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Florida House Bill 435

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.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Inside Timeshares Irene Parker reports on a Lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 former Wyndham employees. This suit was filed under the Florida Private Whistleblowers Act in the Judicial District of Pinellas County, Florida Civil Division. This follows on from a previous article first published in 1 December 2016, where Whistleblowers exposed timeshare sales tactics, it was also where we reported on Trish Williams being awarded $20 million by a San Francisco jury for unfair dismissal after she exposed Wyndhams tactics. But first the latest news from the Spanish Courts.

For one British family they are nearing the end of a long road in their fight against Anfi Resorts, the Court of First Instance Number 4, in Maspalomas Gran Canaria has declared their contract null and void. The basis of this decision is the contract did not follow that stated under Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98.

The Hope family are now timeshare free and will soon be able to enjoy the money awarded, as the law firm Canarian Legal Alliance has already begun proceedings to enforce the sentence and have the money paid out as quickly as possible.

Mr & Mrs Hope

On the subject of enforcing sentence, one Norwegian family have now been awarded 49,226€ with their contract with Anfi Resorts being declared null and void, on the grounds that it did not include any tangibility and was detrimental to the consumer.

After enforcement of sentence proceeding by their lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, this money is now safely in the clients own bank account.

So contrary to many posts on various forums and claims by timeshare companies, clients are receiving payment, so congratulations to both families.

Now for today’s article.

A Lawsuit Filed on behalf of 10 Former Wyndham Employees

Filing #82214691 filed 12/17/18

Timeshare Exit Team Responds to Manifesto

Arizona Timeshare Bill to Safeguard Timeshare Buyers Opposed by Timeshare Lobbyists and Developers

By Irene Parker

February 22, 2019

A lawsuit was filed under the Florida Private Whistleblower Act (Florida Statute 448102(3)) on behalf of ten former Wyndham employees in the Judicial District of Pinellas County, Florida Civil Division against Wyndham Vacation Club. Plaintiffs include eight former sales agents. Plaintiffs allege that they objected to and refused to participate in illegal timeshare sales practices. This lawsuit parallels the former Wyndham California sales agent Trish William’s lawsuit in which a jury awarded Ms. Williams $20 million November 2016.

According to the Florida statute, “An employer may not take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee because the employee has….Objected to, or refused to participate in any activity, policy, or practice of the employer which is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.”

Florida House Bill 435, introduced by Freshman Representative Wyman Duggan seeks to protect timeshare members from unfair and deceptive sales practices perpetrated by timeshare exit companies.

The timeshare industry lobbyists and developers lump legitimate law firms and lawyers in with lawyers employing questionable business practices, with a goal to prevent members from seeking any legal counsel if they feel they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

Timeshare Accountability Group™ maintains a member need not retain a law firm or an exit company. Our Supporters answer questions about regulatory filings as the process can be daunting. However, some members do not have the time or temperament to withstand our process, which we admit is arduous.

In Manifesto Part I the author compared third party exit companies to Ponzi Schemes. This prompted a response from Timeshare Exit Team:  

“For the past seven years, as Timeshare Exit Team has grown from a local, Seattle-based company to a national brand, we have remained focused on honesty, integrity, and transparency. We exit burdened timeshare owners legitimately by facilitating transfers, voluntary deed-backs to resorts, or using attorneys to litigate against timeshare developers when necessary, and offer a 100% money-back guarantee. To date, we have successfully exited 16,000 timeshare owners. Our goal is not just to provide a valid exit for owners who find themselves with no realistic solution to get out of their timeshare, but also to transform the industry. For that reason, we are proud to be a founding member of The Coalition to Reform Timeshare. In solidarity with our Coalition partners, we are pushing for a Consumer’s Bill of Rights for timeshare owners–and would-be owners–that seeks to create a 24-hour cooling-off period prior to signing a timeshare contract, to  lengthen rescission periods to 14 days, to force full disclosure in timeshare presentations, and to give timeshare owners booking rights over the general public. Our passion is to be able to serve every single one of our clients AND to support those who wish to keep their timeshare, but just want a level playing field with the developers.”

Given Timeshare Accountability Group™ recommends not paying anyone to get out of a timeshare, we find ourselves an unlikely ally with Timeshare Exit Team as we are also a founding member of The Coalition to Reform Timeshare.

There are many timeshare exit scams, but there are also many scam timeshare sales agents. Inside Timeshare has heard from 705 families reporting allegations our ten Wyndham former employees say they were forced to employ or be “starved out” of their jobs.

In the Wyndham lawsuit, plaintiffs were employed by Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort which opened in 2017. Plaintiffs include eight former sales agents, a business operations coordinator and a community marketing agent. Plaintiffs say they were enticed by a supposed once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the opening sales team where they were promised yearly profits in excess of $500,000.

The allegations described in this December 2018 class action read like a broken record to Charles Thomas and me. We hear on a daily basis, identical complaints from timeshare buyers from a variety of timeshare companies. Many were existing members who trusted the company, buying more points in order to be eligible for programs that did not exist, like the ability to sell back points to the company. Timeshares have virtually no secondary market.

We also have received many complaints from timeshare buyers who said they did not realize a credit card had been opened or charged. They report being told to “fill this out so we can determine if you are eligible” when in actuality a credit card was opened and charged. Electronic signing doesn’t help as initials are stored and then, tap, tap, tapped to completion.

According to the Wyndham December 2018 complaint, allegations (edited for brevity) in violation of Florida statutes, include:  

18. Plaintiffs allege supervisors regularly instructed them to intentionally confuse and mislead buyers or “wear them down” so they would buy property.

19. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to misrepresent the price of the timeshare through the use of point charts, specifically Wyndham’s “Clearwater Beach Resort Points Chart” fraudulently showing buyers the “RCI Points Chart” which depicts substantially cheaper points – in many cases less than half the actual cost.

20. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that the timeshare was an investment.

21. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that the property was not a timeshare.

22. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently misrepresent to buyers the effect of completing a credit application. Plaintiffs were instructed to advise buyers that the credit application would only be a “soft hit” or that it was not a credit application at all.

23. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently alter the buyers’ income level on their credit application, if needed, for them to be approved for credit financing.

24. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that Wyndham would buy back their property if they were not satisfied with it.

25. Supervisors intentionally preyed upon the elderly in the use of unethical and illegal sales tactics.

26. Out-of-state residents not eligible to purchase Clearwater Beach Resort properties directed plaintiffs to fraudulently advise such buyers to purchase “Club Wyndham Access” that would give them access to other Wyndham properties, and that they could transfer their interest to Clearwater Beach Resort, even providing a form letter explaining this, knowing it was not true.                                                   

27. Potential buyers were told the property was not a timeshare, but a “vacation ownership.”

28. Supervisors routinely overstated availability due to Wyndham renting out rooms, reducing availability.

29. Supervisors directed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise timeshare owners on their refinancing options advising existing owners that they could keep making the same monthly payments and pay off their loan by the same time, when in actuality repayment terms were simply extended.

30. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to do “whatever they have to do” to close deals, even if it was unlawful or unethical.

The suit also alleges unlicensed real estate agents engaged in the unlicensed practice of real estate by selling properties to buyers.  

Plaintiffs say they complained numerous times to supervisors, Human Resources, and eventually to corporate attorneys and investigators. Plaintiffs stated at least one supervisor stated he would “starve out” Plaintiffs that objected and/or complained if they did not do what he told them to do, or would fire them. Plaintiffs were constructively terminated. According to the complaint, one supervisor advised Plaintiffs to “forget everything (they) just learned” as they would never make a sale that way.

According to attorney Tom Roebig of Florin Roebig trial attorneys, representing the Plaintiffs,

“All too often corporations think that an employee who reports wrongdoing is trying to start trouble, when they’re really just trying to protect the company and other innocent victims. Unfortunately, as we can see here, all too often the employee is punished for doing the right thing.”    

Allegations from the Trish Williams lawsuit:

In the Trish Williams lawsuit, the elderly were also targeted. Allegations in the Trish Williams lawsuit include:   

1.     The effect or even existence of a credit card application;

2.     That current owners could increase their points at no cost;

3.     That Wyndham would buy back points or property in certain circumstances;

4.     That monthly payments would be reduced when they were simply being extended;

5.     That current owners were making smaller payments than they were, in an effort to persuade them to purchase more points;

Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations made this statement about unscrupulous timeshare exit companies’ sales practices:

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of.”

Having heard from 705 timeshare families, 98 active duty service members or veterans, alleging unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, we contend both sides of the timeshare sales and exits are problematic.

Arizona has proposed a bill (linked above) to safeguard timeshare buyers against practices alleged in the Wyndham lawsuit, numerous Attorneys General investigations, Better Business Bureau complaints, and other lawsuits. We will be reporting on this bill in an upcoming article.  

Thank you to the bravery and courage it takes for employees and former employees to “Hold the Powerful Accountable” and as I can personally attest – it’s not easy!  I look to Whistleblowers of America (WoA) for support because you can’t do it alone. WoA is a nonprofit that seeks justice for veterans, active duty service personnel and government workers. A veteran introduced me to WoA.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/h

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/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a positive or negative timeshare experience to share. We know there are honest agents who refuse to buy into the “pitching of heat” which means telling consumers anything they can think of to get a potential buyer to sign on the electronic line. They too are harmed by the actions of sales agents with questionable business practices.

Thank you Irene and to all other contributors this week, with your help we are able to give others a glimpse of what is happening in the world of timeshare.

Please use our contact page if you have any comment or questions on any of the subjects covered on Inside Timeshare.

Have a great weekend.


Friday’s Letter from America: On Thursday

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, yes it is Thursday, but due to personal matters we are publishing this today, also to give a little more time to gather more people to attend the Las Vegas Miracle Mile Protest. We also thank Patty Boyak for this article.

Our Las Vegas Miracle Mile Protest at the Mall Entrance

Harmon Avenue

Protesting Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

Join Us this Weekend February 16 & 17 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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

Thursday, February 14 (Friday’s Letter from America)

By Patty Boyak, event organizer

February 14 is Valentine’s Day. I should be thinking about hearts and flowers, but I am having a hard time getting over the deception 70 Platinum timeshare members experienced. I am one of the 70. We were told and believed buying additional points would qualify us for a program to reduce or eliminate our maintenance fees. It was a program that did not exist. Other Platinum members were sold on the ability to be able sell points. They later learned that their timeshare points are all but worthless. We were loyal, and most importantly, trusting customers, so believed timeshare sales agents. We are educated professionals. We are not deadbeats with buyer’s remorse.

Florida Representative Wyman Duggan submitted a Florida House Bill 435 concerned about unfair and deceptive timeshare exit company sales practices. What about unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices? The bill proposes exit companies be required to provide one day for a buyer to review a contract. https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

Why can’t timeshare buyers be given one day to review a contract?

  • Probably because the industry would disappear if the buyer was allowed 24 hours to review the contract. Timeshare companies demand buyers must buy a timeshare the same day – often after a long aggressive sales session.

What about deceptive timeshare sales practices?

Why isn’t Florida Representative Duggan concerned about the much larger dollar amounts consumers are losing to unscrupulous timeshare sales agents?

The St. Louis, Missouri Better Business Bureau gets it:

THE ST. LOUIS 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 a 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.

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.

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

Voluntary deed-backs work for those who have used and enjoyed their timeshare for years, but what about the buyer deceived who signed off on high interest rate loans and credit cards after experiencing unfair and deceptive sales practices? Voluntary surrender programs don’t help them.

If “You signed a contract” – is the industry’s official response to complaints of unfair and deceptive practices – seconded by lawmakers and the regulators in some states (like Nevada), the public needs to be made aware misrepresentations reported by timeshare buyers will be ruled in favor of the timeshare sales agent. In Nevada all our complaints were dismissed with “You don’t have proof.” There are too many educated professionals, who don’t know each other, reporting similar, and in several cases, identical complaints.

Platinum member Sheila Brust (and our T Shirt designer) reported, “We were given ludicrous advice from a Florida 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.”

Check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare or to find out if your timeshare even has a secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Our Mission Statement

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 Patty for your article, for all those who are going to attend, Inside Timeshare will be with you in spirit and we hope you all have a wonderful day. We never know, it may just make a difference, we can but try!

The Tuesday Slot: Florida House Bill 435

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we have a look at proposed legislation in Florida describing stringent requirements on entities providing timeshare exit assistance, including law firms. Florida House Bill 435 was submitted by Representative Wyman Duggan, elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Inside Timeshare here and abroad receives a daily diet of timeshare members describing how they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, and are then dismissed by the timeshare company with an over-reliance on the oral representation clause.There is an abundance of the Pot calling the Kettle black. The FL HB 435 Summary I would describe as “Gobbledygook”.

Definition of Gobbledygook

Language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usu. hard to understand.

or

Unintelligible or nonsensical talk or language  

Having spent a large portion of our time chasing down fraudulent exit companies, we here in the UK would welcome more stringent laws governing exit companies, but we encourage lawmakers to consider listening to the timeshare member, in addition to taking orders from industry lobbyists and developers. For instance, how about allowing the timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a contract? If we want to talk about unfair practices, forcing a buyer to sign the same day after enduring a tag team of aggressive and sometimes dishonest agents, that have kept the buyer typically for four to eight hours, is unfair.

We will be publishing a number of articles about this bill due to its complexity and its apparent desire to maintain total control over the buyer without access to any outside help if the buyer has been defrauded.

Florida House Bill 435: Vacation and Timeshare Plans

GENERAL BILL by Duggan

(3)(Line 157)In the course of offering or providing timeshare exit assistance or relief services, a timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider may not:

b)(Line 163)Solicit, charge, receive, or attempt to collect or secure payment, directly or indirectly, for timeshare exit assistance or relief services before completing or performing all services contained in the written agreement for services.

Effective Date: 7/1/2019

Last Action: 1/30/2019 House – Referred to Business and Professions Subcommittee; Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee; Commerce Committee

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00435/?Tab=BillText

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

February 5, 2019

By Irene Parker

I’m not an expert in proposed legislation, but after studying the 22 page draft of Florida HB 435, it seems that if this Bill is enacted, it will leave the timeshare member at the mercy of their timeshare resort. Based on complaints from 676 timeshare members reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, timeshare companies have not been owner orientated in terms of dealing with owners reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The majority of complaints have been dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Many members have had disputes resolved, but only after repeated rebuttals and the filing of regulatory complaints.

I found the Florida HB 435 summary incomprehensible. The PDF file of the actual proposed bill is linked above. I have broken the summary down piecemeal, which helps a little.   

Vacation and Timeshare Plans;

Provides services included in timeshare exit assistance or relief services;

provides prohibitions for timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider;

requires certain disclosures in general & purchaser-specific commercial communications;

provides requirements for oral or audible communications;

requires written agreement to provide services;

provides requirements for written agreement;

provides requirements for when specific entities are providing relief;

prohibits person from providing assistance or support to timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider if person knows provider is violating law;

provides exemptions;

requires certain records be maintained for specific duration;

provides requirements for timeshare exit assistance or relief services providers;

provides criminal & civil penalties;

provides that purchaser or owners’ association may bring action for damages against resale service provider or timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider.

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, despite numerous Attorneys General investigations, BBB complaints, and lawsuits too numerous to mention. The internet is flooded with complaints.

Where are the lawmakers looking out for consumers who have been victimized by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents, managers and VPs? 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. This legislative action would be completely unnecessary if only the timeshare resorts were responsive to owners’ issues. Why would timeshare owners voluntarily fork over thousands of dollars to these third parties if their resort had properly dealt with their issues rather than rule the customer is always wrong because they signed a contract.  

Timeshare members and owners, who own resort interests at American Resort Development Association (ARDA) resorts, pay a ‘voluntary’ fee to support ARDA ROC, who purports to represent timeshare members. This Bill is a perfect example of owners paying to have their rights further impaired if this Bill is successful. While I understand timeshare exit scams are out of control, treating the symptoms without looking at the cause is illogical and irresponsible.

The Bill was submitted by Wyman Duggan, freshman House of Representatives, elected 2018, profiled on LobbyTools. Lobbytools? Contact Representative Duggan if you would like to voice your opinion.

District Address:

Suite 104

4114 Herschel Street

Jacksonville, FL   32210-2200

Phone: (904) 381-6011

 

Capitol Address:

402 South Monroe Street

1101 The Capitol

Tallahassee, FL   32399-1300

Phone: (850) 717-5015

Email: [email protected]

ARDA is a lobby organization and a Political Action Committee (PAC).  The ROC in ARDA ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA does lobby for members when an issue affects both the developer and the member. One example is a proposed $300 exchange fee the Virgin Islands wanted to impose a few years ago. However, when the issue at stake benefits the industry, timeshare members are short changed, with no voice in legislative changes. Name me one real timeshare member or owner involved with this legislation.

Howard Nusbaum, the president of ARDA, was recently quoted in a Consumer Affairs article claiming, “The vast majority of people are happy with their timeshare.” If so, why is there a sizeable timeshare exit industry? In the same article, Diane Burkhart explains how her parents were sold five timeshare contracts from the age of 85 to 88. Diane’s parents are #57 of a summary report of 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members who have contacted Inside Timeshare describing how they were up-sold into insolvency. They say they purchased additional timeshare points promised maintenance fee relief that was not forthcoming or the ability to sell points, widely reported to be worthless. The maintenance fee in 2018 for 50,000 Diamond timeshare points was $8,631.  

The lack of a secondary market breeds the timeshare exit industry. I contacted 22 of the 60 plus members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association (LTRBA) asking to list my Diamond points. LTRBA members charge nothing upfront to list a timeshare. They refused to even accept a listing. Desperate timeshare members waking up to the realization that there is little to no secondary market turn to exit companies. Approximately 200 of our readers, timeshare members, sent their complaint to ARDA ROC. ARDA ROC does not resolve disputes, but has a Code of Ethics. Members feel the code is being violated. At best has been an auto-reply with tips on how to sell a timeshare.

The only timeshare member to receive a real response to her complaint from ARDA ROC was Elaine Lim. If Elaine Lim forecloses on her timeshare loan it could jeopardize her job and her career as she has top security clearances. Her response from ARDA ROC was, “This has been resolved” even before the company contacted Elaine. The company response was basically, “You signed a contract.” http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-32/

When timeshare members receive their maintenance fee invoices, they are asked to make a $3 to $10 donation to ARDA ROC, When I questioned my $7 donation, prior to my becoming more involved with this industry, I was told ARDA ROC is a nonprofit that helps members. 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.

Why doesn’t the legislature own up to unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices? Why point the finger only at exit companies?

ALEC pictured above is not the name of a lobbyist. It is the name of another PAC, the American Legislative Exchange Council one Senator describes as a “Corporate Bill Mill.” The reporter in this YouTube describes how lobbyists sit across the table with legislators filling in the blanks on desired bills tailored to their wishes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MHYOB5uptc

How about a parallel timeshare Bill with the same wording to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices? Disgruntled timeshare members who have reached out to us are not financial deadbeats trying to weasel out of their contracts. They are medical doctors, lawyers, mortgage loan officers, professors, teachers, MBAs, PhDs, war heroes, law enforcement professionals, criminologists (one a PhD), a detective who worked economic crimes under cover, and a contract specialist, all alleging fraud, deception, and unfair timeshare sales practices. The perpetual timeshare contract with little to no secondary market is a recipe for financial disaster. Many families are financially devastated.   

Florida HB 435:

The Legislature finds that purchasers who are in

(109) default of their obligations to pay assessments, real property taxes, or other sums due, or to pay amounts due under a mortgage, lien, or encumbrance against their timeshare interests, or who may no longer desire to own their timeshare

interests, may be vulnerable to fraud, deception, and unfair practices with timeshare exit assistance or relief services providers.

122 to prohibit representations that tend to mislead; to prohibit or restrict unfair contract terms;

Our volunteers answer questions about regulatory filings when members complain of fraud, deception, and unfair timeshare sales practices. We are not focused on getting members out of their timeshare contacts, although members have had disputes resolved as a result of filing regulatory complaints.

Prior legislation, making it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts, was passed in Florida in 2015. This drew sharp criticism from advocacy groups:

A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature that would loosen a cap on timeshare assessment fees and make it tougher for buyers to get out of contracts has drawn criticism from timeshare owners’ attorneys and advocates.

The lawmakers and the industry’s trade association, the American Resort Development Association, describes the legislation as a bill that modernizes state law. Gregory Crist, chairman and CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association, sees it otherwise. “This is a developer-sponsored bill that strips away at consumer-protection mechanisms,”

Meanwhile, attorneys and timeshare owners have questioned a provision that reduces liability for timeshare developers if they make errors in contracts. Errors or omissions that are considered “non material” would not allow purchaser-cancellation rights after 10 days. Stargel said the legislation is meant to keep timeshare owners from getting out of their contracts by finding minor flaws in them. It is meant to cover only technicalities, she said, not major problems.

Last month, some members of a House civil justice subcommittee expressed concern that there is no clear definition of “nonmaterial.” That kind of murkiness will “lead to increased litigation,” said attorney Patrick Kennedy, who represents timeshare consumers

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-timeshare-bill-20150312-story.html

Other related articles:

http://www.timeshare-info.org/2015/04/mixed-reviews-from-industry-experts-florida-bill.html

http://insidethegate.com/gatehouse/2015/04/florida-usa-timeshare-news-april-18-2015/#sthash.41Peggzh.dpbs

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

Here are some Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Get involved. Let your voice be heard. Too many families have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare, a product advertised to reduce stress.

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 all those who have had a hand in the making of this article, your views and insights are greatly appreciated. Now to all our readers, read the bill in the PDF format below and see if you can fathom out what it all means!! Do let us know, we would love to hear from you and publish your thoughts and comments in our comments section.

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00435/?Tab=BillText

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

Remember to also contact Representative Duggan and voice your opinions direct.