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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, but before we start the article, a quick update on A K Advisory Limited. As we have reported this is just one company contacting Eze Group clients, saying they can get their money back for a £725 upfront fee, one of our readers has informed us of the “ESCROW” account and the name of the recipient that it should be paid into, these are the details.

The BACS  account is a Lloyds TSB account, Number 37871668, Sort Code 77-13-11, Name of account holder Mr Connor Baker.

This company along with all the others is a fraud, do not pay them anything, you will not get your money back.

Now for todays Letter from America.

It is unlikely Arizona Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, quoted below, will bother to read the reports from some of the 80 Platinum members who have been financially devastated because they believed in timeshare programs they say did not exist. Today’s Inside Timeshare describes some of the members financially devastated. We hope timeshare members will recognize how ARDA ROC lobbyists spent some of members’ $5 million in annual $3 to $10 opt-out “donations” and recognize that this organization is not the voice of 1.8 million timeshare members. The comments below from lobbyists and pro-industry lawmakers are appalling.

At least the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Howard Fischer, a journalist for the Daily Courier, understand. What chance does the consumer have if ARDA and the developers will not even heed the advice of an Attorney General. As we have previously explained, there are many ways to dodge a rescission period. Tuesday’s Secret Shopper explained how easy it is to bait and switch the unsuspecting. Just how out of touch can those in authority be. Imagine how you would react if you learned minutes after the rescission period that you experienced fraud, reading,

“the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.

From The Daily Courier

Lobbied by the industry, state lawmakers are not going to help those who bought timeshares get out from under what is often a lifetime obligation.

https://www.dcourier.com/news/2019/apr/16/opt-out-provisions-timeshare-bill-no-longer-table/?fbclid=IwAR2cs4PdvFFqQVlvUd_I5-DxOSOUl5U59w_KVEYs1jchViitMMLYzz6PRx0

“We’re disappointed that the timeshare industry killed a lot of the pro-consumer parts of this bill,” said Katie Connor, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office.

“They’ve got a lobbying presence here and around the country,” added Amanda Rusing who lobbies for the office. “It was very disappointing to have to remove all of the stronger, pro-consumer provisions.”

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said the legislation, which now awaits a roll-call vote, does include some additional requirements for what needs to be disclosed to prospective buyers.

“At some point, these are adults that come to a meeting of the minds and want to sign a contract,” Ugenti-Rita said, saying that buyers have some responsibility to know exactly what they are signing.

While the industry claims that “points” are no different than a deed, simply with more flexibility, consumers have noted that points appear to have no intrinsic value because they can’t be resold, making memberships that were purchased for hundreds of thousands of dollars essentially worthless on the resale market.

“Their value comes from using it,” the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.

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.

Timeshare Insider

Save the Date! Our next Platinum 80 Protest is May 17 – 20

Two Locations:

Friday, May 17 near the Florida DBPR Office

Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19 near Disney World

You don’t need to be Platinum to Join Us!

Protesting Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

By Platinum Protest Organizers

Friday, April 19, 2019

When we protested in March in Las Vegas, where we represented 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members alleging that we had been intentionally targeted for our loyalty and deliberately up-sold into insolvency. Since then we have grown to 80 Platinum members, many similar if not identical complaints. We believed in programs to pay maintenance fees that do not exist. Others say they were told if they purchased additional points, they would be able to sell points. According to Diamond, we are all confused. We are all educated professionals.

As reported at a legislative workshop in Tallahassee, Florida March 12,

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.

Ms Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”  

Based on these numbers, a sales agent can say anything to sell points. At least let the consumer know they should not believe a word a sales agent says. Reading the contract doesn’t always help. Members are often not allowed onto a booking site until after the rescission period has passed.   

The status of 80 Platinum member complaints:

  • 26 Resolved their Diamond dispute so won’t be protesting. Resolved doesn’t mean people didn’t lose a lot of money,
  • 21 Unresolved,
  • 9 Foreclosed with one senior Navy veteran filing for bankruptcy,
  • 18 Unknown outcome because we don’t call to find out what happened,
  • 4 Relinquished which meant they lost everything.
  • 2 In litigation.

Diamond points sell for around $4 a point. Platinum members own a minimum of 50,000 points. In 2018 maintenance fees had increased to $8,631. Out of the 80 Platinum complaints, 42 members report that they were told of maintenance fees relief programs that they later learned did not exist and 16 specifically say they were told they could pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point.

Only Platinum loyalty members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per points so if a member turned in 50,000 points, redeemed at $.04 per point, it would mean they would be credited $2,000 towards a maintenance fee bill of $8,631 with no points left to travel. Members report that when they file a complaint, the hospitality agent responds describing a legitimate 30/30 program that offers travel discounts. This program has nothing to do with paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point.  

Inside Timeshare told us they do not link prior articles if the complaint has been resolved, but given Platinum complaints are increasing, they said they would allow us to link articles published by 14 of the 80 Platinum members even though some have resolved. They resolved, but not without endless rebuttals and regulatory filings. When you read our 130-page summary report – reports from educated professions who don’t know each other, all reporting similar to identical complaints, it’s unlikely a reader would conclude all our reports are falsehoods.  

We have added the Lusk family to our list of 81, even though they did not submit their complaint through Inside Timeshare. Their experience was published in USA Today. As reported by Rebekah L Sander for the Arizona Republic, Frank and Betty Lusk are retired Christian missionaries, nearly 90 years old. Annual maintenance fees are $19,000.

He told the Lusks buying another $150,000 timeshare with 10 per cent down was “life insurance” that would resolve any debts they had with the resort when they died, a promise they repeatedly questioned, Betty said. The timeshare contract they received is not life insurance and does not pay off debts upon death.

https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/3310015002

Following are 14 articles submitted by our Platinum 80 members:

Article 1 published April 12, 2019 Platinum member #80

The timeshare member is single, over 70 years old. From 2015 to 2018 the member was ping-ponged back and forth seven timeshare times told, “You should not have bought Hawaii points,” and then “You should not have bought US Mainland points,” until up-sold into insolvency. The member has lost their entire retirement savings that were worth almost $400,000. The member also suffered tax consequences due to liquidating a retirement asset.

Since we published the article, the family learned she was only switched back and forth five times over six transactions. These histories can be a nightmare to piece together, worse than your worst tax return.

Article 2 was published by Consumer Affairs March 29, 2019 Platinum #57/80

The FBI website is tricky. One of our three FBI helpers helped Diane through the intricacies of the FBI filing website IC3.gov. It starts off confusing asking if you want to report Terrorism, Missing child or Internet Crime.

Diane’s father had asked Diamond to take back a fully paid timeshare when he was 85 years old. They said no. He was sold five additional contracts between the ages of 85 to 88.

Diamond Resorts still can’t explain why it sold $250,000 worth of timeshare points to an 88-year-old

In late December, Diane Burkhart sent a complaint to the FBI describing how her 88-year-old father agreed to purchase $250,000 worth of timeshare points over the course of 18 months, from 2016 until late 2017. In 2018, he was diagnosed with dementia. He is now 89 and living in a nursing home, Burkhart says. His wife passed away last May.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/diamond-resorts-still-cant-explain-why-it-sold-250000-worth-of-timeshare-points-to-an-88-year-old-032919.html

Article 3 is by Platinum Protestor Patty Boyak Valentine’s Day 2019 #28/80

Patty’s Las Vegas sales agent was recorded defrauding a disabled veteran in 2017. That family was interviewed January 2018, at which time they provided to Inside Timeshare a copy of the highly disturbing recording. An interview Inside Timeshare conducted with the couple was sent to Diamond’s attorney. The dispute was swiftly resolved, but instead of firing this agent, Patty met him October 2018. He introduced himself as a Platinum Specialist. Patty purchased her last contract from him. Just recently Inside Timeshare has heard from a third member sold by the same agent, the husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and English is his wife’s second language. The family is financially devastated.

The very first complaint Inside Timeshare received in 2016 was about being told buying additional points would relive maintenance fees.  

At their last stay at a Diamond Resorts International resort in August 2015, Sylvia Saldana said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve platinum level, which is 50,000 points (Remember they owned 30,000 points). The sales agent explained that by being platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees, Sylvia Saldana said.  https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-on-thursday/

Patty’s Miracle Mile Protest in March article (pictured above)

Article 4 was submitted by a 100% disabled Army veteran. He was issued a 1099C for $170,000. His is one of now 21 complaints directed against the same sales agent. At least following the advice we provided to his CPA, he successfully disputed the phantom income.

This former Diamond member says DRI sales agent Rick Casper, working out of Polo Towers in Las Vegas, told him to buy more Diamond vacation points to eliminate maintenance fees. He and his wife wanted to talk to someone at DRI because they were struggling to pay maintenance fees on the 50,000 DRI points they already owned. This member is a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran, having been exposed to Agent Orange. The former member did not contact us to complain about Diamond Resorts. He wanted to know if there was anything that could be done about 1099. I did ask why he purchased additional timeshare points from Rick Casper, given Inside Timeshare has received 11 identical complaints about the same Las Vegas sales agent over an 18 month period.   

In 2016 we went to Las Vegas and stayed at Diamond’s Cancun resort and met with Rick Casper. Mr Casper said if we upgraded, we would be able to cover maintenance fees. However, maintenance fees increased after the upgrade to $16,000 a year. After five hours, my blood sugar was at 400. I was recovering from congestive heart failure. Rick Casper said it would cost us $198,000, $2500 a month in payments for the next 10 years but after ten years we would have no maintenance fees and no loan payment. Rick Casper said, “Then the little people will be paying for your vacation.” He said it would take a year to a year and a half to set up but he would personally handle it. He said since we were only paying $3, he had a guy that could sell points for much more than that and the proceeds would pay for the maintenance fees. I ended up paying a company in Branson MO $1500 to get out of this, but now the IRS has issued us a 1099 which has to be claimed as income. It’s for around $170,000. I’m now 71 years old. I would have been better off foreclosing.

Article 5 is by Gad Liebmann and his wife Noreen. They have been protesting outside Daytona for a year. They have had to stop protesting because Noreen was injured in a fall. They are both Army veterans and have many foster children.


From left, Noreen, Irene, a good Samaritan holding sign for Gad and Don

One of the Diamond sales agents told them they should be greeters at Walmart to help pay maintenance fees. Their complaint is identical to Sheilah Brust’s complain. Sheilah and Gad were sold by the same agent. Sheilah attended a presentation as a Secret Shopper and was told this agent was a problem at Wyndham.

Article 6 is Sheilah’s article. The article is called “Sheilah’s Pencil Pitch”

Sheilah is in possession of her “Pencil Pitch” which clearly states $8,631 minus $8,631 = 0 on the first page. There is an arrow and “save” written on the paper. At first, DBPR dismissed Sheilah with, “We don’t know if you were given this paper or you took it.” Sheilah was astonished. The last Sheilah heard from the reviewer is that she didn’t understand the program either until Diamond’s attorney explained it. That alone should have been grounds for dismissal. Here’s the first page of the pencil pitch. Sheilah was impressed her agent could write this upside down.

Article 7 is by Angela Simmons Sandstede. Her dad is one of those switched back and forth between Hawaii and US Mainland programs like the single female described in Article 1.

Roy is a retired letter carrier and Navy veteran, up-sold to $2.700 a month in loan payments. He had been charging loan payments to credit cards. The family had to retain a bankruptcy attorney. They are in their 70s. They had maintained a  high credit score before this.

Roy’s YouTube and March 6, 2018 article:

Article 8 This PhD trained the sales force for Perkin Elmer.

They are caregivers for two grandchildren, one autistic, one Down’s syndrome. They relinquished, losing everything.

Article 9 Filipino seniors with a previous high credit score foreclosed.

Article 10 – An executive VP posted one rental ad on RedWeek, despite hundreds of ads to rent on RedWeek.

Their account was suspended and it was demanded she pay $2,400 a month in loan payments and a $23,000 annual maintenance fee while her account was suspended.

Article 11- These seniors are foreclosed, the husband has Bell’s palsy

We were told “We are real estate agents. You can write off the interest paid and closing costs on these contracts because it is like real estate.” They said the proof was because they have real estate licenses. They are licensed real estate agents, but what they told us was not true. Our accountant said we were not allowed to take any deductions. We were told we had to buy that day so we could not talk to our accountant.

Article 12 This family did not know until they returned home they had purchased $142,000 in timeshare points, $17,000 charged to a Barclaycard.

Their attorney gave up. They submitted this article for comment and resolved their dispute that day. He is a Gulf War veteran, on 25 meds. She has had two knee replacements and a double mastectomy.

Article 13 A 21 year Army veteran, taught biological, chemical and nuclear defence at colleges.

Today we thank Samuel Melendez who spent 21 years in the army training soldiers, working with colleges, teaching chemical, biological and nuclear defence. When a military family is forced into foreclosure because they were lied to about being able to sell back points or finance at a lower rate, they don’t just lose their money. This can jeopardize their security clearance and their job.  

Article 14, A Coast Guard veteran, relinquished so lost all.

Rick Casper told us we should contact him when we needed to sell points because he had people that would buy them. This was the only reason we upgraded from 30,000 points to 50,000 points. When we contacted Rick earlier this year, we learned from Dan Percy (Rick Casper’s immediate boss) that we could not have been told that and we might be able to sell them through a resale third party. We never heard a response from Rick Casper.”

“In addition, we asked Rick about combining our seven previous contracts into one contract covering all 50,000 points. Rick Casper (allegedly) advised us not to do so as it would be easier to sell smaller quantities of points and inferred he could do so easier having contracts in increments, as when someone wants to upgrade from Gold to Platinum requiring only 20,000 additional points.”

“The thought of being able to sell was a relief.”

These are only a few of the Platinum complaints. We have heard from exactly 700 families as of today. We wish there were only a few bad apples, but Inside Timeshare says they have received multiple repeat offender complaints.

St. Louis BBB report warning consumers about timeshare

Don’t Fall for Deception Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

We hope you can join us on May 17 – 20! We will publish exact locations soon.

Our Mission Statement

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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; 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/

That is it for this week, we look forward to hearing your report on the protests next month and for those who cannot attend we will be there in spirit.

Inside Timeshare would also like to share this little gem from Mahatma Gandhi, it is for Irene Parker, who as we know is under attack from the industry big guns, you have our support Irene.

Have a great Easter weekend and join us again next week for more news and views on the murky world of the timeshare industry.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, over the past few weeks we have been publishing various articles on Bills which may have a detrimental effect on timeshare consumers. This week Irene Parker shares how she sees the legislation being proposed.

A Legislative Scorecard – Nevada Florida and Arizona

How to Connect Lobby Dots

By Irene Parker

April 12, 2019

VOTE “OPPOSED” TO NEVADA SB 348 UNLESS THE BILL IS AMENDED TO OFFER TIMESHARE BUYERS (NOT JUST THOSE RETAINING EXIT SERVICES), 24 HOURS TO REVIEW A TIMESHARE CONTRACT.

Review means an offer to be able to review a contract 24 hours before signing.

This offer should not be buried in fine print. Timeshare buyers who wished to waive the requirement could do so.

Rescission Period means the 3 to 10 days a member has to review after signing.

Nevada has an easy method to comment on the legislation. Select SB 348 and oppose the bill unless amended to allow a timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a contract:

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/

Why would the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), an industry-supported PAC, and ARDA ROC, (Resort Owners Coalition), be so opposed to offering timeshare buyers 24 hours to think about their decision to sign a perpetual contract with little to no secondary market?

A recent complaint received by Inside Timeshare:

The timeshare member is single, over 70 years old. From 2015 to 2018 the member was ping-ponged back and forth seven timeshare times told, “You should not have bought Hawaii points,” and then “You should not have bought US Mainland points,” until up-sold into insolvency. The member has lost their entire retirement savings that were worth almost $400,000. The member also suffered tax consequences due to liquidating a retirement asset.

The timeshare member identified six timeshare sales agents, of which five are repeat offenders, names well known to Inside Timeshare. The sixth is an up-and-comer who up-sold the senior in Hawaii at a prior update. On a subsequent visit to Hawaii, a family member accompanied the senior to a March 2019 “mandatory” meeting. The sales agent informed the senior that there is going to be a huge Special Assessment in the US program so the member needed to switch back to Hawaii from the US program for the eighth time in four years. If agreed to, this would have cost the senior over $60,000, pushing the loss to more than $400,000. The sales agent also told the family member and the timeshare member that he has a broker they could retain to rent and get money back and at some point in time, the points could be sold back. They added that purchasing these additional points would also allow the member to use points to pay maintenance fees.

I am 100% confident the timeshare company will tell the member that they signed a contract. They will file a complaint with the Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED). NRED will provide the senior with a “You have no proof” letter.

ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson has been quoted, “The state should not be concerned with those who did not bother to understand the product.”

I wish the member’s story was unusual. At the Florida legislative workshop and at the Arizona hearing, lawmakers themselves reported how they had experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

An overlooked Nevada bill:  

Nevada Assembly Bill 438: Vacation and Timeshare Plans

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6835/Text

An OPC is a bird dog, if you will, hanging out at strategic locations, offering incentives to hear about something. NV AB 438 has no single sponsor. Many times I heard a member complain that they were not told it was a timeshare presentation. Nevada Assembly Bill 348 is an act relating to timeshare, providing the following:

Section 1 states:

1. The Administrator may impose a fine or suspend, revoke, reissue, subject to conditions, or deny the renewal of the registration of any representative if the representative has, by false or fraudulent application or representation, obtained a registration or is found guilty of (a) Making a material misrepresentation; (b) Making any false promises of a character likely to influence, persuade or induce another person to attend a timeshare presentation; (d) Must disclose that the promotion is for solicitation of timeshares.   

Florida HB 435: GENERAL BILL sponsored by freshman Representative Wyman Duggan profiled on LobbyTools.

Effective Date: 7/1/2019

At a Florida legislative workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee, the Florida Attorney General’s spokesperson admitted Florida received 1600 timeshare complaints annually in recent years, 700 so far this year, the bulk concerning the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors. “We engaged 42, mostly about resales,” they added.

This is good news for perpetrators as they can be assured oral representation will be dismissed, despite a volume and pattern of complaints.

Arizona ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson assured those who attended the Arizona HB 2639 hearing that unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices are minimal because Arizona only received 250 complaints in a year arguing that allowing a buyer 24 hours to review a perpetual contract is not necessary.

The Arizona House Bill 2639 was aimed at alleviating unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The bill included allowing a timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a perpetual contract. ARDA was able to get this item in the bill thrown out.

I wrote “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders” so members foreclosed can explain to their lender how when “pitched heat” by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents, they can lose $100,000 or more in a week, one second after the rescission period ends because the resort can fall back on the oral representation clause. By their own admission, Florida’s timeshare division DBPR will fall back on it too.  https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

From AZ HB 2639

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.

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. 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, according to our 800 readers.  

When timeshare members receive their maintenance fee invoices, they are asked to make a $3 to $10 donation to ARDA ROC. 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.

Timeshare members that have contacted Inside Timeshare are not trying to weasel out of their contracts because they can’t afford them. They allege unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Our readers include doctors, lawyers, two private investigators, mortgage loan officers, professors, MBAs, war heroes, law enforcement professionals, criminologists (one a PhD), a detective who worked economic crimes under cover, and a contract specialist for ConEd, all alleging unfair and timeshare sales practices. What chance has the vulnerable?

All we ask is make it a level playing field, by providing disclosure, alerting the consumer – you cannot believe a word timeshare sale agents say because they could be “pitching heat.” Unscrupulous sales agents also harm honest sales agents trying to sell the product honestly. We’ve heard from a lot of them.       

The American Legislative Exchange Council

The reporter in this YouTube describes how lobbyists sit at the table with legislators filling in the blanks crafting desired bills tailored to their wishes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MHYOB5uptc

Our volunteers answer questions about regulatory filings when members complain of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Many members have resolved disputes by filing regulatory complaints. Too many families have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare, a product advertised to reduce stress.

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

Other related articles:

Arizona HB 2639

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

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/diamond-resorts-still-cant-explain-why-it-sold-250000-worth-of-timeshare-points-to-an-88-year-old-032919.html

https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/3310015002

Thank you Irene, all we can hope for is that these Bills do not get through, timeshare consumers need protection not just from unscrupulous resale and exit companies but also from the industry as a whole. We have often stated that timeshare could be a good product, but as we know it is the way it is sold and the unfair conditions consumers have to put up with that are the problem.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare.

Start the Week

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.

Chris Emmins

So who do the consumers have to turn to?

At one time many believe that it was TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, but as we know that organisation has fallen by the wayside. It was also funded by the industry and the then CEO Harry Taylor instead of protecting timeshare consumers was very much on the side of the industry.

Recently the RDO announced a new organisation for owners, EUROC, or European Resort Owners Coalition. Yes, you have guessed it, the European equivalent of ARDA ROC from the US.

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.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker replaces the original article scheduled for today with her take on Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run by Women Who Money.

Latest news on the Nevada SB 348, the bill has been pulled possibly for a couple of weeks, this is due to the efforts of consumers. From our efforts 35 timeshare members posted comments, lets keep this going and increase that number to 350!

Unless timeshare buyers are given 24 hours to review a contract as ARDA is demanding from timeshare exit providers, we will continue to see consumers being pressured into purchasing there and then. As they say, what is good for the goose, is good for the Gander.

In the lawsuit against Marriott Vacation Club, a Florida Judge has sustained central claims in the class action against Marriott and their points based system. According to the article (see link below), “Consumer Deeds are invalid because they lack any cognizable legal description of a real property interest being conveyed as required by Florida law.”

https://www.nyrealestatelawblog.com/manhattan-litigation-blog/2019/april/florida-judge-sustains-central-claims-in-suit-ag/?fbclid=IwAR2wlVr8NIPBZj9Mcg8vVQI7_yHJvTHkIWTU4NdT9XEC8QANg0rfR9wmZrs#.XKZAISFvVH0.facebook

This is very similar to the reasons that points and floating weeks systems have been deemed illegal under Spanish timeshare law, they lack any substance, allowing only for the right of use, subject to availability.

Could this be the start of points based systems becoming illegal in the US, well we shall have to wait and see. Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Women Who Money

Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?

What Timeshare Regulations?

By Irene Parker

April 5, 2019

I enjoyed reading “Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?” published by Women Who Money.  I agree with the article’s major points, with the exception of the author’s comment about “regulations being in place to protect timeshare consumers.” Having heard from timeshare members how easy it is for a timeshare sales agent to dodge a contract rescission period, I wonder if there is any foolproof way to prevent being scammed. Some things, like actual availability, cannot be discerned by reading the contract. Also, my contract said, “You can sell your points. We will not assist you.” The part about no buyers was left out.  

House, Senate and Assembly Bills are flying across the country. On Tuesday we published a summary of proposed legislation and asked timeshare members to oppose Nevada Senate Bill 348, unless it can be amended to say timeshare buyers will be allowed 24 hours to review a contract, not just contracts with exit service providers.

There is no need to propose a bill requiring those who seek to buy a car be allowed 24 hours before signing a contract. Typically when buying a car, you shop, and a tag team of three against two doesn’t gang up on you for hours. We ask timeshare members to voice their opinion on NV SB 348 following the link in Tuesday’s article. Timeshare buyers should be at least offered 24 hours before signing a contract.

Timeshares are regulated by states. Since timeshare buyers typically buy a timeshare in a state other than their state of residence, lawmakers have little incentive to react to non-constituents. Lawmakers need to listen to those who bought a timeshare in their state, not just those who reside in their state. While some state Attorneys General seem to be on the side of the consumer, other states follow the mantra, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

I found the Woman Who Money article, “Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?” on Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Crusader blog. Having worked in the industry for years, Lisa’s knowledge brings a lot to the table.

From Women Who Money   

Regulations now exist to help protect consumers from high-pressure sales tactics. If you buy a timeshare and quickly regret it, you may have options for getting out of the signed contract.

The most important things you can do if you’re considering a timeshare purchase is to take time to read every word in the contract. You’re given a mandated legal rescission period ranging from 3-10 days.

https://womenwhomoney.com/timeshares-worth-money/?fbclid=IwAR0bYNP97–z3c_zLuiKII59MamwEsSaCA6exdi6GdNOspnL26F88c09eeg

Timeshare expert and author of Timeshare for Dummies Lisa Ann Schreier agrees:

“While it is true that each state has a legally mandated rescission period, the fact of the matter is that 99% of purchasers will not read the contract within that time frame. The days of relying on the sales person for good, solid information are over. Consumers must go into these timeshare sales pitches armed with a litany of questions and be prepared to walk out without purchasing anything if they don’t receive answers that can be pointed out within the contract.”

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/

My husband and I used and enjoyed our timeshare for 25 years with no complaints, questions or Facebook posts. The points-based product does offer greater flexibility and the elimination of additional fees imposed by exchange companies. We’re not saying timeshare isn’t good for many, and there are not honest sales agents, but I am convinced, in speaking with timeshare members, current and former sales agents, managers and even an executive or two, “pitching heat” is on the upswing. Having sold everything from pianos to Charitable Remainder Trusts, I have never encountered a term as revolting as “pitching heat” as the industry itself describes the employment of unfair and deceptive sales practices.

Timeshare buyers should record their timeshare sales sessions in one-party states where legal. I would recommend not buying a timeshare in a two-party state. If you can’t record your presentation, proof will be hard to come by. One of our Supporters, Sheila Brust, has in her possession her “Pencil Pitch” that clearly denoted:

$8,631

-8,631

0

There was an arrow pointing to 0 and the word “saved,” indicating she would be able to cover all her maintenance fees using a program that unfortunately did not exist. A second buyer who bought from the same sales agent was also dismissed by the Florida timeshare reviewer. The Florida reviewer told Sheilah that she did not understand the program either until she spoke with the company attorney. What chance does the average consumer have if a Florida timeshare reviewer, who has reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of timeshare contracts, did not understand the program until she spoke with the company attorney?

“Hear no evil, see no evil” seems the norm in some states. As far as proof, 78 Platinum members, who don’t know each other, reported similar to identical complaints, often against repeat offender sales agents. I’m told that constitutes proof as it is a good faith investigation and a reasonable conclusion.  At the very least if Florida demands proof, make Florida a one party state.

Contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help group if you have questions or concerns about your timeshare.

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 for coming up with today’s article at such short notice.

Do you have any comments or views on any article published, if so use our contact page and let us know, we welcome your views.

Have you a problem with your timeshare, you don’t know where to turn or who to trust, again use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction. Remember there are many bogus companies out there, promising the earth and delivering nothing, do your homework before engaging with any company.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, today we look again at the Nevada Senate Bill 348, with the introduction by Irene Parker and comments from Michael Kosor. Once again it looks like the industry is moving to protect itself rather than the consumer, yet the problem is one of their own making.

In Europe a new organisation has been created, EUROC, yes, it is the European version of ARDA ROC, it is being funded by ARDA and RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) Europe’s timeshare trade body. EUROC is being set up to replace the discredited TATOC, which closed down in 2017. Once again it is a smokescreen to give consumers the illusion of having a voice. According to the press information, the two organisations behind it are only going to fund it for a year, after that it should be self sufficient, well, we shall wait and see.

URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE

If You Bought a Timeshare in Nevada and Experienced Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

Nevada Needs to Hear From You

The Next Timeshare Legislative Battle is April 5 in Nevada

Nevada Senate Bill 348 is an identical Bill that follows Florida HB 435

Nevada SB 348:  https://legiscan.com/NV/text/SB348/id/1965282

Introduction by Irene Parker

Comments by Nevada resident and Timeshare Advocate Michael Kosor

April 2, 2019

As part of Nevada SB 348, the timeshare lobby ARDA has proposed that timeshare members seeking exit services wait 24 hours before a timeshare member signs a timeshare exit service provider contract. Given the volume of complaints concerning fraudulent timeshare sales, if anyone needs 24 hours to “sleep on it,” it is the timeshare buyer. Buyers typically sign a perpetual timeshare contract with little to no secondary market. When deceived, contracts signed for even $100,000 or more are worth nothing seconds after the rescission period.  We previously reported how easily a sales agent can dodge the rescission period.

Some states, like Arizona, understand the plight of timeshare victims, especially if lawmakers themselves experienced deceit. The reverse is true in Nevada. Many of the 779 complaints Inside Timeshare received were directed against Nevada sales centers. The Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED) dismissed all with a “You have no proof” letter. It is likely Nevada SB 348 was proposed due to a less than warm reception for the identical Florida HB 435, given the comments made by Florida representatives who themselves experienced negative timeshare experiences. Nevada SB 348 was proposed on the last day a bill could be filed.    

In Florida, spokespersons for the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) reported Florida received 1,600 complaints each year for the last few years with 700 complaints already received in 2019. Of the 1,600 complaints, it was reported that most complaints are about the initial sales presentation and approximately 50% were reported by seniors. Only 42 complaints were “engaged” and those they said were mostly about resale.

In effect, perpetrators in Florida and Nevada have been given the green light to make up anything to sell points, knowing complaints are likely to be dismissed by the timeshare company and by NRED and DBPR. Florida is a two party state so consumers cannot legally record the sales presentation.             

ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson opposed the pro-consumer Arizona HB that would have required timeshare buyers be granted 24 hours to review a timeshare contract. His argument was that Arizona only receives 250 annual timeshare complaints.

If you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices in Nevada, there is an easy method to comment on pending legislation. If you signed an NDA you can still make a general comment asking the bill to be amended to include the offer of a 24 hour period for the buyer to consider the purchase of a timeshare.

To voice your opinion click on Nevada SB 348 to comment:   

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/

Thousands upon thousands of people across America and in the European Union are reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Just this week Consumer Affairs reported on a couple over the age of 85 sold $250,000 in timeshare points. USA Today and the Arizona Republic reported on a couple nearly 90 years old sold $150,000 in timeshare points. In March I received a complaint directed against the same timeshare company from a couple turning 90, both diagnosed with age-related dementia. They were sold $145,000 additional timeshare points promised a maintenance fee relief program that does not exist. A third complaint against one agent, a sales agent we have on a recording defrauding a veteran a year ago, sold a couple ages 79 and 80, 90,000 timeshare points. The husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; the wife’s first language is Cantonese. They were unsure of the purchase price but a conservative estimate is $240,000.    

There’s more!

If this bill passes, law firms providing timeshare exit assistance and legitimate exit providers would not be allowed to receive payment for services provided until all services have been provided. Timeshare companies have not been forthcoming in even notifying timeshare members that their loan has been cancelled. Many have reported not learning of a loan cancelled until a 1099C arrives in the mail.

We want timeshare buyers to be offered 24 hours to think about their decision to sign a timeshare contract. This could be waived if the buyer chooses, but would allow those unduly pressured to consider their decision, consult an attorney, mom, dad, son or daughter. As things stand, same day sales are demanded after exhausting sales sessions.

The proposed “cooling off period” as stated in the NV SB 348:

A time-share exit assistance or relief services provider shall give the owner who is not a developer not less than 1 business day to review a contract pursuant to this section.

Timeshare exit providers have heard from thousands of timeshare buyers desperate to find release. Voice your opinion – click on SB 348 and demand your 24 hours:

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/

Timeshare members collectively donate approximately $5 million a year to the timeshare PAC ARDA ROC through “voluntary” donations via their timeshare maintenance fee invoice, yet not one of the 779 timeshare members who have contacted us could tell me what ARDA or ARDA ROC stands for. These donations fund ARDA lobby efforts. ARDA purports to be lobbying for the consumer, but what’s wrong with a consumer being allowed 24 hours to think over a purchase that has financially devastated so many families?  

Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and Las Vegas resident, responds to Wyndham Sr. VP Jason Gamel who testified at the Florida HB 435 legislative workshop held in Tallahassee March 12

The Nevada Senate Bill 348 denies legitimate attorney representation to responsible consumers desperately seeking to escape the perpetual liabilities of a timeshare contract. Attorneys who provide timeshare exit assistance would not be allowed to charge a retainer or any money upfront until services have been provided. Challenging a timeshare contract can take up to two years or more.  

When I last visited the Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED) and sat down with an investigator on the issue of timeshare complaints I learned the following:

  • NRED continues to be one of the only states that I am aware of, with a large number of timeshare sales, with no dedicated timeshare division. I believe Nevada is #7 in timeshare sales.
  • NRED has no legal staff, thus NRED must forward all legal questions to the Attorney General.
  • The investigator confirmed that NRED produces no public report to anyone, including its own investigators, on the number, type, and/or outcome of timeshare complaints filed. Are there fifty or fifty thousand complaints?

Wyndham Sr. VP and attorney Jason Gamel, who provided testimony at the Florida HB 435 Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12, made some arguably false comments in response to Florida state Representative Newton’s question about Wyndham’s dissolution policies. Mr. Gamel explained that there was no need for owners to contract with an exit service provider because members seeking a loan cancellation due to hardship can apply for a hardship release through Wyndham. Those who were denied release and contracted with an exit service provider, or those with pending litigation, will find the testimony interesting.

When asked about the percentage of owners who would be eligible for release through Wyndham’s dissolution program, Gamel stated “…over 99% of the inventory qualifies and if the owner is current in their maintenance fees and their mortgage is paid off, it’s literally just about everybody. So anybody that has called us in the last few years while this program has been active, we have taken those timeshares back.” He further went on to state, “If they qualify for the program everyone gets out.”

I have talked to those who own Wyndham (as I do), who tried to get out but did not “qualify”. When I researched the program I discovered:

  • A policy to exit a Wyndham contract is only a few years old at best.
  • To my knowledge, Wyndham doesn’t publish any qualification criteria. I am an owner. I have asked. They will not provide the specific policy criteria in writing or in a telephone conversation as to what is sufficient to “qualify”. If anyone has the qualification criteria of any developer, exchange program, etc., I would like to see and share it. It is my assessment “qualification” is a purely subjective determination made by Wyndham.
  • Contrary to my experiences and those I have talked to, more often than not, simply being current on maintenance fees and having no mortgage does not automatically result in the ability to exit/dissolution.
  • In my opinion, the entire effort is primarily a smoke screen created in response to increased consumer issues seen as threatening a very profitable business model while deflecting attention away from fixing the flaws in the product and its lack of a resale market.
  • Florida Representative Newton requested and was promised information to support Gamel’s assertions. I hope it will be made public.

Mr. McKelvey, representing ARDA ROC, also made some questionable comments that need to be rebuked. First, he claimed “most of the developers I know and certainly most of the timeshare managers I know, and I managed timeshare properties for thirty years… every single resort had a dissolution policy, every single (one). There was a way to get out. You had to come to your management company, and based on what the board of directors instructed us (the management company) to do in the terms if they had to pay a fee or if they had to be current, whatever those situations were, we did not have a one that did not have a dissolution policy and a hardship policy….”

Mr. McKelvey’s Defenders Resorts may have had a dissolution policy, but in no way can the statement be supported that all resorts have a dissolution policy.

McKelvey went on to imply dissolution policies are “passed by your board of directors.” These are not developers, these are board members elected to a board that have passed a certain dissolution policy. We send that (dissolution policy) to the directors, but we never get an answer.

There is much to challenge in McKelvey’s testimony:

  • I seriously question the validity of his claims related to the vast proliferation of dissolution policies.  
  • There is a huge difference in “having a way to get out” and getting out.
  • Dissolution policies, contrary to what McKelvey implies, are the developer-controlled boards of the corporations and exchange trusts formed by the developers used in the developer’s affiliation (exchange) programs.
  • I find it incredible that legislators and consumer protection agencies fail to act on the realities encased by prior flawed and outdated legislation that permits the sale of perpetual contracts, on the twin legal fantasies that timeshares represent an interest in real estate, and the equally damaging “constructive notice”- a presumption purchasers are knowing of and accepting of all the contract provisions imposed. I know of no other consumer product that fits these twin categories and have produced so much wealth destruction. As I have said in the past, the properties of real estate have been stripped away from timeshares. Buyers own little more than a “membership” in a strange sort of country club that can cost $100,000 or more upfront with perpetual liabilities.

ARDA’s claim that it represents both the industry and the consumer needs to be debunked.  Who are the true consumer advocates?

Thank you Mike for your opinion. Please voice your opinion on the Nevada link provided. Venting on complaint sites is easy and might make you feel better, but venting affects no change.

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Letter from America, this week Irene Parker looks at the Nevada Timeshare Senate Bill 348, which along with Florida House Bill 435, allegedly protects timeshare consumers. But as you will see it may just prevent consumers from seeking the legal help they may need. We begin with an editorial by Timeshare Insider.

ARDA ROC responded to our Tuesday Talk article by providing their press releases strongly in support of FL HB 435. ARDA feels the bill does not prevent a timeshare member who feels they were a victim of unfair and deceptive sales practices from seeking legal counsel, but what law firm does not charge a retainer for services that are to be provided.

Inside Timeshare, especially from the EU side, spends considerable effort exposing fraudulent timeshare exit services. It is a never-ending battle which in all likelihood cannot be won without ARDA and the timeshare developers acknowledging the obvious unfair and deceptive practices that have existed on the front end of the sale. When complaints are routinely dismissed because the buyer signed a contract, and Florida and Nevada seconds the ruling by informing the buyer they have no proof, there is in effect nothing to stop unscrupulous sales agents from making up any outrageous claim to sell points.

ARDA has launched a responsible exit program.  For one timeshare company, licensed timeshare resale brokers will not accept a listing to sell the timeshare, or if the broker does accept the listing, the seller is lucky to break even. If the buyer finds they were deceived seconds after the rescission period, which Irene in her article explains can be easily dodged, there is no responsible exit. Amounts of $100,000 or more are not uncommon.https://responsibleexit.com/

We do thank ARDA ROC for responding to Tuesday’s article. It is our hope two opposing sides can come together to stop hard-working citizens in the EU and America from  being financially devastated by the words and actions of timeshare sales agents and timeshare exit service providers. In any profession there are bad apples, but in the case of timeshare sales, bad apples have a tendency to be rewarded.           

Nevada Pot Calls Kettle Black

Nevada Timeshare Senate Bill 348 Purports to Protect Nevada Timeshare Consumers – but in effect Prevents Timeshare Buyers from Retaining Legal Counsel

“What is good for the Goose…, we would love to see a 24 hour waiting period requirement on the initial timeshare sale. Members are never told of the lack of a secondary market if a timeshare member needs to dispose of the timeshare. If a wait is good for consumers on the couple thousand dollar exit contract, it certainly should be necessary for the initial $20,000 to not uncommonly over $100,000 or more a timeshare buyer spends on the initial sale.” An advocate

Proposed Nevada SB 348

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6627/Overview

By Irene Parker

March 22, 2019

In an apparent knee-jerk reaction to Florida lawmakers offering a less than lukewarm reception to Florida House Bill 435, ARDA lobbyists and timeshare developers introduced a nearly identical Nevada SB 348 on the last day a bill could be filed. Democratic Senator and Majority Whip Pat Spearman and Senator James Ohrenschall are the bill sponsors.

This bill if passed would not allow an attorney to charge a retainer if they are known to provide timeshare exit assistance as part of their law practice. Exiting a timeshare contract can take up to three years. In essence, the bill seeks to eliminate attorneys who provide timeshare exit legal advice when timeshare buyers experience unfair and deceptive sales practices or wish to dispute a contract.  

Honest attorneys and legitimate exit providers feel ARDA and timeshare developers seek to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Legitimate timeshare exit providers feel as strongly as ARDA and the developer that the myriad of scam exit companies are harming consumers, but not allowing a timeshare buyer disputing a contract to retain an attorney is overreaching, according to attorney arguments presented during the Florida HB 435 March 12 workshop held in Tallahassee, Florida.

Like the Florida bill, the Nevada bill if passed would require a 24 hour “cooling off period” that would allow a consumer signing an exit service contract time to think about their decision before signing a contract. A 24 hour cooling off period before signing the initial timeshare contract would be heralded as a huge win for consumers and would provide a level playing field for the timeshare industry and exit providers. Timeshare buyers are typically told that if they walk away from the timeshare sale of the century they will never have an opportunity to purchase at the price point offered again. The reason buyers are demanded to buy the same day is because most will not buy a timeshare if given a chance to think about it.

According to Highlands Resorts’ sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in a Colorado Attorney General investigation in 2017, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”

https://www.businessden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/5B3AF6808EF5C.pdf

Dr. Amy Gregory, an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida studied the impact of buyer regret-and-remorse on rescission decisions and determined:

A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their purchase (for money, fear, confusion, intimidation, distrust and other reasons). Forty-one percent of buyers never thought they would regret their purchase, but they did; another 30 percent were neutral prior to buying, but then regretted it.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-world-timeshare-owners

There has been a tsunami of complaints from consumers describing predatory, unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Buyers often sign a perpetual contract after being held for hours in an aggressive high-pressure sales session. I have prepared a 126 page report of 75 Platinum members who report similar to identical complaints, up-sold into insolvency by being promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to be able to sell points, provided the buyer purchases additional points. The majority of these scams took place in Nevada. Of the 75 similar to identical complaints, 20 were filed against one Las Vegas sales agent allowed to up-sell for over two years, earning $2.4 million in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017. In a lawsuit filed against the company, he alleges management instructed him to create reasons why existing members needed to purchase additional points.  

In another Nevada incident, an Iraqi veteran recorded a fraudulent sale. The recording was provided to Inside Timeshare January 2018. After the veteran asked for his ID and credit card back for over an hour, when the sales agent left the room, he recorded the second hour of a five hour ordeal that resulted in the disabled veteran, who suffers from TBI and PTSD, taking out a loan the family could not afford. Instead of being fired, ten months later Platinum member Patty Boyak and her husband Brandon, a Navy veteran, were up-sold into insolvency by the same Las Vegas agent. Just recently, an elderly couple, without access to a computer, was up-sold by the same Las Vegas agent that sold Patty. They signed off on a loan of over $100,000, promised the ability to pay maintenance fees. The husband is diagnosed Alzheimer’s and English is his wife’s second language.

If you are just now jumping into Timeshare Wars, these are the links to our articles published last week about Florida HB 435 and our members’ responses to ARDA’s assertion that the rescission period offers adequate time to cancel the contract.

Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12

Timeshare member response:

According to one attorney I spoke with, the primary problem with the bill is that ARDA has exempted attorneys in Section 12(1) and then in Section 12(2)(b) states attorneys cannot get paid until “all” services are complete. One can only assume when ARDA states “all” services, they mean getting a full release, regardless this is not clear. As attorney Wayne Halper explained at the Florida HB 435 workshop, proof of release has not always been provided by developers.

This bill creates several problems.

  1. First, attorneys bill for their time.  If attorneys cannot bill for time and can only bill upon completion of services, it is going to create cash flow problems and prevent attorneys from taking these cases, which appears to be ARDA’s intent.  Further, given the lack of clarity about what “all” services means; it appears attorneys could potentially be held criminally liable if they billed a client for work performed. The sole effect of this would be to chill representation and is completely anti-consumer.
  2. Given the confusing nature of the drafting, as soon as this bill passes all the timeshare companies have to do is refuse to settle, forcing every attorney to go to binding arbitration and the attorneys would only get paid if they win. Very few if any attorneys are going to take that risk given the deck is already stacked against them at arbitration, which is anti-consumer.  Once again, trying to keep people who have been aggrieved by the timeshare companies, or are struggling financially, from being represented by counsel.
  3. The penalty for breach of this law is a felony. This will further deter representation by attorneys. There is no other area of law, where an attorney can be held liable for a felony based on representation of a Client and the manner in which we legitimately bill. That timeshare companies are already suing attorneys all over the country civilly, to be able to subject attorneys to potential criminal sanctions, is ludicrous and highlights the sole intent of this provision, which is to prevent aggrieved consumers from being represented by counsel.

If you would like to weigh in, contact Inside Timeshare.

We support the following self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Irene and all those who have contributed to this and the many other articles published on Inside Timeshare.

Please do use our contact page if you would like to comment on this or any article published.

It is Carnival Time here in Gran Canaria so this will be a very busy weekend, we hope you all have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Carnival Gran Canaria

The Tuesday Slot: More on Florida House Bill 435

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, we continue this week with more on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held in 12 March, once again written by Irene Parker who attended.

As usual before publication we have sent the article to Wyndham and ARDA for comment, but as always these tend to be ignored. As a matter of course we always send the proposed article as we welcome comments from the industry, as it furthers debate and it can accomplish our goals of consumer protection.

Without this debate nothing will ever be achieved and the consumer will forever be at the mercy of the industry. In this respect the lack of response only says one thing, for that we let you the reader decide what it is!

More on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held March 12

In response to ARDA ROC and Wyndham’s testimony:

How Timeshare Sales Agents can Dodge a Rescission Period

Why Reading the Timeshare Contract does not Always Help

Why the Delay in Reporting Fraud

By Irene Parker

March 19, 2019

The Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee:

At the Florida HB 435 workshop held in Tallahassee March 12, Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 timeshare complaints in 2017 and 2018, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation. There have been 700 complaints filed so far in 2019. Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale.

This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints submitted to Florida’s http://Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) were met with “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.” This lack of enforcement gives a green light to perpetrators, knowing their company will dismiss complaints with, “You signed a contract,” echoed by DBPR’s response, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

Platinum timeshare member Sheilah Brust, who designed our Timeshare Regret T-Shirt pictured above, and other Platinum members, are organizing a protest in May in Orlando, astonished at the figures reported by Florida’s timeshare division. The oral representation sentence in the timeshare contract stating, “I did not rely on oral representations to make my purchase,” buried in an 80+ page contract, gets a workout. Our goal is to alert the public that they should not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, which is not fair to timeshare agents selling the product honestly.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 735 families. Of the 735, 100 are veterans and active duty service members. Over 200 of our readers have sent complaints to the timeshare lobby and PAC ARDA ROC. ARDA ROC does not mediate complaints, but they have a Code of Ethics. All complaints sent to ARDA ROC but one were ignored. ARDA ROC responded to one complaint, “This has been resolved,” even before the member, with a top security clearance, had heard from the company. The CEO of the company sits on ARDA’s board.  An active duty service member or a defense department worker can lose their security clearance, their job and their career over a timeshare foreclosure. ARDA ROC purports to be the voice of timeshare members.    

On Saturday, March 16, I heard from Platinum member #74, told that by purchasing additional points, they would be able to sell or rent points to offset rising maintenance fees, now over $10,000 per year. A 126 page summary report I prepared of reader complaints, shows a pattern and volume of complaints, often the sales agent a repeat offender. All the Platinum members report being told of maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist or a program allowing the member to sell points, if they purchased additional points.      

Platinum report submitted by Andrea K, Platinum member #74:

Our family has been emotionally and financially devastated because of the last timeshare points purchased. By 2016 or 2017 our maintenance fees had increased. The sales agents said we were the only deeded owners left and that is why they said our maintenance fees were so high. They said they were not sure if it was too late, but they could try to get us converted to points.

In 2017 we went to Hawaii. We purchased $55,000 worth of more points. They said if we purchased Hawaii points, we could easier sell because Hawaii is so popular. He showed me a magazine listing Hawaii timeshares for sale. I still have the magazine. He also said if I have this many points I can rent, especially in January to pay for the maintenance fees. We have learned our timeshare company does not allow us to rent using the internet, and that their points are worthless on resale.  

In 2018 we stayed at Tahoe in California but purchased in Nevada. In Tahoe they said because we had not purchased at our last stay, we lost our $3 price so that we would have to pay $9 per point if we did not buy additional points that day. He said our price lock was lost, but when he checked our records, he said for some reason the $3 was still there. He said I needed to sign a paper to remove the $3 price and in the future I would have to buy points at $9. He should have told us our timeshare points are worthless on resale. These presentations have taken 6 to 8 hours, despite being told they would only be for 90 minutes.

As years have gone by, we have learned that things we were told are either exaggerated or not true.  Many of the reimbursements promised did not yield what they had said they would yield.

Twenty of the 74 Platinum complaints were lodged against the same sales agent over a two year period. According to a lawsuit the agent has filed against the company, he said he was instructed to create reasons why existing members needed to buy additional points. He reported earning over $1 million in 2015 selling timeshare points, $2.4 million in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017, before being terminated. His replacements are generating similar to identical complaints.

Mr. Ken McKelvey, ARDA ROC Chairperson, questioned why timeshare buyers wait so long to report deception. Mr Jason Gamel, Wyndham Sr. VP, Legal said exit companies are not needed because Wyndham has a hardship department to address members struggling with high interest rate timeshare loans. Both spokespersons said the rescission period provides enough time to review a contract and rescind. Our reader complaints address these objections:

How timeshare sales agents and timeshare companies can easily dodge the rescission period:

  • The buyer is told, “This is a new program, so don’t say anything to quality assurance because I could get fired.”
  • The buyer is told, “This program will be available after January 1.”
  • The buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Several buyers report being told airfare is included when booking. It’s not until they attempt to book they learn this is Blarney.
  • The buyer reports being told loans will be consolidated, but then the loan is not consolidated. The buyer does not learn this until the next loan payment, after the rescission period.
  • The buyer is told to wait a few months before refinancing.

Why reading the contract does not always help:

  • Buyers are shown a booklet of resorts, but the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Actual availability cannot be determined by reading the contract.
  • My contract stated, “You can sell points, we will not assist you.” It left out the part about licensed timeshare brokers will not accept a listing for my timeshare points.

Why there is a delay in reporting fraud:

  • The reason that it may be several years before fraud is reported is because a negative life event triggers the need to sell. It is not until that trigger occurs that the buyer, who was sold on the promise that the timeshare is like real estate, easily sold, learns their timeshare is worthless.
  • It is not until a tax preparer, attorney, or grown child of elderly parents discovers predatory actions, such as the retired Navy veteran, living on a letter carrier’s pension, up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. There have been numerous complaints involving Alzheimer diagnosed buyers.

We are hoping Marine veteran James Sherwood fell through the cracks at Wyndham, and that Wyndham will reach out to Mr. Sherwood. Mr. Sherwood’s wife broke both hips three years ago and has had a total hip replacement. He is disabled. Neither can travel. Wyndham would not accept that Mr. Sherwood was disabled. They demanded proof he could not travel. The VA provided a letter stating Mr. Sherwood could not travel. This was not sufficient. Mr. Sherwood felt it was an invasion of privacy to demand all medical and financial records, especially since he was told when he purchased the timeshare, that the transaction was a real estate transaction and could easily be sold. http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/

Timeshare members are deeply grateful to Florida lawmakers, who echoed some of their negative timeshare experiences during the Florida HB 435 workshop. For the first time in memory, lawmakers’ voices talked back to the timeshare industry and to industry lobbyists. A timeshare consumer protection Arizona HB 2639 bill is currently being debated, strongly opposed by ARDA. The Arizona Attorney General’s office received 400 complaints against just one company. After a press release announcing an investigation a few years ago, they received an additional 500 complaints, according to members who spoke with the Arizona AG’s office.  

The question I am most frequently asked:  “How do they sleep at night?”

My answer, “Bernie Madoff had no trouble sleeping at night.”

The comment I hear most frequently, “I feel so stupid.”

I answer that the following have reached out to us describing unfair and deceptive sales practices, in addition to the vulnerable:

  • Three PhD economic and criminal justice professors
  • A Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover
  • A Consolidated Edison contract specialist
  • Lawyers and mortgage brokers

Can it be, after all this time, the consumer’s voice is being heard?

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help:

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Irene and all our advocates for all the hard work you put in on behalf of the consumer, without you there would be nowhere for them to turn.

If you have any comments or views on this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker gives her account on the workshop she attended at the Florida House of Representatives, regarding the Florida House Bill 435. As Sunday is St Patrick’s Day for all of our Irish friends, we couldn’t resist using the definition of Blarney in the opening graphic. After watching the recording of the Workshop, it seemed apt to use it, once you watch it for yourselves, you will understand why.

Before we go to Irene’s report some very brief news on the legal front in Spain.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint have been subject to a “cash” embargo, this is a result of a case brought by Canarian Legal Alliance for an execution of sentence on a recent case. Their senior lawyer Eva Gutierrez brought the order to the court to force Silverpoint to lodge the awarded amount with the court. This was done to ensure swift payment of the funds to the client, who will now receive 27,047.11€ plus legal fees and all legal interest.

CLA are now using this enforcement action as soon as the sentence is issued by the court. This stops any delaying tactics by the timeshare companies in making payment. It seems to be working very well.

It has also been published that the Fiscal Prosecutor in Gran Canaria, is looking into the accounts of Anfi Resorts and Anfi Sales, for the possible illegal movement of money to various accounts in order to delay the payment of funds to clients who have won cases against them.

For the Fiscal Prosecutor to be involved in this, shows that it is a serious matter, the full story can be read at the link below. Although it is in Spanish, use google and use the translate page feature.

https://m.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-timesharing-condenas-timesharing-insolvencia_punible_0_875612945.html?fbclid=IwAR0NGGZM0o8F8R8ZI3bD_Jsw5fS-HVuRSc0g1ed-lUJOS01GUZC48huO0_c

No for Irene’s report.

Florida House of Representatives

Business and Profession Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12

Florida House Bill 435

Does it restrict the rights of citizens to retain legal counsel?

By Irene Parker

March 15, 2019

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints about timeshare exit companies, in addition to reports from timeshare buyers describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Critics of Florida HB 435 feel if passed this bill would restrict the ability of timeshare buyers to seek legal counsel.

Due to disclosures, we will not publish the link to the recording of the Florida HB 435 workshop held March 12, but the recording can be easily found at https://thefloridachannel.org/. Search the workshop by entering 3/12/19 Business and Professions Committee. The first 1 ½ hours is about beer and spirits distribution. The timeshare workshop can be found by fast-forwarding to the session’s last hour.

A panel composed of exit company attorneys and industry attorneys answered questions from Florida state representatives, who clearly seemed on top of the issues. Panel members included:

Jason Gamel, Sr. Vice President, Legal at Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc.

Shannon Zetrouer, Outside Counsel, Reed Hein and Associates

Tiffany Kimble, Director of Underwriting, First American Title’s Vacation Ownership Services Division

Wayne Halper, Esq., in-house counsel Wesley Financial Group, LLC

K.L. “Ken” McKelvey, CPA, ARDA ROC Chairman

Boyd McAdams, from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), shed light on the number of consumer complaints filed in the last few years. Previously, our figures reported 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014. DBPR only acted on 110 of those complaints.

The approximate figures of timeshare related complaints, as I understood the figures, are:

2016        1200 complaints          600 reported misleading information

2017        1300 complaints          700 misleading information

2018        1300 complaints          700 misleading information  

2019        700 complaints            300 misleading information

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.

Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”   

Consumer attorneys matched the strength of industry attorneys. I would like to point out and dispute a few of the comments made by panel members Wyndham attorney Jason Gamel and ARDA ROC spokesperson Ken McKelvey.

Reid Hein’s legal counsel, Shannon Zetrouer, described how a buyer, typically held for hours in a high pressure timeshare sales presentation, signs a perpetual contract, often reporting that they were given misleading information.

Ms. Zetrouer argued that Florida HB 435 would infringe on a consumer’s right to seek other legal services, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or estate planning advice. She feels the bill, as currently worded, is overreaching in that it would affect timeshare buyers across the nation if they purchased in Florida.  “I specifically have concerns about House Bill 435. First, I think it will actually have a negative impact on consumers…It seems to infringe on the right of contracts and the right of companies to contract with consumers for relief that they [the consumers] are clearly seeking. Otherwise this industry wouldn’t exist,” said Zetrouer. “Simply put, if going to developers was an option for these consumers, then there would be no third party industry,” she added.

Mr. Gamel spoke of the 2012 Transfer Act that addressed disclosure, rescission, escrow and prohibited acts.

Ms. Kimball addressed the problems associated with fraudulent transfers.

Wayne Halper, Esq. described the criteria required to become a client of Wesley Financial Group, LLC. Wesley Financial receives 3,000 to 3,500 calls per week from timeshare buyers seeking relief from timeshare contracts. Of those initial contracts, only 150 to 200 per week are accepted as clients, because they must meet the criteria for fraud. Similar to the complaints Inside Timeshare receives, 100% of Wesley clients report being told the timeshare is an investment and will increase in value and 91% report the ability to rent will offset maintenance fees and provide an income stream in retirement.

Mr. Halper echoed Ms. Zetrouer’s comments, in that 99% of timeshares sold in America have a presence in Florida, and the bill as written would eliminate the right of timeshare members to seek the services of those offering exit services. Later in the discussion, Mr. Halper pointed out that being released from a timeshare contract can take up to three years. He felt it would be unfair to expect a provider not be allowed to charge for services performed until after proof of exit has been provided, proof not always provided.

ARDA ROC Chairman K. L. McKelvey said ARDA ROC represents 1.8 million Timeshare Owners. I have asked 742 families who have reached out to me, feeling they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, if they even knew what ARDA ROC stands for. Not one member could answer, yet collectively timeshare members give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year, often “opt-out” contributions.  

Mr. McKelvey described ARDA’s Responsible Exit Industry Coalition. For my timeshare, this is nothing more than media spin. I surveyed all 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Of the 64 members, 22 members responded, saying they would not accept a listing for my timeshare company, feeling restrictions the company places on points purchased on the secondary market excessive.

In response to a question asked by Representative Randy Fine (R), asking the percentage of Wyndham’s marketing costs; Mr. Gamel thought 30 to 40%.

Let’s compare this scenario to the primary housing market. The timeshare buyer sits across from a real estate agent in most states. There is an understandable assumption a buyer would think they have the same rights as a primary housing market buyer.

What would happen to the primary housing market if:

  • The Buyer paid 30 to 40% upfront in commissions,
  • The Buyer is demanded to buy the house the same day,
  • The Buyer learns licensed brokers won’t accept a listing to sell their home should they need to sell.

Committee member Representative Michael Gottlieb asked about “Adhesion” – meaning a timeshare contract cannot be changed, so why should someone need to talk to a lawyer before signing a contract, because you can’t change the contract anyway. The reason is because buyers are exhausted after an hours long high pressure sales session, signing a perpetual contract without being allowed adequate time to review copious and complicated documents. Not only attorneys, buyers are discouraged from seeking advice from a mom, dad, son or daughter. Sales agents are trained on how to defer this request, according to numerous current and former sales agents. Not being allowed 24 hours to think about a perpetual purchase, spending anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 highlights the unfair in unfair and deceptive practices.

There have been many Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits concerning unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams was awarded $20 million after reporting deceptive sales practices, and a recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed November 2018 on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents and employees, working at Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort. Buyers need to beware of potential deceptive timeshare sales practices.

Buyers sign perpetual timeshare contracts accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Often existing members are sold additional points, promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. The lack of a viable secondary market exacerbates the problem. Wyndham lists a viable secondary market as a risk to their stock market investors in their 10k reports.

Clearly, as Committee Chairwoman Heather Fitzenhagen stated, timeshare is a thorny issue. Let’s hope actual member voices can be heard in future sessions.   

On Tuesday, our reader data can easily address concerns expressed by Mr. McKelvey and Mr. Gamel:

1.     How rescission periods are easily dodged

2.     Why reading the contract does not always help

3.     Why the delay in reporting fraud

Related article: By Wyndham member and Marine Veteran Jim Sherwood, hardship appeal: http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/


Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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/

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.

Contact Inside Timeshare to let your voice be heard.  

Inside Timeshare did have trouble locating the recording mentioned in paragraph two of Irene’s report, so Inside timeshare has provided a direct link to it in order to assist readers, the relevant part starts at approx 1:45:50

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/3-12-19-house-business-and-professions-subcommittee/

Thank you Irene for your time in attending this workshop and writing this report, let us hope that the Florida Representatives see the need to protect consumers from the industry.

All that is left for us now is to wish you all a wonderful St Patrick’s day and to use one of their phrases

‘Bhi craic agus ceol againn’ : We had fun and music.

Join us next week for more news on the world of timeshare.

The Tuesday Slot: Secret Shopper Report

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome back Laurie Sabbagh with her second Secret Shopper Report, this was edited by the Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbs, with the introduction by Irene Parker. But first some Breaking News from the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

British clients being represented by lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance has just received the news that the Supreme Court have found in their favour against Club La Costa Leisure Limited. Initially their case was heard at the Court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga, unfortunately this court found in favour of Club La Costa.

The CLA lawyers promptly lodged an appeal with the High Court of Malaga, this court overturned the First Instance verdict, finding in favour of the clients. Club La Costa launched an appeal with the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

The Supreme Court rejected the case and the verdict of the Malaga High Court stood firm. The contract was declared null and void with the client being awarded over 28,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.

This is a significant case as the offending company was Club La Costa Leisure Limited, a UK registered entity. This may just bode well for other similar contracts, more news on this legal aspect as and when we receive it.

The Team at Canarian Legal Alliance

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

My Secret Shopper Report

By Laurie Sabbagh

Edited by Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes

March 12, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from timeshare members told they need to switch to a different program within the same company because they should not have purchased what their last sales agent sold them. In other words, sales agents within the same company sell against each other.

Heartbreaking is the experience of Navy veteran Roy Simmons and his wife Lillian Simmons. A retired letter carrier, living on a letter carrier’s pension, he ended up switching back and forth between programs until he reached $2,700 a month in Diamond Resorts loan payments. The foreclosure process took a tremendous physical and emotional toll on the family. They sought legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney as Mr. Simmons felt he had no choice but to charge loan payments to credit cards. Roy and daughter Angela’s YouTube explains how this happened. In her research Angela discovered the FBI website, which is why she expresses her opinion that her mom and dad’s allegations meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. Roy and Angela’s February 26, 2018 YouTube:

Roy and Lillian Simmons, ages 69 and 70, Minnesota residents published March 6, 2018

Arizona representatives proposed House Bill 2639 offering protections for timeshare consumers. My experience over the last three years, reading emailed complaints and listening to 730 families report unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, has left no doubt in my mind as to the need for protection. I wrote an article, “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders.” that foreclosed members can provide to future lenders. The article offers support to my assertion, listing just some of the Attorneys General investigations and settlements and lawsuits. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

Bill sponsor Representative Shawnna Bolick and others who supported Arizona HB 2639, thank you. The timeshare lobby ARDA opposed the bill.   

Laurie Sabbagh’s Secret Shopper Report

I can’t believe it has been two years since my first Secret Shopper report was published March 17, 2017. I attended an update this month in Arizona thinking it had gone well until I was informed that the need to switch from my current Hawaii program to the US mainland program was likely proposed under false pretenses, based on the opinion of an ocean engineer. I want to state at the outset that I enjoy my Diamond points, find good value and absolutely love Sedona. As they say, God created the Grand Canyon but He lives in Sedona.

My first Secret Shopper report:  http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Diamond sales agent Paul said that he had worked in the industry for 22 years and had previously sold timeshares in Las Vegas. Paul and a second sales agent, Justin, asked me about the Hawaii special assessment I paid for the Point at Poipu water intrusion damage, which all right-to-use point owners and deeded week owners were assessed after Diamond bought out Sunterra. I told them that my portion of the assessment was much smaller than those of deeded week owners, who ended up being assessed about $5,800 per week owned.

Later Paul tried to convince me that the beach erosion problem at Ka’anapali Beach Club (one of four resorts part of Diamond’s Hawaii Collection), is putting me at risk for another special assessment. Paul further told me that if I were to switch to the US Collection, I would never be charged a special assessment because the US Collection is part of a trust. He insisted that this provision is in writing, but I was not provided documents to backup that claim.

One of our member-sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook members is an ocean engineer. He explained why beach erosion is not the responsibility of a resort, but the responsibility of the state or federal government. In a RedWeek post, a Diamond member had been advised to switch due to a 2020 special assessment:

My suggestion would be to ask Diamond for documentation to support the additional charges. For instance, it is reasonable to ask if the funding is for future flood protection that might be afforded by a beach nourishment project. If the assessment is intended for a beach nourishment project, it is likely that arrangements are in place for cost sharing between local stakeholders and government entities.  The cost and scope of government efforts are a matter of public record, and learning the particulars is typically as easy as calling the project managers.

In addition, 2020 is too far out to predict with any sort of fidelity. Concrete financial planning numbers at this stage are unlikely. I have not heard of a federal project in Hawaii. It could be state, but most major beach nourishment projects are underwritten in part by the federal government. I have not heard of a state paying for damages from a flood.  The member needs to know what the assessment is for, in more detail than just beach erosion. Is it for protection or for damage that has already occurred? One is flood damage expense, the other is flood protection afforded by beach nourishment projects.

Justin told me that Diamond bought out Sunterra but I was still an owner of Sunterra points. Justin said that I could apply my equity in Sunterra to the purchase price of 6,500 additional US Collection points to get me to the Silver level and bring the price per point of $9.33 to about $4 per point. We went back and forth. The last offer was for 2,000 points for $5 per point. I declined.

Later Quality Assurance representative Mark told me he used to be with Sunterra until Diamond bought them out, and my Sunterra points were automatically converted to Diamond’s “The Club” points, so I was indeed a Diamond member. This contradicted what Justin told me.

Mark offered me 20,000 points to be used within 24 months at $3,995. He said this offer is only valid to Diamond members. First, I thought it odd a Quality Assurance person was trying to sell me points, and second, the Sampler is a trial product, so available to anyone.

As I said in the beginning, I use and enjoy my Diamond points. I stayed a week at the Celebrity House in Sedona, two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen, using “Point Saver” at 8,250 points. With all expenses considered, it averaged $260 per day. Best Western in Sedona during the same period was $300 per night for a standard room so this ended up being a huge bargain for me.

I am disappointed that the pressure to sell points is so great that agents feel forced to misrepresent. I feel Diamond has a product, and when sold properly, members benefit. It must be the pressure to produce sales that prompts sales agents to mislead in order to make a sale, but that is just my opinion.

We appreciate Laurie’s second Secret Shopper report.

Timeshare is a product in which the sales agents demand the buyer buy the same day, even though most have no intention of buying the product prior to the day of purchase. Unlike buying a car, there is little frame of reference, especially for first time buyers. Buyers usually sign a perpetual product without even having had a chance to use the product, except to stay at a resort property. Numerous members have reported not being allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period has expired.

Learn to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, it’s advisable to not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, based on my experience and the experience of many.

These are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Social Media is here to stay, so consumers can now share experiences. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your timeshare experience, good or bad.

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 Laurie, Pete and Irene for your efforts with this weeks article, we certainly look forward to more Secret Shopper Reports.

The breaking news today from the Spanish Supreme Court was very welcome news indeed, what a start to the day.

If you have been contacted by any company or found one on the internet or advert and want to know if they are genuine, use our contact page and we will help you find out.

Do you feel that you were mis-sold your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a claim, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will check to see if you have a valid and viable case and point you in the right direction. This service is done free of charge and under no obligation.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our weekly Letter from America, this week we have another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” from yet another veteran, this now makes 99 who have been in touch with us. In this article the Sherwood Family tell their story of their dealings with Wyndham. But first the latest from Europe.

At the Court of First Instance N1 in Barcelona, Case Number 362/2017, lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance, presented a case against Club Estela Dorada SL, Restotel SA, Medhotel Group SL  and Clubotel La Dorada SL, which is part of the ONA Group, based in Barcelona.

The breach of the timeshare laws were the contract was in excess of the 50 years laid down by law, what is commonly known as perpetuity, plus the illegal taking of deposits within the 14 day cooling off period. It seems that the companies involved tried to bypass Spanish law through the Tax Haven of Andorra, but the paperwork did show that a Spanish registered entity was involved, which put the case directly under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Courts.

Andorra itself is an independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains, it is mostly known for its skiing and being one of Europe’s main Tax havens.

Click on the link below to open the court document or click to download.

The client has now had their contract declared null and void, and will receive the following:

  1. Purchase price          70,778.07€
  2. Deposit paid              32,973.00€
  3. Maintenance fee         8,973.24€ (this is approximate as the final amount has yet to be determined)

This is a total of 112,724.31€ (approx).

The lawyer in this case was Judith Diaz Pascual, another of the young and dynamic CLA team.

Judith Diaz Pasqual

So congratulations to the client and also to the team at CLA, they are certainly making a mark on the world of timeshare.

Now for our Letter from America.

Veteran/Active Duty Service member #99 Timeshare Trapped

The “Unfair” in Unfair and Deceptive Practices

An Arizona House Bill 2639 designed to protect consumers is opposed by ARDA.

Please voice your support for this Bill by calling and writing to the Bill sponsors listed in this article: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-arizona-house-bill-2639/

By the Sherwood Family, a Wyndham Hostage

March 8, 2019

Mr. Sherwood’s YouTube:

I am sure there are plenty of timeshare members quite happy to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their timeshares every month because they are getting use out of it. However, what happens when your circumstances change? You will quickly come to regret every penny you sunk into the timeshare capable of holding the member hostage for life.

Due to health issues that have been piling up over the years, my wife and I can’t use our Wyndham timeshare anymore. I spent 20 years in the service of my country and am a 75-year-old 100% disabled veteran and retired Master Sergeant from the US Marine Corps. I also have early onset glaucoma. My wife is 71 and has had total hip replacement surgery twice in the past 3 years. Our Wyndham sales agent did not tell us about the Wyndham Armed Forces Veterans Club.

We bought our Wyndham timeshare in 2014. We used it twice a year for the first three years. It never lived up to the billing our sales reps gave it but we were happy enough. We never thought twice about handing over our money because we were getting something out of it. Unfortunately, getting old is no fun. Your circumstances can change overnight. Change may come soon after purchase or arrive years down the line. When those changes come you will be hit in the face with the reality that there is no way out of your timeshare if there is a loan outstanding. You are stuck with paying for your slice of thin air out of your social security allowance until the day you die unless foreclosed.

One of the reasons for this article is that I do not take kindly to being bullied and will not be dismissed, told to shut up and hand over my money. Another reason is that I would like as many people as possible to be aware of what they are getting into before purchasing a timeshare.

I sent Wyndham my letter from the VA attesting to the fact that I am 100% disabled. They would not accept that letter, stating they wanted proof I couldn’t travel. They requested full access to my medical history. I found this an egregious invasion of privacy so refused. I went back to the VA for a letter that stated specifically that I couldn’t travel but Wyndham would not accept this. A letter from the VA stating that I am 100% disabled and cannot travel seems more than enough for Wyndham to join the dots.

Imagine what the scenario is if you are not a senior, or a veteran, or disabled – if we are being refused, how many other people with their own reasons and issues will be refused?

Wyndham stopped communicating with me when I delinked to give them access to my medical records despite me reaching out by letter and phone on several occasions. They have now sent me to collections with Pinnacle Recovery Inc. I will tell Pinnacle what I told Wyndham; they will not see a penny from me.

To confound matters, the third Stooge in this story after Wyndham and Pinnacle; Barclays Bank, want us to pay them too. When Wyndham tried to open a credit card for us, my application was refused but my wife’s was accepted. My wife receives in income less than a thousand dollars a month but after Wyndham added my social security income, military retirement and VA compensation, they made it look like she was earning several times more than she actually did. Wyndham has charged the card several times already with fees we were not aware we would be asked to pay. Needless to say, Barclays won’t be seeing any money from us either.

My advice to potential timeshare customers; use Airbnb.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-reasons-why-airbnb-better-than-timeshare-wayne-c-robinson/?fbclid=IwAR3QPmnZYAHlyox8oNdjgru1ik7Kdb0WpPOo3vC85gqCvwJ62DUyJjp70pw

My advice to Wyndham; if you can’t listen to your customers then you shouldn’t be in the hospitality business.

Thank you to Mr. Sherwood for sharing his story. If the public knew the difficulties of getting out of a timeshare, would anyone buy one? What car, boat, home, or pair of shoes would you buy that you cannot sell if there is a loan outstanding?

Here are member supported groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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 the Sherwood Family for their contribution this week, as we mentioned at the start, this is the ninety ninth veteran who have been in touch with Inside Timeshare and the other groups. It would seem that even though they have served their country, the timeshare sales agents just do not respect that fact, they just see them as easy money. Not all the blame can be placed on those sales agents, the timeshare companies must also take responsibility for allowing their staff to get away with it.

So to finish today’s article, we are still calling on any reader who has had any dealings with Meredith Pritchard and Stephen Paul Fairclough to come forward, it is your information that will help the police get the evidence to bring Fairclough to justice. Use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget be vigilant when dealing with any company that contacts you or you find on the internet or advertising in any publication.