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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, this article is based on a report released by the St Louis Better Business Bureau, it is based on their full report published on the BBB website which we have included as a link. The full report carries some very sound advice along with recommendations for Government and the industry. Whether they take note is another matter.

August is the month for Spain to basically close down, so there is no news from the courts, but this little snippet from the RDO website news section and published on 24 July caught our attention.

“We never sleep”

During this particular break-out session the RDO legal panel will provide attendees with an update on a range of issues, including the latest developments in the Spanish Supreme Court rulings and the on-going lobbying programme.

Other issues that will be covered within the session will be ongoing collaboration with UK authorities to take fraudulent individuals/companies to court and new legislation that is being developed to curb the activities of claims companies. Attendees will also learn how ARDA is dealing with similar issues in the US and whether there are lessons for RDO and its members.

Well one thing is for sure, the RDO obviously believe that the Spanish timeshare laws are not good for the industry, with the judges getting it wrong, along with their belief that they will be able to change things in their favour through the lobbying programme. Well somehow I don’t think the Spanish authorities will be looking to changing their laws to return back to the bad old days!

In the end these court cases that are being brought are of the industries own making, if they had abided by the laws in the first place they would not be paying for it now. A very good case to remember is Silverpoint, this company is being pilloried by the lower courts in Tenerife and the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Why?

Quite simple, they sold a product that flouted virtually every article of Law 42/98, especially with their promise of the “investment” weeks, where unsuspecting purchasers, many of them on the verge of retirement, were sold under high pressure and very misleading sales pitches a promise that these weeks would be sold or rented out. These never materialised and are the subject of many of these court cases. 

On the legal front, Canarian Legal Alliance has just published their mid year report, it is certainly impressive and really does put the above statement from the RDO in a different light. Follow the link for the full report direct from the lawyers themselves.

https://canarianlegalalliance.com/canarian-legal-alliance-mid-term-successes/

Now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

A St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

Released July 24, 2018

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

August 3, 2018

Inside Timeshare has received complaints against Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Hawaii, California, and Virginia sales centers. Missouri is no worse than the other states. We appreciate the St. Louis, Missouri Better Business Bureau taking timeshare complaints seriously.

From: American Resort Development Association’s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”

From the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report:

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

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT

    • Tougher law enforcement action. Regulatory agencies have reported receiving an increasing number of complaints about the timeshare industry. Bringing action against any bad actors in the industry could help consumers and deter companies from violating consumer protection laws.
  • New laws. BBB hears from many senior citizens who have been affected by the timeshare industry. Missouri legislators should consider special protections for those 65 and older who enter into agreements with timeshare and travel club companies. An extended right of rescission period could help seniors who may not totally understand what they have purchased. All consumers should receive pertinent information – such as access to websites and passwords – at point of purchase so that they can check potential savings and actual values of timeshares on resale market so that if they decide to cancel, they can take advantage of the rescission period.

(BBB) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY

    • More honesty from the industry. The timeshare industry needs to develop and adhere to a set of ethical standards to address widespread reports of high-pressure and deceptive sales practices and to deliver accurate, honest sales pitches to consumers. Reputable companies do not pressure consumers over several hours to purchase services they had little interest in buying or, in some instances, can’t even afford. If presentations are held, consumers should not be detained past the scheduled time or express a false sense of urgency to act immediately. Avoid telling consumers something that will entice them to sign but is later contradicted by your contract.
    • Honor promises. Provide tickets or other promotional items at the time of the presentation. Do not mail them later or make the consumer obtain them from another source.  
    • Do not mislead about timeshare inheritance. Too often misleading statements or scare tactics are used to encourage those who have inherited a timeshare to believe they are liable for it. Don’t misrepresent the law or circumstances for financial gain.
    • Do not require consumers to initial documents “under duress.” Too often, consumers are faced with presentations consisting of long hours; eventually succumbing to high pressure sales tactics.
    • More transparency from the industry. If a consumer is referred  to another company or person to complete the presentation process, be transparent about the process (ie. obligation to sit through a two hour presentation to obtain discounted tickets) and amount of time it will actually take to possibly alleviate someone from their timeshare.
    • Eliminate company mediation. Do not require consumers to mediate through the company’s internal program should a dispute arise. Instead, use neutral, third-party mediation source such as Better Business Bureau or American Arbitration Association.
  • Easier exits. The recent establishment of deed-back programs may be a step in the right direction. More consumers should be able to take advantage of these programs. The establishment of more deed-back programs is likely to lead in a decrease in fraud seen in the resale and exit markets.

Inside Timeshare has received 515 timeshare complaints from our readers, 271 since January 1. All but a handful report their complaint was dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Our advocacy efforts have had an effect. After publishing this last statement a few times, the defense has been changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said” still relying on the oral representation clause. About 200 complaints were copied to ARDA / ARDA ROCbut were ignored.

If “You signed a contract” – is the industry’s official policy, and the regulator’s position in some states, the public needs to be made aware misrepresentations reported by timeshare buyers will be ruled in favor of the timeshare sales agent. In Florida and Nevada, all our readers’ complaints filed with those state Attorney General’s timeshare divisions have been dismissed with “You don’t have proof.” An upcoming article examines proof and why FBI agents and several attorneys don’t buy this response.

Inside Timeshare contributor Sheila Brust reported, “We were given ludicrous advice from a regulator that is clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality. I was told to contact a licensed timeshare resale broker, but every agent I contacted informed me my timeshare had no secondary market. By steering complaining members to licensed real estate agents, when turned down, members often end up the contacting a scam that will charge the member upfront money promising to sell or cancel their timeshare. Often that promise falls short.”

Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints against Branson, Missouri sales centers. Our researchers discovered one Branson timeshare sales manager was selling points at the same time he was working for a timeshare exit company named Mutual Release a suspicious name for a company, as mutual release is the form signed when a timeshare issue has been resolved.

Our Advice

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION or any Luxury Item AT 12% TO 19% and don’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. As the St. Louis BBB recommends, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare. There you will receive straight answers.

 http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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

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

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

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the positives when it feels like the battle is all uphill. All we can do is reach out to those who feel lost to let them know Inside Timeshare and real advocacy groups are there for them. Consumer and advocacy are two words members should take with a grain of salt, used and abused by scam artists. We are real advocates.   

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, for those in Europe beware the heat wave, especially if you are travelling to Spain, Seville is reported to be facing temperatures of 48º C or 118º F.

Join us next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare, don’t forget if you have any comments, questions or just need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and don’t get sunburnt!

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to another Tuesday Slot with Irene, this weeks article is the first of a series which will cover some useful tips on how and who to file a complaint with, but as usual a quick look at Europe.

beware

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published an article about Worldwide Timeshares Unlimited based in Lowestoft Suffolk, with the website

https://www.timeshares-unlimited.com/

Registered to the “infamous” Antoni “Toni” Muldoon.

On the website they show 4 logo’s, RDO, RCI, Expectations Holidays and Canarian Legal Alliance, according to the website they claim to work closely with CLA, even having “cut & paste” copies directly from the CLA news section.

Inside Timeshare has had confirmation from the RDO, Expectations Holidays and Canarian Legal Alliance that they have no knowledge or ties with the said company or website. RCI have also been informed, but as yet no reply has been received, but it is safe to assume that they have not given any permission for their logo to be used.

This just goes to show that you cannot believe what you see or read on the internet, just because a website shows a logo or states they work closely with a company or organisation that it is true. Always do your homework, check any company fully before engaging in business, check that their claims to work with or are affiliated with others is genuine.

It would also appear that Anfi is once again on the offensive, this time they have been sending out emails to UK members regarding a recent BBC TV program Rip Off Britain. In this program they travelled to Tenerife to investigate a “fake” law firm, one that Inside Timeshare has been investigating and reporting about for the past 2 years.

Although this is laudable, it is the tone of the email that is the problem, rather than actually naming the “fake” law firm, it has been left open and vague, giving the impression that all law firms dealing with timeshare claims are not genuine.

It is obvious from past emails from the CEO José Luis Trujillo, that the aim is to discredit the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. These lawyers have been instrumental in securing 84 Supreme Court rulings against various timeshare companies, with 39 against Anfi alone.

On the point of the “fake” law firm in Tenerife, Inside Timeshare was asked to provide CLA with any evidence it possessed, to augment their own, as some of their clients had been contacted by this Tenerife outfit. Our evidence along with that from CLA was then handed to the Guardia Civil along with a denuncia, this is now under investigation.

It has also been a little quiet at the courts so far with only one sentence being reported, once again Anfi are the culprits.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared another Anfi members contract null and void, ordering that over 55,000€ which also includes a double deposit be returned to the client, the court also awarded legal interest.

It does make you wonder who is telling the truth, Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to decide based on the evidence presented.

truth meter

Now on with this weeks article from Irene Parker.

Timeshare Tips

Due to an Escalation in Volume and Criminal Nature of Complaints

White collar

By Irene Parker

January 28, 2018

IT Timeshare Tips #1

Inside Timeshare has received an astonishing number of reader complaints. Since January 1, 38 timeshare members have contacted us. Since we began counting late 2016, 291 complaints. The majority voice allegations that clearly meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime, Financial Institution Fraud.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/mortgage-fraud

Timeshare members should only contact the FBI if the allegations are of a serious nature. For example, “They promised me a cruise, but when I went to book it, it cost $1,000” is not a serious enough allegation. A free cruise that turns out not to be free is a frequent complaint, but would be best reported to the Better Business Bureau in the form or a complaint or a review.

Here is an example of a complaint that has been reported to the FBI and to BBB:

We were sold vacation points fraudulently by XXX sales agent SXXX MXXX Jan 2017 at GBO Resort. We went to a sales presentation. We met with sales agent S M, and told him our biggest complaint was the maintenance fees. Mr. M told us if we bought 3000 more points, to get to 5000 points, we would become Highest Loyalty Level members and we would be able to sell back points to pay maintenance fees at $.50 per point.

Criminal Complaint #1: The Highest Loyalty Level requires 50,000 points

Criminal Complaint #2: There is no program to sell back points to pay maintenance fees

He said, “You do this at the end of the year”

Criminal Complaint #3: By telling the victim to wait until the end of the year, and by not allowing access to the booking site until after the contract rescission period, the agent and/or company can dodge the rescission period.

He said this would be enough to pay all our maintenance fees.

This was what really sold us on the program.

Mr. M also said beginning in January of 2018 there would be a “cash out” option where XXX Timeshare Company would offer to buy our timeshare if we were not happy, we would probably take a loss, but we would be free and clear.

Criminal Complaint #4: There is no buy-back program

Thank you for using the Better Business Bureau’s Online Complaint System.

busted

As this is an active complaint, we will not publish the name of the timeshare member, the timeshare company, or the sales agent, to give the company a chance to make this victim whole again.

Most importantly, do not respond to anyone who private messages you, calls or emails offering to help you get out of your timeshare. Contact Inside Timeshare or your Facebook admin if you are contacted. Teams have been established to gather information to make a determination as to whether the company is legit. Most are not.

There is no federal enforcement other than timeshare advocacy groups. State enforcement is spotty at best. Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these U S advocacy groups we know not to be 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://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

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

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

Thank you to Irene and all those who proofread and edit the drafts, this article should prove to be very helpful to many of our US readers.

If you require any information about this or any article published, or just need help to decide who to trust and how to check them out, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember to do your homework and stay safe.

calm homework

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene, as you will see from her article this week there is certainly a lot going on across the Great Lake. For our US readers there is some very interesting information, it would seem that Inside Timeshare is certainly making an impact on timeshare consumers in the US.

On the European front, yesterday’s article regarding Anfi members complaints regarding availability, the article had a plethora of hits and likes on the associated Facebook page within the first hour. It also seems as though this topic hit home with our US readers as there were many from across the pond.

Yesterday we also had the first court ruling of the week, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Puerto Calma, declaring the contract null and void. The client in this case will be returned 16,000€ which is the purchase price, along with 3,600€ as double the deposit paid within the mandatory cooling off period. The court also awarded legal interest.

We will be keeping an eye on any latest rulings that come in and report them here, but now on with this weeks article by Irene Parker.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Proposed Committees and Support Groups

Volunt

January 23, 2018

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare is approaching 300 timeshare reader responses, responding to members asking for assistance with their timeshare concerns since we began counting late 2016. There is a need to scale up Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as we now have 44 core advocates dedicated to improving the timeshare sales process by working together as teams. We hope timeshare developers will acknowledge there are problems and work with us, to not only stop predatory backend “get you out of your timeshare” scams, but address the problem on the front end of the sale as well. Numerous calls to the FBI have been made, and they have encouraged timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, to contact their local FBI Field Office public access line to file orally, in addition to filing online at IC3.gov.

Diamond Resorts has taken the lead by launching a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department dedicated to helping timeshare members from day one if a member has any concerns about their membership or their purchase. They have also introduced CLARITY, a program designed to enhance accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

Inside Timeshare has received complaints directed against four major timeshare companies. If timeshare developers and ARDA would take the time to read the following Better Business Bureau notations of “Government Action” and “Pattern of Complaints”, it is unreasonable to keep the blinders on by claiming there are no problems with the secondary market because sales centers are forever sales centers, and members should not expect value back for their timeshare because it is a “right to use” program. That would be fine were it not for the perpetual contract, often sold by false promises made by sales agents who know there is little chance of enforcement, as there is no federal enforcement, and state Attorneys General are limited in scope.

BBB warnings for Wyndham, Diamond Resorts, Bluegreen, and Vacation Village

Wyndham

Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.

Government Action

The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.

Wisconsin – May 27, 2015 Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. entered into a Consent Judgment with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (Case No. 15CX5). The Consent Judgment to settle allegations that Wyndham engaged in the following acts or practices in the State of Wisconsin:

 

  1. Delivering a timeshare disclosure statement that fails to include all statements required by Wisconsin Statute Sec. in a format that can be immediately read and retained by the purchaser.
  2. Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
  3. Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
  4. Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
  5. Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
  6. Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
  7. Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
  8. Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
  9. Failing to inform the individual of the prize that has been awarded him or her, and then giving the individual the prize or another selected item, before beginning a sales presentation.

Wyndham consented to the Stipulation and Consent Judgment to facilitate a settlement and avoid the additional expense, delay and uncertainty of litigation. Wyndham does not admit that it has violated any laws of the state of Wisconsin.

Pattern of Complaints

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent was awarded $20 million by a jury alleging predatory practices.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties canceling vacation packages booked through Bluegreen Corporation. Consumers claim, although Bluegreen Corporation has a cancel within 30 days policy, their requests for refunds for canceled trips are denied. Other consumers feel they are victims of deceptive sales practices. Consumers claim resorts are never available when they contact Bluegreen Corporation. While yet other consumers claim the “free” vacation Bluegreen Corporation offers is not free and involve fees they were not made aware of.

Diamond Resorts:

On December 23, 2016, the Arizona Attorney General announced that the State of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with Diamond Resorts. The Assurance of Discontinuance requires the company to pay the State of Arizona a total of $800,000, of which $650,000 is for consumer restitution and $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs. The assurance also includes a Relinquishment Remedy Program, which requires the company to allow qualifying consumers to return their timeshares with no further obligations.

Many of the hundreds of complaints received by the State of Arizona claim the company used deceptive sales practices and made numerous oral misrepresentations during their presentations. Some of the misrepresentations regard:

  • Annual increases in maintenance fees;
  • Membership resale and buy-back programs;
  • Timeshare membership resale market;
  • Ability to rent timeshare vacations; and
  • Discounts on other travel needs.

The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company employees’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F

BBB files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practices issues. Specifically, several complainants have alleged that information provided during sales presentations does not match the terms and conditions in the written contracts that they are asked to enter if they agree to make a purchase following a timeshare presentation.

On March 23, 2017 BBB sent correspondence to Village Resorts requesting their voluntary cooperation in providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.

As of May 12, 2017 BBB has not received a response from Village Resorts BBB will continue to monitor the complaints for Village Resorts and update the review as needed

So where do we go from here?

TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan

January 21, 2018

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

We are grateful to our Inside Timeshare readers and timeshare members who have reported their allegations of predatory and criminal timeshare sales and marketing. Due to the volume of timeshare complaints received, there is a need for Timeshare Advocacy Groups™ to restructure, as we are experiencing normal and expected growing pains.  

Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:

  1. Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
  2. Change timeshare developer practices to allow those alleging they were defrauded to be made whole again, by not hiding behind the fine print, but to listen and learn. The enemy is not your customer. The enemy is your predatory sales agent.
  3. Reach out to military Facebook pages and websites to warn members of the military and law enforcement, due to the alarming number of complaints from law enforcement officers and all branches of the armed forces, alleging they were white-collar crime victims.  One Marine lost his air unit command and three are worried about losing their security clearance.

Anthony and Ashley Davis recorded their predatory sales presentation, which has been provided to law enforcement and regulatory authorities. This is our January 13, 2018 interview with Anthony and Ashley.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI    

Timeshare Advocacy Group needs sub committees or teams that work independently, coordinating with a central committee. Listed below are nine proposed teams and team leaders, based on their expertise and past willingness to serve.

Please let us know if you are willing to be become involved. Those alleging they have been victimized include doctors, lawyers, professors, law enforcement, the military, even a member who worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison, and many others.    

Proposed Teams

44 Core Advocates

Our Core Advocates are members or former members of Wyndham, Hyatt, Bluegreen, Diamond, Vacation Village  

Reporting: Irene (4 members)

Media/Social Media: Gay Hart-Brewer (22)

State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)

Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)

Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)

Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)

Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)

Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)

California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)

Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Advocacy team

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member supported, not industry influenced, Facebook or website.

Thank you Irene and all those who helped in this article, especially the legals who ensure that they are legally accurate.

If you require any further information on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.