Following on from our series Timeshare Contracts: Held to Ransom, we today look at a case that Inside Timeshare has been following and reporting since April 2016. The story of the ongoing battle of two elderly sisters and MacDonald Resorts is one of the most disgusting cases that Inside Timeshare has seen in the past 10 years. MacDonald Resorts have now employed the service of a law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn, based in Scotland to pursue the sisters through the courts for arrears in maintenance for a timeshare that was as far as they are concerned legally transferred to another person. Here we publish the story of the case and the “bullying tactics” being used by MacDonald Resorts and their “legal
rottweilers” Shepherd and Wedderburn.
The sisters, Mrs Price and Mrs Flavell are now both in their 90’s, they are also housebound due to medical issues and not just because of the current pandemic, this is their story.
In February 2000 Mrs Price and her sisters were on holiday on the Costa del Sol, staying at the Dona Lola Club in Calahonda, Mijas Costa, then a Barrett owned resort. They attended a presentation which for timeshare owners is nothing unusual when exchanging.
At this presentation which lasted in excess of 4 hours, they eventually purchased 2 weeks in a 3 bedroom apartment, the cost was £7000. At that time they already owned a timeshare at Oasis Lanz in Lanzarote and they were both around 72 and 65 years old.
Mrs Price stated that the presentation itself was high pressure and they felt that the pressure to purchase was very strong, they then parted with £7000. This in itself was totally illegal, as the new timeshare laws had already been in existence since January 1999, the law states the taking of any money within the statutory cooling-off period is forbidden, even by a third party. Mrs Price and her sister were not informed of this fact by the sales staff, so there is a breach of disclosure as well.
So we have the sales department at Dona Lola blatantly flouting the law which was put into place to protect consumers but it does not end there. In her statement, Mrs Price explains about the other lies and misrepresentations being given by the sale staff, all in contravention of timeshare regulations.
- They were told that their purchase was an investment. (It has now become just a liability).
- The salesperson told them that the resort would buy back the timeshare for the same price they paid when they no longer wanted it. (This has never materialised).
- They were not made aware that the contract was in perpetuity and would last forever. (Contracts are for a maximum duration of 50 years).
- Mrs Price and her sister were told that maintenance fees would only increase with the rate of inflation. They were also not informed of the historical or current rate of increase over the past 5 years prior to signing the contract.
- They were led to believe that they were purchasing into an exclusive club, that only members and their guests could use. They then discovered that non-members were using the resort at less than the maintenance fees paid by members.
- By becoming timeshare owners they were told they would be entitled to various discounts. These were for car rental; travelling; airport transfers and other holiday products. Yet they found out these discounts were also generally available to the public.
Mrs Price has also stated that had they been honestly informed of the true position and not pressured into purchasing there and then, they would never have purchased.
To make matters worse, in the time they have owned this timeshare at Dona Lola, they have never used it due to illness and being unable to travel. Yet they continued to pay the annual maintenance fees as requested and have paid diligently since the year 2000.
After many years, Mrs Price has attempted to sell their timeshare, but to no avail, there were no takers including through MacDonald Resorts who had taken over from Barrett. They also tried to surrender their timeshare even willing to give it back for free with no recompense, the resort refused.
The original timeshare they purchased was for 2 fixed weeks in a specified and fixed apartment, since then thanks to the efforts of Harry Taylor the then CEO of the discredited TATOC, they were forced to transfer their fixed weeks into a point system. This was pushed and endorsed personally by Harry Taylor as “the best move for owners” (MacDonald Resorts was one of the biggest contributors to TATOC, this does make you wonder why Taylor endorsed it). Again this is also in breach of Spanish timeshare law, which has made illegal the use of points or floating week systems. The reason they contain nothing of substance, you own nothing just the ability to use subject to availability.
We now move to 2014, they were contacted by ITRA with an offer to terminate both contracts, obviously, after years of trying to sell or hand back they duly signed up in May of that year. The contract was the termination of the timeshare membership and a possible claim. The cost for this was £5695 to terminate both Dona Lola and Oasis Lanz. This was paid on 26 May 2014.
On 25 February 2015, a UK notary visited their home, (remember they are housebound), they signed a power of attorney and the transfer documents for the timeshare. On 10 April the same year, Mrs Price received notification that she no longer owned or was responsible for the 2 timeshares. According to the paperwork (Signed Notary documents giving details of the new owner), she received both had been sold to the same person for £1 each.
Since then they have had no contact or maintenance demands from Oasis Lanz, but have had constant demands for maintenance from MacDonald Resorts. They also had many calls and letters from a debt collection agency employed by MacDonald’s, Network Credit Services based in Lanarkshire.
After making several enquiries with Network Credit Services, as MacDonalds refuse to discuss the matter even though Mrs Price has given her consent for Inside Timeshare to work on her behalf, it transpires that MacDonald Resorts do not recognise the transfer made by ITRA. Had Mrs Price been aware that MacDonald’s did not recognise ITRA brokered transfers they would never have signed up with them. This is also the fault of MacDonald Resorts for not having a clear and easy relinquishment policy or informing “members” of companies they do not recognise.
Well, we do know the reason why MacDonald Resorts have a policy of allowing “selected” members to relinquish every two years, but this is also very costly and greedy. The requirements are that you must apply and also pay in advance 4 years maintenance fees and also legal fees, plus be fully paid to date with your maintenance. But, that is no guarantee they will end your membership, numbers are limited.
So we are now at the stage today where MacDonald Resorts have employed the service of a “law” firm Shepherd and Wedderburn to harass these two old ladies, now in their 90’s for almost £10,000. In their tactics to force payment this “law” firm is pushing to take the case to court and have the County Court issue a CCJ and enforce payment.
To back this up, along with the letter of intent to take the case to court they also sent 6 court documents of the case they have won on behalf of MacDonald Resorts in the county court. Having read these they are nothing like this case and are totally irrelevant apart from attempting to scare Mrs Price and her sister into paying. Obviously, this is having serious consequences on their mental health.
According to Shepherd and Wedderburn, they claim that the contracts are subject to Scottish law and that the timeshare laws and Spanish courts do not have jurisdiction. In fact, this is incorrect, in 2016 MacDonalds lost a case over this very point in the Spanish courts. The Spanish courts have also made the same ruling against other timeshare companies recently. As far as the Spanish courts are concerned, the purchase and contract was signed in Spain, the payment was made in Spain and the resort itself is in Spain. In the letter sent by Inside Timeshare (published below) to Shepherd and Wedderburn, this is explained, you will also find links to these cases.
Dear Mr MacFarlane,
In your letter dated 15 October, you state that Spanish Law does not have any jurisdiction on the contact with MacDonald Resorts. They along with other timeshare developers have attempted to circumvent Spanish Timeshare law by the use of UK Ltd companies and the clause that UK Law and UK courts have jurisdiction. The High Court of Malaga has ruled on many occasions that timeshare developers cannot choose the jurisdiction of their contracts. The courts have ruled that the contracts were purchased in Spain, the contracts were signed in Spain, the deposits were taken in Spain and the fact is the resort is based in Spain. Therefore the courts have ruled that Spanish law will apply and have jurisdiction on these contracts.
In fact, I have been trying to find the reference to a case held in Spain against MacDonald Resorts in 2016, in this case, the courts ruled that they do have jurisdiction over the contracts and MacDonald Resort lost the case. Unfortunately, without the actual case number, it is difficult to find the court rulings.
Below are just four recent rulings on the matter of jurisdiction. These cases have been brought by the leading law firm in this field Canarian Legal Alliance. Even though these cases show Club la Costa and Diamond Resorts, the ruling is quite clear that Spanish law and courts do have jurisdiction.
Spanish law is quite clear,
- Contracts should be a duration of a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years. If there is no end date on the contract that means it is in perpetuity.
- Timeshare is to be sold as fixed weeks and fixed apartments, points system and floating weeks are illegal as they contain nothing of substance just the right of use subject to availability.
- The taking of any payments within the statutory 14 days cooling off-period is forbidden including by a third party.
The law regarding timeshare in Spain is Law 42/98 with Law 4/12 updating. (pdfs attached English and Spanish).
On point 2 above, this ruling regarding points and floating weeks has been made by the Supreme Court in Madrid, this is Spain’s highest court.
Clearly, had Mrs Price and Mrs Flavell still had their original paperwork, I am sure that Canarian Legal Alliance, M1 Legal or one of the other main law firms in this field would certainly take the case to court and have the contracts declared null and void with the full return of their purchase price plus double any amount taken with the statutory cooling-off period. Plus legal interest and legal fees. It may also be the case that the 90 days ruling would also be invoked by the courts and if so the entire purchase price would be awarded in double.
This is a totally pointless case taking 2 old ladies to court, I honestly think that MacDonald Resorts have outdone themselves in their behaviour in this matter, I also think that as a law firm you also share in the responsibility of acting in a totally disgusting and unprofessional manner in allowing yourselves to be used to harass these old ladies. After all, they continued to pay their annual maintenance fee for around 10 years even though they did not use it due to ill health.
If MacDonald Resorts do continue to pursue this course, Inside Timeshare will have no other recourse than to ensure the story gets out into the press, namely Tony Hetherington and Andrew Penman. I’m sure they would love the story, well, in fact, they already are following it. This will only result in even more bad publicity for a company that has already lost so much credibility that even the Resorts Development Organisation (European timeshare trade body) removed them from membership due to their unethical practices.
As the law firm acting on behalf of MacDonald Resorts I feel it is your duty to at least attempt to get them to see sense, harassing two old ladies in very bad health and in their 90’s is one of the most disgusting things I have ever had to deal with in the 10 years I have been running Inside Timeshare. This email along will be published as an open letter on Inside Timeshare on Monday, this is not going away and your reputation will be sullied and I make no apologies for that.
Links to recent jurisdiction cases.
As you can see and for those who have been following this case for the past 4 years, MacDonald Resorts is nothing more than a bully, we also know that they are in dire financial difficulties and are attempting to sell-off resorts and hotels. Could this be the reason that they are harassing two old ladies?
Inside Timeshare leaves that answer to you the reader, we know what our answer is.
Have you been on the receiving end of disgusting, unprofessional and unethical behaviour from MacDonald Resorts or their “legal bloodhounds” Shepherd and Wedderburn, then please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you? If you would like your story published then please do say so.
Some previous articles on Mrs B, V’s MacDonald Resorts