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Arizona HB 2639

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker asks the question Wait! What Timeshare Regulations? But first, we have an update on the last 2 weeks of court cases in Spain, these figures came in late Friday afternoon, just a little too late to include in Friday’s Letter from America.

In total, Canarian Legal Alliance has received 38 sentences by various courts in Spain, these have been against 3 of the major players in European timeshare and are broken down as follows.

In one of the High Court sentences against Anfi, they were also ordered to repay the client the in-house finance including interest, this may just be good news for others who purchased their timeshare using in-house finance. It certainly sets a precedent.

The total amount which will be returned to the clients is an incredible 1,310,533.00 €, plus in most of the cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. All contracts were also declared null and void leaving them all timeshare free.

At least in Spain, there are regulations that protect consumers, so now on with our Tuesday article with Irene.

Women Who Money

Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?

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

Wait! What Timeshare Regulations?

By Irene Parker

April 30, 2019

I enjoyed reading Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run? published by Women Who Money.  I agree with the author’s major points, except “regulations being in place to protect timeshare consumers.” Having heard from timeshare members about 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. My contract said, “You can sell your points. We will not assist you.” The part about no buyers was left out. I was duped by reading the contract.

House, Senate and Assembly Bills are flying across the country. The timeshare PAC ARDA ROC was successful in extracting consumer protection measures out of Arizona HB 2639, as reported by The Courier Daily.

“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.”

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

Timeshare members “voluntarily” contribute approximately $5 million annually to ARDA ROC via maintenance fee invoices. ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition. Why would any organization oppose offering a buyer 24 hours before signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market? Buyers are told that they have to buy the same day.

We are asking legislation be proposed that would allow the timeshare member 24 hours to review a contract before signing. We understand a member may not want 24 hours to review, so this offer could be waived. This offer should not be buried in the tap, tap, tap, electronic fine print. Members often report being held under duress for up to eight hours by a tag team of agents. Some sales centers take your driver’s license and credit card and won’t give them back.  

ARDA ROC introduced legislation in Nevada and Florida that would require those contracting with timeshare exit service providers be given 24 hours to review a timeshare exit service provider contract. This was proposed because they care about their members experiencing deceptive sales practices? Give me a break.

We would think it silly if a bill was proposed 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 agents doesn’t gang up on you for hours.

A synopsis of recent Florida, Arizona and Nevada legislation:

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.

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. Lisa is the author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies.

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.

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

Lisa Ann Schreier

Timeshare expert and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies

“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 salesperson 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. We’re not saying timeshares aren’t good for many, and we know there are many honest sales agents, but I am convinced after hearing from over 800 timeshare members, current and former sales agents, managers and even an executive or two, “pitching heat” is on the upswing.

Timeshare buyers should record their timeshare sales sessions in one-party states where legal. Florida is a two-party state, so you cannot legally record without the other person aware. How is a victim supposed to obtain proof? All our readers’ Florida and Nevada timeshare complaints sent to the Nevada Real Estate Division and Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation were dismissed with “You have no proof.”  I would recommend not buying a timeshare in a two-party state.

One of our Supporters, Sheila Brust, has her “Pencil Pitch” denoting the following figures, with an arrow and “save” written alongside:

  • $8,631
  • -8,631
  • 0

According to Sheilah, the three-page pencil pitch describes how she would be able to cover all her maintenance fees through point usage. A second and third buyer bought from the same sales agent. The Florida DBPR reviewer told Sheilah that she did not understand the program either until she spoke with the company’s 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’s attorney?

As far as proof, 83 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. We have prepared a 130-page summary which is available upon request if a lawmaker or regulator is interested. We can hope.       

We are working on a petition. If you would like to become more involved with our efforts, contact Inside Timeshare. Of the 805 timeshare members who have contacted us, 103 are veterans and active duty services members.

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 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 also Lisa Ann Schreier for your contribution, if you have any comments or views on any article published, please use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

If you have been contacted by any company with regards to resale, relinquishment or a claim and you are unsure if they are genuine, again use our contact page and let us know. We will point you in the right direction. Remember, doing your homework will save you in the end from losing your money.

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.