Browse Tag

OPC

Claims Calls: Do You Have a Case?

One of the most common inquiries Inside Timeshare receives is on the subject of claims for “misselling of timeshare”, it seems that no matter when or where you purchased, you have a claim. Even without checking the paperwork, the “legal consultants” on the phone will tell you that they can help you get your money back and the contract cancelled, or that your name has been included in a “class action”. Either way, the intention is very clear, they want your money.

You, the timeshare owner will be bombarded with information on E.U. Directives on Timeshare, that your contract is in breach of these “European Laws”, and as a result, you can take the case to court. Well, that is not quite true.

The E.U. Directives are just that, they are directives on how timeshare should be regulated, they are not laws that can be enforced in a court of law. The idea behind the directives was to unify and regulate how timeshare was sold and operated within Europe, it was then down to the individual states to place those directives into their own domestic laws.

Out of all the E.U. States, there are really only two that did and they also strengthened those laws to ensure the protection of consumers, they are Spain and Malta.

In Malta, the timeshare industry comes under the auspices of the Ministry for Tourism and Consumer Protection. Maltese Law is very strict, it even has special provisions for the “ticket touts” or OPCs, licences are required with substantial deposits before issue. The regulations on how and where they operate are strictly controlled and the penalties can be very severe from fines to the deportation of offenders. The PDF below is taken from Maltese Legislation regarding OPCs.

But the most well known for implementing timeshare laws in favour of the consumer is Spain.

We see the results of these laws emanating from the courts on a daily basis, but as we stated at the start, not all contracts are claimable. There are many factors that have to be taken into account, and the only people who can give you a definitive answer are the lawyers, once they have examined your documents and case.

Inside Timeshare has many examples of “owners” being told they have a claim and will get their money back when in reality they don’t. One recent example is a timeshare purchased on the Costa del Sol, the resort is one of the many based at Miraflores, a huge resort that can only be described as a small town.

According to the many phone calls they have received, they have a great case, their timeshare contract is illegal, that is in no doubt as it is in perpetuity, longer than the 50 years allowed by law. Great news I hear you say.

Unfortunately, although he does have a case for an illegal contract, he has no case to take to court. In this instance, the company who sold the timeshare, a marketing and sales company that is legally liable, are not what you would call solvent. Yes, you could take the case to court and win, but you would not get anything back, you would have paid all those legal fees for nothing. It is not a “VIABLE” case.

Another case is a gentleman who has been in touch with Inside Timeshare for quite some time, and each time he says he has been told he has a case. Inside Timeshare has had his documentation checked and there is no case under Spanish Law.

He purchased with Marriott on the Island of Mallorca, he believed he was purchasing weeks at the Marriott Resort in Mallorca. He attended the presentation, was impressed and purchased. At first, everything appeared fine, that is until he was unable to make any reservations at his “home” resort.

After several cold calls which all said the same thing, he had a case, remember they haven’t even seen the documents, he decided that he would take legal measures and have his contract declared null & void and the return of his purchase price. But, he had a nagging suspicion that all was not quite right with the “companies” he had spoken with, so contacted Inside Timeshare.

Once we received copies of his purchase agreement we could tell that he had no case, but we would let our own trusted lawyers check the documents.

As we first thought, he had no case under Spanish Law, his purchase although it was made and paid for while he was in Mallorca, he didn’t have a Spanish timeshare. His contract was for a resort in America, the contract was processed at the Marriott HQ in Florida, payment was made through Florida and all contracts, taxes, maintenance and anything else came under Florida Law, all notarised in Florida. To all intents and purposes, he purchased a US timeshare not what he thought was one based in Spain.

He was informed of this and we heard nothing for some time, then out of the blue, he makes contact again, this time saying he has been told that provided he can prove he was in Spain he has a case in the Spanish Courts. After making the necessary checks we informed him that he was being told “porkies” again.

Just these two examples show how careful you have to be, yes you may have a case, your contract may be illegal, but is the company that sold it still operating or solvent?

Remember, these cases are against the company that sold it, not the resorts themselves, look at our friends Anfi, the cases are against Anfi Sales and Anfi Resorts, the sales and marketing side, they are not against Anfi Vacation Club or the actual resorts.

As far as timeshare purchased outside of Spain, it really does depend on how the E.U. Directives were implemented in their domestic laws. We know that there have been very few cases in UK courts, UK timeshare law is not what you would call consumer-orientated. Although there are other measures which may just get you your money back, these are not as easy as they are made out. They also do not have your contracts declared null & void or even terminated. That is a separate issue.

As we have also stated in previous articles, especially the ones published recently, unless you have personally instigated a case in the courts, employed the services of a genuine lawyer who has prepared and filed the case on your behalf, you do not have or are included in any case.

Would you like to know if you have a contract that is illegal under Spanish law, is it a viable case and what are your legal options?

Please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Timeshare: The Road to Being Scammed

Timeshare is probably the only product that is sold on lies, misinformation and pressure, but it doesn’t end there. Once you have purchased it you are now open to being “scammed” by those on the periphery, more often than not the very same salespeople who sold it in the first place. Today we take a quick look at the pitfalls of owning a timeshare and the never-ending demand for your hard-earned cash.

You have all attended a presentation, after all, you are owners of a timeshare or a member of a vacation club, although there are some who did go out with the intention of purchasing. These are usually timeshares on offer from resale companies or private individuals who advertise on eBay or similar sites. For this group, their first encounter with “timeshare sales reps” is likely to be on their first holiday using the timeshare.

The vast majority of purchasers’ first encounter with timeshare will be the “ticket touts”, that hang around on street corners usually near hotels and resorts, bus terminals and railway stations. with their tempting “scratch cards”. With these cards “everyone’s” a winner of the “star prize”, usually a holiday, well it is actually just free accommodation and you must also attend yet another presentation, known as the “tour”.

These “ticket touts” are known as OPCs, Off-Premises Canvassers, to the sales reps they are known as “Over Paid Crettins”, well, that is the polite form I have to use here. Their job is to entice you to attend a “90-minute” presentation and obviously, that is the only way you can collect your “star prize”. For this, they are very well paid, Inside Timeshare knows of many OPCs who have earned over 600€ a day, that is a lot of money I hear you say, but when each UP, (Unit Prospect), that is you the punter, is worth anything from 100€ to 200€, depending on the timeshare sales company, they only need to bring in one or two a day and they can live very well. Then they will usually get a “deal bonus” if you purchase.

This is where the first of the “misrepresentations” come into play, with the amount of money they can earn, anything goes. Over the years we have heard so many stories on what you the “UP” have been told, it would take several articles to list them all, so we will give you some of the most common.

The first lie is usually “no it’s not timeshare”, followed by “it’s a new hotel and they are holding an open day to get peoples opinions”. Sometimes the OPC will ask the question “would you like to know how you can holiday in 5-star luxury for the price of 3-star?” Well, that is very enticing and so off you go with the OPC, who you don’t know, get into a taxi and are driven somewhere you don’t know and all of this in a foreign country!

Now you arrive at the resort and are handed over to reception, here is where you are “qualified”, which means you will be questioned. The most important ones are, you have a credit card, preferably on your person, that you are married, in employment and at one time homeowners, council rentals were not desirable.

Then you are passed to one of the sales reps, if you fulfilled the criteria you will be a “qualified UP”, with those not fulfilling the criteria being labelled as a “courtesy tour”, often this “tour” is used for training purposes with new reps or those that didn’t meet their targets, this one is commonly known as “being put on the numbers”. The rep then has so many tours and must deal a certain number or they will be terminated. I know some of you wish the other meaning, but it is their continued employment.

During this “presentation”, which will usually last for more than 3 hours and not the original 90-minutes, you will be subtly “interrogated”. From the job you do, this gives them an indication of your earnings, how many holidays you take, how much you usually spend, where you tend to go, along with many other questions which will give the rep the tools to sell.

Now is where the real misinformation starts, we will mention only the most common here, because being timeshare owners you will more than likely have heard so many.

One which Inside Timeshare has heard from purchasers so often is they actually believed they were purchasing a “part ownership” of a property, that they were also “part owners” of the resort. In a way, when the old fixed week, fixed apartment system was the norm, this was almost true. Your purchase of the week and apartment would be registered in the land registry, not actually making you an “owner”, but it was in fact a way of monitoring the number of sales for each week and apartment. Legally they could only sell 51 weeks in each apartment.

With the advent of points and floating weeks, this pitch did not change, although you actually owned nothing apart from the right to use. You became a member of a vacation club just as you would by joining a golf club.

Then we have the standard, most commonly used is the “resort is a 5-star”, well, this is not strictly speaking true. The star system is for hotels, each star represents the quality and service that you can expect. Star ratings are given on the accommodation, facilities and the level of dining service among other things.

RCI, one of the major exchange companies, uses the following system. This is taken from the RCI website:

faqs

Gold Crown Resort® Award: Select RCI® affiliated resorts are recognized as RCI Gold Crown Resort properties – the highest of the three RCI Award Designations. The RCI Gold Crown Resort award designates resorts that have met or exceeded specific standards in the areas of unit housekeeping, unit maintenance, hospitality and check-in/check-out procedures, and an evaluation of resort facilities, amenities and services.

faqs

RCI Silver Crown Resort® Award: Resorts that have achieved excellence in providing outstanding vacation experiences for RCI subscribing members receive the RCI Silver Crown Resort award. This award designates resorts that have met or exceeded specific standards in the areas of unit housekeeping, unit maintenance, resort maintenance, hospitality and check-in/check-out procedures.

faqs

RCI Hospitality Award: The RCI Hospitality Award is presented for consistently high ratings in the check-in/check-out and hospitality categories.

A totally different rating system, after all the vast majority of timeshare resorts, are self-catering, so would not achieve the 4 or 5-star ratings of hotels.

This in itself may not be a major issue, but it is misinformation, to say the least.

Quite often the “UP”, may ask about a change in circumstances, where they no longer want the timeshare. The stock answer is that the timeshare company will “buy it back”. This will be followed by “for the price you paid”, sometimes more, which then links it with the original lie that you “own” property or real estate.

Unfortunately, this particular “lie” will not be known for many years when you decide that you no longer need it and want to get out.

After many hours of “pressure sales”, you end up signing the contract, pay for it and off you jolly well go. Now is where the after-sales problems start.

Not only are you then required to attend meetings with the “in-house” reps, where you will be pressured into “upgrading”, either more weeks, points and or, bigger apartments, your details will end up being sold to others.

“We want your Timeshare” sign near Puerto Rico on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands

In the past, the most common of these was resale, companies, quite often set up by sales reps. There were many of these around, one of the most prolific operators was based on the Costa del Sol. This was Tony Muldoon, who had a string of companies one of which was Platinum Properties.

It began with a cold call, with the sales pitch that your timeshare is the most sought after and has increased in value considerably, working on the pitch from the original sale, perpetuating the “owning of property” myth.

You will be promised and given a very good price, usually a few thousand more than you paid, you may also be told that sales go through very quickly. Just in case this does not happen, the “deposit” you pay, yes there is an advanced payment to sign up, this will be refunded in full at the end of 12 months. So what have you got to lose and so you pay.

At the end of the 12 months, your timeshare has not been sold, you try to get your refund, only to find that you are unable to contact the company, phone numbers have changed or they have just simply disappeared and now come under a new name. You now realise you have been scammed.

Then came the resale with a “corporate” buyer, who really wants your timeshare, as many of you will already know, there would be the requirement to attend a “presentation”.

This presentation will involve another “sales pitch” this time for a “discount holiday club. There were many of these in varying guises, from Designer Way Vacation Club to Monster Credits, a Mark Rowe invention.

At this “presentation” they explain that they will take over your timeshare, leaving you maintenance-free, but in order to do this, you must first purchase their product. You will be promised the same standard of accommodation, usually in timeshare resorts, along with an annual “admin or membership charge”. DWVC was originally £75 per year.

For so many people who went for this option, it was not until a few years later that they found out they also still owned the timeshare and were now several years in arrears on maintenance. This then brought threats of legal action to recover the debt.

Today we have “exit & claims” companies, all promising the same thing, termination of your contract and a claim for “compensation” once it is terminated.

The proliferation of these types of companies has increased over the past few years, mainly due to the success of genuine law firms in the courts. Again many have been started by ex-timeshare sales reps and sales managers, mostly due to the redundancies from the closure of the sales decks.

These companies present themselves as “legal consultants”, “paralegals”, “notaries” and even “law firms”. They employ many techniques, some more sophisticated than others, such as the bogus law firms dubbed The Litigious Abogados Family. They use fake court documents which to the untrained eye look genuine, some even claim to be working on behalf of the courts or National Banks such as Banco de España.

Unfortunately, many timeshare owners are so desperate to get out, they believe the “pitch” and lose thousands in the process.

Unlike purchasing any other product, let’s say a car, with timeshare you actually don’t know anything about it until it is too late. With a car, all the specifications are there to see, provided by the manufacturer, you can actually make an informed decision.

So with knowing what you know now about timeshare, would you have made the decision to buy!

Somehow I don’t think so.

For further information on this subject or any of the articles published, please use our contact page. If you would like to find out what your legal rights are in respect of making a claim or just terminating your contract, please get in touch and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Start the Week: Timeshare How it Has Changed and What is the Future?

Welcome to the start of this week with Inside Timeshare, last week we had a look at “Finance Agreements” for timeshare purchases, all brokered by the very staff with a vested interest in securing the sale. An interest that can only be described as an “Unfair Relationship detrimental to the consumer”, a very valid point that was clearly shown in the article. (Links at the end). Today we begin to look at how timeshare has changed over the years, from a system that at the start proved to be quite popular, to one that has created many disgruntled owners/members. We also ask what is the future of timeshare considering how it has developed into the discredited system we have today?

The history of timeshare is rather vague with many claims as to where and who developed the first “timeshare resort”. Inside Timeshare first looked at this back in 2016, in A Short History of Timeshare, this was updated at the end of 2020, in A Brief History of Timeshare. The links to both articles are at the end along with the story of Anfi, as it does show very well how timeshare has changed.

When timeshare was first being developed in Europe during the 1980s, it was promoted as being very exclusive, you were buying a “share” in an apartment on a stunning resort. This share was for a number of weeks, from just one week to several, these were specific weeks with week numbers assigned. There was a choice of apartments from studios sleeping 2 to penthouse apartments.

Selling the “Dream” your own holiday home.

These weeks were divided into “seasons” High, Medium and Low, some companies used colours such as “Red Week” for high season. Obviously, the most popular times would be the high season, these tend to follow the major holidays such as Easter, Summer, Christmas and The New Year. These were also major school holidays, so they were very much in demand by families.

At the time the cost was considered high, with price dependent on season and apartment size. but it was marketed as a cheap alternative to owning your own apartment outright. Among those who could afford it, the idea was proving to be popular. Most “couples” started with a studio, upgrading as the family grew.

The medium and low weeks tended to be favoured by the more elderly, either the retired or those whose families had now grown and now with their own kids. Ideal, child-free resorts, time to relax and wind down, couldn’t be more perfect.

The cost of the annual maintenance fees depended on the number of weeks and seasons owned along with the type of apartment. But it must be said, most people agreed that they were fair and relatively low, but that was all to change.

For many years these “owners” enjoyed year after year at their home resorts, sometimes using the exchange systems for a visit elsewhere. Great friendships were created, there was a sense of community, you met the same people year after year, you also got to know the staff very well. It should be mentioned that the staff you all have come to know so well, have nothing to do with your membership. They are purely employed to look after your needs and run the resort on a day to day basis.

All appeared hunky-dory until the sales of weeks slowed down or ground to a halt, the main reason, they had run out of inventory they could sell, after all, they could only sell 51 weeks of each apartment. The sales of timeshare were too lucrative, there was a lot of money to be made, more sales would also increase the amount of revenue from the annual maintenance fees, (more members).

Enter one of the first and most profound changes to timeshare that has created the problems we see today.

Somewhere along the line, some bright spark came up with “points”, instead of selling a fixed week in a fixed apartment, transfer all owners to the points system, (at a cost I might add), making them “members” of a vacation club and not “owners”.

At first, this system was marketed very positively, removing the problem of being “tied” to a specific week or resort and the problem of “exchanging” if you were unable to travel on your specific weeks.

Sounds great, flexibility and an increase in the number of resorts and types of apartments available. The more points you “owned”, the more choice you have, well, so they said.

More members than weeks, simple.

The one downside which was not envisaged at the time by those “owners” transferring to the points system, was the problem of “availability”. The more members that join the club, the more of a problem getting what you want. It’s a simple problem, more members than weeks available, and you still have to pay the maintenance fees!

There were more schemes all of a similar nature, floating weeks and then fractional, the latter being a points-based product under the illusion that you “part-owned” an apartment. But, you had no rights of use to the “purchased” apartment.

This was one of the main “investment” pitches of timeshare sales, the illusion of “investing in property”. Resort Properties, later known as Silverpoint took this to a whole new level.

All of these schemes and their associated contracts have been deemed illegal by the law and ratified by rulings from the Supreme Court.

With the problems of availability, there was also another problem faced by many owners/members, that is getting out of it.

There comes a point when it is no longer viable to have the timeshare and the associated annual costs, but as we have seen handing back your membership was not as simple as you were told when you purchased. The most common was “we will buy it back for what you paid” as if that would really happen!

All this has come to a head over the past 10 years or so, especially in Spain where most timeshares were sold, the enactment of the timeshare laws in 1999, which the developers ignored, gave consumers a way out and many have used it to great effect.

But this isn’t the only nail in the coffin of timeshare as we know it.

With all the bad publicity, along with the changing ways in which we now book our vacations, timeshare sales began to slump drastically. The number of sales reps was reduced, in some cases the “cold lines” (“punters or UPs” brought in from the street by OPCs which was traditionally the largest source of new members) were closed, leaving only “in-house” reps. The OPCs were struggling to get new people to the presentations, those that did go, tended to be what the reps called “gift hunters” or just plain “time wasters”, (well, for the rep, no sale, no pay!”).

Even before the restrictions caused by Covid, we watched as “sales decks” were closed and the reps laid off, one of the largest was Diamond Resorts Europe, making all but a handful of sales reps redundant. Club la Costa also ended their sales, making redundant many workers and closing down the sales companies. Silverpoint has folded, albeit for more serious problems than just the sale of illegal contracts, and now the news of two Anfi companies involved with sales being placed under “Administration”.

So where is timeshare going in Europe?

That is a question only the developers can answer, we can only hazard a guess. Timeshare, as we know it today, is gone or on the way out, the schemes we have today are no longer viable, and in Spain are mostly illegal. We may see a return to the old system of fixed weeks, fixed apartments, restricted by numbers and not the free-for-all that we have today. Timeshare may just become once again the mark of vacation luxury, attracting a smaller clientele who want a certain standard of vacation, rather than the mass market of package holidays.

There are some small independent resorts that have remained true to the original idea, with a very good and loyal client base. In many cases the children of the original owners who now have their own families have taken over the “ownership”, keeping it in the family so to speak.

The idea of timeshare is a good one, the biggest problem with it has been the greed of the mainly, large developers, turning it from an exclusive more luxurious way to holiday into a massive money-making conveyor belt.

It is going to be very interesting over the next few years to see where timeshare in Europe and especially Spain ends up, we doubt that it will end completely but a massive revamp is definitely required. This is not just in the running of it, but, more importantly how it is sold. What do you the readers think, answers on a postcard, please!

If you would like further information on the legal rights of timeshare owners who purchased in Spain and if your contract is illegal, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Links to the mentioned articles

https://insidetimeshare.com/short-history-timeshare/

https://insidetimeshare.com/a-brief-history-of-timeshare/

https://insidetimeshare.com/?s=anfi+the+story+behind+the+news

https://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-loan-agreements/

https://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-sales-and-finance-agreements/

https://insidetimeshare.com/?s=anfi+the+story+behind+the+news