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Rowan Bauer

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/

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week Eron Grant submits her open letter to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association), for those in Europe that is the RDO. She explains her experience at the hands of a sales agent and asks why does ARDA have a code of ethics if these agents and resorts ignore it? Very good point, the same can be said of the RDO.

First a roundup of this week. For August it has been quite a full week for Inside Timeshare considering that the courts are closed so no news on that front. We began with the ongoing story of the fake law firms in operating out of Tenerife, yes, that family called Litigious Abogados, bit of a sorry story this one.

Unfortunately, the gentleman in question didn’t find our previous story in time, he was totally taken in by the documents and smooth legal talking of this crowd. It began with the usual pitch, that his timeshare company had a case against them ready to go to court and he could be part of it. He duly paid the initial Procurador fees, then a few weeks later he got the great news that he won the case and the court had awarded him thousands in compensation, brilliant!

Now it was only a matter of paying 20% of the award to the tax man to release the money, this done he was told his cheque was on the way. The envelope arrived with the court papers, but no cheque, the envelope had been opened and the cheque missing. After contacting the “Law Firm”, another company contacted him saying the court had appointed them to investigate and get his money back, apparently this Romanian gang had stolen the cheque and cashed it. Don’t worry, we will get the money back from the bank. First you have to pay us 10% of the amount.

Compensation_Cheque-page-001

Then in what can only be described as a further insult to injury, he was told he owed the property tax on a property he owned in Spain, his NIE Number had expired plus he had outstanding fines for a traffic offence. But we can sort this out for you and get the money released, for a fee.

This has lost him thousands of pounds and has caused him great stress. So beware, it may sound good and look genuine, but it rarely is.

On Tuesday, we published the ongoing story of Tauro Beach, the flagship project from Anfi, this time it was a couple of independent research journalists, Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer. In their article, published in the UK paper The Guardian, they investigated the importation of the sand for this man made beach, brought in from the Western Sahara in breach of UN sanctions and European Court of Justice rulings.

This investigation is still underway by various authorities, the main one being SEPRONA, the Nature Protection Service of the Guardia Civil.

Wednesdays article was from Irene Parker on the Welk Resorts case against Timeshare Exit Team. It highlights the dire need for a proper secondary market and a fair exit strategy for those who do not wish to sell.

In this article we opened with news that the TATOC Help Line had closed, we also published a link to a very good in depth report on the importation of sand from Western Sahara and a little of the history from that region. This was written by Ed Timon Editor of The Canary News, an english language newspaper in Gran Canaria.

Yesterdays article was entitled, Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare, in this piece we showed that even old friends will attack each other for your money in this business. It told the story of a company owned by an ex manager of another company, who is now in the business of supposedly claiming compensation against his old employers. Unfortunately, his history and publicity is not as squeaky clean as he would like you to believe, we leave that to your judgement.

So on with this week’s letter.

Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?

Woman what

Members are beginning to wonder

ARDA’s Answer from ARDA’s website

ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics.

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.

By Eron Grant

August 4, 2017

Part I – My letter to ARDA

Part II – ARDA’s Code of Ethics

Part III – List of Inside Timeshare member articles that question the Code

Mr. Clements, General Counsel and Lobbyist for ARDA,

My husband and I feel we have been deceived by Diamond Resorts International, and ask for your assistance in getting justice for our victimization.

In November of 2016 we stayed in one of DRI’s timeshare resorts in Sedona, AZ through our Interval International membership. While there we attended a DRI sales presentation. The hotel concierge gave our family of 4 a $150 gift card to a local restaurant for our thanksgiving meal, and in return we were to attend a 90-minute sales presentation. The presentation ended up lasting 6 hours, with our sales agent becoming agitated when we said we needed to leave due to my husband’s golf tee time. This violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics of “Information”.

The sales agent, Karen Calvano, empathized with us about our inability to stay in resorts unless located close to home which is in Houston, TX. She said she knew Interval International did not have many resorts in our area, but that DRI had many resorts, and we would certainly be able to find resorts in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. As it turned out, DRI’s resorts in our area are owned by affiliate resorts rather than DRI and costs approximately more points than we were sold. This violates ARDA’s “Exchange Program” in which we were over promised on the likelihood to exchange for Diamond’s inventory in our area.

When I looked on the Diamond member website recently, Diamond’s Great Wolf Lodge affiliate property in Texas was available for 26,911 to 66,467 points. If we multiply 26,911 by 20 cents which is the typical cost of maintenance fees, it would cost $5,382 for a one week stay. Booking.com had the same Family Suite available for the same week for $1,700. This is not an unusual scenario. I have searched various times throughout the year.

We attended DRI’s “Event of a Lifetime” in January, 2017 which we were told was our member orientation. The “orientation” turned into a high pressure sales presentation quickly with misleading information regarding redeeming our points for 30 cents per point if we paid to upgrade our membership to platinum. When my husband, Dr. Mark Grant, asked to see the price per point in writing, the sales agent pointed to his own written notes to show us that it was legitimate. My husband pointed out the documented literature which showed the amount at 10 cents per point, and the salesman quickly dismissed us to the next sales agent.

According to the ARDA Code of Ethics, this sales agent violated the ethics standard of “Avoidance of False and Deceptive Statements”.

Mr. Clements, as you can tell from the brief account I have written, we are in a rough situation with devious minded people who have not followed ARDA’s Code of Ethics, and should therefore be forced to let us out of our contractual agreement.

We appreciate your consideration, and assistance!

Sincerely,

Eron Grant

Response from Diamond

I am responding to your concerns regarding availability in Texas and Louisiana. While Diamond Resorts does not own or manage any properties in these states, we do have affiliate agreements with several resorts. These properties offer us limited inventory each year to offer to our members to book with their points. Inventory is typically limited, and prices are set by the properties themselves, and not by Diamond Resorts. These properties are offered on a first come, first served basis in addition to the Diamond Resorts properties covered under your contract.

Diamond Resorts does offer a property in New Mexico, the Villas de Santa Fe. If you would like assistance booking at this property, please let me know and I will be happy to assist.

My Response

My concerns with Karen Calvano stating “DRI has several resorts in TX, LA, and NM” is that when we asked her to show us the properties she said, “Oh we can’t do that right now, but we can do that later.” After 6 hours of being with her, we were exhausted and never did see the properties.

We explained that we are owners with Marriott and members of Interval International already, so affiliate properties through DRI really don’t help us. Plus, the value of your affiliate properties is ridiculous. How does this help us?

questman1

I would like for Mr. Clements or someone at Diamond to explain to me why this does not meet the definition of White Collar Crime: Deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. In my opinion, there is no doubt what we were offered and what we received meets this definition and violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics.  

Ethics Code of the American Resort Development Association

adopted by the Board of Directors April 7, 2014

  1. General Ethics Standards.  
  1. Disclosure.

With respect to the sale, resale or marketing of a Vacation Interest, the Member shall:

  1. Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer regarding the Vacation Interest and all material terms and conditions of the offer of a Vacation Interest.
  2. Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer of all material terms and conditions of all other products offered contemporaneously with the Vacation Interest, including exchange programs, incidental benefits, financing, short-term products and exit programs.

The Full Code: http://www.arda.org/ethics/

audience

Note from Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from many angry timeshare members, including Bluegreen members. Here are just a few of the many members who have contacted Inside Timeshare wanting their voices heard.

This is our DRI Advocacy Facebook page which respectable sales agents and corporate personnel are allowed to join. We hope the folks at Diamond, Bluegreen and ARDA will take the time to read member stories. We promise you will learn a lot.

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/

Member articles

Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-australia-no-read-correctly/

Alan and Debbie Callner

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

Detective Lela Renea a Bluegreen member

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

David Franks Chapter 2 (Chapter 4 upcoming)

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-10/

Karen Garello Secret Shopper June 22, 2017

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

Romeo and Lily

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-9/

Dr. Jeffries

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-7/

Angela Johnson

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy-group-update/

Neina Orrillo

http://insidetimeshare.com/diamond-in-the-news-again/

Barclaycard and Member stories May 17 2917

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-barlcaycard-us/

Marjorie Menacker

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Eron Grant May 12, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-4/

Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

Betty Burmeister and a Filipino Family April 13, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

Laurie Sabbagh Secret Shopper March 17, 2017 Clarity Review

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

A Military Family March 6, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

The Hurleys January 25, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Irina Allen January 13, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

Kathie Old December 6, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/

Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award December 5, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndham-whistleblower-update/

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles November 7, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Sylvia Saldana and the Barclaycard October 25, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

right wrong

Thank you Eron Grant and Irene for this weeks contribution, these are your stories, they are published so you know what is going on in this murky world called timeshare. If you have a story you would like to share or have any comments Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

If you have any questions or even need to know if you are dealing with a possible “scam” company, get in touch with us. Even if we don’t know the answer straight away we know where to look and can point you in the right direction. Remember it is better to be safe than sorry, doing your homework is essential, even more so in today’s timeshare world.

So it only leaves us to say, it’s Friday, have great weekend.

fridaycat

Tauro Beach: In the UK News.

It would seem the debacle that is the Tauro Beach Project, which was supposed to be a “flag ship” project for Anfi has now hit the international press. The UK’s Guardian Newspaper has published an article by Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer, two independent research journalists on the story of the sand that has been used.

The Guardian

Many months ago Inside Timeshare published the story that this sand was imported from Western Sahara, that it is under investigation by SEPRONA, the Nature Protection Service of the Guardia Civil. Anders over the past few months has been in contact with us and we have happily passed on information we had, so it is with pleasure that we publish todays story with the link to their article.

Tauro Beach: Latest Development

Inside Timeshare has been following the story mainly from the perspective of the timeshare angle, but we have also published the latest stories from the local residents. The fact that recently the entrances and pathways to the area have been blocked, making it very difficult for the residents to get to their properties.

Anders and Rowan have taken a different tack to this story, they have concentrated on the illegalities of importing products from an area which is under occupation and is in breach of UN resolutions and rulings from the European Court of Justice.

It has been the contention of many in Gran Canaria that this sand was brought here illegally and was dumped without being treated, Lt Germán García SEPRONA’s Chief in Las Palmas stated  “The sand was brought illegally, it was discharged with no control at all,” something that has angered environmentalists. No one knows for sure what effect this could have on the local environment. Only 300 meters from the beach is an undersea area which is protected, it contains plant and animal species unique the area and found nowhere else in the world. Apparently this area has already been affected, to what degree is not quite known.

gc-seprona

This whole story from the start has been one of pure greed, no thought for the local residents, no thought for the environment, just the thought of building and making money! This story is not going away, the investigations are ongoing, so it is only a matter of time before the truth comes out. When it does, we are sure there will be charges to follow.

Here is the link to Anders’ and Rowan’s article in the The Guardian.

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

Enter Tauro Beach in the search box to see all articles published on Inside Timeshare and follow the story.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this subject Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you, we will be keeping in touch with Anders and will pass on your comments.