The RDO (Resorts Development Organisation) is supposedly the trade body for the timeshare industry in Europe, yet it is their very own members who are being taken through the courts for the mis-selling of timeshare. Yet it fails to act against them or even sanction them for their misdeeds. In fact, if you look at their own membership list, it probably only represents about 10% of the industry in Europe, with many of their own members on the receiving end of hundreds of court cases.
Instead, it funds several entities to discredit companies that do genuinely try to help beleaguered timeshare owners, Kwikchex, Timeshare Taskforce and Timeshare business Check, all run by Chris Emmins. This gentleman does not have a very successful track record when it comes to his directorships, with 17 appointments with all companies being dissolved under his directorship.
Kwikchex and Chris Emmins replaced the now discredited Alberto Garcia who with his blog site Mindtimeshare did the RDO’s bidding, using the “Enforcement” program, now renamed Timeshare Taskforce. Granted, timeshare owners do need to know the good from the bad, but as we have seen over the years the good have been lumped together with the bad, all because they do not wish to subscribe to RDO membership or are using legal means against the timeshare industry.
We do know that the RDO and ARDA, (American Resorts Development Association) are very close, in fact, the RDO is very much modelling itself on their US cousin. Lobbying on behalf of the industry to the detriment of the consumer.
UEROC, is being funded by both of these organisations, according to the RDO for at least one year, then it should become self-sufficient. But does that mean it will be funded by timeshare owners, or like we had with TATOC funded by industry membership and associates?
Is this new organisation actually going to represent consumers’ interests against the industry or is it going to be just another sham to make consumers believe they have a voice?
Only time will tell if what we are seeing with the industry in the US, with ARDA supporting bills which destroy consumers rights in Florida and Nevada, it does not bode well for consumers in Europe.
At least in Spain, the law is on the side of the consumer, making perpetuity contracts illegal, banning the sale of floating weeks and points systems, enforcing the cooling off period and forbidding the taking of any payments within that period. These are the basics of many of the court cases consumers are winning, resulting in contracts being declared null and void and the return of all payments.
If you purchased a timeshare in Spain after January 1999 and want to know where you stand legally, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.
Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish a press release about the Arizona House Bill 2639, a bill designed to give consumers the protection they need when purchasing a timeshare. As usual ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) is opposing this bill, this release is a call for all consumers, timeshare owners and non-timeshare owners to voice their support for the bill.
The story from Paul Burrows is the same as before, Eze Group member has been awarded a specific amount of money, but to get this they first have to pay a fee of £695. This will be held in “TRUST” at an unnamed High Street Bank, the client will then receive their money in 10 days.
Now for our Letter from America
Time-Sensitive in Advance of Arizona House Bill 2639 Vote
We Need Your Voice
ARDA Opposes Arizona House Bill 2639, Which Offers Consumer Protection
On the heels of perceived unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices that have left many families financially devastated, 13 Arizona representatives have proposed the creation of Arizona HB 2639 in an effort to safeguard consumers from entering into a perpetual contract, often buying a product they have not even had a chance to try before purchase.
Buyers often enter into timeshare contracts when on vacation, are encouraged to review documents after they return home from vacation, sometimes long after the rescission period has ended – leading to confusion, anxiety and costly fees that can last years.
Arizona House Bill 2639, aimed at alleviating some of those problems, was approved by a committee in a 7-0 vote, but is strongly opposed by the timeshare lobby group American Resort Development Association (ARDA), an industry-supported PAC.
Provisions in the proposed bill offer safeguards for timeshare buyers. We ask that consumers voice their support for this bill by emailing the representatives listed below.
The proposed bill includes:
Purchaser is granted a 14-day rescission period. The closing, as evidenced by delivery of the deed or other document, is prohibited before the 14 day calendar period expires.
After the end of the rescission period, the first use of the timeshare interest concludes; “first use of the timeshare interest” means the first time the purchaser or third party transferee stays in a timeshare pursuant to the purchase agreement.
The seller can charge up to a 10% cancellation fee. Seller may charge regularly scheduled maintenance fees for one year.
The purchaser may cancel the purchase agreement and relinquish all the timeshare interest within one year after the purchaser signs the agreement.
At least ten years after a purchaser purchases a timeshare, a purchaser who has paid the entire purchase price and current annual fees may terminate the purchase agreement without cause.
A request can be denied only if it does not meet the criteria described.
The bill also requires disclosure to alert the purchaser that the contract may be of a perpetual nature.
Please contact the following representatives in support of this bill. There have been numerous Attorneys General investigations, BBB complaints and lawsuits describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The following individuals are the bill sponsors; we urge you to call and write to them to voice your support.
So there you have it, a bill to protect consumers being opposed by the industry because it does not fit in with their own agenda and curbes the power they have held over consumers for years.
It is now down to you the reader to exercise your right to lobby and have this bill past to protect all consumers. The industry has had its own way for far too long, they need to be brought down and be regulated by independent regulation.
On The Tuesday Slot we shall be publishing more about this bill, so join us then.
If you have any comments on this or any other article, or if you have any information regarding any company that you are suspicious of and believe it is a scam, then use our contact page and get in touch.
Have a great weekend and remember to do your homework on any company that contacts you.
Welcome to Start the Week and our countdown to the Christmas break, we begin this morning with news from the Spanish Courts.
This morning Inside Timeshare has received the following information regarding our old friends Silverpoint, this company is certainly taking a bashing in the courts, contrary to what some might have you believe.
The other breaking news is there has also been another ruling from the Supreme Court, making 130 in total against the timeshare industry, the company on the receiving end is Diamond Resorts.
As we have reported on many occasions this scheme was designed to bypass the current timeshare legislation, instead of purchasing weeks in an apartment the unwary consumer is sold “participations” in apartments which are “registered” as companies. These companies are administered by Silverpoint and Excel Resorts, with the purchaser believing they are “investing” in a “company”. The terms of the contract are complex, with purchaser having no rights to know who the other participants (share holders) are, they also have no right to use the apartments they have purchased these in these “participations”, but are given weeks they may use in other apartments and resorts.
As with the old Silverpoint scheme of “investment weeks”, purchasers are promised a variety of incentives, these are in the form of “dividends” paid each year for the rental income of the “participations” they have purchased, unfortunately many are still waiting to receive them. They also then have the option after 3 years to “sell” their “participations”, but not on the open market, they can only be “sold” to other participants, but only through Silverpoint who will broker the sale.
In the latest sentence, the judge has clearly stated that these “Company Participations” contracts are a blatant disguise of a timeshare product.
The sentence also states and reiterates the ruling from the Supreme Court (STS16/2012 of 16 January) that these purchasers are indeed Consumers and not investors. (Page 2 of the sentence PDF below)
Although the amounts awarded are not substantial, this ruling now proves that even Diamond are not immune from being prosecuted under Spanish Law.
Both of these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, the leaders in the field of timeshare litigation.
In other news, it has been announced that the CEO of the American Resorts Development Association (ARDA), Howard Nusbaum is to retire in 2019. The board of directors has appointed a committee to search for a new CEO, the members will be working alongside a leading executive search company Spencer Stuart, who will be managing the process.
Whoever is appointed will certainly have a lot on their plate, the timeshare industry is in dire need of a thorough shake up, so let us hope that the new CEO will have the guts to make sure their members start to treat consumers in a better way than we are seeing at the moment.
So that’s it for today, if you require any information on any of the articles published, companies that have contacted you or would like to know where you stand in regards to your purchaes of any timeshare product, especially the “company participations” from Silverpoint, then use our contact page and we will get back to you.
Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.
Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.
Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.
This was a great blow to the RDO, as Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?
Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.
Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.
February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s“Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.
Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the Anfi “Tauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.
This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.
Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.
Another story we have been following is that of Los Clavelesin Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.
There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.
In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.
This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.
After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!
There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.
But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.
On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.
There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.
Now for the year from a US perspective.
What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what
I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016
Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.
Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.
Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.
We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.
April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.
This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.
I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.
Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates
Timeshare Lawsuits 2017
By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016
Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:
The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:
Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.
Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?
WestgateUpdate 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegelwas seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.
“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.
The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneidermanmanaged to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.
Back in 2016
Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.
“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point. The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed. But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016
Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.
“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.”Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.
Diamond Resorts Update:A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.
A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:
Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
I don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,
People are listening!
Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:
⦁ A legitimate secondary market
⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling
⦁ Less predatory lending
Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.
So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.
Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.
Welcome to the first Tuesday Slot with Irene of December, this week Irene gives an update on an article from October, but first some important news from Europe.
Last week Inside Timeshare had some unconfirmed news on a raid in Tenerife, which we did not publish, this was against the offices of Mark Rowe’s enterprise there. This week news came out of raids at his businesses in the UK By Trading Standards, so this could just verify the Tenerife news.
This raid follows an investigation by the “Scambuster Team” of Trading Standards, offices of around 22 Mark Rowe companies were searched, employees questioned and documents removed for further investigation and as evidence if any criminal charges are brought.
It looks like we will have to wait until the new year before we know the outcome, this follows the news last month of another enterprise EZE Group, where the directors and owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates of “Aggressive” sales tactics and “Coercion” with their product “EZE Credits”. They are to appear at Crown Court on 15 December, whether they will be sentenced then or just remanded on bail until the New Year remains to be seen.
In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARSTIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program. “Consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits,” announced TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel.
The limited deed/limited fun program is geared toward fixed week resorts, but the same strategy could be implemented by major timeshare point sellers, solving the problem a timeshare owner faces when life changes and now they own a vacation product they don’t want, they can’t afford, and can’t sell. TARS could eventually neutralize resale and listing scams. Scam revenue would turn into new buyer revenue which would be a win-win for everyone except the scammers.
Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 223 readers (176 when the October 26 article was published). Members sometimes describe catastrophic financial distress when denied a release.
I asked Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberté Management Group of Companies and Chairman of TARS to provide an example of how the limited deed works. “The TARs program offers the member an option to purchase a limited term deed for five or ten years. The term will be the decision of the Associations, but we would not recommend any term less than three years. We feel the five year plan best suits the Association and the owners. The design is to utilize the units’ maintenance fee costs with an increase annually to make the tax repercussions better for the Association – a major savings, but each unit in each resort would be different,” Dennis explained.
The example Dennis provided was for a Voyager unit with an annual Maintenance fee of $510. A five year limited deed could be purchased for $6,000. The now former perpetual deed owner becomes a limited deed owner. At the end of five years the term is up and the unit reverts back to the HOA.
At this point skeptics raise their eyebrows. Wait! A $510 annual maintenance fee turns into $1,200 a year or $171 a night for a seven night stay? The Liberté website offers a one bedroom gulf view for $1,053 a week. So the limited deed would cost the member $735 ($1,200 – $1,053 = $147 x 5 years).
One timeshare insider suspects it’s a crafty upfront scam. I know Dennis and Martin Kandel so I have no concerns there. Another insider I contacted voiced a concern about what would happen if TARS went out of business. Liberté has been in business 35 years managing seven fixed week resorts and brokers resales and rentals as well. Liberté is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.
Dennis received a great congratulation from one timeshare advocacy organization, told this can be a huge positive change for the industry. Dennis also spoke with Robert Follisat the Florida Attorney General’s office who also saw the program as a solution to many problems.
When I called Voyager, I spoke with M J Hassall, also with Liberté, who expressed great enthusiasm. “Every owner is unique so we provide a one on one presentation. One obstacle is convincing owners this is not just another ruse to get them to buy more weeks. This really is important information they need to know about. We have presented the plan to about 15 members with about 50 percent in favor of the program,” explained M J.
“In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an a la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. One of the partners is Let’s Go N Travel,”M J added.
This led me to Let’s Go N Travel which will be the subject of January’s monthly TARS update. I spoke with Chip Langdon at Let’s Go N Travel. Chip described Let’s Go as a Vacation Club boasting 450,000 members. More on how this fits in with TARS later.
TARS provides a new way to address old problems (www.tarserv.com) in an effort to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program. This would seem a concept owners need to wrap their heads around, as they may not have yet thought about an exit or even if they need one.
Thank you to all at TARS for their help as we learn more about this evolving program. As a former deeded fixed week owner, I can see spending the extra money on something I enjoyed for 30 years, paying an extra $735 spread out over five years to be done with it without the hassle of dodging scams or waiting for an over supplied product to sell. As with any product, if it meets the needs of the consumer, it will sell itself. Timeshare does not sell itself. It is product that has to be “sold” and often requires six to eight hours of brow beating, “pitching heat” and deceit, according to 220 of our readers. We hope, working with developers, such tactics will diminish. We know there are good timeshare sales agents out there selling the product the way it should be sold. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney for their scarce complaint record.
Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to follow along as TARS progresses. I still need to call my favorite fixed week timeshare people at Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.
At least this provides a positive topic members and developers can agree on – the need for an honest timeshare exit to shut off the scam valve.
Irene will be keeping us updated on a monthly basis on TARS Limited Term Deed Program, could it be that there is some honesty in this industry called timeshare? Only time will tell.
Other news coming in from the US is the link up between ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) and Europe’s RDO (Resorts Development Association). It has been rumoured for sometime that the RDO is what you might call “strapped for cash”, well they have this year lost one of their major members, Silverpoint. Could this link up be the saviour of them?
Kwikchex has also laid out the scope of its new mission, running the “Timeshare Helpline”, on behalf of the RDO, which replaces the disgraced and bankrupt TATOC. As we know TATOC was supposed to be an independent body representing timeshare owners through their committees, but under the leadership of Harry Taylor, they did the bidding of their benefactors. These benefactors were the industry and RDO members.
So the question is if the new helpline is run by Kwikchex and the Timeshare Task Force, paid for by the RDO, how can it be independent and on the side of the consumer?
Have Trading Standards and other Authorities been taken in by them, the same way as Citizens Advice Bureau were taken in by TATOC?
Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to draw your own conclusions.
Over the weekend Inside Timeshare received an email from Javier Correa Guimerá, a Spanish lawyer who at one time worked with Miguel Ceballos the senior lawyer from CLA. Javier posts on various forums answering many question on timeshare matters.
His email referred to the articles published last week on the new fake law firm Amador Galeca Abogados, part of the Litigious Abogados family. He was commenting on the very strange names these so-called law firms use for their lawyers, he states they are not even Spanish, just by seeing the names he is sure it is a scam.
Another point he made was about the directors pleading guilty, asking where in this world would a timeshare company accept responsibility, willingly and pay up? He called it Absurd and nonsense!
In this we must agree with him, we have never heard of any timeshare company accepting any responsibility or pleading guilty, quite the contrary, they always seem to deny any wrongdoing. All we can say is Inside Timeshare has made extensive enquiries about all these firms, searched for the lawyers, checked the cases with the courts and not one has proved positive.
Over the past months we have been running articles which have highlighted the lack of a resale or secondary market on many timeshares, today we look at Marriott.
In Spain there is a company called Fab Timeshare Resales, it is a subsidiary of Fab Property based in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, the Managing Director is Julie Bett, who is an ex-regional director of sales for Marriott. According the website she has over 17 years experience in the timeshare industry.
The company was formed in 2012, the purpose was to help private individuals who wanted to sell their Marriott Vacation Club memberships, because MVC did not have a resales section for their European Resort members.
This is quite commendable, a resale company that is working by the rules, especially with the reputation resale has in Europe. The only problem, is one of price!
Looking at their website memberships are being offered for as little a 1000€, way below what was originally paid. According to Marriott’s own website, prices start at around $21,000, or about 17,000€, not a cheap purchase.
It is not just Marriott which has this problem, look at any resale prices, those which are priced higher are what the owner believes they can get (or want) for their timeshare. The reality is very different, ebay shows many timeshares listed with the owners unable to give them away, even when they are willing to pay the transfer fees.
Many sales agents during their pitch will talk about the timeshare being property, which as we know, property goes up in value, but all they are actually getting is a right to use. The purchaser owns nothing!
For years timeshare was sold as an investment, even though the timeshare directives set by the EU stated it should not be sold a such. This has actually in one respect given rise to the resale problem, purchasers have in their minds the price they paid and then the “promise” of it going up in value. Many of the bogus timeshare resale companies played on this, offering ridiculous prices just to draw the prospective seller in.
The fact there is a resale company out there which is working to the rules is commendable, but the prices reflect only only one thing, that what you purchased in the first place is nothing but promises, there is no actual value. All you own is a right to use some very lovely properties.
If you have any questions or comments about any article published, then contact Inside Timeshare and remember to do your homework before engaging with any company.
Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week Eron Grant submits her open letter to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association), for those in Europe that is the RDO. She explains her experience at the hands of a sales agent and asks why does ARDA have a code of ethics if these agents and resorts ignore it? Very good point, the same can be said of the RDO.
First a roundup of this week. For August it has been quite a full week for Inside Timeshare considering that the courts are closed so no news on that front. We began with the ongoing story of the fake law firms in operating out of Tenerife, yes, that family called Litigious Abogados, bit of a sorry story this one.
Unfortunately, the gentleman in question didn’t find our previous story in time, he was totally taken in by the documents and smooth legal talking of this crowd. It began with the usual pitch, that his timeshare company had a case against them ready to go to court and he could be part of it. He duly paid the initial Procurador fees, then a few weeks later he got the great news that he won the case and the court had awarded him thousands in compensation, brilliant!
Now it was only a matter of paying 20% of the award to the tax man to release the money, this done he was told his cheque was on the way. The envelope arrived with the court papers, but no cheque, the envelope had been opened and the cheque missing. After contacting the “Law Firm”, another company contacted him saying the court had appointed them to investigate and get his money back, apparently this Romanian gang had stolen the cheque and cashed it. Don’t worry, we will get the money back from the bank. First you have to pay us 10% of the amount.
Then in what can only be described as a further insult to injury, he was told he owed the property tax on a property he owned in Spain, his NIE Number had expired plus he had outstanding fines for a traffic offence. But we can sort this out for you and get the money released, for a fee.
This has lost him thousands of pounds and has caused him great stress. So beware, it may sound good and look genuine, but it rarely is.
On Tuesday, we published the ongoing story of Tauro Beach, the flagship project from Anfi, this time it was a couple of independent research journalists, Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer. In their article, published in the UK paper The Guardian, they investigated the importation of the sand for this man made beach, brought in from the Western Sahara in breach of UN sanctions and European Court of Justice rulings.
In this article we opened with news that the TATOC Help Line had closed, we also published a link to a very good in depth report on the importation of sand from Western Sahara and a little of the history from that region. This was written by Ed Timon Editor of The Canary News, an english language newspaper in Gran Canaria.
Yesterdays article was entitled, Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare, in this piece we showed that even old friends will attack each other for your money in this business. It told the story of a company owned by an ex manager of another company, who is now in the business of supposedly claiming compensation against his old employers. Unfortunately, his history and publicity is not as squeaky clean as he would like you to believe, we leave that to your judgement.
So on with this week’s letter.
Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?
Members are beginning to wonder
ARDA’s Answer from ARDA’s website
ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics.
The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.
By Eron Grant
August 4, 2017
Part I – My letter to ARDA
Part II – ARDA’s Code of Ethics
Part III – List of Inside Timeshare member articles that question the Code
My husband and I feel we have been deceived by Diamond Resorts International, and ask for your assistance in getting justice for our victimization.
In November of 2016 we stayed in one of DRI’s timeshare resorts in Sedona, AZ through our Interval International membership. While there we attended a DRI sales presentation. The hotel concierge gave our family of 4 a $150 gift card to a local restaurant for our thanksgiving meal, and in return we were to attend a 90-minute sales presentation. The presentation ended up lasting 6 hours, with our sales agent becoming agitated when we said we needed to leave due to my husband’s golf tee time. This violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics of “Information”.
The sales agent, Karen Calvano, empathized with us about our inability to stay in resorts unless located close to home which is in Houston, TX. She said she knew Interval International did not have many resorts in our area, but that DRI had many resorts, and we would certainly be able to find resorts in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. As it turned out, DRI’s resorts in our area are owned by affiliate resorts rather than DRI and costs approximately more points than we were sold. This violates ARDA’s “Exchange Program” in which we were over promised on the likelihood to exchange for Diamond’s inventory in our area.
When I looked on the Diamond member website recently, Diamond’s Great Wolf Lodge affiliate property in Texas was available for 26,911 to 66,467 points. If we multiply 26,911 by 20 cents which is the typical cost of maintenance fees, it would cost $5,382 for a one week stay. Booking.com had the same Family Suite available for the same week for $1,700. This is not an unusual scenario. I have searched various times throughout the year.
We attended DRI’s “Event of a Lifetime” in January, 2017 which we were told was our member orientation. The “orientation” turned into a high pressure sales presentation quickly with misleading information regarding redeeming our points for 30 cents per point if we paid to upgrade our membership to platinum. When my husband, Dr. Mark Grant, asked to see the price per point in writing, the sales agent pointed to his own written notes to show us that it was legitimate. My husband pointed out the documented literature which showed the amount at 10 cents per point, and the salesman quickly dismissed us to the next sales agent.
According to the ARDA Code of Ethics, this sales agent violated the ethics standard of “Avoidance of False and Deceptive Statements”.
Mr. Clements, as you can tell from the brief account I have written, we are in a rough situation with devious minded people who have not followed ARDA’s Code of Ethics, and should therefore be forced to let us out of our contractual agreement.
I am responding to your concerns regarding availability in Texas and Louisiana. While Diamond Resorts does not own or manage any properties in these states, we do have affiliate agreements with several resorts. These properties offer us limited inventory each year to offer to our members to book with their points. Inventory is typically limited, and prices are set by the properties themselves, and not by Diamond Resorts. These properties are offered on a first come, first served basis in addition to the Diamond Resorts properties covered under your contract.
Diamond Resorts does offer a property in New Mexico, the Villas de Santa Fe. If you would like assistance booking at this property, please let me know and I will be happy to assist.
My concerns with Karen Calvano stating “DRI has several resorts in TX, LA, and NM” is that when we asked her to show us the properties she said, “Oh we can’t do that right now, but we can do that later.” After 6 hours of being with her, we were exhausted and never did see the properties.
We explained that we are owners with Marriott and members of Interval International already, so affiliate properties through DRI really don’t help us. Plus, the value of your affiliate properties is ridiculous. How does this help us?
I would like for Mr. Clements or someone at Diamond to explain to me why this does not meet the definition of White Collar Crime: Deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. In my opinion, there is no doubt what we were offered and what we received meets this definition and violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics.
Ethics Code of the American Resort Development Association
adopted by the Board of Directors April 7, 2014
General Ethics Standards.
With respect to the sale, resale or marketing of a Vacation Interest, the Member shall:
Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer regarding the Vacation Interest and all material terms and conditions of the offer of a Vacation Interest.
Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer of all material terms and conditions of all other products offered contemporaneously with the Vacation Interest, including exchange programs, incidental benefits, financing, short-term products and exit programs.
Inside Timeshare has received complaints from many angry timeshare members, including Bluegreen members. Here are just a few of the many members who have contacted Inside Timeshare wanting their voices heard.
This is our DRI Advocacy Facebook page which respectable sales agents and corporate personnel are allowed to join. We hope the folks at Diamond, Bluegreen and ARDA will take the time to read member stories. We promise you will learn a lot.
We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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.
Thank you Eron Grant and Irene for this weeks contribution, these are your stories, they are published so you know what is going on in this murky world called timeshare. If you have a story you would like to share or have any comments Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.
If you have any questions or even need to know if you are dealing with a possible “scam” company, get in touch with us. Even if we don’t know the answer straight away we know where to look and can point you in the right direction. Remember it is better to be safe than sorry, doing your homework is essential, even more so in today’s timeshare world.
So it only leaves us to say, it’s Friday, have great weekend.
As the answer was NO, the court had no other option than to place TATOC in the hands of the Official Receiver.
This will be a big blow to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) who at the beginning of the year during the TATOC conference presented Harry Taylor with a cheque for $30,000 as a contribution for the TATOC helpline.
We have reported before that TATOC was not really on the side of the consumer, how could it be? It was funded by the very industry the consumer had problems with!
Just look at the relationship Harry Taylor and his TATOC team had with MacDonald Resorts, a company that even the RDO had not had any relationship with since 2005!
MacDonald Resorts pursued an aggressive policy of taking over fixed weeks, converting those owners to the points system, which even owners did not want. Harry Taylor ran a campaign stating that this was the best way forward, that it was in the best interests of the owners.
The question is how was it in the best interests of the owners? By changing to the points system from their fixed weeks, which gave them very strong rights, they effectively gave control of the resorts to MacDonald’s. Overnight they changed from being owners with the right to set maintenance fees, employ the management company and basically run their resort, to mere members with no rights whatsoever. Just the right to use subject to availability.
It now transpires that Kwikchex has set up a consumer helpline of their own, this has been announced by the RDO on 24 July. This seems to be part of the Timeshare Task Force, the question is how will this be independent advice considering that they are also funded by the RDO?
According to the RDO announcement this new consumer helpline will be offering assistance and advice about any company that is not an RDO member. What about offering assistance and advice about their own members, after all most of the problems are with the resorts and developers themselves.
The fact that owners / members who are having problems with their own resorts are left on their own as the RDO will not intervene in any dispute, this leaves those owners with nowhere to turn. This in itself leads to those unscrupulous companies to feed off the vulnerability of owners who either want to sell or just want to get out of their timeshare. The industry itself has created the “scam” market because of it’s own inability to deal with the issues, disputes and resale markets that owners need. Their own greed has been their downfall!
For years, timeshare has been sold, especially in Spain, with total disregard for the laws set in place to protect consumers, this has resulted in hundreds of court cases,along with Supreme Court rulings enforcing the laws that they have themselves flouted. Only last week, a recent ex-member of the RDO, Resort Properties / Silverpoint had five rulings against them in one day.
The RDO themselves have backed up the resorts against these rulings, believing that the judges have interpreted the law incorrectly, (see link).
If the industry is to survive, it needs to change how it operates, it needs to listen to the concerns of the owners / members, the very consumers who pay for it, not just chase those companies bogus or legitimate who decline to join their little club. After all, why would law firms such as Canarian Legal Alliance or JCLA & AS pay for membership when it is those members they are taking to court?
We have said this on many occasions, timeshare could be a good product, many have had many happy years of ownership, especially with those resorts that valued their custom. One has to only look at recent events at Los Claveles, for years those owners had no complaint, until Wimpen sold out their management rights to the ONA Group, then it really turned nasty.
The time for change is now, the industry cannot police itself, it is self serving, the likes of Kwikchex running a consumer helpline in the interests of the industry is a farce. There are very few places consumers can turn for truly independent and valuable advice, it has become an even bigger minefield.
If you have any questions or concerns about any timeshare matter, contact Inside Timeshare, if we don’t know the answer we will find it for you. These pages are read worldwide, we are bringing owners together from the USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines adding more as we go, through their articles and contributions you will find you are not as alone as you think.
Back in January, Inside Timeshare published Irene Parker’s article “Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump”, This was at the time of the now President Trump’s inauguration. In the introduction, we broke the news to our US readers of the plans Mr Trump had going through planning in Scotland, for a second golf course and the increase in the number of timeshare apartments.
This apparently came as a big surprise to our American readers, it would seem they had no idea that he was also involved in “timeshare”.
Below are three links to two major UK daily newspapers, the last link is around 9 months old, but shows the opposition that Mr, now President Trump faced from local people. In this particular article is the story of a quarryman who refused to sell his home to Trump, who described him as a “disgrace” for not wanting to sell him his “pigsty of a home”. I don’t know about you, but in the UK and especially in Scotland that type of remark about someone’s home is a total insult.
It seems a good time to revisit my $7 “voluntary” donation to ARDA-ROC. The word voluntary has a nice ring to it so for years when paying our maintenance fees, if I was asked if I would like to make the voluntary donation to ARDA-ROC, I said, “Sure.” Since then I have learned too much to ever answer in the affirmative again, unless proven wrong.
Like it or not, timeshare is all about politics. President Trump, or his family, is going into the timeshare business. Pictured to the left of President Elect Trump is long-standing friend David Siegel, owner of Westgate timeshare. Given the current political climate it would not surprise me if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau halted their investigation of Westgate. The CFPBwas spearheaded by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. That’s the organization that helped the Wells Fargo victims.
As Charles Thomas of Inside Timeshare previously reported,
“Well it is actually quite simple for those in Scotland, back in 2008 there were some very heated debates over Mr Trump’s plan to build an 18 hole golf course and resort in Balmedie Aberdeenshire. This met with considerable resistance from the local people, but eventually Trump won through.
The original plan was to build a 450-room hotel, a second golf course, 500 luxury homes and 900 timeshare apartments along with a second 18 hole golf course. In a recent article in The Guardian newspaper these plans now intend to double the number of homes and timeshare apartments”
Whether you are or were for or against now President Trump, it is clear he is on the side of the timeshare developer which has become a battlefield pitting owners against developers.
Now to our main attraction:
What is ARD-ROC doing today?
A breakdown for soundbite reading and request for more information:
In a perfect world the only thing ARDA-ROC would be doing today would be writing checks, sitting back and relaxing. But, it’s not a perfect world and so a typical day for Chairman Ken McKelvey goes something like this:
It is a Thursday and McKelvey started his day discussing a new wrinkle in the South Carolina transfer legislation that ARDA-ROC has been proposing.
I believe this is South Carolina House Bill 3647 tightening the language of timeshare transfers. In our last article we reported how the nature of the perpetual contract, rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market spells a disaster for aging original owners if denied a voluntary surrender.
This does sound like a benefit for owners because an extra $300 slapped onto an exchange seems exorbitant.
The day before was loaded with details regarding a Saint Maarten Parliament Timeshare Ordinance and its potential impact on consumers.I know nothing about the Saint Maarteen Parliament Timeshare Ordinance but it sounds ominous.
Along with a final draft of legislature in Florida regarding the sunset clause to help legacy properties gain reasonable voting requirements to extend into the timeshare agreements into the future. Whew.
And he’s just a volunteer who is happy it is not Monday.
The ongoing operations of ARDA-ROC is both reactive and proactive; on one hand they react to any proposed legislature, dealing with real estate or tourism proposed laws that have any tentacles that could possibly affect timeshare and on the other hand they write and lobby for legislature that could help timeshare owners.
This lobby effort sparked outrage among owner advocates. Did my $7 go to this effort?
“The bills (House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 932) have been sponsored by two politicians from Central Florida — deep in the heart of time-share country: Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.
Both politicians have received money from time-share interests — an industry that showers cash on Florida politicians and committees, including $300,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $150,000 to the Democrats,” reported Scott Maxwell for the Orlando Sentinel.
Throughout the year, ARDA-ROC has lobbyists on retainer in up to 25 states, and territories, and who according to McKelvey “we HOPE the only thing we ever hear from them is an invoice.”
These lobbyists monitor and pick through every piece of proposed legislature with a fine tooth comb, seeking things that are rarely specifically spelled out to say timeshare, but could be interpreted to have grand impact on it.
The “fine tune comb” can be seen in the Nevada State Bill 195 that would have allowed an Association Board to terminate its management contract (the most important and costly agreement a board oversees), issued to them by the developer, without obtaining a majority owner vote – an impossible effort. ARDA-ROC identified the change and successfully lobbied to have it removed. This was clearly an owner friendly provision the industry did not support. Lobbyists (of ARDA and ARDA ROC, they use the terms loosely and interchangeably) suggested (vaguely and without discussion despite being an absurd assertion) the original language was “intended to protect timeshare owners” and should not be changed.
As we reported in our article of 16 March 2016, Alberto Garcia had attacked many firms with false allegations, all at the behest of the RDO in its bid to discredit any company who was not a member of that organisation.
During his time working as “The Enforcer” (sounds like something from a hollywood film) this ex-police inspector falsified allegations and used his connections to discredit, have arrested and destroy innocent people. All under the guise of protecting the consumers of the timeshare industry, an industry that itself is doing nothing for the consumer apart from causing many financial burdens and stress.
This can be seen in the number of cases being won against RDO members in all the courts in Spain. The Supreme Court itself has made 46 rulings against these RDO members, yet nothing is said or done to change what the industry is doing. In fact the RDO backs up the claims from the likes of Silverpoint and Anfi that the laws are wrong and that these eminent judges are wrong in their interpretation of the law.
The RDO´s enforcement programme has been discredited, mindtimeshare has been discredited, Alberto Garcia has vanished (not that anyone had ever seen him, with this the only photo found).
Another name that tries to imply it is a “legal law enforcement entity”. This time it is being coordinated by Kwikchex, a company owned by Chris Emmins, which claims to be a “Worldwide Reputational Management” company, which is only around 6 years old.
Mr Emmins, has a very long history as a director, having resigned fro 4 directorships, and held 17 appointments at 17 companies which have all been dissolved. It is also alleged that these dissolved companies have left a debt of over £500,000 to creditors. Not a very auspicious record! (see link to previous article)
It is also believed that Chris Emmins was the only tender for the contract to run the new “Timeshare Task Force”.
Again, it is designed to fool the public into believing that only the RDO can be believed, that when Kwikchex does its so-called verification process, it is doing so as a legal right. Any company not subjecting themselves to their questioning will receive negative comments on the KwikchexTimeshare Business Check website. No company is legally obliged to answer their questions, there is no legal reason why they should, let alone have to join the RDO in order to conduct business.
Ask yourself the question, why would, say a law firm engaged in suing the timeshare industry want to join the industry trade body?
Why would they pay the organisation the membership fees to be accredited as “legitimate”, when it is those members who are flouting the timeshare laws?
These are questions for you the reader to decide the answer.
We also recently published the article on 6 February “The battle Lines have been Drawn”, we reported about the problems of TATOC and Harry Taylor. Since then we have received information of a major falling out between TATOC and the RDO, with RDO members withdrawing membership or reducing their contributions. In another twist to this story, it has been reported from the US that the American Resorts Development Association (ARDA) President and CEO Howard Nusbaum, will be speaking at the March Conference. We have also been told that this organisation will be contributing substantial funds to TATOC, apparently much to the consternation of the RDO.