Browse Tag

Mark Rowe

The Tuesday Slot: The Timeshare Industry and Scams Work Hand in Hand

Timeshare has been with us for many years now, the original concept was one that certainly sparked great interest, the quality of the resorts and the guarantee of that quality no matter where you booked. But over the years many timeshare owners have been the victims of some very unscrupulous entities, from resale companies to discount holiday clubs and now exit companies, all promising the timeshare owner a way out of their commitment. So we have to ask the question, is the timeshare industry responsible for the proliferation of the many scams involved around timeshare?

In a way, the industry is responsible, the way it has been sold and the difficulties many owners have on getting out of their contracts when they no longer require the membership has made it very easy for the scammers to take hold and make even more money out of the unsuspecting timeshare owners.

In the early days, timeshare was sold as though it was property, the pitch at sales events was very simple, you could not afford to purchase an apartment abroad just for holidays, the cost was too great. So how about purchasing a “share” in an apartment, along with other “owners” you would split the cost of maintaining the apartment and the resort, these were the annual maintenance or management fees.

At first glance this looks like a win-win situation, you get to “own” a share in a luxury apartment in the sun, a place you could call a home from home. You actually believed that you “owned” the apartment and that according to the sales pitch it would increase in value, just as though you owned it outright as real estate.

This then gave rise to the resale industry, with promises of very inflated prices, but this came at a cost. In order to place your “apartment” for sale, a fee was required to “list” your timeshare on their website. Many of these companies operated by way of cold calls, they enticed the “victim” with promises of quick sales and in most cases for more than you originally paid for the timeshare. Remember, you were conditioned at the original sale that you were purchasing property and it would increase in value.

These companies would also make the promise that if they did not sell within the year of the contract, the initial payment would be returned. Great promise until they disappeared after that year and reemerged under a different name. Thousands have been lost in this way.

Eventually, these began to be replaced by the “holiday clubs”, these were basically discounted clubs where you purchased a membership, it was also a way out of your annual maintenance costs. The “holiday club” when you purchased membership would then take your timeshare, in some cases with the cashback system which supposedly paid for the membership and your timeshare after a specific period.

This particular scheme became infamous through its use by Incentive Leisure Group, selling the Designer Way Vacation Club. This whole scheme was eventually shut down and the cashback scheme was shown for what it really was, a total fraud and in many cases, the “member” still owned the timeshare.

Eventually, these clubs have frittered away, one of the last was the Monster Travel, Monster Credits and Monster Rewards dreamed up by Mark Rowe, who was also well known as a sales rep and sales manager for Resort Properties/Silverpoint. As we know this timeshare company has been shown to be one of the most fraudulent in the history of timeshare.

Rowe even took this one step further, he set up “law firms” who would not only exit you from your timeshare contract but also get you compensation. The only problem here is that to do this you also had to “join” his “club” either Monster or the replacement Jive Hippo.

So this now brings us to the present day, the “exit & claims” companies.

Although there are many cases going through the Spanish courts all brought by genuine law firms, there is on the periphery a growing number of operations that are less than legitimate.

These claim that they will “exit” you from your timeshare contract then claim compensation once the contract is cancelled. There is however a fee that needs to be paid to “exit” you from your contract, in many cases, this can be around £3000 or more.

The vast majority of these “exits” never actually happen, we have over the years seen many companies come and go with “victims” losing thousands and finding they are now in arrears for maintenance fees of around 3 years or more. Their contracts were never cancelled despite what the company told them.

So back to our question, is the timeshare industry responsible for these frauds?

In a way they are responsible, it has been their own greed that has allowed these scams to proliferate and continue. The being locked into contracts that are virtually impossible to get out of, the huge rise in annual maintenance fees and not to forget the biggest problem of all, availability.

All these are problems made by the timeshare industry, it is these problems that make owners/members vulnerable to those who see an opportunity to make huge amounts from scamming them. After all, any industry which basically holds its members to ransom making it almost impossible to “exit”, will always be a catalyst for the unscrupulous.

It is a problem that is not going away, as long as the timeshare industry continues to operate in the same old way, there are going to be those who will take advantage of people’s fears and offer them what looks like a simple solution to their problem. Unfortunately, all it will do is empty your bank account.

If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or one that you have found on the internet, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Anfi Lose Another Appeal & A Consumer Warning of Fake Information

In today’s short article we publish yet another Anfi appeal which the courts have rejected and a warning on some information being given by “cold callers” which is nothing but a fabrication. This is nothing unusual, we have highlighted this problem in the past, the tactics are to “scare” you the timeshare owner into signing up for a “claim or exit” with one of the very dodgy companies that have emerged.

We begin first with the news on Anfi.

Once again the High Court of Las Palmas has rejected an appeal by Anfi on the sentence passed by the Court of First Instance. This has become a very familiar occurrence, every time Anfi lose their case they automatically appeal to the High Court. The stupid thing is they lose in every appeal yet continue to do use this legal procedure in order to delay the inevitable, having to pay out to the client.

The case was conducted on behalf of the Swedish client by the Canarian Legal Alliance Lawyer Eva Gutierrez with the client being assisted by the Claims Consultant Michael Gadman.

The High Court confirmed the original sentence and once again ordered that Anfi repay the client 54,137€ plus legal interest. The High Court also agreed that in calculating the award, the Court of First Instance was correct in demanding that the deposit which was illegally taken within the statutory cooling-off period must be paid back in double.

It is quite clear from all the recent appeals that Anfi has made that their game of delaying the inevitable is not doing them any good, in fact, it is costing them more in legal fees and in some cases, the High Court is actually increasing the award. One day they may just decide to accept the verdicts of the lower courts and payout. Well, we can live in hope!

Over the years that Inside Timeshare has been publishing we have come across some very wild stories from our readers about the information they have been given by “cold calling claims & exit” companies.

Recently we published several of these wild claims such as Mark Rowe of Monster Rewards, ABC Lawyers and sell my timeshare infamy was arrested, tried and convicted in a Malaga court. That over 40 million Euros had been seized and he had been sent to jail.

Then we had a series of emails where our readers who own Anfi, have been told that Anfi is in liquidation and will be closing, that unless they moved quickly and signed up they would lose everything. Well, we do know that one half of the Anfi partnership, the Cazorla Group, have their own financial difficulties, Anfi itself is pretty sound, after all, they do have IFA Lopesan as the other 50% owner.

The latest to come through from our readers, but unfortunately, they have not yet been able to provide a company name, is the story that Club la Costa and Marriott are going into liquidation.

In fact, one reader has even been told a date when this is happening, this Friday 16 October 2020.

As far as we have been able to ascertain, neither are going into liquidation, this has also been confirmed by our enquiries with law firms handling cases against both the timeshare companies.

These tactics are designed for one thing and one thing only, to scare you the owner/member into signing up with these scam companies, paying their high fees because they have managed to convince you that you are about to lose everything. Well, you just have, you paid them!

It may be a fact that one of the subsidiary companies might be folding, after all these timeshare companies do tend to have many of them, but that doesn’t mean the whole of Club la Costa or Marriott are going under.

Once again this goes to show how vigilant you must be when dealing with many of these “cold calls”, never believe them, do your own research first. Make checks on the company that contacted you and told you the information, check the internet for any other news on what they have told you. If you are not sure how to do these checks, then use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Don’t believe what you are told, do your homework first, it will save you money.

Timeshare Contracts: Held to Ransom Part 2

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, last week we started the series Timeshare Contracts: Held to Ransom, where we highlighted one timeshare companies “exit” policy. The resort was Belton Woods Lodges Ltd and it is not what you could consider very fair. In fact, it is one of the most disgusting “exit” policies that we have ever seen. Today we highlight the policy of Diamond Resorts (Europe) which they have been running now for quite a few years. As for any news from the courts, today is yet another fiesta day in Spain so everything will be closed, so we will bring you the latest results later in the week.

One of the most common enquiries received by Inside Timeshare are from owners/members who have been contacted by “exit” companies, for whatever reason these owners/members just want out of their contracts and the liability of the annual maintenance fees. Most have no idea that their resorts may have an exit program where they can relinquish directly with the resort for either no payment, a fixed fee or the equivalent of up to 3 years maintenance payments.

In fact, the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation), has stated in the past that no timeshare company should ever charge more than 3 years maintenance fees to release a member from their contract. Unfortunately, this does not apply to non-members.

Diamond Resorts in Europe have the policy to allow members to relinquish under two criteria, one is “exceptional circumstances” and the other is for those that do not meet the requirements of “exceptional circumstances”.

So what is Diamond Resorts policy on “exceptional circumstances”?

Diamond will allow the owner/member to relinquish free of any charge as long as the maintenance fees are paid to date under the following criteria:

  • Aged over 75;
  • The death of one of the partners;
  • Financial difficulties;
  • Medical reasons.

The first one is straight forward, obviously, proof of age will be required as the death certificate will be for the second reason.

Financial difficulties, this is not as straightforward as you may think, Diamond, will require an independent and recognised income Vs expenditure report. This can be equated to the old “means test”, you must show all income and savings, it must also show all your expenditure, even down to your spending on cups of coffee!

There is one saving grace on this point, Diamond will accept reports prepared by the Citizens Advice Bureau, as they are a nationally recognised organisation. It is also free of charge.

Medical reasons, the main points this covers are obviously terminal illness and being unable to travel. Diamond will require all medical information from your doctor or consultant. Now one of the sticking points here is being unable to travel.

Citrus House, Diamonds European Head quarters

Inside Timeshare has in the past had readers who have applied for relinquishment under this section and have been denied. The reason is that they were just unable to travel abroad due to their health, but, they could still use their timeshare membership at the resorts in their own country.

But as we have stated they do require full medical details, so just like financial you are laying open all your personal information. Somehow that just doesn’t seem right.

If you do not fall into the above categories, then you have the option to relinquish your timeshare by paying two years maintenance, this is as long as your maintenance is paid to date and there are no arrears.

Remember that when you do relinquish your membership, you will not get any money back, you will also be signing away your rights to take legal action in the future if your contract was actually illegal.

Many of the “exit” companies that we have seen in the past basically just take your money, tell you not to pay the maintenance and that when you receive demands to just send them to the “exit” company and to ignore them. Eventually, usually, three years down the line, the company you paid is gone and you find that you are now still liable for the maintenance and the timeshare company has sold a debt to a collecting agency. This may result in CCJ’s being issued by the County Courts for your breach of contract.

So the question is, do you pay an exit company or go directly to your own timeshare company?

The choice is yours, but Inside Timeshare always recommends that you approach your resort first, then if you do not have any luck, that is the time to look at proper legal help. Although the warning is to be very careful who you deal with if you take this option, not all exit companies are genuine and actually do the work paid for.

Yes, this is a minefield, there are new companies emerging every week offering this service, after all, it is very lucrative, just look at the Mark Rowe companies. Every single client who paid them (anything from £4,500 to £10,000) still has not got rid of their timeshare, all are still liable for their maintenance, with all his companies in liquidation.

If you have any questions on this subject or any article published, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.