Browse Tag

High Court

Start the Week

Welcome to the start of another week at Inside Timeshare, over the past few weeks we have been publishing many articles on Silverpoint, especially the move by the parent company Limora Investments Ltd (BVI) filing for liquidation. We have also published the news that The Paramount – Club Paradiso has closed their doors with many members unable to book, the website is down and no one seems to be answering the phones. We also reported on Keys Concierge having also gone into liquidation with all the staff losing their jobs, as we know the administrator dealing with the liquidation is Alex Lawson of Alvarez and Marsal working on behalf of the Trotta family.

So as you can imagine, Inside Timeshare has been inundated with emails enquiring about the legality of all the products sold by Silverpoint. The most prolific of these products and having by far the highest costs are the “Company Participation Scheme”, with purchases from 40,000€ all the way to 150,000€ plus. Just on the enquiries Inside Timeshare has received we are looking at purchases of well over one million euros, this certainly is a very big money making scheme, the question is where has it all Gone?

Courts of First Instance Maspalomas

Now for some news from the courts around Spain.

Last Friday the leading law firm in timeshare litigation Canarian Legal Alliance, announced their results for the week, with 26 victories in various courts around Spain.

At the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas Gran Canaria, there were 11 cases found against Anfi, with 2 cases at the High Court of Las Palmas being found in favour of the clients after Anfi appealed.

At the same Court of First Instance, a sentence was issued against Palm Oasis.

In the Court of First Instance of Arona, Tenerife, Silverpoint was on the receiving end of the judges, with 11 rulings against them in favour of the CLA clients.

The last was against Club la Costa in Fuengirola, where the judge again found in favour of the client.

As usual, all contracts were declared null and void with the courts ordering a total of 1,226,260.15€ A very expensive week for the timeshare industry indeed. But at the end of the day, had they sold their products in accordance with the law, then they would not be finding themselves in this position.

If you have purchased any timeshare product in Spain and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim or would just like to know your legal position and your options, then use our contact page. We will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

Start the Week

So here we are at the start of another week, today we start with the news from the courts at the end of last week, we also republish the link to a TVE 1 news report about timeshare law in Spain and an interview with Eva Gutiérrez from Canarian Legal Alliance. We also highlight a new “claims” company that has just come to our attention.

At the end of last week after publishing out Letter from America, Canarian Legal Alliance published their results for the week. Once again it was a busy week for the courts and the lawyers with no less than 15 new victories on behalf of their clients.

In frame with the most rulings against them was once again Anfi Del Mar, with 10 cases heard by the Court of First Instance of San Bartolomé de Tirajana in Maspalomas. In the High Court of Las Palmas Gran Canaria, Anfi del Mar had 4 appeals rejected and sent back to the lower courts for the execution of sentence.

In Tenerife at the High Court in Santa Cruz, Silverpoint also lost an appeal, with the case being sent back to the Court of First Instance, again for the execution of sentence.

The total amount being returned to clients is a massive 517,056.50€ this amount doe not include legal fees or legal interest that is calculated separately. Contracts were also declared null and void. The infringements of the timeshare laws ranged from contracts over 50 years in duration, floating weeks and points systems plus the taking of payments within the 14 days cooling off period.

Considering the Supreme Court rulings of which there are 129, and the number of cases being found against the timeshare companies at the lower courts, it does make you wonder why the timeshare companies insist on prolonging the process and taking the lost cases to appeal. All we can surmise is that they are trying to delay making any payments as they still believe the courts have interpreted the law incorrectly.

In response to that belief, Inside Timeshare republishes a link to the National Spanish TV Station TVE1, in this news item they look at the Supreme Court rulings and explain why the timeshare companies are being taken to court. In the item, they also interview one of the Senior Lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance Eva Gutiérez. This clip will put you the reader in doubt as to who is telling the truth.

Another new name in the “claims” business has just come to our attention, Refund My Claim with the website:

http://www.refundmyclaim.co.uk

It was registered on 9 February 2019 with the actual owner and registrar being hidden, the website has been regestered for one year only and is set to expire on 2 February 2020, these are never good signs.

The website itself gives very little information, with no company registration details only the company address, telephone number and email:

53 Fountain Street, Manchester, M2 2AN. Once again this is rented office space with postal and telephone answering service run by Regus, one of the biggest suppliers of serviced and rental office space on long term or daily basis.

The telephone number given is 0161 826 49 62

With the email [email protected]

On their Home Page, they state, “We are a free advice service that identifies the best Lawyers, Solicitors or Claims management company that best suits you for your claim.” They also explain the “Claims management” is big business in the UK and then go to list all the types of claims they work with including timeshare.

Now considering the age of the website, the lack of company information, no Company House registration and no mention of any lawyers or regulated claims managment company names, makes this is look like a very dodgy set up.

If you are contacted by any company with offers of getting you your money back for any timeshare or holiday club, do your homework before engaging with them. Make sure they are genuine, if you need help or advice on this, then use our contact page and we will be happy to help.

Tomorrow in our Tuesday Slot we publish an article titled How is a Timeshare Point Valued, this has been written by an Industry Insider and we have kept them anonymous as per their wishes. So join us tomorrow for more information and news on the world of timeshare.

The Tuesday Slot

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

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

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

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

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

Women Who Money

Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?

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

Wait! What Timeshare Regulations?

By Irene Parker

April 30, 2019

I enjoyed reading Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run? published by Women Who Money.  I agree with the author’s major points, except “regulations being in place to protect timeshare consumers.” Having heard from timeshare members about how easy it is for a timeshare sales agent to dodge a contract rescission period, I wonder if there is any foolproof way to prevent being scammed. Some things, like actual availability, cannot be discerned by reading the contract. My contract said, “You can sell your points. We will not assist you.” The part about no buyers was left out. I was duped by reading the contract.

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

“They’ve got a lobbying presence here and around the country,” added Amanda Rusing who lobbies for the office, “It was very disappointing to have to remove all of the stronger, pro-consumer provisions.”

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

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

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

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

We would think it silly if a bill was proposed requiring those who seek to buy a car be allowed 24 hours before signing a contract. Typically when buying a car, you shop, and a tag team of agents doesn’t gang up on you for hours.

A synopsis of recent Florida, Arizona and Nevada legislation:

Timeshares are regulated by states. Since timeshare buyers typically buy a timeshare in a state other than their state of residence, lawmakers have little incentive to react to non-constituents. Lawmakers need to listen to those who bought a timeshare in their state, not just those who reside in their state.

I found the Woman Who Money article, “Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?” on Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Crusader blog. Having worked in the industry for years, Lisa’s knowledge brings a lot to the table. Lisa is the author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies.

From Women Who Money   

Regulations now exist to help protect consumers from high-pressure sales tactics. If you buy a timeshare and quickly regret it, you may have options for getting out of the signed contract.

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

Lisa Ann Schreier

Timeshare expert and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies

“While it is true that each state has a legally mandated rescission period, the fact of the matter is that 99% of purchasers will not read the contract within that time frame. The days of relying on the salesperson for good, solid information are over. Consumers must go into these timeshare sales pitches armed with a litany of questions and be prepared to walk out without purchasing anything if they don’t receive answers that can be pointed out within the contract.”

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/

My husband and I used and enjoyed our timeshare for 25 years with no complaints, questions or Facebook posts. The points-based product does offer greater flexibility. We’re not saying timeshares aren’t good for many, and we know there are many honest sales agents, but I am convinced after hearing from over 800 timeshare members, current and former sales agents, managers and even an executive or two, “pitching heat” is on the upswing.

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

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

  • $8,631
  • -8,631
  • 0

According to Sheilah, the three-page pencil pitch describes how she would be able to cover all her maintenance fees through point usage. A second and third buyer bought from the same sales agent. The Florida DBPR reviewer told Sheilah that she did not understand the program either until she spoke with the company’s attorney. What chance does the average consumer have if a Florida timeshare reviewer, who has reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of timeshare contracts, did not understand the program until she spoke with the company’s attorney?

As far as proof, 83 Platinum members, who don’t know each other, reported similar to identical complaints, often against repeat offender sales agents. I’m told that constitutes proof as it is a good faith investigation and a reasonable conclusion. We have prepared a 130-page summary which is available upon request if a lawmaker or regulator is interested. We can hope.       

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

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

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

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

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today Irene Parker sets out instructions on how to file complaints with the FBI and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). Unfortunately, many of the requests for help Inside Timeshare receives fall into the category of fraud, yet the industry still does not recognise that they need to change.

Before we start a bit of news from the Spanish Courts.

The lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have been at it again this week with a resounding 25 sentences issued against timeshare companies.

These have been broken down as 3 issued from the High Court and 22 from the Court of First Instance. With Anfi receiving 24 judgements against them and Club La Costa receiving 1. The Club la Costa case was heard at the court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga and is the very first case to involve one of CLA’s Spanish clients. (Click on the PDF below for the court sentence).

The other cases were clients from the UK and Scandinavia, with most receiving double the deposits paid and the return of legal fees, all contract were also declared null and void.

The total amount awarded in all these cases is a staggering 828,329€. So congratulations to the clients and also the entire legal team at Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now for our Letter from America.

Timeshare Accountability Group™

FBI and FTC Filing Instructions and Talking Points

April 26, 2019

By Irene Parker

When timeshare members feel they have experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, the member should first reach out to their resort in an attempt to resolve the dispute. If informed, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” file a Better Business Bureau complaint and file a complaint with the Attorney General from the state where you signed a contract.

Unfortunately, some timeshare complaints meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. If the complaint is of a nature that meets the following description, file with the FBI at IC3.gov or file orally by contacting an FBI field office.

# 1 IC3.gov

Timeshare fraud falls under White Collar Crime/Mortgage Fraud/Financial Institution Fraud/Fraud for Profit. click on the link below to read about mortgage fraud. The general definition of white-collar crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, and bait and switch.”  

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.

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

To file a complaint with the FBI, select IC3.gov from the three choices available. It’s confusing because IC stands for Internet Crime, but it doesn’t have to be about internet crime. That’s just the name of the portal. You can file a complaint on behalf of someone else. At the end of the form it will ask if you are filing on someone else’s behalf.

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Some of the information that the IC3.gov online form asks for is not necessary – fields like routing numbers, bank addresses. Don’t worry about having all that information. They are not required fields. Victim bank is the bank from where you made payments or the credit card company. Subject bank is where you send your payments.

If you receive additional information after filing an original complaint, there is a handy box to check that asks, “Is this an update to a prior report?” Start the complaint over, but check that box to add the new information.

Step #2 File an oral FBI report 24/7

You can also file orally by contacting an FBI field office. Contact the field office where you signed a contract. Members have reported some agents have spent one or two hours on the phone with them. One member met with her FBI agent!

When you call the field office, select “Submit a Tip” then wait for the white-collar crime prompt. One person ended up in the wrong pew of the right church told they had to have lost a million dollars or more to file a complaint. That’s not true.

Members report the FBI has been responsive, but the FBI agent needs to be convinced getting a lawyer will do nothing to stop the problem of timeshare fraud for profit. Timeshare companies have armies of lawyers and they can drag a proceeding on forever until the member is broke. It is an understatement to say timeshare attorneys don’t look favourably on the arbitration process.

In Florida call the Tampa Field Office

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/

Whether filing at IC3.gov or orally, you can provide the name and phone number of other victims, especially if you are aware of similar complaints. That way the FBI can look up other reports directed against the same repeat offender sales agent.

Sheila Brust’s article, “Just the Facts, Ma’am” is about her experience reaching out to the FBI. Sheilah worked for New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. The FBI advised Sheila to file with the Secret Service because her allegation also involved credit card fraud.

www.secretservice.gov                                                       

Don’t expect to hear back from the FBI. They don’t work like that. That doesn’t mean they are not listening. It takes volumes of complaints and a pattern of complaints to launch any investigation, whether with the FBI or with an Attorney General.

Filing your own complaint requires dedication and perseverance. Resolutions can be accomplished, empowered with information the member needs to take matters into their own hands. Thinking beyond their own dilemma, members can become one of our volunteer Supporters to help others.

Our Complaint Instructions were revised by a millennial timeshare buyer who followed our complaint instructions to resolve her dispute.

How to File a Complaint revised January 25, 2019

Timeshare member complaints tend to start out convoluted and confusing. We suggest having a friend or neighbor, not familiar with timeshare, read your complaint to see if it makes sense. Provide examples. Expect to be denied. Read the reason for dismissal and respond with a rebuttal.

Saying things like “I can’t afford this” is useless. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say “I can’t afford my home mortgage” and expect them to take your house back. You signed a legally binding contract. If there was no deception, you are bound by the contract, although it’s possible to request a contract cancellation due to medical or financial hardship.

We refer to a lawyer about one in ten times when all else fails, or the member does not have the time or energy to follow our process, which is admittedly timeshare consuming. A list of reputable law firms is provided upon request.   

#3 File with the Federal Trade Commission

The FTC online form has a “Timeshare Sales” option. It’s not easy to find. Instructions are in this article. Don’t be discouraged by receiving only a “Here’s some timeshare tips!” response. https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-13/

Extra Talking Points

You must inform the FBI agent why you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices. The agent you speak with may know nothing about timeshare basics. Explain the contract is perpetual, there is no secondary market, and when members complain, the company often hides behind the oral representation clause.

Your mission is to convince the FBI that this is not about only a few complaints. This article “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders” lists just a few of the Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits, and the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report tells consumers what to watch out for:

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders

St. Louis BBB report

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

Why doesn’t the government do something about this?

  1. There is no federal enforcement,
  2. Timeshare Attorney General Investigations and settlements are usually mere financial speed bumps, comparable to fining an NFL player $10,000. One exception is The Manhattan Club settlement. https://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club
  3. When a member complains, they are shown their initials on the fine print,
  4. Retaining an attorney will not stop unfair and deceptive business practices,
  5. Litigation is time-consuming and expensive,
  6. Arbitration is widely known to be pro-industry. If you lose you can end up paying the resort’s arbitration fees. The resort hires the arbitrators.
  7. The CFPB has been rendered ineffective. Even in the CFPB heyday members could not file a complaint because the borrower often doesn’t even know the name of their lender. You had to select a financial institution from the dropdown menu and timeshare companies are not a choice.
  8. Some lawmakers may be influenced by lobby dollars, as reported by The Daily Courier. https://www.dcourier.com/news/2019/apr/16/opt-out-provisions-timeshare-bill-no-longer-table/
  9. Some state AGs turn a blind eye. At a Florida legislative workshop in Tallahassee March 12 of this year, the spokesperson for the Florida AG reported their office received 1,600 annual timeshare complaints in 2017 and 2018, mostly about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors, of which the AG engaged only 42 of the complaints, mostly about resales. This spells no enforcement. The Nevada Real Estate Division responded to all our readers with a “You have no proof letter.”
  10. Timeshare members give the ARDA ROC Political Action Committee approximately $5 million dollars annually, often “Opt-Out” donations. We have heard from over 800 timeshare members. Not one could tell us what ARDA ROC even stands for. ARDA ROC vigorously opposed recent proposed pro-consumer changes in Arizona.  

Let us know if you are active duty military, law enforcement, a government worker or a veteran, as we are supported by WhistleBlowers of America. They added timeshare fraud to their March 14, 2018 report before the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has since been all but dismantled and we changed our name from TS Advocacy to Timeshare Accountability Group):

United in Speaking Truth to Power

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org @whistleP2P

601 Pennsylvania Ave, South Tower, Suite 900 Washington, DC 20004

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

House and Senate Committee Members:

Whistleblowers of America (WoA) was incorporated in 2017, as a newly focused nonprofit service organization providing peer support to whistleblowers, so we are honored to be able to share our concerns with you today. The majority of our contacts are with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees or veterans who have identified waste, fraud, and abuse, medical errors, denials of care or benefits, discrimination, harassment or bullying.  For doing so, they have suffered reprisal and retaliation. From the report:

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

Although WoA recognizes that it is not inherent within the VA mission to protect veterans from fraud and scams that could cost them their benefits, it suggests that it could be assistive in educating veterans against these unscrupulous tactics. For example, WoA has had multiple complaints from veterans related to timeshare deceit and bait and switch tactics, which are defined by the FBI as fraud for profit.  Often elderly veterans are mentioned as being targeted by the Timeshare Advocacy Group, TM which fights for active duty and retired military who fear losing their security clearance, career, homes or other assets.  Foreclosures and financial distress because of these misrepresented investments are happening every day to elderly disabled veterans and their families. In the past, VA has cooperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over mortgage and other loan scams that caused financial hardships for veterans.  Home loans and timeshare loans are identical as both are reported as foreclosures. WoA asks that Congress consider a role for the VBA Employment and Economic Initiative (EEI) could play in cooperation with CFPB to educate and protect veterans from unscrupulous financial predators and fraudulent practices.

Consider a donation to Whistleblowers of America if you have been helped by Timeshare Accountability Group™

It’s remarkable that a timeshare member must go through this many stressful hoops concerning a product that was sold to be stress reducing. If you have skills that could help others, consider becoming a Supporter. Contact TAG.

Related articles:

3Rs or F of Timeshare

The Timeshare Tax Trap, February 26, 2019

Arizona HB 2639, March 1, 2019

Arizona HB 2639, March 5, 2019

Florida HB 435, March 15, 2019

Florida HB 435, March 19, 2019

Nevada SB, March 22, 2019

Arbitration October 24 2017

Member self-help groups

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, this information should prove a great help to many of our readers, it is just a shame that we have to resort to this type of action. One day the industry may just realise that it is through their own greed that they are on the receiving end of so many complaints.

Once again the weekend is upon us, whatever you are doing and wherever you are, have a great weekend and join us next week for news and information on the murky world of timeshare.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another of our Secret Shopper Reports, coordinated by Pete Gibbes, these articles have proved to be very popular with our many readers. One thing they all comment on is how similar to their own experiences these reports show.

“Thank God It’s April 15 Day!”

For those in the US, the 15 April is the day when many members will receive a tax liability bill if a loan is cancelled. For us, in Europe, we find this very strange, especially for loans linked to timeshare purchases. At least our European members don’t get a tax bill when their loan is cancelled.

Inside Timeshare has directed many back to their CPA to dispute this tax bill for “phantom income” as the former has not been enriched by the cancellation of the loan as they have retained nothing of value.

Now before we go on with our Secret Shopper article, a little news on the legal front from the leading European law firm in timeshare litigation, Canarian Legal Alliance.

With the Easter Holidays now upon us, the lawyers at CLA are having a well-deserved break, especially after the past two weeks of court cases.

In the past five days alone, there have been 25 trial and 20 sentences issued, many of these were pre-trials, with the judges once again confirming that there was no need for the case to go to a full trial. The reason being, these cases are based on documentary proof, they are based on contracts which according to Spanish timeshare law contain illegalities. This is obviously very damaging for the timeshare companies but very good news for the clients.

So to recap, in the past 2 weeks, there has been a total of 26 victory sentences with 24 against Anfi del Mar, all heard in the Court of First Instance, San Bartelomé de Tirajana, Gran Canaria. With 2 High Court, Santa Cruz de Tenerife against Silverpoint. The total amount awarded is a staggering 931,229€ plus all contracts being declared null and void.

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

How do you define a “Bad Apple” Sales Agent?

It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

By Secret Shopper

Tuesday, April 16

We have all heard stories of outright deception and deceit employed by timeshare salespeople. Many complaints are from those who were convinced to give up their deeded timeshare week and convert to the points-based timeshare.

Fixed week timeshares may lack the flexibility of points, but if you like knowing what you own, a guaranteed stay may mean more to you than flexibility. With a points program, you can stay more or less than a week and book other resorts at other times of the year. However, many have complained that after giving up their deed, they were not able to access even the resort they had vacationed at for years.

Timeshare companies will say that salespeople who use scare tactics represent only a few “Bad Apples” so are not typical. Timeshare Accountability Group has heard from more than a few members that were frightened into giving up their deed, told their children will be burdened because of their parent’s decision to buy a timeshare. We’re not lawyers, so we defer to timeshare attorney Mike Finn to fill us in on what happens when you inherit an unwanted timeshare. It’s a topic many are interested in, especially as baby boomers age.

Some of the tactics sales agents use to coerce an “owner” to give up a deeded timeshare week to become a “member” are downright predatory and constitute practicing law without a license. This is what happened to Phyllis, age 67, in her own words (unedited):

I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare forever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them (the new company) or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry.  I was tired. In order to get out of there, I signed under dearest. I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BARCLAYS BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018, to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. DRI sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

(Submitted to Inside Timeshare)

Our Secret Shopper Experience        

In mid-summer 2018, we went on a “mandatory” update after attending a Diamond Resorts event in Virginia Beach. We are well versed in timeshare methods and had our “ears up” to catch any of the standard tactics they might use to persuade us to convert our two deeded weeks into points.

Despite being ready for the worst, I will openly admit that our salesperson never told us any OVERT lies during our two-hour presentation. He was friendly, polite, and had a long history with Diamond Resorts at various locations throughout the country. He told us where he lived in Virginia Beach (a very expensive waterfront area).  He did not lie to us.

That being said, his words were very carefully chosen, and of course, what he didn’t tell us was even more carefully chosen. At a minimum, his pitch was misleading, confusing, full of half-truths, and in my opinion quite diabolical.  When someone commits a “material omission” is it a lie? That sounds like a question for attorney Mike Finn.

Let’s see how the game is played

Our salesperson pushed two major discussion points:

1 – Vacation Options:

Our sales agent demonstrated what would happen if we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased 5,000 points. He showed us a world of amazing Diamond Resorts locations on his computer screen. He explained these resorts would be available to us with the 15,000 points in total we would have if we gave up both deeds.

He showed us availability on HIS computer. He said things like “Here, let me show you on MY account” and “the system shows ME availability for these vacations for only 3,000 points… look at all of them!” Yes, many were available on many different dates. Wow, the world would be our Oyster.

Now, all that is technically true, but he presented it in a manner to imply that if we converted to 15,000 non-deeded points, we would see the same availability and options we were shown… but he never actually said that. His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).

If the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract has been executed, you would not see actual availability at your loyalty level until after the rescission period had passed.

If you knew what to listen for, the agent chose his words incredibly carefully to sidestep the issue. This would have misled us if we were not informed shoppers. In my opinion, it was a shameful sales tactic that almost anyone would likely fall for.

I know that none of the locations available under his sales account would be available to someone with only 15,000 points, especially summer weeks in Virginia Beach, which he was asking us to give up. He repeatedly showed us that Turtle Cay was only 6,500 points for a week vacation in July… which is accurate… if you are one of the handfuls of people in the US with status and connections to get access to that level of availability. It is unlikely at the Silver loyalty level we would ever be able to stay there again even if we were to convert to points. He didn’t mention that.

He also gave us pamphlets describing Diamond Dream Vacations (DDV), also known as Holiday Vacations, which we could take advantage of anytime for 3,000, 7,500, or 15,000 points. Each DDV included two airfares at top-notch accommodations. One package included four days at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes resort along with a five day Caribbean cruise for only 7,500 points.

For those not familiar with points, maintenance fees for Silver level are about $.20 per point so if the Dream Vacation requires 7,500 points, the trip would cost $1,500. Multiply 7,500 points times $.20. Always do your timeshare math. Four nights at Mystic Dunes, two airfares and a five day Caribbean cruise for two for $1,500 is a GREAT deal! It even included rental car discounts.

After submitting this article, Pete explained that these great deals really do exist. I thought they were completely bogus. He said that since these packages are for the purposes of selling points, they are available to anyone who purchases as a “sweetener” or to existing members in an effort to sell more points.  

Apparently, tremendous bargains are always promotions. Our sales agent never said Dream Holidays were promotions that would require a sales session. He said “These packages are available anytime” to use his exact wording. Again, he didn’t lie… he just didn’t present an important fact.

2 – Financial Justification:

He presented a very complex 10-year financial analysis showing how it would cost us far less over ten years if we converted to points, even though he wanted us to drop more than $75,000 for 15,000 points, which would have included giving up our two deeded summer weeks. He did not know that I used to be a financial analyst with IBM. I worked on billion-dollar transactions. His spreadsheet was malarkey, and even I couldn’t follow it. Once again, he was not lying; his analysis was just crappy… which is quite common as financials go. Of course, we were not given a copy of any of his figures. When we tried to take it, he whisked it away.

All told, I doubt other salespeople would consider our sales agent a “Bad Apple” as he didn’t tell any lies. He did not mention any bogus programs (e.g. “you can pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point”) or other false claims. In fact, our sales agent is probably a shining example held up for other salespeople to emulate: nice, amiable, well dressed, 6.5 feet tall with 12 extra teeth in his smile.

After we firmly said no and started to leave, we were sent to a manager to “check out.” This person was quite reprehensible. He showed us further discounts off the $75,000. He spoke about the “investment” we would be making, what our “Equity” would be out of the gate, and how our “Equity” would grow over time. Our “investment” would only go up in value.

I got quite angry and blew up at him at this point, calling him out directly on those misrepresentations. His eyes flew open wide as he backtracked, “When I say Equity I mean your equity in future vacation time and how your vacation time would become more valuable as you learn how to use the system wisely.”

He claimed he never said he was speaking about a financial investment and not to put words in his mouth but he actually said these things with no qualifiers until he was pressed to do so . My wife loudly told him off and we got up to walk out. He asked why she was being so rude. In a sick sort of way, it was funny, really.

As our experience shows, a “Bad Apple” is in the eye of the beholder.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a story to share. Our standard disclosure is that we know there are honest sales agents selling the product honestly. Deceptive agents harm honest sales agents too. Our concern is the number of agents “pitching heat” to sell points could lead to a decline in sales unless acknowledged and addressed.

Contact Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes through Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you to our secret shopper and to Pete Gibbes the coordinator for this week’s report, these do help others to be aware and of what to expect when they attend any presentation. As the old saying goes,  “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

One thing is certain, purchasers of timeshare in Spain do have the full protection of the law, misrepresentation of the product is not tolerated. We also know that many other European countries are reviewing their own timeshare laws in accordance with EU Timeshare Directives designed to protect consumers, many are also looking to Spain and may just adopt their legislation. For too long the timeshare companies have had the upper hand, but the tide is turning.

If you have any comments or would like to share your experiences use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Do you have a problem with your timeshare membership, or need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found?

Again use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

Thursday Update

Since publishing the news that Meredith Pritchard Claims Consultants Ltd and First Law Solutions Ltd had been wound-up by the High Court, further information has been coming to light.

The perpetrator behind this claims fraud, Stephen Paul Fairclough has seemed to have disappeared, his offices at Regus House are now empty. We do know that he does have links in Portugal and is believed to own a property and lives there. So he may just have fled the UK and is living his life of luxury on the money he has swindled from countless victims.

Apparently from information received by one source, who wishes not to be identified, it looks now like the Police in the UK will not be pursuing the matter against Stephen Fairclough. From the information received the reason is that they do not have sufficient evidence. As we know to secure a prosecution and ensure a conviction in any criminal trial, the evidence must be strong and be of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Inside Timeshare would love to see Fairclough prosecuted and convicted, so it is now up to you the readers and victims of his fraud to come forward. Inside Timeshare is in contact with one victim who would like to gather together all those affected and form an Action Group.

If you have lost money for services not provided by Fairclough, then use our contact page, send in your details and Inside Timeshare will pass them to the coordinator of the Action Group. It is only with your help that this person will ever be brought to justice.

As an update to the articles regarding Ali and Alex Farhoud and their involvement in the selling of the “Company Participations Scheme” on behalf of Silverpoint , Inside Timeshare has also been informed of “Criminal Denuncias” being filed against them (the Farhouds) with the Guardia Civil.

Our information is that two clients have begun legal proceedings against Silverpoint but they have also lodged the criminal complaints against the two Farhoud brothers who sold them the scheme in the first place. It is believed from our sources that more clients are also coming forward and more “Criminal Denuncias” are going to be made.

It must also be remembered that they are now contacting previous victims via their company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, with the offer of taking legal action against Silverpoint (their former employer) and claiming back what their clients originally paid. They explain that what was sold to them was not legal, yet they are the ones who sold it in the first place, yet they claim they had no idea that it was “fraudulent”.

Now, we also know that they will be charging huge amounts for legal fees to carry out this “service”, so in reality they made large amounts in commission for selling it and are now set to make even more by offering a “legal service”!

If you have purchased these “Company Participations” or any other product peddled by Silverpoint, or have been contacted by Nordic Consulting, then use our contact page to get in touch. Inside Timeshare will then answer your questions and point you to the best solution for your situation.

We also have an update of court cases held in the Courts on Gran Canaria, all these involved Anfi and were brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance.

In total there were seven sentences issued, 3 by the High Court in Las Palmas and 4 by the Courts Of First Instance in Maspalomas. Again all contracts were declared null and void as the contained infringements of the Timeshare Laws as laid down by the Supreme Court. These ranged from floating weeks to perpetuity contracts, the courts awarded over 241,545€ to the clients along with legal fees and legal interest.

Then on Tuesday 5 March, another sentence was issued by the Court of First Instance of San Barlelomé De Tirajana, again this was against Anfi. This quite a significant case as the amount involved is huge.

The client in this instance is set to receive over 212,476€ plus legal interest, along with the contract being declared null and void. This will be one happy client.

The case was conducted on behalf of the clients by the Canarian Legal Alliance lawyer Adrián Diaz-Saavedra Morales, who is another of the young and dynamic team at CLA. So congratulations to them all, and keep up the good work.

Adrián Diaz-Saavedra Morales

If you need any advice with a timeshare problem or paid a company for services which you have not received, contact Inside Timeshare via our contact page. We will point you in the right direction.

Start the Week: Latest News

Welcome to the start of another week in the world of timeshare, we begin with some news being passed around various forums regarding Anfi. As we know Anfi is contacting members to change their contracts, but the latest is rather disturbing.

The change in contracts is to try and bring them within the law, the new contracts will be for a maximum of 50 years, with apartment numbers and week numbers being allocated to the floating week contracts, although they will remain “floating”.

According to information received, the new contracts will also penalise the members for “early termination” of their membership. Any early termination of the contract will be seen as a serious breach of contract on part of the member, Anfi will then apply a retrospective charge on the member for “hotel Costs” of around 350€ per night for all weeks used.

They have already used this threat to members who may be contemplating legal action in regard to illegal and missold contracts. This is also the subject of an ongoing legal argument, which has yet to be finally resolved.

Another point that has come to our attention is the number of members who have just ceased to pay their maintenance, especially with the new contracts. It is reported that around 100 members in 10 countries are about to have legal proceedings made against them for recovery of the maintenance fee arrears. Plus to have the mentioned “hotel costs” charged against them.

Another point which is irritating some of the members posting on the forums is the problem of resale. According to many posters, Anfi has the right to refuse the buyer of any timeshare sold privately. Again this is to ensure that all resales go through the resale programme, which we know is not very effective and will only command a very small resale price.

As with any timeshare advertised for sale, the price you see is what the owner believes they will get, remember, when purchased, many were under the impression they were investing in property. The sales staff openly told them it would go up in value, as we know this is definitely not the case.

So what do we make of this change in contracts and the other tactics being used?

Simple, by changing to the new contract, you lose all rights to take them to court, this is what Anfi want, after all it is costing them a fortune in payouts. (Which they will deny).

The threat of the “hotel costs” with legal action against maintenance arrears and making it more difficult to sell privately, is again to stem the tide of a significant loss of membership. This loss hits them in the pocket with reduced income of maintenance fees. After all, they are not selling like they used too, people are very wary of purchasing timeshare today.

Canarian Legal Alliance has issued some figures for the last week of January and the first week of February.

At the Court of First Instance, in Maspalomas, they had 19 (nineteen) victories against Anfi del Mar alone.

There were also 2 High Court wins in Las Palmas, again against Anfi del Mar.

Again at the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Palm Oasis lost 3 cases.

Over in Tenerife, The Court of First Instance again found against Silverpoint in 2 cases.

In another First Instance hearing, Club la Costa were the ones on the receiving end of a judgement.

In all a massive 27 victories against the biggest names in European timeshare, the total amount claimed on behalf of clients is over 648,000€ with all contracts being declared null and void.

CLA have also issued this video, which shows their impressive record so far, it was made at the end of 2018.

That’s it for today, join us tomorrow for a very special article, this was received by another timeshare insider after we published the article on the Florida Bill 435, tomorrow we publish Part 1.

If you need any help or advice regarding your timeshare, about any company that has contacted you or you have found either on the internet or advert in any publication, then use our contact page. We will be pleased to help.

Also if you have any comments, views or information you would like to share with other timeshare owners, then again use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Letter from America of February, this week we hear another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” from the Wheat family and their experience with Wyndham, edited by our very own Irene Parker. First a little news from Europe.

Yesterday, Thursday 31 January, at Birmingham Crown Court , Dominic O’Reilly, Stephanie O’Reilly and Eze Europe Limited, appeared for sentencing. As we know they had faced many charges of unfair trading practices, misleading consumers and many more. On checking the courts website this morning, nothing has yet been posted, but Inside Timeshare has emailed the court for confirmation of sentences and we are waiting for a reply. As soon as this comes in we will be publishing on these pages.

News came in this morning regarding another case involving Diamond Resorts in Tenerife, Canarian Legal Alliance originally had a case in which the Court of First Instance found in favour of Diamond. They instantly appealed this decision to the High Court

The High Court reviewed the case and ruled that the First Instance Courts decision was flawed, they immediately overruled the first court’s ruling, as per the Supreme Court rulings. They deemed that all 5 contracts were illegal and declared them null and void, they also awarded the client 100% of the purchase price, plus double the deposit paid within the 14 day cooling off period, all legal fees and legal interest. This client will now be receiving over 25,000€ and can now enjoy a timeshare free life.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

The ‘Take Away Timeshare Close’

By a Wyndham buyer

February 1

By the Wheat Family

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has heard from 671 families. Like a broken record, the member reports being told “I can’t believe that last salesperson sold you this!” You should have never bought:

 

  • So few points!
  • The wrong package!

 

Understand that this is a tried and true sales technique. I spent 30 years in sales selling in a number of industries, but can’t recall using this technique unless I felt the sales agent really did sell the buyer a wrong product. For example, as a stockbroker I would run into a young person’s 401K funded with a fixed income product. In timeshare, it’s used as a ploy. If both sides of the supposedly wrong/right product sell against each other, it means no consumer should buy the product. It’s not unusual to hear, on the same day, from two different members, Sales agent A said I should not have bought Product 1 while sales agent B said I should have bought Product 1. It’s called the Take Away Close:

The Take Away Close really takes some time to master. Though it sounds simple at first, the real secret is learning when to use it. The danger is always using the take away close and having a customer agree to purchase a lesser product when they were close to committing to a larger sale. From The Balance Careers

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-take-away-closing-technique-2918597

The Wheat Family Explains

The motive behind the ‘Take Away Close’ is to make the customer/prospect feel like they are missing out on something they should have been entitled to and then make them spend the money so they feel they are getting their money’s worth.

We experienced this sales ploy. I wonder how many other people fell for it too.

We bought a Discovery package (200,000 points) for $1,944 at Wyndham’s Great Smoky Lodge at the beginning of 2017. A credit card was opened and the purchase charged. When we tried to use the Discovery package for Florida in July 2017 it did not work. There were restrictions on when we could reserve. In August 2017 we tried to reserve in Myrtle Beach. We tried a third time at the beginning of 2018 for the Smoky Lodge. We were told it was full so we paid for two days ourselves. That is when another salesperson, JR Renteria, said they had 64 vacant rooms so we should have been able to reserve one. He said the problem was because of the Discovery package we purchased. Although Wyndham would not be able to reimburse us, they could give us a free week certificate (which turned out not to be free). Mr. Renteria advised us to upgrade so we would not have this lack of availability problem again.

With an upgrade we were told we would be VIP members and that the original credit card that was opened for our first purchase would be upgraded to a Gold credit card which we could use to reserve when and where we want to go, any day.  They said we could get 50% off cruises and restaurants. Other family members could make reservations in their names. Mr. Renteria said if we upgraded they would roll the original 200,000 Discovery package points over for the next year. Renteria gave us our documents after we signed the new contract, but told us to wait for the Gold Card and the Silver VIP card before we tried to book anything. This effectively dodged the contract rescission period. He told us we should receive the new cards in about a week. It took around three to four weeks before we received the VIP card. We still have not received the upgraded Gold Card. We were told we had six months to pay in full with no interest.

We bit and got bitten for $18,000.

Another strange thing was that Renteria said he wanted us to write a note saying the first reps, Carol Finch and Cyndy Vdaw, did not cover everything properly for the Discovery package. Maybe this was part of a scam, maybe Wyndham actually kept a copy. Either way, we wrote a note saying we did not understand everything on the Discovery package deal.

After the upgrade we tried to reserve a room to attend a wedding in Atlanta. Wyndham told us we would have to reserve two months in advance in order to use our points. (Renteria had said we could book on the day with our new Silver member status.) Wyndham told us that they could reserve a room for $188 on the day we needed it. The sad thing is we could book the same room for the same dates for $108 online.  You would think being a Silver member (VIP) we should have been able to get a better price than a non-member.

Renteria told us we could call him if we ever had any problems getting reservations and he would take care of it.  We tried to contact him but NEVER got a reply to any of our calls or texts.

We called Carol Finch at the Discovery timeshare when Renteria did not return our calls. I told Carol we were not happy and that nothing we were told was true. She said we should not have had to wait two months to reserve a room and Renteria should have combined the two timeshares. She said she would let him know and would call us back that afternoon. We have not heard back. That was the final straw. In this day and age of Expedia, Airbnb and Booking.com, don’t buy a timeshare. That’s my takeaway close.

But that’s not all!

To make things worse, after looking over the credit card application we found that the application had been doctored. There is an annual income noted under both of our names for $100,000 each.  However, $100,000 is what we may make combined, not individually. I have a copy of the credit card application as proof. My writing is very distinctive. I filled out the whole form, yet the only place that was left blank was filled in by someone with a much scruffier handwriting than mine and he wrote another $100,000 to double our annual income. We sent this obviously doctored form to Wyndham, but they did not even acknowledge it. They chose to focus on the parts of our complaint that they could reasonably deny because the lies were verbal and can’t be verified. Wyndham conducted an ‘investigation’ into our allegations of concealment and omission. We were informed, somewhat predictably, that their investigation had found that our allegations were baseless and the contract was properly executed and legally binding. I suppose I’ll go and ask the drunks to guard the bar for my next trick.

Other representations we feel were unfair and deceptive:

  • They did not say we were actually buying a timeshare. They called it a vacation ownership or something like that.
  • They said they would help us rent so we could earn a profit.
  • They said maintenance fees would never increase.
  • They said we could call every six months to continue our interest free rate.
  • They told us our purchase would give us more reservation rights than it actually did.

Do yourselves a favor and stay away from Wyndham. I imagine Wyndham is not alone, so the best advice is to stay away from timeshare altogether.

Thank you to the Wheat family for sharing their experience. Timeshare companies should want their buyers to feel good about their decision to buy a timeshare. Timeshare is not for everyone and we hope by sharing experiences, buyers will be better informed as to whether the timeshare product is right for their family.

Related articles:

Veteran family Wyndham buyer Kleen family article:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-38/

Veteran family Wyndham buyer Althage family article:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-37/

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 for your editing efforts and a very big thank you to the Wheat family for sharing their experiences with us. These real life stories that we publish do show how the industry is in dire need of reform, especially in the tactics employed by their sales agents. As we know when high commissions are the motivation, these agent will say and do anything to get the sale.

If the industry does not do anything themselves to curb these practices, then maybe like Spain, the law needs to take control in order to protect consumers. We do know that many other countries in Europe with a large timeshare presence have been watching Spain very closely and are also now in the process of enacting similar legislation.

If you have a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story that you would like to share then contact Inside Timeshare, it is through your own experiences that we hope we can make the industry listen and change.

Have you been contacted by any company with a story that sounds too good to be true?

Are you looking to do business with any company you have found on the internet or advertising in the press or magazines?

Do you want to know if they are genuine and will do what they say?

Are you able to find out for yourself or do you need help?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember doing your homework will save you not only money but also a whole lot of stress.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Mid Week Report: Diamond Resorts Receive Second Supreme Court Sentence

The Supreme Court, Spain’s highest judicial body has again found against Diamond Resorts as per their previous 129 rulings. This week alone Diamond have lost 2 cases at the highest court in Spain, it all centers on their points system which has been declared an illegal product due to lack of tangibility and the length of the contract.

In the past three years, the Supreme Court has ruled on 131 cases involving the sales of timeshare, each time it has upheld its previous rulings, on many occasions it has added further rulings on the interpretation of the Spanish Timeshare Laws 42/98 & 4/12.

The latest case started with a trial at the Court of First Instance No 24 in Tenerife, the judge in this instance found for the clients as dictated by the previous ruling of the Supreme Court and the Spanish Timeshare laws.

The infractions were the contract had no end date, which is in contravention of the law as laid down and reinforced by previous rulings, the law clearly states that a timeshare contract should be a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years in duration. The second was the points system, which shows no tangible product, this being a fixed week number and fixed apartment number, which guarantees the purchaser the period and accommodation each year.

The Judge ruled in favour of the client, declaring the contract null and void plus the return of all money paid. However, Diamond did not agree and promptly appealed the decision to the High Court.

During this appeal, Diamond pleaded that what they had sold was not timeshare, that just like Silverpoint, these were “investors” and not consumers of timeshare. For some reason the judges at the High Court agreed and overturned the decision of the Court of First Instance.

The lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance representing the clients, placed an appeal with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had already previously ruled on the point of “investors as opposed to consumers”, ruling that they are consumers.

On 13 December 2018, the judges of the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Tenerife High Court upholding and reaffirming the ruling of the Court of First Instance, in favour of the client and in accordance to their previous rulings.

The court along with the original decision declared the contract null and void, awarded over 11,000€ plus they ordered the return of all legal fees for the original case and the appeal, sending it back to the original court for execution of sentence.

The full sentence can be seen in the PDF below.

Supreme Court 2nd Diamond sentence data protected

Over the past 3 or so years the Supreme Court has been consistent in reaffirming their previous rulings, which all courts must abide by. The basic rulings are that deposits or any payment made within the cooling off period are illegal, including those made to a third party. The points and floating weeks systems are not permitted as they do not guarantee anything to the consumer. The duration of the contract is another aspect they have consistently ruled upon, that any contract with a period of more than 50 years is not permitted.

As with the Silverpoint rulings on the “investment packs” which Silverpoint argued made the purchaser an “investor” not a “consumer”, the court has ruled these are indeed timeshares and the law applies. This is also being used in the case of fractional ownership and more recently the Silverpoint Company Participations, the courts have ruled that they are timeshare and that the consumer has the full protection of the timeshare law.

On the point of “investing”, timeshare is not an investment in property, it is a right of use and enjoyment of accommodation for specific periods of time, therefore it should never be marketed or sold as an investment. This is actually borne out by First National Trust in 2012, they are the trustees for the Club la Costa Fractional Owners Club, they informed CLC that fractional should never be marketed as an investment. (See link below).

http://clcmembers.blogspot.com/

Over the years we have seen many timeshare companies change the product, giving it new names, in many cases it has been a blatant attempt to bypass the timeshare laws, but thanks to the courts and especially the Supreme Court, this has been thwarted.

As with any new law, it has taken a long time and many test cases to clarify the interpretation of the law, there is still a long way to go as timeshare companies try to evade the strict laws which now govern the sale of any timeshare product in Spain.

  • Have you purchased a timeshare in Spain or upgraded since 5 January 1999?
  • Is the contract over 50 years in duration?
  • Is it a floating weeks or points system?
  • Have you purchased fractional?
  • Did you purchase the Silverpoint “Investment Weeks”?
  • Are you a participant in the Silverpoint “Company Participation” scheme?
  • Have you paid any money within the cooling off period?

If you can say yes to any of these questions, then you may have the right to have your contract declared null and void, along with the return of at least your purchase price, double whatever paid within the cooling off period.

If you require any information on what your rights are and whether you do have a valid and viable claim, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

You should also bare in mind that these claims must go through a Spanish court using a genuine Spanish registered lawyer, your contract must also still be running. Once you have cancelled any ownership / membership, then you lose your right to file with the courts.

Remember, before you do anything, do your due diligence and check who you are dealing with, do not take at face value some of the claims many companies will make. If you require any help in determining the validity of any company that contacts you, that you find on the internet or through adverts in magazines or newspapers, then contact Inside Timeshare for the best advice possible.

Stay safe and do your homework.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, the original article which was going to be published today has been replaced, this is due to the timeshare company reaching out to the members. As always, Inside Timeshare sends a draft copy to the timeshare company for comment, we do not always get a response, but on this occasion the company did respond. It may have been at the eleventh hour, but we congratulate the timeshare company concerned for their reaching out and we hope that they are able to resolve the matter.

As a last minute replacement we publish a revised version of The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles, by Irene Parker, originally published in November 2016.

This week has been a rather quiet one as far as the courts are concerned, there have been many cases going before the judges, but the sentences are unlikely to be announced until the New Year. Although we did get news of two sentences issued this week.

The first was from the Court of First Instance No4 in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, the judge in this case declared the contract with Anfi null and void. The reason was the length of the contract which exceeded that allowed by Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, which states that perpetuity contracts or contracts with no end date and exceed the 50 years maximum are illegal. The client in this case has been refunded over 61,000€ plus legal Interest.

At the High Court No4 in Tenerife, Silverpoint was on the receiving end. The contract was declared null and void as it did not include any tangible product. Again under Law 42/98, a timeshare must include specific information such as a set apartment or an exact time of year. The client in this case has been refunded over 10,000€ plus legal interest.

Once again these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, contrary to what some forums run by some very dubious characters will tell you, these are genuine cases and are a matter of public record.

     

Now for this week’s replacement article.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles Revisited

    Jackie Siegel, Queen of Versailles  

By Irene Parker

December 14, 2018

“The Peasant of Venice and Queen of Versailles” article was first published November 6, 2016. I wrote the article because I wanted to explain how I went from being a 30 plus year timeshare owner without a timeshare complaint, question or post, to a full time volunteer whistleblower.

In July of 2015 I experienced a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation in Florida. We had previously purchased points in Virginia because the company said they were adding New York properties, only to learn it would take about $10,000 in equivalent maintenance fee dollars to stay at the same hotel, same week that could be booked online for $1,000 plus tax. When I checked December 1, 2018, it would have cost $12,000 using our timeshare points. I don’t blame the sales agent. He may not have known about the poor value. It was the response from the company to the Attorney General listing all the times we had used our points prior to that purchase that bothered me. Eventually I was offered our money back for that purchase, but could not bring myself to sign the non-disclosure agreement.       

Rosa Parks said, “I was just trying to get home from work.” In my case, we were trying to get to our new home, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. It was my intention to return to my first love – teaching piano lessons. That all changed after the revolting timeshare presentation we experienced in Florida.  Disgusted, I returned to our unit, turned on the television and witnessed the jaw dropping house pictured above, being built by Westgate timeshare owners Jackie and David Siegel. I could not resist.

It was a hot July summer day in Orlando when my retirement turned upside down.

We entered the hospitality area where we were invited to attend a 55 minute “information only” presentation for existing owners. “Will we be paired with a commissioned sales agent?” I asked three times. “No”, Julie replied, “Only if you have questions in the last ten minutes. I attended and I learned a lot! We have group presentations now because we had so many complaints about high pressure aggressive sales sessions.” We did not sign the form agreeing to the 55 minute meeting because the fine print said we would be robo-called if we did. We were robo-called anyway. There was no form to be signed for the three hours that followed the 55 minutes.

A Diamond Resorts member recently sent me this comment from a former Diamond concierge describing an unfair and deceptive practice:

Concierge (Former Employee) – Virginia Beach, VA 23451 – December 3, 2018

A typical day of work consisted of misleading current owners and their guests in order to persuade and entice them to attend a timeshare meeting that could last well over what was initially disclosed….The hardest part of this job was knowing I was intentionally misleading owners/guests of the length of time for their timeshare meeting, as well as not disclosing it as a timeshare meeting as instead it was mandatory we refer to it as simply an “update on their current status” or “ways you can stay here and affiliated businesses in the future”. The most enjoyable part of this job was the interaction with varying people and the connections I gained therein.

https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Diamond-Resorts-International/reviews

Our Nightmare on Timeshare Street begins:

The next day we entered the reception area to be greeted by an attractive young lady. “Hello,” Donna greeted us. “Are you a commissioned agent?” I asked.  Puzzled, she took us by the arm and escorted us to the 55 minute presentation, retrieved us immediately after, and led us to her den.

I told Donna, “My husband is 77 years old. We do not want to invest in vacation plans because we need to investigate long term care plans.” “Why, we have many in their 90’s who come and enjoy our resorts!” she cried. “But we are in the middle of building a house and have no permanent residence at this time,” I countered. Kneeling and looking up, she gazed into my eyes and confessed she was a single mother and had to resort to her Diamond points when she divorced. “I know you didn’t put all your money in that house though,” she added. I kept saying over and over, “We don’t want to travel. We like our new house.” Frustrated, the manager ended by advising me to go to the website if I want to find out what’s new. Three hours and three sales agents and managers later, we returned to our unit.

I checked my email and learned the 4,500 points we had been promised for our Port Elsewhere Ozark timeshare deposit was credited only 3,000 points. Sure enough, I learned later the 4,500 points promised could be changed at any time for any reason. It’s all in the fine print.

I then decided to take my mind off this disturbing revelation by watching television. I turned on the FOX news show Property Man show hosted by Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, and there she was – The Queen! The King and Queen of Westgate timeshare were building a 90,000 square foot home that defied the imagination. Jackie’s clothes closet is 5,500 square feet!

http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

Thinking about the pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation we were deceived into attending, and the worthless points specifically purchased to stay in New York City, I wrote to Mr. Massi at Property Man never dreaming I would earn a response. Copying the letter to Diamond customer service, they credited the correct amount promised for our Port Elsewhere week.

A few months later a FOX producer called. I was asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. The producer told me the Queen of Versailles show wasn’t even about timeshares. It was about their house, but FOX had been flooded with timeshare complaints. She said I was the only viewer they asked to interview because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives of timeshare. I told her I was sorry, but I had just accepted a position as interim music director for a large church and could not participate, but I offered to research timeshare to help them with their talking points.

I started digging. The deeper I dug, the more alarmed I became. Wyndham, Westgate, Bluegreen and Diamond seemed to have the most complaints, with Disney, Hilton and Marriott far fewer. I submitted my research to FOX and returned to the choir. Six months later, after arranging a flight to Phoenix to stay at  a Diamond resort in Sedona, I received a call from the FOX producer, asking if we would agree to be interviewed by Mr. Massi in Phoenix as they had interviews scheduled that weekend. Some things are meant to happen.

The FOX producer told me David Cortese of Magical Realty had also been interviewed by Mr. Massi about timeshare resales. David is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association (LTRBA). After viewing David’s segment, I contacted him to see if he would sell our Diamond points. I was told their company would not accept a listing to sell Diamond points. I surveyed all 64 LTRBA members and 22 responded also saying they felt Diamond points were worthless on the secondary market. “We feel Diamond has placed too many restrictions on the use of secondary points to be of any value to a buyer,” they sadly explained.

One of the LTRBA members asked if I would speak with a Hispanic family. Since this first October 2016 complaint, the calls and emails have not stopped. I have heard from 646 timeshare members.

Timeshare members want straight answers but straight answers are in short supply at some timeshare customer service desks. Callers or emailers explain how a sales agent lied to them, but when they contacted the timeshare company they were told, “You signed a contract.” Some described how the rescission period was dodged. Some things, like over promised availability, can’t be determined by reading the contract. I feel I was deceived by reading the contract which stated, “You can sell your points but we will not assist you.” They left out the part about no buyers.

From the October 2016 article describing what happened to the Hispanic family:

Maintenance fees increased to the point where they could no longer afford to own their points. The family soon found that they had to charge maintenance fees to their credit card in order to pay them. The family had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%.

In August 2015, when they complained about maintenance fees, they said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve Platinum level. He said that by being Platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only Platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees. Then and now Platinum members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point, so if all 50,000 points were tendered, it would pay $2,000 towards a 2018 $8,631 maintenance fee bill.

If the family had agreed to the additional 10,000 points, they would have gone further into debt with little recourse. Based on hundreds of reported responses, if they had purchased the points, they would have been told, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” They have a daughter who just graduated from high school and has started college.

I spoke to the family not long ago. They relinquished their $60,000 worth of points that they had accumulated. They are still paying off the home equity loan.

Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare has resale value.

Property Man was preempted due to the 2016 election coverage, so our segment aired April of 2017. The Florida DBPR timeshare division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014, so ignore Pam Bondi.  Bob Massi and his advice on timeshare resales:

https://www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi/videos/1041694629230338/

From FOX I stumbled onto Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service TheStreet, where remarkable editors, possessing the patience of Job, provided a crash course in editing.

https://www.thestreet.com/author/1684637/irene-parker/all.html

A member who submitted an article to Inside Timeshare introduced me to Whistleblowers of America https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/. Accepting an invitation to attend a Whistleblowers Summit in Washington DC this year, I was introduced to OpEd News:

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Witness-to-Las-Vegas-Octo-by-Irene-Parker-America-181030-359.html

And of course, there’s Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare in Spain and Wayne Robinson in Malaysia and Wayne’s book.  I was honored to edit and write the Forward. Everything About Timeshare, Before. During and After the Sale

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

So all in all, I’m getting great value from my timeshare points measured in the people I’ve met, readers who read my articles, and the gratitude from members who are grateful for straight answers. We especially appreciate our Facebook administrators and our growing team of members helping other members. I do believe we are a disruptor and hope our efforts will benefit sales agents who sell the product honestly, as well as forestalling new buyers and existing members from making a decision that has financially devastated more than a few families. When sold honestly, timeshare provides years of fun for friends and family.

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 for getting this article out to us so quickly, it is difficult to replace an article at such short notice, but at least the timeshare company did respond and for that Inside Timeshare was happy to replace the original one.

That’s it for this week, join us again next week our last one before Christmas.

To all our readers have a great weekend and remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you have found on the internet.