Browse Tag

Irene Parker

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome KOALA, a new innovation in Timeshare Rentals & Exchange, with the introduction by Irene Parker.

First another word of warning for those who have had dealings with Eze Group, as we reported on Monday, Dominic O’Reilly has been jailed for 2 years 4 months, with Stephanie O’Reilly receiving 9 months & 18 months suspended for 2 years.

Since this case has been in the public domain several readers have informed us of companies claiming to be working with or appointed by the courts to help “victims” get their money back. The main one that seems to be contacting people with this story is Money Advice Limited.

The latest reader to have been contacted has been told that the money is in the Spanish legal system, that they need to pay £725 in order to get the money. Once this is paid they will receive a cheque within 10 days.

This is a scam, there is no money held by the courts either in Spain or the UK. No court appoints a private company or third party to contact victims. If you had come up in any investigation the authorities would have been in contact before any case, this would have been to provide any evidence and witness statements to strengthen any case they had.

DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM.

Now for this weeks article.

KOALA Provides a New Era for Timeshare Rentals & Exchange

Founded by a team that believes everyone has the right to decide how and when they travel, Koala is empowering owners to utilize their timeshare without limits. There are no upfront costs, no commitments and no hidden fees.

Visit the KOALA website to join their exclusive wait list

www.go-koala.com/owners

March 26, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

I met with the founders of Koala last summer when visiting our daughter in New York. Co-Founder Mike Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur and spent 10 years as a Sales Executive at Hilton Club New York. Inside Timeshare has received only two Hilton complaints out of 742 reader complaints. Mike gained valuable insight into the struggles of timeshare owners today and is committed to modernizing and improving the industry.

Co-Founder James Burbridge reached out to Inside Timeshare about a year ago. Since then the two have been laying the groundwork to launch Koala’s modernized timeshare exchange platform. James has spent over 20 years in digital media, business transformation and delivery of cutting-edge technology. He has developed multiple web solutions in the travel, retail and hospitality space.

The two founders met through James’ wife and quickly found common ground when it comes to their beliefs in entrepreneurship – solve a big problem and work with people who focus on solving that problem ethically and efficiently. These core beliefs stem through the company culture at Koala. The company has assembled a team of experts to deliver the website to the market this summer. This is the inventory build-up phase, so contact Koala to become a part of this revolutionary new service. According to Mike, “We have had a great response from our sign-up page. Many owners are signed up and ready to go.” https://go-koala.com/owners/

In a remarkable display of a lack of business ethics on the part of SellMyTimeshareNow (SMTN), when I searched for the new Koala timeshare exchange, I found a link to KoalaSellMyTimeshareNowSalesandRentals. SMTN stole our Inside Timeshare keywords too. When I searched Inside Timeshare the link was to InsideTimeshareSalesandRentals/SMTN. Inside Timeshare has received complaints about SMTN, and there is a RedWeek thread started by people who paid SMTN $1,700 to list timeshares widely known to have no secondary market. On this front Inside Timeshare supports the hotly contested Florida House timeshare Bill 435 and Nevada Senate Bill 348 feeling SMTN should not receive compensation until after a timeshare has been sold. Koala is considering a SellMyTimeshareNowSalesandRentals/Koala link.

KOALA

Koala is a secure, peer-to-peer marketplace for timeshare owners to easily rent unused time to anyone in the world. It is reinventing the way owners use their assets to Go Somewhere New whether you’re a savvy owner ready to embrace innovation, or your timeshare no longer fits your lifestyle, Koala is set to disrupt the status quo.

There is a growing demand from travelers for accommodations that offer more space than a hotel room and more safety than a stranger’s home. Koala connects timeshare hosts to those seeking the value and certainty that timeshare rentals provide.

Transactions that occur between owners and travelers are secure as Koala safeguards both parties. Technology is at the heart of this innovation, ensuring the highest level of certainty and trust.

State of the Industry  

  • Peer-to-peer technology is leading the industry in the rest of the travel sector but timeshare has seen no evolution in this direction.
  • Millions of owners don’t utilize their timeshares and are reaching for new ways to subsidize their unused asset.

Why KOALA?

  • Your Time is Valuable – Your timeshare is rented faster. We put your rental in front of all travelers, not just those looking for timeshares.
  • Free to List – Signing up and listing is totally free. Owners remain in control and can delist at any time. Fees are only charged once a rental is completed and, depending on a few variables, the fee will be 5-10% of the total rental. The fee is collected once your guest has concluded their stay. Owners always see exactly what they’ll earn and exactly what we charge before they list.
  • It’s Simple and Secure – Creating your listing is quick and simple. Our secure network ends your worries and gets the money to your pocket.
  • Safety and Security are at the core of Koala’s Company Culture

With years of timeshare and tech-industry experience, Koala’s founders were driven to build a tool that would grant owners the control and freedom they deserve. Backed by a group of industry experts, Koala is shaping the future of vacation ownership.

The next generation of timeshare buyers expects more control over their vacations. Koala will revolutionize vacation ownership using a peer-to-peer solution the same way Uber & Airbnb have for their respective industries. Koala is set to launch this summer and is currently accepting early members online.  

https://www.go-koala.com/

Be sure to check with your resort to determine any restrictions on renting.

Thank you Irene and Koala for this article, we hope that this is something that will at last be of benefit to owners.

If you have been contacted by any company that tells you money is being held by any court, use our contact page and let us know, it is with your information that we can inform others of the scams that are going on.

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.

The Tuesday Slot: Secret Shopper Report

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome back Laurie Sabbagh with her second Secret Shopper Report, this was edited by the Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbs, with the introduction by Irene Parker. But first some Breaking News from the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

British clients being represented by lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance has just received the news that the Supreme Court have found in their favour against Club La Costa Leisure Limited. Initially their case was heard at the Court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga, unfortunately this court found in favour of Club La Costa.

The CLA lawyers promptly lodged an appeal with the High Court of Malaga, this court overturned the First Instance verdict, finding in favour of the clients. Club La Costa launched an appeal with the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

The Supreme Court rejected the case and the verdict of the Malaga High Court stood firm. The contract was declared null and void with the client being awarded over 28,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.

This is a significant case as the offending company was Club La Costa Leisure Limited, a UK registered entity. This may just bode well for other similar contracts, more news on this legal aspect as and when we receive it.

The Team at Canarian Legal Alliance

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

My Secret Shopper Report

By Laurie Sabbagh

Edited by Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes

March 12, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from timeshare members told they need to switch to a different program within the same company because they should not have purchased what their last sales agent sold them. In other words, sales agents within the same company sell against each other.

Heartbreaking is the experience of Navy veteran Roy Simmons and his wife Lillian Simmons. A retired letter carrier, living on a letter carrier’s pension, he ended up switching back and forth between programs until he reached $2,700 a month in Diamond Resorts loan payments. The foreclosure process took a tremendous physical and emotional toll on the family. They sought legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney as Mr. Simmons felt he had no choice but to charge loan payments to credit cards. Roy and daughter Angela’s YouTube explains how this happened. In her research Angela discovered the FBI website, which is why she expresses her opinion that her mom and dad’s allegations meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. Roy and Angela’s February 26, 2018 YouTube:

Roy and Lillian Simmons, ages 69 and 70, Minnesota residents published March 6, 2018

Arizona representatives proposed House Bill 2639 offering protections for timeshare consumers. My experience over the last three years, reading emailed complaints and listening to 730 families report unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, has left no doubt in my mind as to the need for protection. I wrote an article, “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders.” that foreclosed members can provide to future lenders. The article offers support to my assertion, listing just some of the Attorneys General investigations and settlements and lawsuits. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

Bill sponsor Representative Shawnna Bolick and others who supported Arizona HB 2639, thank you. The timeshare lobby ARDA opposed the bill.   

Laurie Sabbagh’s Secret Shopper Report

I can’t believe it has been two years since my first Secret Shopper report was published March 17, 2017. I attended an update this month in Arizona thinking it had gone well until I was informed that the need to switch from my current Hawaii program to the US mainland program was likely proposed under false pretenses, based on the opinion of an ocean engineer. I want to state at the outset that I enjoy my Diamond points, find good value and absolutely love Sedona. As they say, God created the Grand Canyon but He lives in Sedona.

My first Secret Shopper report:  http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Diamond sales agent Paul said that he had worked in the industry for 22 years and had previously sold timeshares in Las Vegas. Paul and a second sales agent, Justin, asked me about the Hawaii special assessment I paid for the Point at Poipu water intrusion damage, which all right-to-use point owners and deeded week owners were assessed after Diamond bought out Sunterra. I told them that my portion of the assessment was much smaller than those of deeded week owners, who ended up being assessed about $5,800 per week owned.

Later Paul tried to convince me that the beach erosion problem at Ka’anapali Beach Club (one of four resorts part of Diamond’s Hawaii Collection), is putting me at risk for another special assessment. Paul further told me that if I were to switch to the US Collection, I would never be charged a special assessment because the US Collection is part of a trust. He insisted that this provision is in writing, but I was not provided documents to backup that claim.

One of our member-sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook members is an ocean engineer. He explained why beach erosion is not the responsibility of a resort, but the responsibility of the state or federal government. In a RedWeek post, a Diamond member had been advised to switch due to a 2020 special assessment:

My suggestion would be to ask Diamond for documentation to support the additional charges. For instance, it is reasonable to ask if the funding is for future flood protection that might be afforded by a beach nourishment project. If the assessment is intended for a beach nourishment project, it is likely that arrangements are in place for cost sharing between local stakeholders and government entities.  The cost and scope of government efforts are a matter of public record, and learning the particulars is typically as easy as calling the project managers.

In addition, 2020 is too far out to predict with any sort of fidelity. Concrete financial planning numbers at this stage are unlikely. I have not heard of a federal project in Hawaii. It could be state, but most major beach nourishment projects are underwritten in part by the federal government. I have not heard of a state paying for damages from a flood.  The member needs to know what the assessment is for, in more detail than just beach erosion. Is it for protection or for damage that has already occurred? One is flood damage expense, the other is flood protection afforded by beach nourishment projects.

Justin told me that Diamond bought out Sunterra but I was still an owner of Sunterra points. Justin said that I could apply my equity in Sunterra to the purchase price of 6,500 additional US Collection points to get me to the Silver level and bring the price per point of $9.33 to about $4 per point. We went back and forth. The last offer was for 2,000 points for $5 per point. I declined.

Later Quality Assurance representative Mark told me he used to be with Sunterra until Diamond bought them out, and my Sunterra points were automatically converted to Diamond’s “The Club” points, so I was indeed a Diamond member. This contradicted what Justin told me.

Mark offered me 20,000 points to be used within 24 months at $3,995. He said this offer is only valid to Diamond members. First, I thought it odd a Quality Assurance person was trying to sell me points, and second, the Sampler is a trial product, so available to anyone.

As I said in the beginning, I use and enjoy my Diamond points. I stayed a week at the Celebrity House in Sedona, two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen, using “Point Saver” at 8,250 points. With all expenses considered, it averaged $260 per day. Best Western in Sedona during the same period was $300 per night for a standard room so this ended up being a huge bargain for me.

I am disappointed that the pressure to sell points is so great that agents feel forced to misrepresent. I feel Diamond has a product, and when sold properly, members benefit. It must be the pressure to produce sales that prompts sales agents to mislead in order to make a sale, but that is just my opinion.

We appreciate Laurie’s second Secret Shopper report.

Timeshare is a product in which the sales agents demand the buyer buy the same day, even though most have no intention of buying the product prior to the day of purchase. Unlike buying a car, there is little frame of reference, especially for first time buyers. Buyers usually sign a perpetual product without even having had a chance to use the product, except to stay at a resort property. Numerous members have reported not being allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period has expired.

Learn to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, it’s advisable to not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, based on my experience and the experience of many.

These are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Social Media is here to stay, so consumers can now share experiences. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your timeshare experience, good or bad.

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 Laurie, Pete and Irene for your efforts with this weeks article, we certainly look forward to more Secret Shopper Reports.

The breaking news today from the Spanish Supreme Court was very welcome news indeed, what a start to the day.

If you have been contacted by any company or found one on the internet or advert and want to know if they are genuine, use our contact page and we will help you find out.

Do you feel that you were mis-sold your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a claim, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will check to see if you have a valid and viable case and point you in the right direction. This service is done free of charge and under no obligation.

The Tuesday Slot: Arizona House Bill 2639

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker continues our articles on the Arizona House Bill 2639, with a contribution from Fran D, a Registered Nurse.

ARDA Timeshare Lobbyist Don Isaacson Opposes Arizona House Bill 2639 – A Bill to Safeguard Timeshare Buyers

ARIZONA TIMESHARE BILL PASSES OUT OF HOUSE COMMITTEE

By Irene Parker and registered nurse, Fran D

March 5, 2019

Arizona has proposed a timeshare bill to protect timeshare buyers, but this bill is being contested by timeshare lobbyists. If Arizona HB2639 passes, it would help to protect consumers from fraud and deceptive sales practices by allowing a 14 day rescission period, among other safeguards. Fran, an Arizona resident, hopes that by sharing her timeshare experience that took place in Sedona, Arizona, and Maui, Hawaii, it will help lawmakers understand what buyers face when purchasing a product improperly presented.    

Timeshare members pay $5 million in annual “voluntary” donations to ARDA ROC. ARDA is the American Resort Development Association and ROC is Resort Owners’ Coalition. Out of 717 timeshare families who have reached out to Inside Timeshare, not one member could tell me what ARDA ROC stands for.

Timeshares have little to no secondary market. ARDA ROC has launched 8 Tips to Navigate the Resale Market. I contacted 22 licensed brokers. Not one would accept a listing for my timeshare points, feeling the restrictions placed on the use of secondary points too restrictive. For the members of my timeshare company, there is no resale market. http://www.ardaroc.org/timeshare-resales-resource-center.aspx

Many of the families affected by the lack of a secondary market for timeshares have been financially devastated. The majority of our readers have reported unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

ARDA – Is this is our voice?

According to ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson:

But the bottom line, said (ARDA lobbyist) Isaacson, is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.

“You read the documents,” said Isaacson. “And unless there is fraud, you are bound to that particular purchase.”

Anyway, Isaacson argued that too much is being made of the issue. He said the 250 complaints a year to the Attorney General’s Office pale in comparison to the 600,000 timeshare units owned in Arizona.

















What Mr. Isaacson doesn’t understand, is that members are bound by the contract, despite fraud, with the vast majority of complaints alleging deception dismissed with “You signed a contract.” It’s not that buyers don’t understand the product. It’s that they understand the product as it is so often deceptively presented. Three major timeshare companies have received, respectively, over 2,000, 1,000 and 800 Better Business Bureau complaints over the last three years.

When buyers complain, they are typically told they signed a contract. How many people buy cars and houses without relying on reading every word of a contract, relying on the ethics of the real estate or automotive broker? It is only in timeshare that the oral representation clause is so abused and so overused. The industry itself calls deceptive practices “pitching heat,” a term unique to timeshare sales.

There are many ways to deceive, such as:

“This is a new program, so don’t say anything because I could get fired.”

Access to booking is not allowed until after the rescission period, so reading the contract would not help.

Wait until you make a few payments before refinancing – when banks don’t finance timeshares.

Fran’s complaint, recently sent to the Arizona and Hawaii Attorneys General, was dismissed by the company, responding that there were no misrepresentations. You be the judge. She will file complaints with the BBB, the FTC, the FBI at IC3.gov and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fran hopes ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson reads her complaint. She will be reaching out to the following Arizona representatives involved with the bill:

Excerpts from the complaint Fran filed with the Arizona and Hawaii AG offices:

  • We purchased 8500 points in Sedona Arizona April 24, 2017.
  • Purchase price: $29,955.00
  • Down payment: $6,150.00
  • Amount financed $23,805.00

Sales agent Eric told us that we were buying points at a low rate, less than $ 4 per point, and that “at this price the point value can only go up.” We could sell some points at a profit and keep the original base points for travel. Ultimately getting our entire purchase for free, he called it a “401-V”.  He said he would lock the price for one year in case we decided to get more points later to utilize our “401-V”. We have since learned Diamond points are virtually worthless on resale.

The forms were long and extensive. We asked for time to review the documents but were pressured into signing “today” or not get the price per point offered.  After seven hours, my husband got upset and left. Eric followed us to our room insisting that we sign. We thought that Eric must be telling the truth, because if he wasn’t, there would be some sort of regulation. We incorrectly put our faith in Eric.     

We were referred to ARDA. ARDA’s advice leads members to scams, as licensed brokers will not even accept a listing for Diamond points, feeling the restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points excessive.

Virginia Beach, August 2017

The sales agents in Virginia were also very high pressure. They told us what we bought in Arizona was not worth it for us and that we had to purchase another 8500 points in order to keep the price of less than $4 per point.  The agent said that after that day the price would be higher. We did not buy. Being deceived into attending the presentation, under the guise that we were getting an education toward our membership was unfair and deceptive. The insistence that we had not purchased enough points made us so angry we did not buy.      

Maui, Hawaii, February 12, 2018

We purchased an additional 5,000 points and switched our US Collection points to the Hawaii Collection to total 13,500 Hawaii Collection points.

  • Purchase price $56,510.00
  • Down payment of $2,731
  • Amount financed $47,713.00

We met with sales agent Sequan R. This again ended up being a hard sell when we told him that we were expecting more of an educational meeting. He said he would give us all the education we need as he had left the company to give independent conferences to teach people how to maximize and exit a timeshare through “Timeshare Confidential Seminars,” but said Diamond hired him back to the sell side of the industry. We were again told “You can’t travel to where you want to go with what you have.” We have since learned that 8500 points were enough points to meet our needs.

Sequan told us we could use a program called Club Combinations at least six times a year to rent out to generate income that would offset the cost of our mortgage. Sequan also told us that we are lucky that the agent in AZ locked in the price because points have already gone up to $8.00 per point so we could already sell points and double our money.  Sequan said that many more high income level people are coming into this resort for the investment which is why the company started the rental program. He said at that income level people want to see a good return on their investment. I told Sequan I did not have time to spend on rentals because I work a lot of hours. Sequan said that the company would appoint someone to help us so we could start to offset our cost right away. I asked Sequan what if they don’t help us. He gave us his cell number and said to call him if that happens. We called Sequan but there was no person by that name.

Later we called and asked how to rent out our club combinations listings.  We were told there was no such program. There was no such thing as a rental program or selling of points for a profit.

Most buyers are on vacation without funds available for a large purchase, so end up signing off on high interest rate loans.  We went into debt to invest in Diamond’s timeshare points.

We had hoped for great vacations and the ability to sell some points for profit as had been explained.  Diamond’s motto “Stay Vacationed” for us means being held hostage. This vacation nightmare has become a major stress in our lives. Filing regulatory complaints is like having a part time job. I am a registered nurse and have spent many years working hard. My husband has worked hard for 40 years. We trusted the timeshare salespeople as we would trust any real estate broker, relying on the ethics of the real estate industry. It was a mistake.

Please do whatever you can to pass this bill and not allow ARDA, a paid lobbyist, to change your minds!

Thank you to Fran for sharing her timeshare experience. Inside Timeshare sent a draft of this article to ARDA. They did not respond. Of the 717 families who have reached out to us reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, 99 are veterans and active duty service members. Several of the veterans are disabled, five Agent Orange disabled.

Proposed Florida HB 435, in which developers are worried about members deceived by timeshare exit companies, is supported by ARDA. A recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents. The actions of deceptive sales agents also harm honest timeshare sales agents.

IMPORTANT LINKS CONCERNING ARIZONA HOUSE BILL 2639

Press Release: http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-43/

To Track Arizona HB2639: Trackbill.com

https://trackbill.com/search/#/direction=desc&page=1&sort=relevancy&tracked&upcoming_hearings&type=bills&state=all&session&query=AZ%20-%20HB2639%20timeshare

Proposed HB Bill 2639

https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/1R/bills/HB2639P.pdf

Request to Speak for Arizona Residents

https://www.cebv.us/rts.html?fbclid=IwAR2784DcGDTFFg0hoQKi_WPJvhNaz7bvoPylIqRLxoBSStSdlH8Z3qGGD_o

The “Kill Bill” Guide – How it Works

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y4w31DQFznxoTDZDru86qzDoku3wuHaW/view

Coalition to Reform Timeshare









Preparing a narration for a governmental agency or a timeshare loss mitigation department is difficult for some due to age related issues or language barriers. We’re here at Inside Timeshare, along with our Supporters, to listen and educate. Contact us or one of these self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced if you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.  

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 Fran, it is now down to you the readers to do your bit and make your voices heard, this bill is to protect you the consumer, do not let the industry that has walked over you for years do it again.

In Spain, the law is on the side of the consumer, the industry is being taken to the cleaners after years of predatory selling, with many other European Countries with timeshare resorts looking to follow Spain’s lead. This is a result of the European Union issuing several directives on what timeshare is and how it should and should not be sold, which each state having to place this into their own laws, Spain was by far the strongest in its implementation. It took many years to get to this stage, but at least the consumer has the full protection of the law.

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

The Tuesday Slot: The Timeshare Tax Trap

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker looks at the question which is rather unique to the US, it is something we in Europe do not have a problem with. Irene also includes a very good explanation from Attorney Mike Finn.

The Timeshare Tax Trap

By Irene Parker

February 26, 2019

Inside Timeshare has heard from 719 timeshare families. Of the 719, 98 are veterans and active duty service members. All but a handful allege unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The most common complaint is being told you can pay your maintenance fees using points when programs as described do not exist. Others report being assured their timeshare could be sold only by purchasing additional points.

It’s bad enough to be lied to, suffer the frustration of groveling before customer services representatives who dismiss your complaint with “You signed a contract,” then undertake the arduous process of filing regulatory, and in some cases, law enforcement complaints. After you think it is finally over and done with, you get one of these 1099Cs in the mail after your timeshare loan has been cancelled, Blood pressure rises again.

We can’t give tax advice, so we rely on professionals to point you in the right direction. We published information on how to dispute phantom income last year on April 6. Given we have already received many questions about this pesky form this current tax season, we are publishing earlier this year hoping to calm our readers before receiving an IRS form 1099-C.

Here’s the word from the professionals:

1099-C: Cancellation of Debt

At the time the seller/borrower obtained the loan to purchase or refinance the property, the loan proceeds were not included in taxable income because the borrower had an obligation to repay the lender. When that obligation to repay the lender is forgiven or cancelled, the amount that is not required to be repaid is considered income by the IRS.  The lender is required to report the amount of the cancelled debt to the borrower and the IRS on Form 1099-C, when the forgiven debt is $600 or greater.

http://www.koontzassociates.com/pages/know-the-difference-between-a-1099-a-and-1099-c/

Excerpt from attorney Mike Finn’s Learning Center article on timeshare loan forgiveness:

The 1099 form is referencing a large amount which may very well be taxable income! Unlike the mortgage balance forgiven, which would have been spread out over the life of the loan, this possibly taxable sum has now been reported to the IRS all at once, in one lump sum! Say the amount reported is about $25,000. Say further that your tax bracket is 20%, a rate on the lower end of the scale. Your new added tax bill is $5,000, and it’s all due by April 15th!

Consult with a tax professional before you assume that your receipt of a 1099 form from a timeshare developer automatically means you’re staring down significant tax liability.

Please understand we are not providing tax advice, merely a possible position that we believe is quite tenable and may be worth exploring with your own tax advisor. Although it’s accurate for me to state that I was a Certified Public Accountant, it is much more important to note that my C.P.A. licensure has long ago lapsed (because I didn’t choose to keep up with the annual professional education courses necessary to retain my certification).  Please take your tax preparation advice solely from your own qualified tax return preparer.

Every tax filer is unique, with differing facts and circumstances. I am not offering, nor should you interpret my comments, as tax advice.

The receipt of these 1099 forms creates confusion.

I point you to IRS form #982. This is the form that the IRS advises should be filed along with the income tax return itself as a form of supporting schedule, which provides notification to the IRS that the amount presented to them via a 1099 is being acknowledged, but further, that the amount listed should be excluded from the taxpayer’s gross income. The myriad of possible reasons provided on the 982 form are in and of themselves confusing and difficult to understand. I’m therefore providing my readers what I suggest may be appropriate reasoning in concluding that, in many cases, there should be no “income tax penalty” imposed after successfully negotiating a release of contract with your timeshare resort.

Allow me to provide my argument as to why some forms of debt forgiveness may well be construed as taxable income, and then differentiate the negotiated act of cancelling a timeshare contract and why this transaction therefore logically should be treated differently.

Since “income” generally means a measure of accretion of wealth or value added to your worth, then the cancellation of a debt, when that debt was incurred when you received something of value, should be counted as income because the elimination of the debt liability plus the retention of the item acquired when the debt was incurred increases your net worth. Under this definition of added wealth, the taxing of same would be quite logical.

Applying this argument to the cancellation of a timeshare contractual obligation and its related underlying indebtedness, it’s immediately evident that the cancelled owner has retained absolutely nothing of value. They’ve surrendered their interest in exchange for a debt and/or contract cancellation, but after the transaction they have absolutely no accretion of net worth.

In terms of taxpayer reporting requirements, the issue becomes murkier when you apply it to timeshare transactions. Whether or not the industry will ever acknowledge that the resale value of a timeshare interest is minimal at best, what we can establish is that it would be extremely unusual for anyone other than the resort developer to acquire the timeshare interest at foreclosure, and therefore the liquidated basis of the interest will nearly always be zero, or at best a nominal value at foreclosure. Also making the timeshare transaction more complex in terms of following the instructions of either IRS form 982 and/or publication 4681 relating to this issue is determining whether the underlying debt should be viewed as “recourse” or “non-recourse,” given the propensity of the developers to utilize non-recourse based non-judicial foreclosures to recover the interest the greatest majority of the time.

I’ve intentionally attempted to avoid becoming overly technical in terms of specifically advising of taxpayer reporting requirements other than to suggest very generally that the filing of the IRS form 982 will most probably be required. Lastly again, I do most strongly recommend utilizing a professional tax return preparer, as these forms are not at all intuitive.

I earnestly wish that I could offer something less complex to help provide absolute answers to this prominent issue, but I do feel that this is important because the financial ramifications are potentially high.

 Mike Finn

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/tax-time-contract-cancellation-timeshare-developer

Once again, thank you to Mike Finn for his experienced advice. Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share. If we don’t know the answer we will find someone who does.

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 this article and thanks to Mike Finn for his contribution, as usual you explain things in a way that us mere mortals can understand.

If you have a problem with your timeshare, have been contacted by any company offering you what looks like a very simple solution, but are not sure if they are genuine, than use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

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.


The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to another Tuesday Slot, this week we publish Part 2 of Manifesto, by another Industry Insider, with the introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

At the end of last week we received some news from the courts in Gran Canaria, first was the news that the Enforcement / Embargo Team of Canarian Legal Alliance had once again secured a payout for one of their clients. Anfi Del Mar were ordered to deposit with the courts the sum of 49,226.57€ which is a few thousand more than they originally paid. They also received back their legal fees and legal interest along with the contract being declared null and void.

Then it was announced that the Courts of San Bartelomé de Tirajana had declared another 8 Anfi contracts null and void, with a total claim amount of over 400,000€. So some very happy clients indeed.

Now on with our Tuesday Slot.

Another Industry Insider Responds to Manifesto

Manifesto Part I:

Manifesto Part II upcoming: Our author hopes to, “draw public comment for a new Business Proposal to remedy and resolve the issues.”

Introduction by Irene Parker

February 19, 2019

As we learned in Manifesto Part I, considerable effort went into restricting the secondary market. One developer will not allow participation in the company’s voluntary deed-back program if the timeshare points were purchased on the secondary market. The goal is to get and keep the timeshare points in house employing any means possible.

As documented in Manifesto Part I, publicly traded timeshare companies list a viable secondary market as a risk to (their) investors. As baby boomers especially are learning about this timeshare hostage scenario, some families are financially devastated. They are left with no choice but to foreclose. Of the 702 families that have reached out to us, 98 are active duty service members or veterans, several disabled. The vast majority have high credit scores. Having to withstand the intimidation and humiliation of foreclosure can be overwhelming, especially for seniors having spent a lifetime paying bills on time.  

A Second Insider responds to Manifesto in today’s article. Insider analysis allows timeshare members and owners a glimpse into what goes on behind Wall Street’s timeshare scenes. Wall Street has made light of the well-orchestrated restricted secondary market. It’s just a loan loss provision number. I wish they could spend a day on the front lines listening to family after family explain how they were driven into timeshare insolvency, alleging unfair and deceptive sales practices, a few even to the point of bankruptcy. Most complain they bought additional points promised maintenance fee relief or the ability to sell points that was not forthcoming.

Following are comments from Industry Insider #2 to Manifesto, with responses from Industry Insider #1 (our Manifesto author) interspersed:

Commenter: I appreciate the well-formed Manifesto published last Tuesday, but would like to add some key points. A very important group of companies and individuals played a significant role in helping the timeshare ownership industry evolve/shift into the (points based) industry. The distinction being; now there are very few owners with “real property rights” as the majority of people own a beneficial interest in a club in the form of “crypto-currency” or points.

Anonymous responds; In Wall Street parlance; the Timeshare industry monetized utilizing a derivative – a very smart move. The term “luft” comes to mind. Luft is the German word for “air”. We’ve termed this derivative an RTU or “Termed Length” – Right to Use contract. Right to use timeshare contracts are the most popular forms of vacation ownership sold today. However, right to use (RTU) timeshare, and their agreements, operate differently from traditional deed ownership. Right to use timeshare is exactly as it sounds—you purchase the right to use the timeshare during the period on which you agreed. Unlike deeded timeshare contracts, you do not actually own any part of the property. Instead of a deed or title, you are bound to the timeshare by the terms of your contract. Right to Use contracts often takes the form of a club membership.

The right to use may be lost with the demise of the controlling company, because a right to use purchaser’s contract is usually only good with the current owner, and if that owner sells the property, the contract holder could be out of luck depending on the structure of the contract, and/or current laws in foreign venues. A more important question is; how many points can a (resort) issue to new buyers as 100% of the points are “derived” from the (resorts) land trust ownership of the original deeds? Secondary purchasers of RTU/Points have reported that many (resorts) strip owners’ privileges, access, exchanges and other perks of ownership to discourage and deter secondary market purchases.

This question begins to examine why Club /RTU owners often find that they cannot successfully book accommodations or exchanges unless they plan far in advance (24 months + prior). Because the points/RTU contracts are basically selling ‘air’, the resorts sell many multiples of Points /RTU’s than could ever be accommodated at any given time.  As we can see, this Club /Points/ RTU method allows the (Resorts) to sell an infinite number of points when compared to the prior physical simple-deeds.

Commenter: The industry, which upgrades up to 70% of its existing owner base, misleads owners into trading in their deeded intervals for some expansion use of a multi-site developer under the guise of convenience. This opportunity was something that was already afforded to them by the exchange companies.

Anonymous responds; Indeed, the industry quickly saw the future in selling air and swapped out owner’s valuable real estate property deeds for RTU contracts.

Commenter: The industry, already renting some 11M nights and adding 2+Billion in rental revenues (mostly to non-owners), could only be achieved by taking away the “sticks & bricks” of ownership.

Anonymous responds; Thus, creating extreme amounts of actual real inventory that could be rented out without benefitting RTU /Points Owners. Simultaneously, major resorts banned aggregations or collections of Points that could be used for business ventures; I.e. renting the points out.

Commenter: To accelerate this effort of transition, a modernization of laws needed to be created. This started in 2012 when ARDA drafted a sponsored a bill known as the “Timeshare Resale Accountability Act”. What few knew then was that the secondary market was collapsing right along with the primary market in the “Great Recession” – Timeshare developers began stripping various benefits of owners, selling into the secondary market, and imposed great “use” restrictions on those who acquired timeshares in the secondary market (like on eBay or through another resale channel).

As the economy began to improve and timeshare sales rebounded, a new subset of companies emerged. Those companies were called *Trade-in/Transfer groups and many of them worked on the same tables alongside of the teams of resort reps waiting to help those existing owners getting into an upgraded and competitive timeshare program.

Anonymous comments – These were the earliest aggregators working in contact with the developers who were filling their land trusts with the deeds as owners got part exchanged or traded into upgrading for RTUs.  

Commenter: What to do with these competitive intervals? Most of these companies ultimately failed as a result of a suppressive business model that was never shared with owners regarding how this created the nominal value factor which some even call negative value. Examples of companies: (Fireside Registry – Catalyst – SumDay Vacations – ALL ARDA members, assisting to provide inventory recovery/aggregator services for resort developers. Each acquired inventory for literally a penny to five cents a point, or sometimes at no cost.

Further, the writer suggests that attorneys are not effective and cannot make the resorts release their owners. This is simply untrue. There are thousands of owner/members who have successfully used attorneys to negotiate a release or litigate for return of monies paid and further, many multi-plaintiff or class actions in which resorts have paid multiple millions back to owners. These all were settled out of court and protected by settlement agreements that have confidentiality clauses and/or have been sealed by the courts, designed to protect developer secrets and activities of unclean hands, they simply do not want owners to know about.

Anonymous Comments – Attorneys that were early were certainly very effective.

The industry richly deserves its worst courtroom defeats. Many large defeats were on the basis of sales misrepresentation, contract misrepresentation, fraud in the inducement, fraudulent credit card/credit line applications and many other examples too numerous to mention.

Most effective examples are when the attorney/client relationship is limited to one timeshare case. Thousands of people have been willed unwanted timeshares as beneficiaries and literally 100% of these get redeemed with no issues and nominal fees. In 2008/09/10 owners who went bankrupt got redeemed without any issues, their personal credit was already damaged. The resorts could not use the leverage of personal negative credit reporting to force payment so “attorneys of merit” handled all of that work, therefore “yes” attorneys of merit are effective in dealing with unwanted timeshare assets.

Sadly, not all Attorneys are cut from the same cloth. Attorneys working on behalf of TPE’s represent a type of faux-Legal Mill. Rarely do attorneys working with TPE’s ever meet, counsel, or in fact speak to the customers. In fact, attorneys working in conjunction with TPE’s seem to be ineffective, due mostly to the overall felonious strategy.

Commenter: Finally, timeshare developers are finding it harder and harder to conduct business around the world *(UK, Spain, South Africa, Canada, others) except here in the United States where powerful lobbyists have used timeshare owners monies thru voluntary contributions to ARDA-ROC, Orange Lake Resort Alliance and other funds from developers to ensure passage of laws that protect the industry from angry consumers who unfairly have not been told the truth about their lifetime vacation ownership purchases.

Anonymous Comments – These lobbying attempts indubitably and with little doubt demonstrate how the industry desperately clings to its massive residual cash-cow after decades of selling a clearly worthless, illiquid luxury product to giddy, undefended, vacation minded, innocent members of the public.

Thank you to both our Insiders. We would appreciate input from the industry, but to my knowledge have refused to admit the secondary market is a problem and that there are thousands, if not millions who have wanted or want to be rid of their timeshare. There are some developers who have responded when we have sent an article for comment. We appreciate developers who will at least respond after members report being financially harmed by unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. We hope more dialogue ensues.

Thank you Irene for your introduction and for editing the article, we would also like to thank both our Industry Insiders for their contributions, no doubt we shall receive many more from them.

If you have any comments or questions on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare invites you to use our contact page, or join our Inside Timeshare Facebook Group, use the visit group box to log in, or use our contact page to send in your comments or questions.

If you have a timeshare issue that you would need help with or want to know what you can do, again contact Inside Timeshare, we are here to help and guide you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish Part 2 of our Secret Shopper Questions, by Pete Gibbes, our Secret Shopper Coordinator.

First we have some rather sad news to share, Bob Massi, a Las vegas Attorney and host of the Fox TV show Property Man has sadly passed away at the age of 67, after a battle with cancer.

He was a great advocate for the underdog, even suing Diamond Resorts for Elder Abuse. He was also one of the law firms listed on the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy group on Facebook, which is reserved only for the most trusted of firms.

Inside Timeshare would like to extend our sincerest condolences to his family.

R.I.P. BOB MASSI

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/bob-massi-real-estate-attorney-fox-news-legal-analyst-dead?fbclid=IwAR2zqLDycKfIEMJDXv7PDYj6n711zWY01wblVCDqM1ySxm8eJbTNGOGT1Po

Secret Shopper Questions Part II

By Pete Gibbes, Secret Shopper Coordinator

 Friday February 8  2019

Many timeshare complaints begin with, “The sales agent said….” and are dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Due to this overused knee-jerk dismissal, timeshare buyers should record their sales presentation. You can legally do so without the other person aware in a one party state. This link allows you to select your state to determine if you can legally record.

http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/state-law-recording

If you are attending a presentation in a two party state, note taking may be the next best alternative. If the sales agent says you are not allowed to take notes, red flag. Walk out. No gift is worth being lied to. If you do stay and the sales agent scribbles a “Pencil Pitch” on a piece of paper, buyers should remember that paper, ask to see it during the signing process, and ask the agent or closer to show you in the contract where his or her promises appear in the contract. Ask to have the item added to your contract as an addendum. This is an actual response to a “The sales agent said” complaint:

“We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”

It’s a good idea to get to know the agent’s qualifications.

How long have you worked at this resort?

Have you worked at other resorts?

What did you do before you sold timeshare?

What’s your ID number?

Consumer Protection Questions

May I call my lawyer/accountant/son/daughter/mother/father to discuss your proposal? May I take the contract to my room so that I can have an adequate amount of time to review such a major purchase?

If the answer is no, ask why not? The reason they say no will be suspect. Contrary to what you will be told, trust me, you can still buy a timeshare tomorrow. The reason for this, “You have to buy today” strategy is because anyone who thinks over buying a timeshare in all likelihood will not buy if given a chance to think it over. You need to be in the driver’s seat, not the sales agent.

According to Highlands Resort sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in a Colorado Attorney General’s investigation, “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.”

Are you a member? May we log onto your account so I can check actual availability and value? I am spending a significant amount of money on something I have not even attempted to use.  

There are many complaints about promised availability and limitations on trial timeshare products the buyer was not aware of.

Ask about Resale or Exit Programs

What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?

Who do I call? Can you give me a reference? Most timeshare companies will not allow their agents to assist in resale in any way, shape or form.

BEFORE you go on your sales presentation, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no money upfront to list a timeshare. The best part is they work with all timeshares, so you are not relying on the word of a sales agent that their program is the best program. Check the pros and cons of buying directly from the timeshare company compared to buying on the secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Maintenance Fees

Is there anything I can do to offset maintenance fees?

This is what we get the most complaints about – bogus programs that claim to offer maintenance fee relief. Watch out for scare tactics. For instance, beach erosion is one reason provided as a reason for special assessments, but an ocean engineer, one of our Supporters, said beach erosion is the responsibility of the state or federal government. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-17/

What is the cap on maintenance fee increases? Do you have a five year history of maintenance fee increases?  If not, don’t buy.

If I can use my points for maintenance fees, how much per point are they credited?

Where in the paperwork can I verify this information?

If I can offset maintenance fees with credit card purchases, how much of a $1 purchase (typically $.01 or $.02) will be credited toward maintenance fees? How much would I have to charge to pay off my entire annual maintenance fee? (It would cost $200,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,000 maintenance fee at $.01 per dollar spent!)

Travel awards are often grossly misrepresented

If I can use my points for hotels, what is the actual value per point? Provide an example. If I can use my points for airline tickets, what is the value per point?

If I can use my points for a cruise, what is the value per point?

Can I rent my timeshare to pay maintenance fees? If the answer is yes, review the requirements in the contract. Some companies do not allow the member to use the internet to rent points.

Loans

Where in the paperwork does it state my loan interest rate?

How much will I pay for the timeshare if I carry the loan for the maximum term?

Is there anything I can do to reduce my interest rate? This is a set-up question because banks do not finance timeshares. Never transfer to a third party lender because then you are asking the timeshare for a refund instead of a loan cancellation.

If consumers must take out a loan to buy a timeshare, consider carefully the actual cost of financing a vacation at 12 to 18%. America is a buy now pay later society. I don’t think many financial planners would recommend financing a luxury item at 12 to 18%.

We hope Secret Shoppers create smart shoppers asking the right questions before plunging into a purchase so many of our readers have come to regret.

Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Secret Shopper report:

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have interest in becoming a Secret Shopper or would like to share a positive or negative timeshare shopping experience.

There are several member supported Facebooks and websites where members can reach out to other members to share experiences.

We seek to provide times 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 Pete for your contribution, also a big thank you once again to Irene Parker for your editing efforts, we know that you have been very very busy of late, so we appreciate you taking the time to carry on.

Well that is it for this week, remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.

If you purchased your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend.