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New York Times

The Tuesday Slot with Mike Finn

Today we publish the article by Mike Finn, which was postponed from last Friday’s Letter from America, it is the second in his series on Class Action Litigation, Part 1 looked at Arbitration. Tomorrow we publish a rather interesting article which compares two different industries, but surprisingly they operate in a very similar way.

Well it is that time of the year, the sound of envelopes containing your maintenance bills dropping on the mat. How much will they have gone up by this year, we hear you asking?

To be honest, one question we often ask, is what the hell do they spend this money on, after all our resort hasn’t had a facelift in decades. The tiles round the pool are still damaged, the bed covers are the same as when we bought 30 years ago. Even the sofa bed is still falling apart!

It would seem that they don’t spend it on maintenance, it goes on their profit line, so what can you do about it? Not a lot, you’re tied into perpetuity contracts, there is no resale or secondary market, yes, you are stuck in a rut with no way out.

Well not quite, things are changing, back in June Business Wire, published news of a lawsuit filed by Finn Law Group against Diamond Resorts. The suit was about maintenance fee practices and alleges maintenance billing practices were fiduciary duty violations and breach of contract. Follow the link below.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

In Spain at least, owners do have a way out, many of the contracts are illegal under Spanish timeshare law, so those owners can take their case to court. Not only do they get their money back, but more importantly their contracts are declared null & void, leaving them timeshare and maintenance free!

So, on with today’s article.

CLASS ACTION LITIGATION

Misunderstood by Timeshare Consumers

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By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

October 31, 2017

Part I – Arbitration – The Question Timeshare Buyers Never Ask

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

We all know a little bit about class action lawsuits, many of us have even received a letter or postcard advising us that we may be potential class members. Many sense that our individual recovery may not be worth the effort.

A timeshare purchase could be a horse of a different color. The beauty of a class action is that, as a class member, you wouldn’t have to actually hire the lawyer – he or she would be paid from the proceeds of the case assuming it is successful. As a lawyer with some class action experience, who has primarily represented consumer timeshare owners over a considerable period of time, I can report to you that class actions do play a role in consumer timeshare practice. That role, however, is more limited than we would like it to be.

The explanation lies with the kinds of cases that can be effective class action cases, especially if they are timeshare related. Most of our clients tell us that they were deceived during their initial timeshare presentation. They relied upon the veracity of the sales staff and only later, when they attempted to utilize their timeshare, did they learn the truth of their purchase. Of course, this realization did not come during the rescission period provided by law, which varies state to state. Instead, the hapless owner came to realize too late that the resort would not help them, and that the purchase contract they signed is legally binding, and that, in the absence of a viable resale market, there is no exit scenario built into the contract.

Essentially, they committed themselves to a lifelong obligation!

The above scenario, repeated over and over with some variation on the theme, is the “staple” fraud-in-the-inducement file we see at Finn Law Group on a daily basis. Per our own internal analysis, these matters occur with amazing frequency, mainly because of the manner that the timeshare product is marketed.

In nearly all instances, the salesperson assigned to the prospective customer is purely commission based. Top sales staff can make a very good living, but they must maintain a high closing rate to do so. This methodology puts the salesperson into a conflict, with ethical considerations competing against their own financial needs. With direct compensation incentives providing temptation, sales staff may well significantly embellish the advantages of timeshare ownership over the course of the three to five hours they often spend with their sales prospects. After this long sales process, the interested prospects are then immediately ushered into the closing aspect of the transaction, attended by different members of the sales team known internally as “closers.” These closer’s shepherd the prospect into and through the closing process. No prospects are ever given the opportunity to take the presented documentation with them for review or consultation with an attorney pre-execution. It’s all completed on the same day and that is by careful design. Given the mountain of paperwork processed at a timeshare closing and the relatively short amount of time a consumer has (or takes) to read and understand the finer points of the transaction, it is no small wonder that what one legally agrees to via their signature, compared to what they were told they were contracting for, are often diametrically different from one another.

A buyer spend hours with a sales person who is motivated to tell you, “yes,” your purchase does include that feature only to discover later that nowhere within those mounds of paperwork you signed and initialed is there any reference to the feature or features your salesperson assured you were included. To add insult to injury, one of the contractual clauses that was not pointed out to you was a clause that states that the purchasers did not rely on any oral representations when making their timeshare purchase decision.

Imagine a salesman knowing that clause exists resisting the temptation to increase his or her income!

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I call that provision the “salesman’s license-to-lie” clause and I can say with pride that I was so quoted in the New York Times! So, we have now isolated one of the more frequent legal issues with the typical timeshare purchase, and we have identified the possible legal cause of action that applies, which lawyers call “fraud in the inducement.”  

From this, a remedy becomes readily apparent: The contract should be rescinded, because the purchasers didn’t buy what they were told they were purchasing by the sellers. Herein lays the rub, however. Should fraud in the inducement be raised in litigation, the developer will undoubtedly counter by claiming no such acts ever occurred, as it’s unlikely that the salesperson, if called as a witness, will admit they promised items not contained within the preprinted contract.

When combined with the salesman’s “license-to-lie” clause, this makes the plaintiff consumer’s case far more difficult to win – recall that the burden of proof rests with the party bringing the action. As the consequences of losing the case may mean the loser pays the winner’s attorney fees and costs, the wisdom of pursuing such a case for any one client becomes questionable, especially if the odds are no better than 50-50.

It’s tempting for a lawyer to look into the possibility of filing class action litigation for fraud-in-the-inducement claims for an entire class of timeshare buyers who have purchased a timeshare interest under the false impression that more attributes were being purchased than what were actually acquired. Surely, if everyone reports a similar purchase experience, the court will conclude that all of these purchasers couldn’t be wrong; and therefore, that the developer must be knowingly encouraging its staff to make false assertions to increase sales?

At this point we must pause and examine the state of the law to understand the legal conclusion that most courts have reached on this matter, with the sad fact being that, for the most part, courts have not considered fraud to be the type of case that belongs in a class action scenario.

The best explanation I can provide as to why the courts have adopted this position is that the elements of fraud – the actual deceit perpetuated with the intent to deceive – are all very individualized factors. The underlying facts of which will, by definition, vary with every individual timeshare presentation and by each individual timeshare salesperson. Therefore, each separate sales experience constitutes a new and separate set of facts to be evaluated. Courts are loathe to combine individualized sets of experiences, wherein every class member theoretically would have suffered the same level and severity of deceit and conclude that all members equally relied upon these separate individualized deceptive statements to their detriment.

In short, these fraud-based claims in the timeshare arena are not, in the foreseeable future, going to become actionable timeshare-based class actions. Of course, individual actions are still possible and we are aware of recent individual litigation that ended quite successfully for the consumers. Again, however, any owner considering individual litigation based upon a theory of fraud had better be aware that their battle will be costly and the ultimate results unpredictable.

So, is class action litigation just another pretty face with no significant place in the timeshare arena?

Decidedly not! Finn Law Group has successfully initiated multiple class action litigations against timeshare resort developers. In one concluded case, more than 11,000 former timeshare owners saw foreclosure entries on their credit reports purged, and more than two thousand others received extended vacations at no cost.

Other class cases are currently pending. View:

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/active-litigation

In conclusion, class action litigation isn’t going to, on its own, repair the underlying problems with timeshare ownership, but it will make a dent. More importantly, it will continue to serve notice to the timeshare development community that someone out there is paying very close attention to them, and that can’t be a bad thing.

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Thank you Mike, this certainly explains class actions for us, in Europe this type of litigation is not common, most cases are done on an individual basis. We have seen some class actions, most notably against Barclays Partner Finance, who provided loans for illegal timeshares. Another of note was the RCI class action, which ended up at the High Court London. This was a bit of a shambles to be honest, although the court agreed that RCI had used banked weeks for rental, the members did not lose out financially, so no compensation was awarded. Unfortunately those who took part in the “No Win, No Fee” action, may now be left with all of RCI’s legal costs. The decision from the court is still to be announced.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare, we will be pleased to help.

 

A Customer Service Message

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees

“who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest”.

Today we publish another article by Irene Parker, this is entitled Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message. It is a look at Jay Baer’s book of the same title, which will be available at most airport bookstores through September. Irene already has her copy, Forbes has an article reviewing the book written by Shep Hyken:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2016/02/20/love-your-customers-hug-your-haters/#6c2d2bfa1573

But first some other news.

It has been announced that RCI the timeshare exchange company,which is part of part of Wyndham Worldwide, is set to take over the Australian exchange company DAE, Dial An Exchange. This has been an independent exchange program for many years, it is popular for one simple reason, there are no annual membership fees. Owners only pay when they make an exchange, which does seem to be the fairest method, as you may pay a membership fee and never actually use it every year.

Obviously with the link to RCI, it may be that will benefit those who use DAE, as it should increase the number of resorts available to them. Many owners in the UK like the DAE system as they were rather disappointed with RCI and the annual fees on top of their ever increasing maintenance charges.

According to RCI, DAE will still be a stand alone company, with no interference from RCI, the questions is for how long?

Since the article Truth, What is Truth , was published last Thursday, Inside Timeshare has been receiving many more enquiries from confused Anfi members. It would appear that Anfi has stepped up its campaign to spread the falsehood that they are not losing cases at the Lower Courts or the Supreme Court, by contacting members and laying the seeds of doubt. What must be remembered is the simple fact these cases are public record and can easily be verified. Somehow Inside Timeshare gets the feeling that not is all well at Anfi, from our sources there may just be a rather important announcement about to be made. We will keep you informed as and when news becomes available.

Truth, What is Truth?

Next week in our Tuesday article we will be looking at the flurry of lawsuits being brought against timeshare attorneys in the US, Irene again gives the US, along with her own view on this subject. It does look as though the timeshare industry on both sides of the great lake are on the offensive.

So now to Irene’s latest contribution.

Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message

A timely message and a needed customer service handbook

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http://www.jaybaer.com/hug-your-haters/

By Irene Parker

August 15, 2017

Hug Your Haters was written before the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia over this past weekend. The event was planned by white supremacy demonstrators. I was trained by a financial planner from Trinidad. He shared with me this story about knocking on the door of a white man. When the man opened the door he took a hard look at my mentor and said, “I shoot black people.” My mentor responded, “I’m not black. I’m from Trinidad.” After a second hard look this white supremacist laughed and said, “You want a beer?”

No matter the color of skin, the amount of wealth you possess, or your determination to make a sale, people are people. Even kings interacted with peasants. Jay Baer’s book could not be timelier. Communication is the key, author Jay Baer asserts. Inside Timeshare agrees.

New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer is to be the 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.

https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1951406

The title of Mr. Baer’s book, Hug Your Haters, is also the title of his keynote speech that he will deliver to developers, investment bankers, private equity firms and other capital investment firms.

Our Timeshare Advocates are hopeful, as the only response our 400 plus member supported Diamond Resort Advocacy Facebook group has ever received from Diamond was from one brave sales agent who joined the group. Basically, his conclusion was that we are irresponsible whiners unwilling to fulfill our obligations. He ultimately had to be removed for driving away already financially shattered members.

In preparation for Mr. Baer’s keynote address, I have invited him to join our Facebook hoping he may be our bridge to communication. He would at least be provided a microcosm of timeshare comments and complaints to study. I don’t know if I would call us Haters. I think seekers of accountability and transparency describe us better.

We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

We are not alone. DRIP is a website launched by over 1,000 British members trying to find a way out of their timeshare contracts.

http://drip.enjin.com/

A Club Intrawest Owners Group Facebook has over 3,400 members

https://www.facebook.com/Club-Intrawest-Owners-Group-921012087982547/

A recently launched Gold Key Diamond acquired resort Facebook

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

Acquired resorts are on a campaign to reach out to other members in an effort to convince owners not to give up their deed in exchange for non-deeded right to use points.

Eight hundred Bluegreen members call this Facebook Bluegreen Class Action

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

Wyndham lost a whistleblower lawsuit when a jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million. Ms. Williams mentions TAFT days – tell them any fxxx thing to sell points on slow sales days.

https://dolanlawfirm.com/2016/11/wyndham-vacation-whistleblower-verdict/

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I could go on, but clearly Mr. Baer has his work cut out for him.

The timeshare lobby organization ARDA will be quick to point out that 83% of 9,000,000 timeshare owners are happy with their timeshare. Mr. Baer I’m sure will be quick to point out that the 1.15 million who responded they are not happy with their timeshare should not be ignored, even on social media sites. Mr. Baer’s primary thesis is:

Haters are not your problem…..

Ignoring them is.

In his book, Mr. Baer goes on to say that choosing to stay silent speaks volumes. Not responding is a response that says “I don’t care about you.” He talks about how it is psychologically difficult to engage with Haters, especially when they shine a giant spotlight on their perception of your shortcomings.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, at least not for Disney owners. We published this article analyzing why Disney has so few Haters.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

As far as us chalking us up as disgruntled grumblers that don’t know how to use our points properly, here is one of our Advocates offering his analysis, previously published as a stand-alone article, why the timeshare industry has so many Haters;

It appears the industry has long depended on “self-regulation”. It has not done a great job of that but there have always been just enough companies that seem to try and deliver a quality product and quality customer experience at the same time they balance trying to make a healthy profit.

I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience. I am sure there are other good examples.

In the past, the actions of the bad eggs of the industry (the industry’s worst examples), the negative impact was always minimal and able to be managed before it metastasized. But the potential problem as I see it is that in the last decade it appears what may be described as large predatory financial engineering companies almost “posing” as timeshare companies have risen and aggressively worked every loophole and non-regulation to their own advantage and now are probably guilty of gross violations of their fiduciary responsibility to their customers / owners. These companies have created vast fortunes for a very small network of individuals at the top of the pyramid.

Ironically though, and looking at historical examples from other industries, it is these very companies likely to bring the whole industry into the national spotlight and to its knees eventually. Some of these appear to have walked to the edge of doing that already.

As these quasi financial engineering / timesharing companies become increasingly more brazen in chasing profits by any means possible, raising fees rapidly at the same time they are reducing owner benefits, due to their increased sheer size the public outcry will likely increase and just the odds of random probability suggests there will be a “Gotcha” moment or event that will bring increased scrutiny and increased legislation.

If the good timeshare companies try to ignore what the bad ones are doing, they may find someday that their systems and profits and share prices are negatively impacted by the future regulations forced on the industry from the egregious actions of the bad actors in their industry.

challenge

We will continue our discussion in a Part II Hug Your Haters article examining two of the eleven points Mr. Baer said customer service professionals will learn by reading Hug Your Haters.  

The two types of Haters and what they want from you when they complain.

Why you need to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time.

Finally, why am I so critical?

It all started when my husband and I attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation, lied to in order to get us to attend. We had not been happy with availability so in no way were we going to purchase more vacation points. We make due but, like many others, we feel we were oversold on availability.

Next, I learned when we tried to sell our points, because our contract said we could, not one member of the 64 member Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will accept a Diamond Resort listing, although they will accept virtually all major competitor listings.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

As I started publishing articles for TheStreet, Jim Cramer’s Mad Money Investment News Service and then Inside Timeshare, I began to hear from timeshare Haters the world over, including the Philippines and Australia. Families allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. To date I have heard from 114 families of which 101 would fall into the Hater category. The others were simply seeking how to go about relinquishing their timeshare.

You can Hug Your Haters all day long but if a timeshare company violates their trust and respect by siding with the sales agent over the customer when the customer knows what they were promised and what was not delivered, Hugs won’t help. Change will.

As our online information site Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ states,

Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens (Jimi Hendrix)

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

This certainly looks a very interesting book and I personally will be looking out for a copy, thanks again to Irene for her insight into this subject, with part two being published next week. Maybe, just maybe, the industry will take note of this.

Over the next few weeks we have some very interesting articles in the pipeline, with one article giving the results of our Timeshare Advocacy Group and the results achieved so far.

If you have any comments on any article published or need any help and advice on any timeshare related matter, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction. Inside Timeshare is committed to giving you the facts and not fake news.

Start the Week

Welcome to the start of another week at Inside Timeshare, last week we had the privilege of publishing our first article from Canada, sent in by the Club Intrawest Owners Group Hopefully this will be the first of many.

We also highlighted the latest news about the Anfi Tauro Beach Project, again the local people are being treated in the most dismal of ways. This project has been a fiasco right from the start, it has still a long way to go before it is resolved, we hope in the interests of the locals.

LIT

On the fake lawyers front we highlighted a very lucky escape for one of our new readers, it concerned Armando Gareca Abogados one of the new names in the Litigious Abogados family. At least this reader found out before he paid the initial fees to get a ficticious court case underway. This group has produced some very convincing documents and an even more convincing story, if you are contacted by them, think very carefully, if in doubt contact Inside Timeshare.

That intrepid law firm from Gran Canaria, Canarian Legal Alliance, also had a very good week, after publishing on Friday, our contacts informed us that they had received several Supreme Court rulings during the course of Friday afternoon. It brought the total of judgements by the highest court in Spain to 56, all brought by the lawyers at CLA. From what we at Inside Timeshare could gather those lawyers were absolutely ecstatic, as they received 5 rulings in one day!

From what we have been able to find out, no other law firm in Spain has ever achieved this amount of rulings, let alone had this number of cases sent to the Supreme Court. A truly remarkable achievement, with apparently many more still waiting to be heard.

nyt logo

To start the news this week, we look at a story from the New York Times, received by email for our morning briefing.

Europe Edition
Your Monday Briefing
By STEPHEN HILTNER
Good morning.
Here’s what you need to know:
The New York Times
• Turkey is facing mounting difficulties both at home and abroad.
The government has seized control of more than 950 companies since last July — from small baklava chains to large, publicly traded conglomerates — over accusations that they were linked to a coup attempt. The seizures, worth about $11 billion, have changed the way Turkey is perceived in the international business sphere. The Turkish lira is crumbling, and foreign investment has dropped by half compared with last year.

You may ask what has this got to do with timeshare?

Quite a bit if you have purchased a Club la Costa Fractional in Turkey!

As we know fractional is being sold as a real estate investment, with points attached in order to use it. The whole point is that it will increase in value and then be sold for, we hope, a profit in the future.

pigdress
Fractional, is it just a pig in a dress?

With the current situation in Turkey, it now makes this investment a rather dodgy deal. How long will it be before these seizures of businesses affect the resorts, after all who is building them, who owns them?

Also as foreign investment in Turkey is declining, will this make Club la Costa withdraw?

Will these properties actually get built?

What will happen if they don’t, will you get any of your money back?

Will CLC transfer you to a European Fractional?

These are all legitimate questions you should be asking yourself, where do you stand if it does go wrong?

Inside Timeshare is waiting for confirmation that the Supreme Court has made a ruling regarding fractional, once we receive this we will explain their judgement.

For the coming week, on Wednesday we will be publishing another article from Irene Parker, this one will be little different from our usual fare, it is a story of how timeshare should be, honest, above board and beyond reproach. But you will just have to wait till then.

Remember, it pays to do your due diligence and check things out before you go ahead and spend vast sums of money on anything to do with Timeshare. It is a minefield, so if you need any help or advice on how to check any company out contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

If you have a story you would like to share with others contact us and we will work with you to publish it. Inside Timeshare is here to give you the facts, the truth and a place where you can share your own experiences with others.

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