So what was once an independent website giving independent and impartial advice to timeshare owners is firmly under the umbrella of Mark Rowe. He continually denies he has anything to do with the TCA, the latest evidence shows otherwise.
This is now in black and white on the Privacy Notice updated on 24 April 2019,
So what does this mean for timeshare owners who contact the TCA for advice on how to get out of their timeshare contracts?
Very simple, they will not be getting any independent or impartial advice, instead, they will be directed to one of the companies owned and controlled by Mark Rowe. This is not the first time the TCA’s impartiality has come into question, Andrew Penman of the Mirror brought this subject into the public domain way back in December 2016.
Inside Timeshare has received many emails from timeshare owners who have paid for relinquishments and so-called claims through ABC Lawyers, one reader paid around £7,500 for relinquishment and a claim. They were simply told to stop paying the maintenance fees, which they did, they have since found out that Club La Costa terminated their membership on the grounds of non-payment of fees. In other words, ABC Lawyers did nothing, they have also never received a penny of the £30,000 they were promised for their claim, despite signing the contract with ABC in October 2017.
Inside Timeshare has continually stated that the only sure way of making a claim for timeshare purchased in Spain is through the Spanish Courts, using a genuine lawyer registered to practice in Spain, with the knowledge and experience of timeshare law.
You are also unable to make any claim through the courts once you have had your contract terminated, plus you are very unlikely to receive any money back by using the Credit Consumer Act 1974 Section 75. This is a simple fact, the credit card company (if you paid the deposit by card) will always contact the timeshare company, they will obviously inform the card provider that the timeshare was used, so they have provided the goods and services paid for. Section 75 does not cover the fact that your timeshare contract may be illegal under Spanish law.
Once again, it is important that you know who you are dealing with, the TCA may have been independent and impartial at one point, but that was many years ago, we are sure the late Sandy Grey will be turning in his grave, all his hard work has now been turned upside down.
If you have any questions or need real advice on any timeshare matter, use our contact page and we will get back to you. Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you find on the internet.
Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another in our series of Secret Shopper reports, but first some news from the UK about ABC Lawyers, one of the Mark Rowe owned companies.
On 8 February 2019, an application to wind down the company ABC Layers Ltd was filed by Mark Rowe with Companies House. The appointed liquidator is David Meany of Quantuma LLP, The Old Town Hall, 71 Christchurch Road, Ringwood, Hampshire.
The question being posed now is what will happen to all those clients who have signed up with ABC Lawyers for “compensation claims” and “relinquishments”, are they going to have the work completed?
As we know, several of Marke Rowe’s companies are under police investigation, could this liquidation be a move to prevent yet another of his companies falling under that investigation? Only time will tell.
Now for today’s Secret Shopper Report.
Timeshare Wars! Deeded Timeshare Owners Fight Back
What kind of business sells points by demanding that if you don’t buy our timeshare points, your children will have to be our customer?
Not since the Book of Genesis [1:9-10] has the extraordinary feat of creating land from nothingness been chronicled … and Marriott “saw that it was good” for business. (Plaintiff’s response to motion to dismiss)
By Another Deeded Week Secret Shopper from Out West
April 23, 2019
Some Vacation Clubs employ predatory and deceptive methods to convince deeded week timeshare “owners” to give up their deed to become a “member” of a points-based timeshare program. Owners are lured to “mandatory” updates designed to convince them why they should join their vacation club.
Last Tuesday a Secret Shopper shared his experience. Shopper owned two continuous deeded weeks at Virginia Beach. He determined that if he had agreed to forfeit his deeds for points, it is unlikely he would have access to the vacation location the family had enjoyed for years.
Some timeshare point members have no “beneficial interest” in actual real estate. Wyndham does sell a point-based deeded timeshare. The (intended pun) point is that just because points are used to identify one’s use interests, does not necessarily make the timeshare a users’ rights product.
In the case of non-deeded points, the point buyer buys points in a “right-to-use” program. Ownership rights are stripped away from the actual real estate. It’s more like buying a membership in a country club than buying a condo, except it’s a country club membership you can’t easily terminate unless the membership is free and clear. If there is no loan and maintenance fees are current, the resort MAY take the timeshare back in return for nothing more than the peace of mind knowing you are done with it.
Charging closing costs for a product that is not real estate was the basis of a class action lawsuit against Marriott Vacation Club. In a recent ruling,
A Florida Judge has sustained central claims in the class action against Marriott and their points based system. “Consumer Deeds are invalid because they lack any cognizable legal description of a real property interest being conveyed as required by Florida law.”
Throughout our presentation, we were concerned about the sales agent using terms associated with real estate. Our sales agent said points are backed by real estate held in a trust. Agents used words and phrases like “opening escrow” and a 30 to 45 day closing period. One particularly deceptive use of real estate jargon was stating maintenance fees as HOA fees. They are not the same. It would take another article to explain why they are different. They would not disclose the terms of a loan unless we agreed to purchase.
My husband and I went after them from a financial angle. We said we were concerned about the company’s financial health. We felt the thousands of complaints that can be found about this company on the internet, over 1,000 Better Business Bureau Complaints, a government action, and numerous lawsuits would eventually catch up with them. That doesn’t mean all their sales agents are dishonest, but there are a disproportionate number of complaints compared to other timeshare companies.
What seemed to be the craziest comment came from an agent who came over to answer our questions about the budget report. We had asked:
“Is the Club solvent?” “Are they in debt?”
The agent shockingly responded, “Why would that matter to you?”
We asked for their California public report. We showed them that there was a deficit of $9.696 million. We asked why the public report does not show a reserve account. They said it’s typically not shown in a public report. This makes no sense as that is one of the first things to put in a public report to make the consumer feel more secure. The truth is – there is no reserve account based on documents we had analyzed.
Our sales agent seemed a bit dumbfounded. Our session ended without the usual downturn in attitude when a member says no and means no. We don’t think these agents are used to informed buyers. But Vacation Clubs don’t just try to take your deed. They try to take your Resort!
We are longtime owners at one of the resorts that have opposed the Vacation Club’s attempts to take control. Owners realized a few years ago that the Club was rapidly accumulating inventory. Some owners started reporting that they had been to presentations or updates where they had been informed that either the Club already ‘owned’ our resort, or used scare tactics to convince the owner that if they didn’t convert their deed to points, their deed would be worthless and would be subject to a special assessment. Often, especially seniors are falsely told that if they don’t give up their deed and convert to points their children will be required to be club members when the owner passes.
The Vacation Club business model dealing with “Legacy” resorts is well known. I call this model extortion. Here’s how it works:
The acquiring company takes over management,
Substantially higher fees are charged than the resort was currently paying,
Deeded owners’ maintenance fees are raised substantially,
The cost of club operations is shifted to the deeded owners,
Excessive capital reserve projects are imposed in order to collect additional fees from deeded owners,
Availability, especially for desirable weeks, is reduced for deeded owners.
Desirable weeks are rented to the public to increase income to Club managers.
Nuisance fees are added that are applicable to only deeded owners such as parking fee, split week fee.
Benefits deeded owners enjoyed for many years are eliminated, such as day use and bonus time
Information available to deeded owners is reduced in order to force them to attend high-pressure sales presentations or “updates” designed to wrestle the deed away from the owner.
The value of deeded ownership is demeaned by emphasizing the negative aspects of deeded ownership. Deeded owners are threatened with special assessments, higher maintenance fees, less availability.
Exchange options become limited for deeded owners in order to coerce them to convert to club membership.
Our Club has used unscrupulous Florida title companies to purchase units from deeded owners under false pretext and transfer them to the Club. The Club has pressured management hired by the resort to enact policies beneficial to the Club. The Club has brought frivolous legal action against the association and board members individually to intimidate vendors and board members so that the Club can gain control of the resort.
The intent of the Club has been to purchase voting power rather than quality ownership. They have done this by acquiring less than desirable units in less than desirable seasons. The units are not used by the Club for occupancy, yet they still pay the dues for these units. As a result, the Club is determined to take control of the resort so that they can better monetize this worthless inventory.
What can be done to keep our resort?
Our resort has taken advantage of social media to increase owner engagement and the free flow of information among owners and between owners, the board of directors and resort management. The availability of timely information to the deeded owners has empowered our resort to resist the persistent pressure from the Club to take control of our resort.
Our owners and our board are passionate about our resort and determined to maintain the control that allows them to continue enjoying what they purchased. Deeded owners must unite and organize to hang on to what little real timeshare real estate is left. To think the timeshare world will be nothing but points is sad.
We seek to provide timeshare with a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market, and to educate prospective buyers.
On Thursday 21 March at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Laurence Creed passed the following sentences.
Dominic O’Reilly, jailed for 2 years 4 months, disqualified from directorships for 9 years.
Stephanie O’Reilly, 9 months suspended for 2 years, 18 months suspended for 2 years plus, disqualified for 6 years.
Inside Timeshare has received a transcript by a court reporter, which although it is not verified, it does match reports published in the press.
In the Prosecution opening statement, it was asked that the judge consider monetary harm, this was extremely high according to the prosecution, with 36 complaints, 90 in process and 45 further complaints pending.
The prosecution also explained the emotional impact, consumers were told they had no cancellation rights along with aggressive sales tactics. It was also mentioned that the defendants were told to stop these tactics including the institution of cancellation rights, but these did continue even after Trading Standards began investigations.
In mitigation, the defence for Mr O’Reilly asked for the sentence to be suspended as he did plead guilty at an early stage. He also told the court that Mr O’Reilly is now 54, in ill health and in need of a heart operation.
The fact that one elderly couple aged 68 and 69, one who had recently had a stroke, the other had diabetes including an attack during the meeting, were made to transfer money before being allowed to leave, does make the above mitigation plea a complete joke.
Miss O’Reilly’s defence used her being the mother of a 1-year-old baby which is breastfed and she is now 11 weeks pregnant. Also, she has no support structure in the UK, as her parents live in Tenerife, that her partner would have to give up his job to look after the baby if she was jailed.
In all, the 36 complaints totalled £425,000 of which only £3,813 was ever refunded, Trading Standards found another 100 complaints totalling £1.3 million. In all the company made by 2017 around £3.375 million.
The judge also highlighted several clients, that were sent threatening letters for payments when the client wanted to cancel. One client had to call their daughter to help pay, then chased with a letter before action.
The client cases in this trial are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, there are hundreds more, unfortunately, many of these are now subject to scams due to this trail. Cold calls from companies stating they are working with or have been appointed by the courts to help them get money back which the courts are holding. As we have said before this is not true.
The O’Reilly’s are now being investigated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, The authorities have to power to seize accounts and assets such as houses and cars if it is deemed they are from the proceeds of crime. The problem now is can they link it, where is the money, are any properties in their names, or are they in his wifes or her partner’s names. If so can it be proven the money used was from the O’Reilly’s in the first place?
We can only wait and see.
If you have been a client and receive any calls regarding money being held for you, then contact Inside Timeshare. We will then explain where you stand and if you are able to get anything back.
This investigation is very similar in nature to the one into Eze Group, it is still underway and no new or further information is yet available. But no doubt we may see a case in the courts in the near future.
In the case of the Farhouds and their company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, they now entice their old Silverpoint clients with legal action against their one-time employer Silverpoint. See the links below for further information.
We have from very reliable sources been informed that criminal denuncias have been made to the Spanish authorities against all three. Many of these by their very own clients.
Although we know that these investigations take time, especially when new complaints are likely, one thing is certain, the authorities always get them in the end.
As and when new information comes in, it will be published on these pages.
If you require any further information or have had dealings with any of the companies mentioned, then use our contact page and let us know. Inside Timeshare will get back to you and point you in the right direction.
As usual, a word of warning, before you deal with any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or from an advert, do your homework. If you are not sure then contact Inside Timeshare.