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Karen Garello

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker gives us a report on the 3rd Quarter of Timeshare Advocacy Group.

We are also pleased to announce the publication of The book Everything About Timeshare, Before, During and After the Sale is just around the corner, plenty of time for the holiday shopping season. Our own Irene Parker wrote the Forward for Wayne C. Robinson‘s book. To stay updated on the release, subscribe to this link:

13 SHOCKING SECRETS http://eepurl.com/dxsZEb

We have also received the following from one of our very concerned Anfi members and readers, this was posted on the Anfi Contracts facebook page. It would appear that there is some grave concern as to where large amounts of money have gone and members are calling for an explanation.

Ahead of Monte’s general assembly in November, an important issue needs to be clarified. In the accounts published last year, Monte’s two main debtors were, at the end of 2016: Anfi Resorts (the operational company) with an accumulated debt of €1.897.858, and Anfi Sales (the sales company) with an accumulated debt of €1.854.918.

In the accounts presented this year, Resorts are listed with €0 in debt, whereas Sales’ debt has increased by €20.000 to €1.874.755. Meanwhile, a new post has appeared: post 12, called “present investments” (translated from Norwegian), with a total of €1.456.093 at the end of 2017.

These investments represent €441.765 less than Resorts’ accumulated debt at the end of 2016. At the general assembly, the club members should be entitled to an explanation as to the whereabouts of this money, and be informed about where the “present investments” have been invested.

Well all we can say is we will be watching this story as it unfolds with the November General Assembly.

Now for this week’s article.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ 3rd Quarter Report 2018

T Shirts are in! (T Shirts are blue)

  

By Irene Parker

October 12, 2018  

Timeshare Advocacy Group™  has heard from exactly 600 timeshare families as of September 30, 2018, since we began tracking complaints in 2017. We received a total of 267 reports from families for all of 2017, so 333 families for the first three quarters of 2018 is a dramatic increase.

2018 broken down by quarters:

1st quarter 126

2nd quarter 111

3rd quarter 96

We anticipate an upswing fourth quarter when maintenance fee invoices go out. We have already received 21 new complaints from October 1 to October 10.

Most families contacting us are angry, overwhelmed, and confused, all but a handful describing unfair and deceptive sales practices. They say they bought a timeshare for reasons that did not exist, based on false promises made by timeshare sales agents. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings have taught us about the importance of the burden of proof. While four FBI agents and several attorneys have told me it is not legal to use and abuse the oral representation clause, the ingrained mantra timeshare company response to the majority of complaints is “You signed a contract.”

Not one member who contacted us was aware of the inadequate secondary market until hit with a medical or financial crisis, like Ashley Muise our newest Inside Timeshare contributor. Ashley’s baby was born needing two open heart surgeries. Adding a timeshare loan foreclosure on top of that kind of stress has driven many families to despair. Most of our senior readers maintained an 800 plus credit score for 30 plus years, now forced to endure the demeaning timeshare foreclosure process. I would not make a good timeshare customer service representative because I am moved by their distress.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Section 5:

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

Our standard disclaimer is that we know there are millions who bought and use their timeshares with no complaints. Timeshare buyers blessed with an honest sales agent should not demean or judge those who say they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.

“Don’t call a timeshare exit company!”

“We have your best interest at heart!”  

This the message one timeshare company sent to their members.

No they don’t have your best interest at heart. If the timeshare company had your best interest at heart, why do they almost always respond, “You signed a contract” when members complain about being lied to. They have their bottom line’s best interest at heart. The timeshare developer doesn’t want anyone to stand in the way of their “recaptured inventory” process. Timeshare company annual reports list a secondary market as a risk to shareholders.

The timeshare developer

The timeshare lobby

Lawmakers and some regulators

We are as much against timeshare exit companies as the developer, but given the “Hear no evil, see no evil” response from the industry as to the obvious deceit perpetrated by timeshare sales agents, it’s hard to feel sympathy for the timeshare developer plagued with “cease and desist” letters. They say their members are being “targeted” when in fact members are desperate and turn to internet key words for help.

The Florida Department of Business Practices and Regulation (DBPR) advises members to call a lawyer – referring them to what amounts to be a lawyer phone book of sorts. More than a few times the member ended up with a lawyer who doesn’t know what they are doing because they don’t have timeshare experience. The lawyers get paid, and then we end up helping the member for free.   

Members have reported back to us that The Nevada Real Estate Division has responded to all but a few complaints with “You have no proof.” It is legal to record a meeting without the other party aware in Nevada. In Nevada members need to record the sales presentation.

The Florida DBPR, responds, “Verbal representations are hard to prove,” but Florida is a two person state, meaning both parties need to be aware of the recording of an in-person meeting. Members are not allowed to take handwritten notes from the sales agent, so I don’t know what proof anyone could produce. Tell them you will record. If they say no, forget the gift and leave. If you will be charged something if you leave, painstakingly write down every word the sales agent utters.  

Only two out of 600 complaints have members recorded. The first to record had their contract cancelled in a heartbeat. The second, even with the recording, has had to fight tooth and nail. She has received a full refund from the credit card company, their entire purchase, but the timeshare company is still not releasing her from the contract!  

Timeshare members seek straight answers, which our advocates provide free of charge from England to Malaysia.

Our 44 advocates are professionals who bring their skills and life experiences to the table, volunteering their time to help answer members’ questions.

Pete Gibbs has volunteered to be our Secret Shopper coordinator, replacing Karen Garello. Thank you to Karen for her past service.

Karen’s Secret Shopper questions:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

Advocate Sheilah Brust has her three page pencil pitch from Florida that shows:

$8631

-8631    

0   (Meaning buying additional points would result in no maintenance fees)

First, Sheilah was told the company didn’t know if she obtained the pencil pitch without the sales agent knowing. When she pointed out how preposterous this defense is – while the pencil pitch is incriminating, it is inadmissible if she took it on her own! The next defense, the Florida AG timeshare reviewer told her that she didn’t understand the pencil pitch either until she talked to the company’s attorney. So how, Sheilah asked, would anyone understand this convoluted, sleight-of-hand explanation of the ability to pay maintenance fees with points? No such program exists?

Frustrated, Sheilah designed a T Shirt that we hope to sell to raise money for a legal defense fund, as has been suggested. We have several 100% disabled veterans and members with grave medical decisions driven to financial disaster, some driven to the verge of bankruptcy.  We have a five member committee to account for receipt and disbursement of funds. As of now, we are in the preliminary proposal writing stage. We are working out the mechanics of a Go Fund Me account. We will suggest buyers contribute $5 from every T Shirt to the legal defense fund.

Many of those we have helped were on their way to the upfront “guaranteed to get you out of your timeshare” firms, some that prey on those already victimized. Not all exit companies are bad, but scams abound. From this perspective, the developer, the timeshare lobby ARDA, and TAG advocates are on the same side. This 15 page Department of Justice report listing timeshare fraud, jail terms and fines, says it all:  

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

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.

Thank you to all our Inside Timeshare contributors and upcoming new contributors. Contact Inside Timeshare if you, or someone you know, needs assistance or would like to share their timeshare story for the benefit of others.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” Jimi Hendrix

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

That is all for this week, if you have any comments or would like to contribute an article use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene, Plus some news about Butlins.

In this Tuesday’s article by Irene Parker, she explains how timeshare members fight back, this is a rather timely piece as we have recently received some disturbing news. It would appear that not is all well at Butlins.

In previous articles we praised Butlins Blueskies timeshare as one that was sold correctly and seemed to have very few complaints from members. That had now changed, Butlins is ending Blueskies.

blueskies

According to some of the posts on the Blueskies, Butlins, members facebook page, members are not happy about losing their timeshares. They were told that if they did not accept the offer to terminate the club, then their maintenance fees would rise significantly.

According to some of the posts on the facebook page, Butlins have also been hiring out apartments to non members, which goes against what they were sold. One member posted the following:

“Blueskies was sold to most of us as an exclusive club, it was not to be hired out. Therefore Butlins Blueskies broke the contract with us as members when they started hiring apartments out without asking/informing us the members.”

It also looks like there are many complaints about the standards of the apartments and the service, that everything seems to have gone down hill. Repairs not being carried out, with comments on damaged floor tiles and windows.

But the vast majority of the comments surrounded the vote, which gone in Butlins favour and the club is to be wound up. It also appears that the vote was done on points, rather than just votes, the more points, the more votes. Which makes the vote in Butlins favour not surprising, as they will own the points not sold. We have seen this before at other timeshare resorts, where the vote has gone in favour of the developer or management company.

Many members are calling to band together and take legal action, as they feel they have been cheated. It is a sad day when a company like Butlins, which did have a relatively good reputation in the timeshare industry suddenly falls from grace. We wish the members all the best in their fight to right a wrong.

Follow the link to the Blueskies Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Blueskies%2C%20Butlins%2C%20members

Now on with Irene’s article.

Lions and Cats

How Timeshare Members Fight Back

Lion

By Irene Parker

October 17, 2017

A timeshare insider recently asked me, “Why is Timeshare Advocacy Group™ so successful?”  “How do you do it?”

Most timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare and timeshare advocacy Facebook pages are confused, angry, and overwhelmed. Members face a battle pleading with a timeshare company, demanding a refund or loan be cancelled, knowing they may be forced into foreclosure if they are denied. If the member feels they were sold or up-sold by deceit, the conflict is magnified. The automatic denial from the resort leads to more anger and frustration as rebuttals ensue. We take pride in the number of members we have steered away from fraudulent transfer companies charging hefty amounts for so called guaranteed exits.

The predator turned prey

Something clicks inside a person when they have had enough, be it a victim of domestic abuse, child abuse, or predatory timeshare sales. Our goal is to turn the sound of the caller’s scared and desperate voice into a confident voice by providing the member with the resources needed to take action and advocate.

Three of Timeshare Advocacy Group’s leaders

3 trees

Irene “Irina” Allen is our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ administrator

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

We seek to provide 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/

Eron Grant is an educator who has volunteered to be our “go to” person analyzing ARDA’s Code of Ethics. After a member submits a report to us, Eron identifies how a timeshare developer has violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics. The report is forwarded to ARDA’s General Counsel and Lobbyist. So far there has been no response. We feel if an organization says they have a Code of Ethics, the Code should be enforced. Here is how Eron describes how ARDA’s Code of Ethics was violated in the case of her family. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association. The code can be found in Eron’s article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Advocacy groups have been encouraging timeshare members not to make a voluntary donation to ARDA ROC, feeling the $4 to $5 million a year raised is used to lobby against timeshare owners when an issue is at odds with developer interest. It’s doubtful most owners know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.

“Owners donated $5.5 million this year, through voluntary contributions on their maintenance fees, to support ARDA-ROC, the independent Resort Owners’ Coalition that teams up with ARDA on consumer and legal issues that impact owners. The top two givers were owners at Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen Vacations, each of whom contributed $1 million for ARDA’s representation.” RedWeek April, 2017

According to Dr. Amy Gregory, University of Central Florida, who presented at an ARDA World Conference,

“A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their (timeshare) 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

ARDA worked to pass legislation in Florida making it more difficult for timeshare members to be released from contracts due to non material errors. A high percentage of buyer’s remorse, coupled with a perpetual contract, little or no exit, and rising maintenance fees have left frustrated timeshare members no place to turn in an industry that is virtually unregulated. Lawmakers, influenced by lobby dollars, turn a deaf ear. Advocacy groups were outraged by the Florida bill.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

Karen Garello

Karen Garello is our Secret Shopper coordinator. Karen is one of several members who allege they did not know, until they returned home, a credit card had been used to purchase a timeshare product. Marsha Young also was unaware she had been charged for the same timeshare product, but Marsha received her money back, told the person who sold it to her had been fired. The resort said he had been the top selling agent of this particular product.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Inside Timeshare and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ developed a step-by-step plan a member can follow if a resort offers no assistance. Through regulatory filings and media outreach members are helping other members while also contributing to timeshare reform. Other advocates, working behind the scenes, focus on legislative actions. Time, patience and diligence are necessary.

Many of the members reaching out to us have health issues. Out of 166 complaints received, diagnoses include cancer, dementia, concussion, kidney disease, Bell’s palsy, financial loss caused by loss of employment or divorce, and grief over the loss of a spouse or loved one. Developer attorneys say hardship is not a legal defense.

Many life events cannot be foreseen, so consumers thinking about buying a timeshare need to think about whether it is prudent to buy anything for $25,000 to over $500,000 that does not have a secondary market, is perpetual, and is accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Some timeshares have a limited secondary market. Members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association can give you an idea of what your timeshare may be worth on the secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints (157 out of 166) by timeshare members alleging they were deceived on the front end of the timeshare sale. We are learning there are many ways to dodge the rescission period.

Timeshare member Tammy Arkley only realized this happened to her because she was able to access the booking site because her friend was already a member at a higher loyalty level. Tammy said she was told she would need fewer points to book stays if she upgraded to the next loyalty level, but when she went back to her room and logged onto her friend’s account, already at that loyalty level, she saw the reservation took the same exact number of points. She received her money back, but what did this experience do to change the image she had of this company?

In other words, there are some promises and claims that cannot be discovered until the buyer has access to the booking site, long after the cancellation period.

Similarly, others have been told they would need to wait six months before selling points after upgrading to the next loyalty level. By placing a six month wait on the false claim, the complaint is old when reported. Too many of our readers are highly educated professionals and were not alone when they attended the presentation. There are so many almost identical complaints – we can sometimes guess the name of the sales agent.

Timeshare members have had enough. Social Media now allows timeshare members to contact other members to find out they are not alone. Members include professionals offering their skills to help other members. We are hoping one day, if the timeshare companies themselves will not acknowledge the problems, lawmakers will pay attention.

My husband Don, and first read editor, asked me as I was writing this article, “Why does Disney have so few complaints?” Disney, I said, is a company backed by generations of little critters enmeshed in a corporate culture and brand that will not allow deceit but does allow a secondary market. It does not seem to have hurt their bottom line. Zacks estimates a year over year growth estimate of 11.27% forecasted for 9/20/2018 with an impressive 1.66% allowance for doubtful receivables 10/1/2016.

https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/DIS/detailed-estimates

Walt Disney Co.’s allowance as a percentage of current receivables, gross declined from 2014 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016.

 https://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Walt-Disney-Co/Financial-Reporting-Quality

Bad-Debts

Contact Inside Timeshare to share your news and views or one of the available self-help groups. Our success is not measured in dollars. While many have received resolution or refunds, relinquishments, or loan cancellations, others brace for foreclosure. It’s about the “3Rs or F of Timeshare” – getting a bad decision in the rear view mirror supported by other members who care and bring their expertise from all walks of life into our Timeshare Advocacy Group™.

create

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

We now share some more news from the courts in Spain, the High Court in Tenerife yesterday announced another crippling verdict against Silverpoint. The judge has declared another client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £40,000 plus legal interests. Once again the courts are finding in favour of clients as per the rulings of the Supreme Court.

So no matter what the industry claims, they are losing the battle, consumers are protected by the law, at least as far as timeshares sold in Spain are concerned. It now needs the rest of Europe to follow suit, giving the protection that the EU Timeshare Directives promised. The industry must acknowledge the fact that they have for too long run roughshod over consumers in their quest for easy money.

 

End of August Roundup

Considering August is usually a quiet month with all the holidays, Inside Timeshare has had quite a run on articles. We began August with news on the Tauro Beach Project entitled “Tauro Beach: In the UK News”.

This followed the publication of a story in The Guardian, a UK newspaper, on the importation of the sand used to build the beach, from Western Sahara. The article by Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer, two independent journalists who investigated the possible illegal importation of the sand.

They explained that if this sand did originate from the Western Sahara, which it most certainly looks like, it was against UN Resolutions and rulings from the European Court of Justice. In their article they quote the head of SEPRONA in Gran Canaria, Lt Germán Garciá who stated “The sand was brought illegally, it was discharged with no control at all,” we know this has caused concern among environmentalist on the Island, as there is a protected area just 300 meters off the beach.

gc-seprona

For the full story follow the links at the end of this article.

The following day we published the Mid Week Report, this started with the news that TATOC had truly gone as their website is no longer accessible. It was then followed with a link to The Canary News, an English language newspaper based in Gran Canaria. The Canary News article by Ed Timon, the editor, gave a very good insight into the history of Western Sahara, which was the subject of the previous article.. (Again see links below).

We also published the first article of the month from Irene Parker, from our US branch, this was to do with a lawsuit in the US by Welk Resorts against Timeshare Exit Team. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting lawsuits by timeshare developers against resale / exit companies and law firms.

Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare was the title of the next article. This highlighted Timeshare Compensation’s blog on Silverpoint now known as Signallia. In this blog Timeshare Compensation warns its readers of the “dodgy” past of this company, which was very surprising indeed as the owner of Timeshare Compensation, Mark Rowe, is an ex-senior sales manager of Silverpoint and thereby employee of Robert “Bob” Trotta. Told you there were some strange things in the world of timeshare!

loyalty1

In our first Friday’s Letter from America for the month, we published the article by Eron Grant, this covered the question of why does ARDA have a code of ethics? One question we have also asked of the RDO.

Once again that family of fake law firms in Tenerife came up, yes you know the ones, Litigious Abogados.

Another new contributor from the US made her debut, Bonita Hill. Her article was on the question of Diamond’s Clarity Programme, regarding the Oral Representation Clause. This was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

We then published “Truth, What is Truth?” This was in response to readers enquiries about Anfi denying losing any court cases. This has caused confusion among members, after all these cases have been publicised in the press, yet Anfi tell everyone it is not true! So who do you believe?

In the next Friday’s Letter from America, we published Part 4 “Our DRI Misadventures” by David Franks. He Joined our team of writers from the US, some months ago and has given us a great deal of fun. He certainly has a style of his own and is a welcome member to the team.

We then started our “Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message” by Irene Parker, this is based on the book Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer. He is to be a keynote speaker at the Interval International Shared Ownership Conference to be held at the Miami Beach Eden Roc Hotel October 23 – 25. Mr. Baer has advised more than 700 companies including The United Nations and 32 Fortune 500 companies.

Next came the news of a story we published last year, it involved The Manhattan Club in New York. The NY AG Eric T Schneiderman had suspended all sales at the club back in July 2014, this followed many complaints of deceitful practises. The case is now finally over, with a settlement of $6.5 million, also the owners are being forced to sell and have been barred from participating in the timeshare industry. Well done Eric, one for the consumer!

Attorny_General_Eric_T_Schneiderman
NY AG Eric T Schneiderman

Once again Karen Garello from our Timeshare Advocacy, contributed another “Secret Shopper Report”. In this article, Karen gives sound advice on the questions you should ask when going on a sales presentation. Following her advice could save a lot of problems in the future.

It was back to Europe for our next piece, this was titled “ Timeshare In the Press”. This was actually very timely as it followed on from the Truth What is Truth article, it was based on the article in the Spanish paper El Diario. It highlighted the Supreme Court rulings, mainly against the Tenerife company Silverpoint, who just like Anfi deny any cases going to court or being lost.

It also included the article published in The Canary News, based on the one from the paper La Provincia, this began with a recap of the groundbreaking first Supreme Court ruling back in March 2015. Again throwing out the claims of the timeshare industry that these are all fictitious cases.

There followed a couple more articles by Irene Parker and a Timeshare Advocate. The first highlighted the  lawsuits between developers and law firms, the second was an open letter to the timeshare industry. Whether they take any notice is another thing.

In The Monday Briefing, we again focused on the Litigious Abogados family, giving a recap on how they operate their rather sophisticated scam, but also some sound advice which if followed will protect you from becoming one of their victims.

In the same article we welcomed and wished all the best to a new forum for timeshare owners, Timeshare Users Forum. This has been set up by disgruntled members of Timeshare Talk, a previously independent forum. We won’t go into detail here, but you can read the full article.

The last article for August was Part II of Hug Your Haters: A Customer Service Message.

So that is it for August, tomorrow we don’t cross the great lake to the US, we go to the land down under, for another Letter from Australia, contributed by Justin Morgan, on the role of private equity and the secondary market in timeshare. Do join us and bring your didgeridoo!

didgeridoo

Links to some of this month’s articles.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-uk-news/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-latest-development/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/28/trouble-in-paradise-the-canary-island-beach-accused-of-illegally-importing-sand?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://insidetimeshare.com/loyalty-no-thing-timeshare/

http://insidetimeshare.com/truth-what-is-truth/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-15/

http://insidetimeshare.com/manhattan-club-6-5-million-settlement/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-in-the-press/

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

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