual obligations and communication with the customers. They all knew where this would end…owners were paying thousands upfront for services that weren’t going to happen. Owners were routinely signing and notarizing Powers of Attorney to exit companies like they were signing Christmas cards! This wasn’t a cottage industry any more. It was an epidemic that had to be eliminated.

Apollo Global Management, owner of privatized Diamond Resorts (who as Merchant Bankers were possibly the first well-known brand to recognize the sudden disparity in results and the probable cause), began aggressively suing TPE Lawyers & Advocate Company’s in 2015. Apollo has made it known that they are preparing to re-IPO Diamond Resorts

  • The cause; The Timeshare Developer/Owner HOA true concerns are the financial effect that an immense Exodus of Owners and the sudden loss of payment of residual annual fees would have on the bottom line.
  • The effect; The Timeshare Industry has adopted a widely “illiquid” stance based on the capture of customers annual fees. The Timeshare industry survives in a very large part from customers annual maintenance fees.

Where did this idea of how to bilk the Timeshare Industry come from?  

In 2004, Uri Fried, an Israeli businessman and so-called inventor of the Third-Party Exit (TPE) business sent millions of postcards to timeshare owners inviting them to get rid of their timeshares for an upfront fee. Uri had formed over 50 straw buyers LLCs and began transferring thousands of unwanted timeshares per month into his LLCs. For several years Uri’s activity went relatively unnoticed by developers and resorts. Along the way Uri sold timeshares on eBay for $1 thus cementing the perceived market value of second-hand timeshare at one-dollar. None of Uri’s LLC’s ever paid a cent in maintenance to any resorts. Uri ended up serving a couple of years for $1.9m tax evasion.

In 2017 Uri settled all misrepresentation charges with the State of Wisconsin for $132,000 and received a lifelong ban from ever handling timeshares again. None of Uri’s ill-gotten gains were ever recovered.

Uri Fried woke the Industry up to the vulnerability of the Viking Ship LLC exit scam. The Resorts & HOAs were so fragmented. Collectively, they had no clue what Uri was up to. Uri’s customers owned everything and anything. Uri knew he was never going to pay a penny in dues or maintenance, so he stuffed them all into his defaulting LLCs. If the Resorts grew suspicious of the LLC name(s) Uri would simply create new ones.

Eventually the resorts smartened up and unilaterally responded by refusing to honor or acknowledge transfers to certain suspicious names and eventually certain transfer companies. The Developers had falsely believed that some level of organic secondary market had been occurring. As the industry is so hugely fragmented the major developers were fooled for a while.

As we shall see, the Viking Ship LLC model grinds slowly to a halt when the resorts block or refuses customer re-registrations and transfers. However, the TPE’s marketing machines continue “in almost every case” to sell new Customers on getting rid of their timeshares, in order to continue to collect thousands in what surely become ill-gotten fees, thus becoming a Ponzi scheme; whereby new monies pay off older refunds.

After the failure of Uri Fried’s business, an alternative Viking ship business became strongly marketed; Attorneys claiming to ‘cancel’ a timeshare.

On behalf of Owners who retained the firm, Castle Law (and others similar) wrote to the HOA’s and Resorts and in some cases Lenders, a series of scalding, lawyerly stamped, heavily embossed, important looking letters accusing and maligning the Resorts with allegations of much malfeasance, misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement.  

Owners were claiming any or all of the following:

  • Told that this offer is good for today only.  
  • Told that timeshare is in hot demand
  • Told that timeshare is a great investment
  • Told that timeshare – like all real estate will appreciate over time.  
  • Told the timeshare presentation is only going to be 90 minutes.
  • Told the timeshare is in such demand it could always be RENTED for a profit.
  • Told that you are buying pre-construction and this timeshare can be SOLD for a profit after the next “phase.”  
  • Told that this week/resort is such a valuable week to all of the exchange companies that you can trade for “anytime, anywhere.”  
  • Told that this maintenance fee will not increase over time
  • Told you will be attending an “update” to discuss questions (also called a policy change, owners update, etc.… – later it was actually a sales presentation).  
  • Told that this is not timeshare but Vacation Ownership or Vacation Property.  
  • (You) were subjected to high pressure sales tactics or felt that you could not leave the presentation without purchasing timeshare.
  • The timeshare sales agents plied you with champagne (or other alcohol or drugs).
  • The timeshare sales agents assured you, you could cancel if we had second thoughts/buyer’s remorse.  

Attorneys and Advocates, armed with Limited Power of Attorney, filed cease and desists on behalf of owners. Attorneys were demanding that the Resort have no communication with the aggrieved customer (s). Simultaneously, customers were instructed not to communicate with their resort, and to forward any communication from the resort to the attorney or advocate.

It wasn’t long before far less scholarly ‘advocates’ caught on to the jolly wheeze and suddenly millions of timeshare data records were for sale and hundreds of thousands of robo dialed calls an hour were being made to every timeshare owner looking for people who wanted to get out of their timeshares.

Unbelievably, millions of owners wanted out.

In the words of ReedHein dba Timeshare Exit Team CEO & timeshare exit Advocate Brandon Reed;

The reality behind the recent litigation is that resorts are leaving millions of consumers with no other options. Timeshare Exit Team exists because the resorts have created a problem without providing a solution. We hear countless stories from customers who were unable to even give back their ownership. Others have found that their timeshare investment was actually worthless when  they tried to resell it. Owners must have a way to safely and legally end their ownership when it no longer fits their lifestyle. Until that happens, we want to make it clear that we will not be dissuaded from continuing to advocate for consumers.”

Reed Hein are the guys advertising on TV. Estimates show that ReedHein is now the largest timeshare cancellation firm in the USA. We wonder what ReedHein is doing differently from Uri Fried, The Macmillan’s, ACC and other notable predecessors.       

Ok, why isn’t there a secondary market for Timeshare?

The Timeshare Industry publicly abhors any notion of a secondary market almost as much as the Wicked Witch of the West abhors water.

Why? …It’s so simple.

Let’s say you buy a Westgate ‘second hand’ at 90% off current Westgate prices from eBay.

  1. Westgate gets no new dollars from that exchange, Westgate gets a new Customer, the perception of “secondary market” timeshare true value is realized,
  2. Westgate takes on the risk that you will or won’t pay its annual fee’s.

Unlike the auto business, the timeshare core product is the same in “both Primary & Secondary Markets,” the most glaring disparity is price.

All the frontloaded exorbitant sales commissions, fees, marketing expenses and popping champagne are in the primary market versus a vast global array of venue choices at huge discounts available in the Secondary Market.

Sadly, developers use punitive measures to hamper and deter secondary market purchases of Points based/Club, Right to Use contracts by restricting further points accumulation (s), restricting booking access or exchange, restricting access to deed back and contract back programs, voiding visiting guest rental certificates and other contractual privileges. Certain developers’ restrictions have been described as downright draconian!   

The Industry publicly states in countless SEC filings that a Secondary Market would cut deeply into the Industries profitability. We can see why they would be worried.

In SEC filings:

  • “…the resale market for VOI’s (vacation ownership interests) could adversely affect our business” (Bluegreen)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market could negatively impact our sales” (Wyndham)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market by existing owners could cause our sales revenues and profits to decline” (Starwood)

Source – EDGAR.

In loosely translated SEC language that means the entire industry agrees with the notion that a secondary market should not exist, and they will stamp on the windpipe of any attempt to conjure a secondary market.  

This cannibalistic, illusory industry has a bone through its nose! As the industry makes sweeping, ubiquitous, cannibalizing, business decisions we urge serious consideration to the real threat to the future bottom line. As the Industry has discovered, there is a serious flaw to timeshare. Having built these lavish, illusory, granulated palaces, one must continue to sell to new mug punters who are still naive enough to sit through a bruising several hours long presentation and then when sufficiently punch drunk, pick up a pen and sign complex contracts that one has never read nor had the opportunity to do so, nor to many if read would actually comprehend. This is the sales model of the Primary Timeshare market? Is this the best they’ve got?

Possibly that’s the reason behind the aforementioned public company players in timeshare creating new public companies for their Timeshare only assets. Maybe they also see the writing on the wall of this woeful sales channel and are protecting their other core assets from devaluation.

After all, how many mug-punters could there possibly be?   

In a 2017 Orlando Sentinel News story, Mr. & Mrs. Morrison stated they are horrified by what they did on their last vacation to a Wyndham Resort in Orlando. They paid $25,000 to buy a timeshare, after a four-hour sales pitch that wore down the couple’s resistance and skepticism. Now they’re being hounded by people promising to get them out of the contract — if they pay an up-front fee. They don’t want to pay out any more money and aren’t sure who to trust. “We can’t afford this,” said Morrison, 69, who lives near Ottawa, Ontario. She says Wyndham offered to put them in a program that will eventually allow them to sell their timeshare, but they aren’t sure how long it will take. “Why won’t someone help us and put a stop to this?” she said. Wyndham didn’t respond to questions about the Morrisons’ case.

As if the Industry abandoning its aged, non-using, beneficiary owned and generally unwanted/unaffordable owners wasn’t bad enough, the Industry thwarts every attempt to stop an immense Exodus creating a need for Lawyers, Advocates and evidently miscreants and swindlers.

If Timeshare is an investment in making memories in people’s lives then shouldn’t it know when it has outstayed its welcome?

This of course is all karmically comical as the Timeshare Industry has cut its teeth on brutally sharp practices of high-pressure selling techniques, flogging its wares in well documented grueling four or five hour long “90” minute information breakfasts.

The Industry is undeniably infamous for pitching heat. Sales offices manned with trained professionals are often well trained in manipulative sales techniques. These timeshare hit-men pitch to the giddy, all too often inebriated, vacation-minded unaware prospects. It has been alleged that commission driven sales people often misrepresent overly complex customers contracts, agreements, loan documents, mortgage addendums all of which are tragically packaged by Closers, TO’s (Take Overs), Hail Mary’s and Managers at a table somewhere in a Timeshare sales room. Their only compensation is the commission from a sale.

Can you hear the champagne popping corks now?

The Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred attorney Judson Wheeler Phillips, founder of the Castle Law Group, on a myriad of charges relating to consumer fraud complaints. In the past few weeks, Castle Law Group has ceased business operations following federal lawsuits brought by developers against Castle Law Group and those acting in concert with the firm.

Wyndham’s pursuit of American Consumer Credit (“ACC”), ACC’s principal, Dana Micaleff and attorney, Michael Saracco, resulted in ACC filing bankruptcy on September 7, 2018. Attorney Michael Sarocco, stated that Canadian entrepreneur Micallef always had “good intentions”, however things fell apart when developers and resorts wouldn’t allow ACC’s clients to break their contracts.

Castle Law & Judson Phillips were among the pioneers of the timeshare law firm and the cancellation business. Castle law had dozens of tertiary businesses who were marketing Castle Law services. These marketing firms fed Castle Law with thousands of desperate owners who were willing to pay $7500 or more “upfront” to exit their contracts.

In order to understand the scale of timeshare in the USA, the Timeshare Industry does about a $9billion a year in gross revenue. About 9.4million ownerships exist. There are approximately 1600 resorts. Average maintenance is approximately $900 a year. The Industry aggregates approximately $8.5billion from maintenance annually.

A typical single resort’s simple deed math would look like this:

  •         Typical Timeshare Resort – Individual Condo Units Per Resort: 500 units
  •         Weeks for Sale Per Unit: 50 weeks 500 x 50 = 25,000 Weeks for Sale
  •         Average sales price per week: $ 25,000
  •         25,000 weeks’ x $25,000 = $ 625,000,000 developer receipts
  •         Plus 25,000 weeks x $900 maintenance p/a = $22,500,000 per year.

In a new improved version of Uri Fried’s Viking LLC scheme; David and Cindy Macmillan sent millions of solicitation postcards and letters to Timeshare owners enticing them to attend informational meetings that led to “exiting their timeshare with 100% money back guarantee.”

The MacMillans ran a bunch of Viking Ship LLCs and their own transfer company in a timeshare transfer operation that resort owners alleged was bilking the industry out of hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of about nine years.

In 2008, spurred on by a failing economy and the USA housing crisis, the MacMillans operated over 65 straw buyer LLCs claiming that in exchange for several thousand dollars upfront, owners could be released from any timeshare contract. The MacMillan’s prize-winning company based in Torrance, California held sales meetings for owners by the bus load. Hundreds would cram in waving their credit cards in readiness. The MacMillan’s charged $6000 or more and allegedly mishandled over 120,000 timeshare contracts before becoming the target of the Attorney General of California. RICO allegations from Plaintiff Wyndham Hotel & Resorts proved undefendable. The MacMillans were banned from the business. They didn’t pay a single cent to the resorts in maintenance. Most of MacMillan’s eager customers found they were still on the hook for their timeshares. David MacMillan filed bankruptcy in 2016. Once again millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains went unrecovered. In a karmic twist of fate, Macmillan’s own transfer agent transferred thousands of the Macmillan’s Viking LLCs timeshares back into the original owners’ names before leaving the scene of the crime and left the Macmillans to take the fall.          

By 2014 Timeshare Exit marketing companies had mushroomed up all over central and south Florida, Tennessee and Missouri. Most of the new crops were marketing firms owned and run by seasoned telemarketing recidivists or by ex-timeshare sales people, some of whom had access to valuable owner data. The marketers, mostly acting as advocates, fed a variety of attorneys and both shared in the customer fees.  

In call center parlance this new business represented a new ‘data’ vertical. Call centers that had previously run ‘data’ looking for mortgage consolidation or debt relief were suitably adaptable for Timeshare Exit marketing. The busted timeshare Resale/Rental telephone scams that had left many recently unemployed in south and central Florida simply redeployed themselves. Some sales people told sad stories of repenting for all the lies they had told while selling Timeshare.    

In Phillips’ case, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Phillips after reviewing upwards of 18 client complaints, many of which made similar allegations of fraud, highlighting a pattern and practice of misconduct. In its ruling, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that Phillips “poses a threat of substantial harm to the public.” Central to the series of complaints were allegations that Phillips and his business partners misled and/or defrauded consumers by taking exorbitant fees from timeshare owners for purported timeshare exit or cancellation services based upon fraudulent and misleading representations.

The ACC case is based on various legal theories, some of which are founded in Federal law, known as the “Lanham Act of False Advertising”. The case remains pending against Micaleff, individually, and Saracco, individually, although an automatic stay has been issued relative to ACC in the U.S. District Court action as a result of the bankruptcy filing. That, however, has not deterred the prosecution of the case. As of today, there is a motion pending against Micaleff and Saracco to punish them for, among other things, failing to appear for a deposition.

The Industries press release further commented;

“The constant pressure that our member companies, owners and federal and state agencies are putting on disreputable timeshare exit companies has again produced a positive result for the consumer,” said Robert Clements, ARDA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs.

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of,” said Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations.”

Diamond Resorts implemented an aggressive litigation strategy in pursuit of third-party exit companies for their nefarious and unlawful conduct in an effort to protect the interest of their members who were promised outcomes that could not be legally accomplished.

The number of customers who “wish to exit” an owned, fully paid up timeshare is an immense Exodus. Far higher than was ever imagined or projected by the industry. The elephant in the room is that there is still no safe exit from unwanted timeshares and no robust market with which to capture and reposition the unwanted timeshares.

In light of the recently filed Florida House Bill 435, one must question the fates of the remaining exit and cancellation firms including; Resort Release LLC, The Newton Group & Reed Hein AKA Timeshare Exit Team amongst others.   

It is obvious by the recent advertising budgets expended on TV, Radio and all other assorted media, along with the number of employees and general expenses to run these TPE’s that there are probably millions of Owners who have already paid Fees to exit or dispose of a timeshare in the last 12-36 months that are as-yet unresolved and may begin actions suing for refunds. The Term of a TPE’s contract generally offered is 12-18 months. We are sure many contracts have now been extended far beyond their legal limits. All the previously named TPE’s and Law firms offered a 100% refund upon eventual nonperformance, assuming they were still in business.

By monitoring the largest TPEs on social media and by paying particular attention to present and past customers reviews, it is evident that satisfaction is extremely low and that refunds are aggressively being sought. How many hundreds of complaints like these does it take before another AG steps in or another exit company gets driven to bankruptcy by an aggrieved resort or the FTC?

Here’s what we know.

Exit firms can’t get rid of your timeshare unless the resort ‘wants them back.’ Most Timeshares are indeed worthless. All timeshares come with some form of annual cost. In light of 2018’s vacationing and travelling popular habits, the notion of paying an annual fee is not popular or appears economically attractive.  

It may well be true to say that all TPEs charge upfront fees for truly illusionary services because they now know within a moral certainty that their customers will get nothing for their money.

One would have imagined that Timeshare Developers, being an enterprising bunch, would have figured out how to ‘selectively take in’ enough exits & cancels to quell this Exodus problem. This sensible move would have made the TPEs redundant and quickly ended the third party exit business by allowing worthwhile and fitting exits for owners, for a small fee.  

This, however, further highlights the possible size of the immense Exodus problem.

Thank you to our new contributor, at some point he will reveal himself, but we look forward to Part Two of the Manifesto.

Remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.

If you purchased your timeshare in Spain or upgraded after 5 January 1999 and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.

 

The Tuesday Slot: Florida House Bill 435

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we have a look at proposed legislation in Florida describing stringent requirements on entities providing timeshare exit assistance, including law firms. Florida House Bill 435 was submitted by Representative Wyman Duggan, elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Inside Timeshare here and abroad receives a daily diet of timeshare members describing how they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, and are then dismissed by the timeshare company with an over-reliance on the oral representation clause.There is an abundance of the Pot calling the Kettle black. The FL HB 435 Summary I would describe as “Gobbledygook”.

Definition of Gobbledygook

Language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usu. hard to understand.

or

Unintelligible or nonsensical talk or language  

Having spent a large portion of our time chasing down fraudulent exit companies, we here in the UK would welcome more stringent laws governing exit companies, but we encourage lawmakers to consider listening to the timeshare member, in addition to taking orders from industry lobbyists and developers. For instance, how about allowing the timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a contract? If we want to talk about unfair practices, forcing a buyer to sign the same day after enduring a tag team of aggressive and sometimes dishonest agents, that have kept the buyer typically for four to eight hours, is unfair.

We will be publishing a number of articles about this bill due to its complexity and its apparent desire to maintain total control over the buyer without access to any outside help if the buyer has been defrauded.

Florida House Bill 435: Vacation and Timeshare Plans

GENERAL BILL by Duggan

(3)(Line 157)In the course of offering or providing timeshare exit assistance or relief services, a timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider may not:

b)(Line 163)Solicit, charge, receive, or attempt to collect or secure payment, directly or indirectly, for timeshare exit assistance or relief services before completing or performing all services contained in the written agreement for services.

Effective Date: 7/1/2019

Last Action: 1/30/2019 House – Referred to Business and Professions Subcommittee; Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee; Commerce Committee

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00435/?Tab=BillText

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

February 5, 2019

By Irene Parker

I’m not an expert in proposed legislation, but after studying the 22 page draft of Florida HB 435, it seems that if this Bill is enacted, it will leave the timeshare member at the mercy of their timeshare resort. Based on complaints from 676 timeshare members reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, timeshare companies have not been owner orientated in terms of dealing with owners reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The majority of complaints have been dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Many members have had disputes resolved, but only after repeated rebuttals and the filing of regulatory complaints.

I found the Florida HB 435 summary incomprehensible. The PDF file of the actual proposed bill is linked above. I have broken the summary down piecemeal, which helps a little.   

Vacation and Timeshare Plans;

Provides services included in timeshare exit assistance or relief services;

provides prohibitions for timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider;

requires certain disclosures in general & purchaser-specific commercial communications;

provides requirements for oral or audible communications;

requires written agreement to provide services;

provides requirements for written agreement;

provides requirements for when specific entities are providing relief;

prohibits person from providing assistance or support to timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider if person knows provider is violating law;

provides exemptions;

requires certain records be maintained for specific duration;

provides requirements for timeshare exit assistance or relief services providers;

provides criminal & civil penalties;

provides that purchaser or owners’ association may bring action for damages against resale service provider or timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider.

The timeshare lobby ARDA and the timeshare industry have yet to acknowledge unfair and deceptive sales practices exist on the front end of the timeshare sale, despite numerous Attorneys General investigations, BBB complaints, and lawsuits too numerous to mention. The internet is flooded with complaints.

Where are the lawmakers looking out for consumers who have been victimized by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents, managers and VPs? The amount of money lost to timeshare exit companies pales in comparison to the amount of money timeshare members say they lost because they believed a timeshare sales agent. This legislative action would be completely unnecessary if only the timeshare resorts were responsive to owners’ issues. Why would timeshare owners voluntarily fork over thousands of dollars to these third parties if their resort had properly dealt with their issues rather than rule the customer is always wrong because they signed a contract.  

Timeshare members and owners, who own resort interests at American Resort Development Association (ARDA) resorts, pay a ‘voluntary’ fee to support ARDA ROC, who purports to represent timeshare members. This Bill is a perfect example of owners paying to have their rights further impaired if this Bill is successful. While I understand timeshare exit scams are out of control, treating the symptoms without looking at the cause is illogical and irresponsible.

The Bill was submitted by Wyman Duggan, freshman House of Representatives, elected 2018, profiled on LobbyTools. Lobbytools? Contact Representative Duggan if you would like to voice your opinion.

District Address:

Suite 104

4114 Herschel Street

Jacksonville, FL   32210-2200

Phone: (904) 381-6011

 

Capitol Address:

402 South Monroe Street

1101 The Capitol

Tallahassee, FL   32399-1300

Phone: (850) 717-5015

Email: [email protected]

ARDA is a lobby organization and a Political Action Committee (PAC).  The ROC in ARDA ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA does lobby for members when an issue affects both the developer and the member. One example is a proposed $300 exchange fee the Virgin Islands wanted to impose a few years ago. However, when the issue at stake benefits the industry, timeshare members are short changed, with no voice in legislative changes. Name me one real timeshare member or owner involved with this legislation.

Howard Nusbaum, the president of ARDA, was recently quoted in a Consumer Affairs article claiming, “The vast majority of people are happy with their timeshare.” If so, why is there a sizeable timeshare exit industry? In the same article, Diane Burkhart explains how her parents were sold five timeshare contracts from the age of 85 to 88. Diane’s parents are #57 of a summary report of 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members who have contacted Inside Timeshare describing how they were up-sold into insolvency. They say they purchased additional timeshare points promised maintenance fee relief that was not forthcoming or the ability to sell points, widely reported to be worthless. The maintenance fee in 2018 for 50,000 Diamond timeshare points was $8,631.  

The lack of a secondary market breeds the timeshare exit industry. I contacted 22 of the 60 plus members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association (LTRBA) asking to list my Diamond points. LTRBA members charge nothing upfront to list a timeshare. They refused to even accept a listing. Desperate timeshare members waking up to the realization that there is little to no secondary market turn to exit companies. Approximately 200 of our readers, timeshare members, sent their complaint to ARDA ROC. ARDA ROC does not resolve disputes, but has a Code of Ethics. Members feel the code is being violated. At best has been an auto-reply with tips on how to sell a timeshare.

The only timeshare member to receive a real response to her complaint from ARDA ROC was Elaine Lim. If Elaine Lim forecloses on her timeshare loan it could jeopardize her job and her career as she has top security clearances. Her response from ARDA ROC was, “This has been resolved” even before the company contacted Elaine. The company response was basically, “You signed a contract.” http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-32/

When timeshare members receive their maintenance fee invoices, they are asked to make a $3 to $10 donation to ARDA ROC, When I questioned my $7 donation, prior to my becoming more involved with this industry, I was told ARDA ROC is a nonprofit that helps members. Timeshare members collectively give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year. I have yet to meet the timeshare member who can tell me what ARDA ROC even stands for.

Why doesn’t the legislature own up to unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices? Why point the finger only at exit companies?

ALEC pictured above is not the name of a lobbyist. It is the name of another PAC, the American Legislative Exchange Council one Senator describes as a “Corporate Bill Mill.” The reporter in this YouTube describes how lobbyists sit across the table with legislators filling in the blanks on desired bills tailored to their wishes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MHYOB5uptc

How about a parallel timeshare Bill with the same wording to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices? Disgruntled timeshare members who have reached out to us are not financial deadbeats trying to weasel out of their contracts. They are medical doctors, lawyers, mortgage loan officers, professors, teachers, MBAs, PhDs, war heroes, law enforcement professionals, criminologists (one a PhD), a detective who worked economic crimes under cover, and a contract specialist, all alleging fraud, deception, and unfair timeshare sales practices. The perpetual timeshare contract with little to no secondary market is a recipe for financial disaster. Many families are financially devastated.   

Florida HB 435:

The Legislature finds that purchasers who are in

(109) default of their obligations to pay assessments, real property taxes, or other sums due, or to pay amounts due under a mortgage, lien, or encumbrance against their timeshare interests, or who may no longer desire to own their timeshare

interests, may be vulnerable to fraud, deception, and unfair practices with timeshare exit assistance or relief services providers.

122 to prohibit representations that tend to mislead; to prohibit or restrict unfair contract terms;

Our volunteers answer questions about regulatory filings when members complain of fraud, deception, and unfair timeshare sales practices. We are not focused on getting members out of their timeshare contacts, although members have had disputes resolved as a result of filing regulatory complaints.

Prior legislation, making it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts, was passed in Florida in 2015. This drew sharp criticism from advocacy groups:

A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature that would loosen a cap on timeshare assessment fees and make it tougher for buyers to get out of contracts has drawn criticism from timeshare owners’ attorneys and advocates.

The lawmakers and the industry’s trade association, the American Resort Development Association, describes the legislation as a bill that modernizes state law. Gregory Crist, chairman and CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association, sees it otherwise. “This is a developer-sponsored bill that strips away at consumer-protection mechanisms,”

Meanwhile, attorneys and timeshare owners have questioned a provision that reduces liability for timeshare developers if they make errors in contracts. Errors or omissions that are considered “non material” would not allow purchaser-cancellation rights after 10 days. Stargel said the legislation is meant to keep timeshare owners from getting out of their contracts by finding minor flaws in them. It is meant to cover only technicalities, she said, not major problems.

Last month, some members of a House civil justice subcommittee expressed concern that there is no clear definition of “nonmaterial.” That kind of murkiness will “lead to increased litigation,” said attorney Patrick Kennedy, who represents timeshare consumers

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-timeshare-bill-20150312-story.html

Other related articles:

http://www.timeshare-info.org/2015/04/mixed-reviews-from-industry-experts-florida-bill.html

http://insidethegate.com/gatehouse/2015/04/florida-usa-timeshare-news-april-18-2015/#sthash.41Peggzh.dpbs

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-florida-timeshare-tactics-scott-maxwell-20150411-column.html

Here are some Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Get involved. Let your voice be heard. Too many families have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare, a product advertised to reduce stress.

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 to all those who have had a hand in the making of this article, your views and insights are greatly appreciated. Now to all our readers, read the bill in the PDF format below and see if you can fathom out what it all means!! Do let us know, we would love to hear from you and publish your thoughts and comments in our comments section.

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00435/?Tab=BillText

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

Remember to also contact Representative Duggan and voice your opinions direct.