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CLA

TATOC: Is The End Now Upon Them!

Well, well, well, the news for consumers just keeps getting better, TESS announced on their website yesterday, Wed 3 May, that Harry Taylor’s crusading enterprise TATOC is finished.

They are now being placed into administration, as TESS put it “TATOC is bankrupt, insolvent and unable or unwilling to pay its debts if and when due”.

Inside Timeshare published the photograph of Harry Taylor receiving a cheque of $30,000 from ARDA, this was ostensibly for their helpline, as it was said they were helping owners of American Timeshare. This information was supplied by our US readers before it was announced publicly by TATOC.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, RRP President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor

We also know that recently TATOC has been losing support from its long standing industry allies, namely the RDO and Silverpoint. These are the ones we know about, how many more have been fleeing the nest or reducing their membership contributions, without us knowing about it.

This is another of the self proclaimed TIMESHARE CONSUMER CHAMPIONS falling by the way side and being totally discredited.

Along with TATOC, there was Alberto Garcia, another “Timeshare Consumer Champion”, again funded by the industry, primarily by the RDO. He was made head of the “Enforcement Programme”, (very Hollywood), along with his website mindtimeshare, he waged a war against any company or individual that threatened the industry.

Alberto-garcia-2
A Rare Photo of Alberto Garcia

He may have highlighted the most dubious of enterprises, but he made it his mission to destroy by any means possible, not only the downright dirty, but also those companies that were genuine, including respected and practicing lawyers and law firms.

This culminated in his fabrication of evidence to destroy the Arguineguin law firm CLA, even to presenting statements to the National Police that these lawyers were part of a “Criminal Gang”. He alleged that they were extracting money from people for court cases they could never win, yet still took them on.

All this has been proven to be false, the law firm is thriving and beating the industry on behalf of consumers from the lower courts right up to the Supreme Court.

TATOC have duped organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau into believing they were on the side of timeshare consumers, so they advised people with timeshare problems to go to TATOC. What did TATOC do? Send them back to the timeshare company they had the problem with.

A very good example of the way Harry Taylor and TATOC have behaved is their unwavering support of MacDonald Resorts, (even the RDO has had nothing to do with them since 2005). Harry Taylor extolled and fully supported MacDonald’s moved to take away from all fixed week owners their weeks and moving them into a points system. He even went on to say it was in the best interests of owners, regardless of the fact that fixed week owners had more rights than points club members. This effectively transferred ownership of the resort from the members to MacDonald’s. There is an ongoing legal battle by these owners against MacDonald Resorts.

tatoc logo    mcdonaldsresortlogo

Another example which Inside Timeshare has been highlighting and fighting for almost a year, is the case of our Mrs B. She went to TATOC because MacDonald Resorts did not accept that she had legally transferred her Doña Lola week to another person using the services of another firm. She has been and still is  being chased by MacDonald’s through a debt collecting agency for maintenance arrears, (aged 87). TATOC told her to speak to MacDonald’s and even directed her to Alberto Garcia to report the firm she had dealt with as “bogus”, all because they were not RDO or TATOC affiliated. The case is still going.

Harry Taylor has lost credibility, reputation and now his little empire, this can only be good for the owners, unfortunately, unconfirmed news from our contacts across the pond is not very promising. It is reported that the one and only, serial failed director Chris Emmins of Kwikchex, Timeshare Business Check and the RDO’s Timeshare Taskforce, (replacing the enforcement programme, still trying to sound hollywood or pseudo legal), is set to take over the resurrected and saved TATOC, (if that does happen).

task force
The Timeshare Taskforce

 

We have said it before and we will say it again, the only way timeshare owners can be represented properly is to have their own association which is not funded or controlled by the industry. The only problem is the industry is very good at sending in the infiltrators.

So there we have it, great news for some but devastating news for others, as the news comes in we shall be reporting it here. So watch this space!

Since we went to press the NTOA are very surprised at this news, here is their response: “The NTOA has worked with TATOC in identifying a number of rogue resale and secondary market companies over the past several years. To that end, our staff has shared intelligence and best practices for consumers or foreign purchasers of timeshare intervals. We have always considered TATOC a partner in the war on resale fraud.” 

TATOC “The Butcher of Consumer Rights”-is in Administration

 

Friday’s Letter From America

Another week over and another Friday Letter From America from our intrepid travelling writer Irene Parker.

Before we go to Irene’s article, a little news from Europe, we begin with the never ending successes of the lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, we begin with an announcement  which came in after publishing last friday’s letter. The Court of First Instance N1 in Arona Tenerife found for the CLA client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void, this was on the basis it was for floating weeks.

CLA Logo

These contracts according to the Supreme Court are illegal, under law 42/98, the contract must specify a week, date and location. The judge in the case at Arona awarded the client the return of 26,000€ plus legal interest.

On Tuesday 25 April Anfi was on the receiving end of another judgement at the Court of First Instance N5 in San Bartelomé de Tirajana. In this ruling the Judge found for the clients on two infringements of the timeshare law:

  • Contract is over 50 years in duration (perpetuity);
  • It contained floating weeks.

Again the contract was declared null and void and the client will receive 39,413€ plus legal interest.

On Wednesday 26 April the Court of First Instance N5 in Arona found once again for the client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this case the client has been awarded over £25,957 plus legal interest, for a contract which was for a duration of over 50 years (perpetuity).

Yesterday Thursday 27 April, CLA announce another First Instance ruling against Anfi, for a contract over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of a deposit within the stipulated 14 cooling off period. Over £37,913 plus legal interest was awarded back to this client along with the contract being declared null and void.

It is certainly a case of the lower courts adhering to the ruling laid down by the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, it leaves no doubt as to the illegality of many of these contracts with case after case being won, leaving many happy ex-owners timeshare free and reimbursed with money paid.

Inside Timeshare again this week published the latest in the saga of the “fake law firm” in Tenerife, Abel Garcia Abogados, one of the many in the Litigious Abogados family. This time one lucky gentleman decided to do an internet search of this “firm”, he came across our previous articles and contacted Inside Timeshare for clarification. This has saved him from losing thousands of pounds, he also provided Inside Timeshare with the letters documents and emails he received, these have been passed to our lawyers to be included in the denuncia to the Guardia Civil.

Another “firm” was also highlighted, FHA Marketing. Very little is known about this one as there are no entries at company house and their website registrant is hiding behind a privacy service, so it is not known who is behind them. One thing is for certain they haven’t got all their facts right.

So now onto the “Travelling Writers” article.

A Reader’s Response to Nancy Callahan and our Experience at Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links

guitar

By Irene Parker

April 28, 2017

One of our readers emailed us with a sophisticated comment in response to our article about Nancy Callahan’s extraordinary experience, unaware she and her husband had acquired a $143,000 loan to purchase 50,000 Diamond vacation points. Our reader’s comment is kind of heavy, so I’ll start by sharing our more light-hearted Friday, end of the work week comment about our Diamond Resorts, Scottsdale Links experience, post Clarity.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

We checked into Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links in Arizona a few nights ago. Our unit is spacious and clean. We found good value using our Diamond points in that we used 6000 points to stay two weeks at a Sedona Diamond property as well. It’s surprising how many timeshare members don’t think about timeshare math, converting maintenance fees dollars into equivalent real dollars in order to make a comparison as to whether it would be less expensive to book online.

Sometimes it is more expensive to use points, but in this case, $.23 per point in maintenance fees times 6000 points equates $1,380 for two weeks or $98 per night. Online the cost was $112 per night for a one bedroom unit, but there was also a $13 per night fee and a 13% tax so we are way ahead. Of course, the initial amount we spent purchasing our points is not factored in. The older you are the less advantage buying a timeshare, as there is less time to make up that initial outlay.

We are not asked to attend sales presentations. It takes some convincing, but you can request that your name be taken off the prospect list.

Diamond’s new Clarity program is about accountability and transparency and respect for the customer. The program was recently launched in response to the Arizona Attorney General issuing an “Assurance of Discontinuance” which includes a toning down of the aggressive nature of the sales presentation and, most importantly, requires the sales agent not to deviate from printed sales material.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resort/

Diamond is certainly not alone among their industry peers in needing to improve the integrity and honesty of a timeshare sales presentation. In the case of Nancy Callahan, the agent went pretty far afield of actual policy, as explained by our reader.

I found only one lapse in transparency at Scottsdale Links. Of all places, it occurred at the activity center! I had asked activity representative Brandy if there were any good activities this week. “You’re in luck!” said Brandy. “We have a cowboy guitarist and singer tonight”.

The cowboy singer was Wally Bornmann. Wally started his performance singing Cowboy songs by composers no one, out east anyway, would ever recognize and worked his way up to Gene Autry. He peppered his songs with cowboy stories like when Gene Autry paid $5 for the lyrics of a song when he was traveling cross country that became famous. “It may not sound like a lot, but at $1.67 a mile, it wasn’t bad pay at the time,” explained Wally.

“Do cowboys use Facebook?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” responded Wally.

“Aren’t you a cowboy?”

“No”, said Wally. “I know a lot of cowboys, but I would be at best a cowboy looking in. I have great respect for the work a cowboy does. Only Diamond Resorts calls me a cowboy.”

As a Diamond Resorts member Advocate, I reported this lapse in transparency to Brandy.

“Wally isn’t a cowboy,” I explained. “There’s no need to call Wally a cowboy”. What Wally is, is a gifted “Cowboy Song Artist and Exceptional Storyteller.” Wally played a song he wrote that made me cry, ‘Till Morning Comes Again”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-XBdDT-GiU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVzayDyZo4

Fishin’ for Chickens was written by Hobo Jim, the Official Hobo of Alaska!

We have a lot of European readers. Arizona is a real special state that is now more Diamond member friendly thanks to Clarity. Next time our overseas friends hop over the pond, consider Scottsdale Links in Scottsdale and then head up to Red Rock Country in Sedona just south of the Grand Canyon. It’s our favorite place to hike.

The moral of my story is that Diamond has a product and if sales agents would stop overstating availability, understating maintenance fees and loosen the restrictions on secondary points so an owner could sell the darn thing if they had to, through a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, members would stop complaining so much.

Now on to our Reader’s Response

group table

It is very disconcerting to see that the unfair, unethical and misleading business practices described by these Diamond members’ experiences are not isolated incidents. It is clear that it has become endemic of the entire accepted Diamond sales process, as well as with other timeshare companies.

The misrepresentation of the ‘Legacy’ program as a ‘resale’ option when it is merely a way to ‘share’ a block of points with other family members, the embellishment of the value of points earned through the Barclay Credit Card, including how many points are actually earned, what they may be redeemed for (for example, NONE of the down payment for the purchase qualifies) and the false representation of the amount that may be applied to the maintenance fee.

In addition, the common representation that points have a “Currency Redemption Value” is being made by every ‘successful’ Diamond Sales Agent and is expected by the managers of the business unit. Basically, the actual benefit described in the Member Directory allows a member to redeem “up to 30%” of annual points towards, “up to 30%” discount on travel rewards.

Specific rewards have their own restrictions, limitations, terms and conditions however; what the sales reps are telling customers is that they may redeem their points for .30¢ per point. They tell customers that using this formula that with 50,000 points they can get $15,000 back EVERY YEAR! They use this to upsell, as with these unsuspecting customers in this article; that they will be able to pay ALL their maintenance fees and costs and that actually buying more will cost them less.

It would be bad enough if this were a case of a few outlaw sales reps pitching heat, however; this is encouraged by the industry. Sales agents are coached and compelled to present the product this way and reprimanded, ostracized and eventually terminated for NOT ‘going along with the program’.

Accurately presenting the product leads to lies being discovered by the customers that they were ‘pitching this heat’. It is absolutely disgusting to me that a product that promises to deliver quality family vacation experiences is sold with such reprehensible disdain for honesty and integrity.

Inside Timeshare wants to thank our industry insider for explaining what the Legacy program is and what it is not. Sometimes we hear so many versions of a program we don’t know what to believe.

honest

If you have a question or concerns about Diamond Resorts or any timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups.

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

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

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

So there we are, another week over and more news from the murky world of timeshare.

If you have any comments or question about any of the articles published or have been contacted by any company highlighted, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and to Irene, enjoy your vacation.

weekend02

 

Part II: The Three Rs of Timeshare

After we published Fridays article, news came in from Canarian Legal Alliance, of four more sentences at the Court of First Instance in Arona, Tenerife. These were once again against Silverpoint, again this lower court applied the previous rulings made by the Supreme Court in Madrid.

In one case the court ordered the return of 85,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest, the client’s contract was again declared null and void. In another two sentences the clients were awarded with the return of over 25,000€ plus legal interest, with the contracts declared null and void. A rather expensive end to the week for Silverpoint, with no sign of these cases letting up.

The week also started on a bad note for Anfi with CLA announcing another sentence issued by the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. Once again this lower court ruled as per the precedent set by the Supreme Court that contracts over 50 years were illegal, therefore the contracts have been declared null and void.

Court Masp
Court of First Instance Maspalomas

The clients in this case have been returned with over 14,000€ plus legal interest. They are now timeshare free and are no longer bound by the rising maintenance costs. So what a start to the week for those lawyers at CLA.

So, on with today’s writings by Irene Parker, in this article she explores the three R’s, Resolution, Relinquishment and Refund.

In Spain one of the three R’s is hitting the industry, as we have seen from the opening of today’s article, many owners are receiving back their full purchase price and some, purely because the timeshare companies have sold a product that does not comply with Spanish Timeshare Law or the Directives issued by the EU.

For those who do not have a claim, the other option is relinquishment also known as surrender, unfortunately this does depend on who you own with, some are easier than others. One company that is renowned for not playing ball is MacDonald Resorts, there have over the years been many articles written and published about how they make it very difficult for anyone to get out of their contract. They say they allow a limited number out every two years upon payment of 4 years maintenance fees, this is done on a first come first served basis, so no guarantee.

Some resorts, especially the smaller independent and usually family owned resorts, just allow owners to hand back, in some cases they will even pay back something. This obviously is good for both parties, the member is released and the resort has inventory to sell. Win Win!

Part II: The Three Rs of Timeshare

Resolution, Relinquishment or Refund

Part I of the 3Rs or F of Timeshare

Part III – Two More Rs – Rental and Resale

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

travel lights

By Irene Parker

April 12, 2017

Most consumers are unaware of the perpetual nature of a timeshare contract. The combination of rising maintenance fees and a mortgage interest rate ranging from 12% to 18% if a loan is attached can spell disaster when the timeshare member can no longer afford the timeshare due to illness, unemployment or age.

We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but our advocates have also heard from the young. So far the youngest person I have interviewed was 19 and pregnant when she signed her contract just after midnight. When I explained what a perpetual contract meant, she was shocked.

“A perpetual contract in itself is not harmful,” explained timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. When you buy a house or car the contract is perpetual. The problem comes when there is no secondary market as Mike explains in his article, “The Unconscionable Suppression of the Timeshare Resale Market”.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/the-unconscionable-suppression-of-the-timeshare-resale-market

The First R: Relinquishment

Timeshare developers and the timeshare lobby ARDA seem to think voluntary exit programs are the answer. How does this help the family who has spent $25,000 to over $100,000 to purchase a timeshare, only to get hit with a life event that results in not being able to afford the timeshare shortly after purchase? Would you buy a house that could not be sold? The price of a timeshare can easily rival the cost of a modest condo or home.

Howard Nusbaum, CEO of ARDA is quoted in a June 2014 RedWeek article in reference to the lack of a viable resale market, “This is a legacy problem. People buying a timeshare today are buying it from multisite clubs that have management forever and sales teams forever, so the ability to recycle inventory will not be a problem in the future.”  Recycling inventory is the term used when a resort “takes back” your points or forecloses due to nonpayment of a loan or maintenance fees.

Timeshare companies are starting to offer voluntary surrender programs, but surrenders are evaluated on a case by case basis. The money invested in a timeshare can easily run over six figures, so walking away from that kind of money without a fight, when you feel you have been defrauded, doesn’t seem right.

The Second R: Refund

A refund is not easy to come by. Litigation takes years and if you win, there will in all likelihood be an appeal. Timeshare developers know the industry is virtually unregulated and that they are protected by the oral representation clause.

Let’s examine the most common complaints our advocacy group has heard to determine if these tactics meet the FBI’s definition of white collar crime.

Reportedly coined in 1939, the term white-collar crime is now synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals. These crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial—to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage.

These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three).

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

The most common complaints:

  • The agent said I could sell my shares,
  • Maintenance fees increase only modestly,
  • You can get airline and other travel awards but the value is zilch,
  • It’s less expensive to book online than to use my points,
  • The contract is perpetual? Who knew?
  • The interest rate is 18%!! I didn’t know till I started paying!

According to the FBI, there is corporate fraud and mortgage fraud. Corporate fraud includes accounting schemes designed to deceive investors about the true financial condition of a business entity by manipulating financial data, share price or other valuation methods.

While the definition above is most often applied to stock transactions, we can draw some comparisons to a timeshare point. Availability of accommodations, the value of travel awards can be overstated and the escalation of maintenance fees can be understated.

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of financial institution fraud known as “fraud for profit”:

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

The backend of timeshare fraud has been widely reported, but there has been little attention paid to the front end. The industry needs to stop focusing only on the backend of timeshare scams as detailed in this US Department of Justice Timeshare Scam Report and take a closer look at the front end – the timeshare sales presentation.

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+scam+report&op=Search&affiliate=justice

Timeshare members who begin their complaint with “the salesman said” are sadly told about the oral representation clause contained in a timeshare contract.

 Wyndham has appealed Trish William’s $20 million Whistleblower award.

In 2010, the plaintiff, Williams, reported that elderly customers were being defrauded by Wyndham salespeople, who were opening and maxing out credit cards without their knowledge and lying about reducing interest rates, maintenance fees and the ability to obtain rental income from their timeshares. She also disclosed an illegal, industry-wide practice of falsely representing that if owners spend enough money, often hundreds of thousands of dollars, Wyndham would buy back the timeshare at full value at the owner’s request.

Evidence presented at trial revealed that Wyndham employees engaged in “pitching heat,” high pressure sales tactics involving deliberate lies and misrepresentations to get people to buy more timeshare “points.” These sales practices included “TAFT” days, which stands for “Tell Them Any [email protected]#*ing Thing” days, where employees were encouraged to say anything to make a sale as long as they didn’t put it in writing. The highest selling sales agent was quoted as saying, “I sold my soul to the devil. I can say whatever I want so long as I don’t put it in writing, that’s why Wyndham has good lawyers.”

https://dolanlawfirm.com/2016/11/wyndham-vacation-whistleblower-verdict/

R3: Resolution

hope

Diamond Resorts has instituted a new consumer advocacy department to help members or owners resolve disputes. A member sponsored Diamond Resorts Advocacy Group works with members and Diamond’s advocacy department to resolve issues. There is always the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using Diamond points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We just booked two weeks in Sedona for far less using our points than we could have by booking online.

We wish all complaints could be resolved by better understanding the resort’s program, but that is not always the case.

Our complaint format is included in this Inside Timeshare article. Inside Timeshare readers can use this form when contacting Inside Timeshare or their resort when problems arise. Of course there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare year after year. Those owners don’t need us, yet.

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-post-look-past-week/

Our Diamond Resort Advocacy Group:

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

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

Let’s keep working together to improve the industry.

Inside Timeshare is here to listen and respond.

fix prob

Related story

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=hoa+collections

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who help to make these articles, especially Mike Finn of Finn Law Group, who helps Irene with the legal aspect of her writing.

If you have any questions or comments on any article published, contact Inside Timeshare and we will try find you the best answer or solution. You can also join our facebook pages and join the discussions. It is through these that we all find out what is going on.