Over the past few years Inside Timeshare has been following the story of the Anfi Tauro Beach Project. This was the creation of a manmade beach along with the development of the land to build a commercial centre and hotels. As we know there has been much controversy over the project, with the Head of the Coastal Authority José María Hernández de León being sacked and charged. His trial has now begun.
The former head is being prosecuted for illegally authorising the creation of an artificial beach at Tauro. The project was being financed by Anfi, who saw this as their flagship project, it would also involve the illegal importation of sand from the Western Sahara, which is banned by International law as well as Spanish and European law.
On the first day of the trial, the charges are of prevarication and falsehood, which Hernández denies vehemently, stating he always proceeded within the law. The Environmental Prosecutor has called for a jail term of three and a half years.
This trial is set to open up a can of worms, especially if it turns out that Anfi had influenced the passing of the plans and the starting of the work without the correct permissions and licences.
The Mayor of Mogan Onalia Bueno was also being investigated for authorising the work to start before the permissions were signed, several months after the fact. That investigation is still underway.
We shall bring you the latest news on this trial as it emerges.
The calls are being made by a former sales agent Geert de Greef, in the call, he is offering the client the chance to take legal action through the courts against Silverpoint, the cost 15,000€, but he then drops the price to 10,000€.
Geert de Greef apparently is also sending out a POA (poder) without the agreement of the client. In the agreement all the client’s details including passport numbers are present, this only leads us to believe that he is working from the official client data held by Silverpoint. So does this mean that they are cooperating with Silverpoint or have the details been stolen?
This is something we leave you the reader to decide, whichever it is, it certainly is not ethical and may even be in breach of data protection laws due to the information that they are holding such as passport details.
If you have been contacted by Nordic Consulting and especially Geert de Greef, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction, remember it may not be illegal to cold call but holding personal information without your knowledge or permission is.
Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker asks the question Wait! What Timeshare Regulations? But first, we have an update on the last 2 weeks of court cases in Spain, these figures came in late Friday afternoon, just a little too late to include in Friday’s Letter from America.
In total, Canarian Legal Alliance has received 38 sentences by various courts in Spain, these have been against 3 of the major players in European timeshare and are broken down as follows.
2 Court of First Instance against Silverpoint in Tenerife
1 Court of First Instance against Club La Costa in Fuengirola, Malaga
In one of the High Court sentences against Anfi, they were also ordered to repay the client the in-house finance including interest, this may just be good news for others who purchased their timeshare using in-house finance. It certainly sets a precedent.
The total amount which will be returned to the clients is an incredible 1,310,533.00 €, plus in most of the cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. All contracts were also declared null and void leaving them all timeshare free.
At least in Spain, there are regulations that protect consumers, so now on with our Tuesday article with Irene.
I enjoyed reading Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?published by Women Who Money. I agree with the author’s major points, except “regulations being in place to protect timeshare consumers.” Having heard from timeshare members about how easy it is for a timeshare sales agent to dodge a contract rescission period, I wonder if there is any foolproof way to prevent being scammed. Some things, like actual availability, cannot be discerned by reading the contract. My contract said, “You can sell your points. We will not assist you.” The part about no buyers was left out. I was duped by reading the contract.
House, Senate and Assembly Bills are flying across the country. The timeshare PAC ARDA ROC was successful in extracting consumer protection measures out of Arizona HB 2639, as reported by The Courier Daily.
“They’ve got a lobbying presence here and around the country,” added Amanda Rusing who lobbies for the office, “It was very disappointing to have to remove all of the stronger, pro-consumer provisions.”
Timeshare members “voluntarily” contribute approximately $5 million annually to ARDA ROC via maintenance fee invoices. ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition. Why would any organization oppose offering a buyer 24 hours before signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market? Buyers are told that they have to buy the same day.
We are asking legislation be proposed that would allow the timeshare member 24 hours to review a contract before signing. We understand a member may not want 24 hours to review, so this offer could be waived. This offer should not be buried in the tap, tap, tap, electronic fine print. Members often report being held under duress for up to eight hours by a tag team of agents. Some sales centers take your driver’s license and credit card and won’t give them back.
ARDA ROC introduced legislation in Nevada and Florida that would require those contracting with timeshare exit service providers be given 24 hours to review a timeshare exit service provider contract. This was proposed because they care about their members experiencing deceptive sales practices? Give me a break.
We would think it silly if a bill was proposed requiring those who seek to buy a car be allowed 24 hours before signing a contract. Typically when buying a car, you shop, and a tag team of agents doesn’t gang up on you for hours.
A synopsis of recent Florida, Arizona and Nevada legislation:
Timeshares are regulated by states. Since timeshare buyers typically buy a timeshare in a state other than their state of residence, lawmakers have little incentive to react to non-constituents. Lawmakers need to listen to those who bought a timeshare in their state, not just those who reside in their state.
I found the Woman Who Money article, “Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?” on Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Crusader blog. Having worked in the industry for years, Lisa’s knowledge brings a lot to the table. Lisa is the author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies.
From Women Who Money
Regulations now exist to help protect consumers from high-pressure sales tactics. If you buy a timeshare and quickly regret it, you may have options for getting out of the signed contract.
Timeshare expert and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies
“While it is true that each state has a legally mandated rescission period, the fact of the matter is that 99% of purchasers will not read the contract within that time frame. The days of relying on the salesperson for good, solid information are over. Consumers must go into these timeshare sales pitches armed with a litany of questions and be prepared to walk out without purchasing anything if they don’t receive answers that can be pointed out within the contract.”
My husband and I used and enjoyed our timeshare for 25 years with no complaints, questions or Facebook posts. The points-based product does offer greater flexibility. We’re not saying timeshares aren’t good for many, and we know there are many honest sales agents, but I am convinced after hearing from over 800 timeshare members, current and former sales agents, managers and even an executive or two, “pitching heat” is on the upswing.
Timeshare buyers should record their timeshare sales sessions in one-party states where legal. Florida is a two-party state, so you cannot legally record without the other person aware. How is a victim supposed to obtain proof? All our readers’ Florida and Nevada timeshare complaints sent to the Nevada Real Estate Division and Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation were dismissed with “You have no proof.” I would recommend not buying a timeshare in a two-party state.
One of our Supporters, Sheila Brust, has her “Pencil Pitch” denoting the following figures, with an arrow and “save” written alongside:
According to Sheilah, the three-page pencil pitch describes how she would be able to cover all her maintenance fees through point usage. A second and third buyer bought from the same sales agent. The Florida DBPR reviewer told Sheilah that she did not understand the program either until she spoke with the company’s attorney. What chance does the average consumer have if a Florida timeshare reviewer, who has reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of timeshare contracts, did not understand the program until she spoke with the company’s attorney?
As far as proof, 83 Platinum members, who don’t know each other, reported similar to identical complaints, often against repeat offender sales agents. I’m told that constitutes proof as it is a good faith investigation and a reasonable conclusion. We have prepared a 130-page summary which is available upon request if a lawmaker or regulator is interested. We can hope.
We are working on a petition. If you would like to become more involved with our efforts, contact Inside Timeshare. Of the 805 timeshare members who have contacted us, 103 are veterans and active duty services members.
We seek to provide timeshare members 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.
Thank you, Irene, and also Lisa Ann Schreier for your contribution, if you have any comments or views on any article published, please use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.
If you have been contacted by any company with regards to resale, relinquishment or a claim and you are unsure if they are genuine, again use our contact page and let us know. We will point you in the right direction. Remember, doing your homework will save you in the end from losing your money.
Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another of our Secret Shopper Reports, coordinated by Pete Gibbes, these articles have proved to be very popular with our many readers. One thing they all comment on is how similar to their own experiences these reports show.
“Thank God It’s April 15 Day!”
For those in the US, the 15 April is the day when many members will receive a tax liability bill if a loan is cancelled. For us, in Europe, we find this very strange, especially for loans linked to timeshare purchases. At least our European members don’t get a tax bill when their loan is cancelled.
Inside Timeshare has directed many back to their CPA to dispute this tax bill for “phantom income” as the former has not been enriched by the cancellation of the loan as they have retained nothing of value.
Now before we go on with our Secret Shopper article, a little news on the legal front from the leading European law firm in timeshare litigation, Canarian Legal Alliance.
With the Easter Holidays now upon us, the lawyers at CLA are having a well-deserved break, especially after the past two weeks of court cases.
In the past five days alone, there have been 25 trial and 20 sentences issued, many of these were pre-trials, with the judges once again confirming that there was no need for the case to go to a full trial. The reason being, these cases are based on documentary proof, they are based on contracts which according to Spanish timeshare law contain illegalities. This is obviously very damaging for the timeshare companies but very good news for the clients.
So to recap, in the past 2 weeks, there has been a total of 26 victory sentences with 24 against Anfi del Mar, all heard in the Court of First Instance, San Bartelomé de Tirajana, Gran Canaria. With 2 High Court, Santa Cruz de Tenerife against Silverpoint. The total amount awarded is a staggering 931,229€ plus all contracts being declared null and void.
Now for our Secret Shopper Report.
How do you define a “Bad Apple” Sales Agent?
It’s in the Eye of the Beholder
By Secret Shopper
Tuesday, April 16
We have all heard stories of outright deception and deceit employed by timeshare salespeople. Many complaints are from those who were convinced to give up their deeded timeshare week and convert to the points-based timeshare.
Fixed week timeshares may lack the flexibility of points, but if you like knowing what you own, a guaranteed stay may mean more to you than flexibility. With a points program, you can stay more or less than a week and book other resorts at other times of the year. However, many have complained that after giving up their deed, they were not able to access even the resort they had vacationed at for years.
Timeshare companies will say that salespeople who use scare tactics represent only a few “Bad Apples” so are not typical. Timeshare Accountability Group™has heard from more than a few members that were frightened into giving up their deed, told their children will be burdened because of their parent’s decision to buy a timeshare. We’re not lawyers, so we defer to timeshare attorney Mike Finn to fill us in on what happens when you inherit an unwanted timeshare. It’s a topic many are interested in, especially as baby boomers age.
Some of the tactics sales agents use to coerce an “owner” to give up a deeded timeshare week to become a “member” are downright predatory and constitute practicing law without a license. This is what happened to Phyllis, age 67, in her own words (unedited):
I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare forever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them (the new company) or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry. I was tired. In order to get out of there, I signed under dearest. I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BARCLAYS BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018, to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. DRI sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.
(Submitted to Inside Timeshare)
Our Secret Shopper Experience
In mid-summer 2018, we went on a “mandatory” update after attending a Diamond Resortsevent in Virginia Beach. We are well versed in timeshare methods and had our “ears up” to catch any of the standard tactics they might use to persuade us to convert our two deeded weeks into points.
Despite being ready for the worst, I will openly admit that our salesperson never told us any OVERT lies during our two-hour presentation. He was friendly, polite, and had a long history with Diamond Resorts at various locations throughout the country. He told us where he lived in Virginia Beach (a very expensive waterfront area). He did not lie to us.
That being said, his words were very carefully chosen, and of course, what he didn’t tell us was even more carefully chosen. At a minimum, his pitch was misleading, confusing, full of half-truths, and in my opinion quite diabolical. When someone commits a “material omission” is it a lie? That sounds like a question for attorney Mike Finn.
Let’s see how the game is played
Our salesperson pushed two major discussion points:
1 – Vacation Options:
Our sales agent demonstrated what would happen if we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased 5,000 points. He showed us a world of amazing Diamond Resorts locations on his computer screen. He explained these resorts would be available to us with the 15,000 points in total we would have if we gave up both deeds.
He showed us availability on HIS computer. He said things like “Here, let me show you on MY account” and “the system shows ME availability for these vacations for only 3,000 points… look at all of them!” Yes, many were available on many different dates. Wow, the world would be our Oyster.
Now, all that is technically true, but he presented it in a manner to imply that if we converted to 15,000 non-deeded points, we would see the same availability and options we were shown… but he never actually said that. His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).
If the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract has been executed, you would not see actual availability at your loyalty level until after the rescission period had passed.
If you knew what to listen for, the agent chose his words incredibly carefully to sidestep the issue. This would have misled us if we were not informed shoppers. In my opinion, it was a shameful sales tactic that almost anyone would likely fall for.
I know that none of the locations available under his sales account would be available to someone with only 15,000 points, especially summer weeks in Virginia Beach, which he was asking us to give up. He repeatedly showed us that Turtle Cay was only 6,500 points for a week vacation in July… which is accurate… if you are one of the handfuls of people in the US with status and connections to get access to that level of availability. It is unlikely at the Silver loyalty level we would ever be able to stay there again even if we were to convert to points. He didn’t mention that.
He also gave us pamphlets describing Diamond Dream Vacations(DDV), also known as Holiday Vacations, which we could take advantage of anytime for 3,000, 7,500, or 15,000 points. Each DDV included two airfares at top-notch accommodations. One package included four days at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes resort along with a five day Caribbean cruise for only 7,500 points.
For those not familiar with points, maintenance fees for Silver level are about $.20 per point so if the Dream Vacation requires 7,500 points, the trip would cost $1,500. Multiply 7,500 points times $.20. Always do your timeshare math. Four nights at Mystic Dunes, two airfares and a five day Caribbean cruise for two for $1,500 is a GREAT deal! It even included rental car discounts.
After submitting this article, Pete explained that these great deals really do exist. I thought they were completely bogus. He said that since these packages are for the purposes of selling points, they are available to anyone who purchases as a “sweetener” or to existing members in an effort to sell more points.
Apparently, tremendous bargains are always promotions. Our sales agent never said Dream Holidays were promotions that would require a sales session. He said “These packages are available anytime” to use his exact wording. Again, he didn’t lie… he just didn’t present an important fact.
2 – Financial Justification:
He presented a very complex 10-year financial analysis showing how it would cost us far less over ten years if we converted to points, even though he wanted us to drop more than $75,000 for 15,000 points, which would have included giving up our two deeded summer weeks. He did not know that I used to be a financial analyst with IBM. I worked on billion-dollar transactions. His spreadsheet was malarkey, and even I couldn’t follow it. Once again, he was not lying; his analysis was just crappy… which is quite common as financials go. Of course, we were not given a copy of any of his figures. When we tried to take it, he whisked it away.
All told, I doubt other salespeople would consider our sales agent a “Bad Apple” as he didn’t tell any lies. He did not mention any bogus programs (e.g. “you can pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point”) or other false claims. In fact, our sales agent is probably a shining example held up for other salespeople to emulate: nice, amiable, well dressed, 6.5 feet tall with 12 extra teeth in his smile.
After we firmly said no and started to leave, we were sent to a manager to “check out.” This person was quite reprehensible. He showed us further discounts off the $75,000. He spoke about the “investment” we would be making, what our “Equity” would be out of the gate, and how our “Equity” would grow over time. Our “investment” would only go up in value.
I got quite angry and blew up at him at this point, calling him out directly on those misrepresentations. His eyes flew open wide as he backtracked, “When I say Equity I mean your equity in future vacation time and how your vacation time would become more valuable as you learn how to use the system wisely.”
He claimed he never said he was speaking about a financial investment and not to put words in his mouth but he actually said these things with no qualifiers until he was pressed to do so . My wife loudly told him off and we got up to walk out. He asked why she was being so rude. In a sick sort of way, it was funny, really.
As our experience shows, a “Bad Apple” is in the eye of the beholder.
Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a story to share. Our standard disclosure is that we know there are honest sales agents selling the product honestly. Deceptive agents harm honest sales agents too. Our concern is the number of agents “pitching heat” to sell points could lead to a decline in sales unless acknowledged and addressed.
Contact Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes through Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.
We seek to provide timeshare members 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.
Thank you to our secret shopper and to Pete Gibbes the coordinator for this week’s report, these do help others to be aware and of what to expect when they attend any presentation. As the old saying goes, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
One thing is certain, purchasers of timeshare in Spain do have the full protection of the law, misrepresentation of the product is not tolerated. We also know that many other European countries are reviewing their own timeshare laws in accordance with EU Timeshare Directives designed to protect consumers, many are also looking to Spain and may just adopt their legislation. For too long the timeshare companies have had the upper hand, but the tide is turning.
If you have any comments or would like to share your experiences use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.
Do you have a problem with your timeshare membership, or need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found?
Again use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.
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.
While attending a meeting on the Costa del Sol, Inside Timeshare took the time to drop in on the new office in Benalmadena Costa of Canarian Legal Alliance. The office manager and senior consultant Sean Thacker was very kind in spending some time explaining what they do and answering a few questions.
The office itself is situated in the center of Benalmadena Costa, a stones throw from the wonderful Parque de la Paloma and the Aquarium Selwo Marina.
It is a modern and spacious office with facilities for conference calls, with a relaxed atmosphere, which will certainly put potential clients at ease.
Here is what Sean had to say.
As we know Canarian Legal Alliance has had a presence in Gran Canaria for many years, the Benalmadena office is a fairly new branch, when did you open and why was this location chosen?
Sean: This office opened in April of 2017, the main point was we understood there were many clients who took vacations on the Costa del Sol, especially as this area is full of resorts associated with timeshare. It was felt that many of these owners would be interested to learn more about their rights and how the judicial system can protect those rights.
In the light of the publicity surrounding the timeshare industry, we believed they would be more comfortable in visiting our office and discuss their concerns in person. The other advantage is we are also able to offer the many mainland European clients who opt for driving holidays a genuine service.
IT: Have you had many clients just walk in seeking advice about their timeshares and what has been the main concern of these clients?
Sean: Yes, we were very surprised at the number of clients who passed and came in for some general advice. We offer this advice free of any charge, explaining the law in Spain and what their rights are under the Spanish Timeshare Laws.
One of the main concerns was the mounting rise in maintenance fees, along with no availability, especially for the points and floating week owners, yet they were increasingly seeing that they could book online in the high season considerably cheaper than what they pay in fees. Another concern was where clients purchased on a rental basis yet they received no rental income.
IT: Are most of your enquiries made by telephone or do you receive more via email?
Sean: Our clients, apart from walkins, are mainly via enquires from the internet or social media and we now find we have a major source from our current client referrals to other owners or even friends and family.
IT: What has been the main nationality of the clients or have they been from all over Europe?
Sean: We deal with clients from all of the major countries, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium/Holland, Scandinavia and we have now found over the last 3 months a big increase in Finnish clients who are interested to understand their rights in Spain.
IT: As you said, many of your clients are now from Finland, which timeshare company has figured the most with these clients and what type of products have they purchased?
Sean:I notice that most of our Finnish clients predominantly purchased with Silverpoint / Excel, The Company Participation Schemes seem to play a major role in most of the purchases.
Sean:Yes, there seems to be a switch from the old investment packs to Company Participation which suggests that companies are trying to look for alternative sales tools to offer to clients while always trying to circumnavigate the Spanish legal system.
IT: How do the “Company Participations” differ from the original “investment packs” and would you say that the average amount spent by purchasers is much higher than before?
Sean:The biggest difference is that customers thought they were buying an apartment as freehold. But they bought between 8 to 52 timeshare weeks, these “apartments” are “registered” as SL or limited companies, this is another ploy to remove them from the strict timeshare laws. On this point, in a recent case held in Tenerife, Silverpoint admitted in court that The Company Participations are timeshare. We are finding that our clients are spending anything between 37,000 and 250,000 euros per purchase. That is a huge amount for a product which is essentially timeshare.
IT: Would you say that most clients are nervous about taking legal action and how do you overcome this?
Sean: Everyone is always nervous in the first place to take any legal action, especially in a foreign country, the most important aspect of our work is to make sure we offer full support and transparency in how the process works, then guide the clients step by step through the whole process. It is important at all times we never apply any pressure techniques. This process is totally in the client’s hands, we are a support vehicle for them.
IT: We know there is always going to be bad press on the internet, much of it made by the industry, which will make prospective clients sceptical, so how do you overcome this problem?
Sean:Bad press is something we deal with daily, it proves to me that we do our job correctly for our clients. If you take the record of CLA and the number of case victories including over 129 Supreme Court wins, this shows to our clients that bad press is the only option certain industry members have. I personally will always go through with clients all good and bad press so they feel comfortable, as I mentioned earlier, transparency is the key .
IT: Roughly, how many cases do you think you have taken on since opening this office and would you say that those which have been to court have lived up to the expectations of your clients?
Sean: Since opening, we have delivered over 500 cases from the mainland office alone, all our client’s expectations have been surpassed using the correct Spanish Laws. Our clients who have had their cases heard have received back the full purchase price, including double the deposit paid within the 14 days cooling off period, in some cases, this has been extended to 90 days, which then doubles any amount paid within that period.
Thank you Sean, you have explained what you do and how you work with your clients, I’m sure that anyone coming into this office is going to be put at ease and be given the facts.
The Benalmadena office is certainly following the success of their parents in Gran Canaria, no doubt we shall hear more of them in the future.
Sean also pointed out that Diamond has several resorts in the area one is their flagship Sahara Sunset. Diamond has also had rulings against them from the Supreme Court, Inside Timeshare published this in December 2018. Below is a PDF of that ruling.
Inside Timeshare has highlighted the great results achieved by Canarian Legal Alliance in Gran Canaria for several years now, including all the Supreme Court rulings. Even though the facts speak for themselves, the industry is still in denial, they will not admit they are losing. There are still false statements about Canarian Legal Alliance being posted on the internet, much of it we know is from the industry itself, but the facts are these cases are in the public domain and cannot be denied.
Below are two links to previous articles published by Inside Timeshare on Silverpoint, to find more use the search box on the website.
If you would like further information on this article or any other published, use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.
Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, todayIrene Parker gives her account on the workshop she attended at the Florida House of Representatives, regarding the Florida House Bill 435. As Sunday is St Patrick’s Day for all of our Irish friends, we couldn’t resist using the definition of Blarney in the opening graphic. After watching the recording of the Workshop, it seemed apt to use it, once you watch it for yourselves, you will understand why.
Before we go to Irene’s report some very brief news on the legal front in Spain.
In Tenerife, Silverpoint have been subject to a “cash” embargo, this is a result of a case brought by Canarian Legal Alliance for an execution of sentence on a recent case. Their senior lawyer Eva Gutierrez brought the order to the court to force Silverpoint to lodge the awarded amount with the court. This was done to ensure swift payment of the funds to the client, who will now receive 27,047.11€ plus legal fees and all legal interest.
CLA are now using this enforcement action as soon as the sentence is issued by the court. This stops any delaying tactics by the timeshare companies in making payment. It seems to be working very well.
It has also been published that the Fiscal Prosecutor in Gran Canaria, is looking into the accounts of Anfi Resorts and Anfi Sales, for the possible illegal movement of money to various accounts in order to delay the payment of funds to clients who have won cases against them.
For the Fiscal Prosecutor to be involved in this, shows that it is a serious matter, the full story can be read at the link below. Although it is in Spanish, use google and use the translate page feature.
Business and Profession Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12
Florida House Bill 435
Does it restrict the rights of citizens to retain legal counsel?
By Irene Parker
March 15, 2019
Inside Timeshare has received many complaints about timeshare exit companies, in addition to reports from timeshare buyers describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Critics of Florida HB 435 feel if passed this bill would restrict the ability of timeshare buyers to seek legal counsel.
Due to disclosures, we will not publish the link to the recording of the Florida HB 435 workshop held March 12, but the recording can be easily found at https://thefloridachannel.org/. Search the workshop by entering 3/12/19 Business and Professions Committee. The first 1 ½ hours is about beer and spirits distribution. The timeshare workshop can be found by fast-forwarding to the session’s last hour.
A panel composed of exit company attorneys and industry attorneys answered questions from Florida state representatives, who clearly seemed on top of the issues. Panel members included:
Jason Gamel, Sr. Vice President, Legal at Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc.
Shannon Zetrouer, Outside Counsel, Reed Hein and Associates
Tiffany Kimble, Director of Underwriting, First American Title’s Vacation Ownership Services Division
Wayne Halper, Esq., in-house counsel Wesley Financial Group, LLC
K.L. “Ken” McKelvey, CPA, ARDA ROC Chairman
Boyd McAdams, from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), shed light on the number of consumer complaints filed in the last few years. Previously, our figures reported 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014. DBPR only acted on 110 of those complaints.
The approximate figures of timeshare related complaints, as I understood the figures, are:
2016 1200 complaints 600 reported misleading information
2017 1300 complaints 700 misleading information
2018 1300 complaints 700 misleading information
2019 700 complaints 300 misleading information
Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.
Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”
Consumer attorneys matched the strength of industry attorneys. I would like to point out and dispute a few of the comments made by panel members Wyndhamattorney Jason Gamel and ARDA ROC spokesperson Ken McKelvey.
Reid Hein’s legal counsel, Shannon Zetrouer, described how a buyer, typically held for hours in a high pressure timeshare sales presentation, signs a perpetual contract, often reporting that they were given misleading information.
Ms. Zetrouer argued that Florida HB 435 would infringe on a consumer’s right to seek other legal services, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or estate planning advice. She feels the bill, as currently worded, is overreaching in that it would affect timeshare buyers across the nation if they purchased in Florida. “I specifically have concerns about House Bill 435. First, I think it will actually have a negative impact on consumers…It seems to infringe on the right of contracts and the right of companies to contract with consumers for relief that they [the consumers] are clearly seeking. Otherwise this industry wouldn’t exist,” said Zetrouer. “Simply put, if going to developers was an option for these consumers, then there would be no third party industry,” she added.
Mr. Gamel spoke of the 2012 Transfer Act that addressed disclosure, rescission, escrow and prohibited acts.
Ms. Kimball addressed the problems associated with fraudulent transfers.
Wayne Halper, Esq. described the criteria required to become a client of Wesley Financial Group, LLC. Wesley Financial receives 3,000 to 3,500 calls per week from timeshare buyers seeking relief from timeshare contracts. Of those initial contracts, only 150 to 200 per week are accepted as clients, because they must meet the criteria for fraud. Similar to the complaints Inside Timeshare receives, 100% of Wesley clients report being told the timeshare is an investment and will increase in value and 91% report the ability to rent will offset maintenance fees and provide an income stream in retirement.
Mr. Halper echoed Ms. Zetrouer’s comments, in that 99% of timeshares sold in America have a presence in Florida, and the bill as written would eliminate the right of timeshare members to seek the services of those offering exit services. Later in the discussion, Mr. Halper pointed out that being released from a timeshare contract can take up to three years. He felt it would be unfair to expect a provider not be allowed to charge for services performed until after proof of exit has been provided, proof not always provided.
ARDA ROC Chairman K. L. McKelvey said ARDA ROC represents 1.8 million Timeshare Owners. I have asked 742 families who have reached out to me, feeling they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, if they even knew what ARDA ROC stands for. Not one member could answer, yet collectively timeshare members give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year, often “opt-out” contributions.
Mr. McKelvey described ARDA’sResponsible Exit Industry Coalition. For my timeshare, this is nothing more than media spin. I surveyed all 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Of the 64 members, 22 members responded, saying they would not accept a listing for my timeshare company, feeling restrictions the company places on points purchased on the secondary market excessive.
In response to a question asked by Representative Randy Fine (R), asking the percentage of Wyndham’s marketing costs; Mr. Gamel thought 30 to 40%.
Let’s compare this scenario to the primary housing market. The timeshare buyer sits across from a real estate agent in most states. There is an understandable assumption a buyer would think they have the same rights as a primary housing market buyer.
What would happen to the primary housing market if:
The Buyer paid 30 to 40% upfront in commissions,
The Buyer is demanded to buy the house the same day,
The Buyer learns licensed brokers won’t accept a listing to sell their home should they need to sell.
Committee member Representative Michael Gottlieb asked about “Adhesion” – meaning a timeshare contract cannot be changed, so why should someone need to talk to a lawyer before signing a contract, because you can’t change the contract anyway. The reason is because buyers are exhausted after an hours long high pressure sales session, signing a perpetual contract without being allowed adequate time to review copious and complicated documents. Not only attorneys, buyers are discouraged from seeking advice from a mom, dad, son or daughter. Sales agents are trained on how to defer this request, according to numerous current and former sales agents. Not being allowed 24 hours to think about a perpetual purchase, spending anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 highlights the unfair in unfair and deceptive practices.
There have been many Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits concerning unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams was awarded $20 million after reporting deceptive sales practices, and a recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed November 2018 on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents and employees, working at Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort. Buyers need to beware of potential deceptive timeshare sales practices.
Buyers sign perpetual timeshare contracts accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Often existing members are sold additional points, promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. The lack of a viable secondary market exacerbates the problem. Wyndham lists a viable secondary market as a risk to their stock market investors in their 10k reports.
Clearly, as Committee Chairwoman Heather Fitzenhagen stated, timeshare is a thorny issue. Let’s hope actual member voices can be heard in future sessions.
On Tuesday, our reader data can easily address concerns expressed by Mr. McKelvey and Mr. Gamel:
We seek to provide timeshare 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.
Contact Inside Timeshare to let your voice be heard.
Inside Timeshare did have trouble locating the recording mentioned in paragraph two of Irene’s report, so Inside timeshare has provided a direct link to it in order to assist readers, the relevant part starts at approx 1:45:50
The perpetrator behind this claims fraud, Stephen Paul Fairclough has seemed to have disappeared, his offices at Regus House are now empty. We do know that he does have links in Portugal and is believed to own a property and lives there. So he may just have fled the UK and is living his life of luxury on the money he has swindled from countless victims.
Apparently from information received by one source, who wishes not to be identified, it looks now like the Police in the UK will not be pursuing the matter against Stephen Fairclough. From the information received the reason is that they do not have sufficient evidence. As we know to secure a prosecution and ensure a conviction in any criminal trial, the evidence must be strong and be of “beyond reasonable doubt”.
Inside Timeshare would love to see Fairclough prosecuted and convicted, so it is now up to you the readers and victims of his fraud to come forward. Inside Timeshare is in contact with one victim who would like to gather together all those affected and form an Action Group.
If you have lost money for services not provided by Fairclough, then use our contact page, send in your details and Inside Timeshare will pass them to the coordinator of the Action Group. It is only with your help that this person will ever be brought to justice.
Our information is that two clients have begun legal proceedings against Silverpoint but they have also lodged the criminal complaints against the two Farhoud brothers who sold them the scheme in the first place. It is believed from our sources that more clients are also coming forward and more “Criminal Denuncias” are going to be made.
It must also be remembered that they are now contacting previous victims via their company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, with the offer of taking legal action against Silverpoint (their former employer) and claiming back what their clients originally paid. They explain that what was sold to them was not legal, yet they are the ones who sold it in the first place, yet they claim they had no idea that it was “fraudulent”.
Now, we also know that they will be charging huge amounts for legal fees to carry out this “service”, so in reality they made large amounts in commission for selling it and are now set to make even more by offering a “legal service”!
If you have purchased these “Company Participations” or any other product peddled by Silverpoint, or have been contacted by Nordic Consulting, then use our contact page to get in touch. Inside Timeshare will then answer your questions and point you to the best solution for your situation.
We also have an update of court cases held in the Courts on Gran Canaria, all these involved Anfi and were brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance.
In total there were seven sentences issued, 3 by the High Court in Las Palmas and 4 by the Courts Of First Instance in Maspalomas. Again all contracts were declared null and void as the contained infringements of the Timeshare Laws as laid down by the Supreme Court. These ranged from floating weeks to perpetuity contracts, the courts awarded over 241,545€ to the clients along with legal fees and legal interest.
Then on Tuesday 5 March, another sentence was issued by the Court of First Instance of San Barlelomé De Tirajana, again this was against Anfi. This quite a significant case as the amount involved is huge.
The client in this instance is set to receive over 212,476€ plus legal interest, along with the contract being declared null and void. This will be one happy client.
The case was conducted on behalf of the clients by the Canarian Legal Alliance lawyer Adrián Diaz-Saavedra Morales, who is another of the young and dynamic team at CLA. So congratulations to them all, and keep up the good work.
If you need any advice with a timeshare problem or paid a company for services which you have not received, contact Inside Timeshare via our contact page. We will point you in the right direction.
Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, we have had more emails from concerned readers regarding Claims Assistant Bureau, a company we highlighted only last week.
As we know, this company is calling timeshare owners along with those who have had dealings with Eze Group, they claim they have been appointed by the courts to tack down owners who have had money awarded to them and is being held by various courts.
According to Harry Evans and then back up by an email from Mel Rhys, Regency Shores Holdings SL (Eze Group), have recently been in court in Tenerife. The court is now holding a substantial amount which Claims Assistant Bureau will be able to get back for you, for a fee that is.
Another fact is they also claim that they are backed up and guaranteed by The Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, The Bank of Spain and the High Court of Madrid.
Another reader who we spoke with was very suspicious, as the person on the phone was contradicting himself so much it set off alarm bells. Below are the company details along with a link to the article publish on 18 February.
14 Victories in the Courts of First Instance against Anfi
1 High Court judgement against Anfi
2 First Instance victories against Silverpoint
2 High Court victories against Silverpoint
1 First Instance against Holiday Club Finland
1 First Instance against Club La Costa
In all these 21 sentences the contracts were declared null and void, the total claim value has yet to be released, but it is believed to be very substantial.
In further news from the Courts in Maspalomas, another 8 cases have been sent for sentencing at the pre-trial stage. It appears the judges are dispensing with the need for a full trial, which is only good news for the clients. This will result in cases being concluded in a much faster manner, with payouts being much quicker.
Obviously it will not be long before other courts in Spain start doing the same thing, it is obvious now that the laws put into place to protect consumers are solid and are being enforced by the courts.
Have you been contacted by any company mentioned in any of our articles, or one that you have found on the internet or even from an advert in a newspaper or magazine?
Do you want to find out if they are genuine and not sure how to do this?
Have you been told you have a valid claim and want to know if it is true?
Then use our contact page and send us a message, we will point you in the right direction.
This address is actually used by a company called Help Debt Plus (Wales) Limited, who have full Financial Conduct Authority authorisation, so obviously have nothing tho do with Claims Assistant Bureau.
The company was registered with Company House on 2 March 2009 and the current director Stephen Michael Francis being appointed on 2 December 2009, he is also the Company Secretary, appointed on 2 March 2009.
According to the filing history at company house, the company has been listed as “dormant” since 2 April 2010 and is now listed as a “Micro Company”.
So it would seem that it is only registered so it can be used for initiating various “scams”, to fool people into thinking they are dealing with a “legitimate” UK company.
So what are they promising?
According to information from several readers in the past few days they have either been appointed by Birmingham Crown Court, The High Court in Madrid and the Courts in Tenerife to make contact with Eze Group victims. Apparently there is a substantial amount of money being held and Claims Assistant Bureau can help you retrieve it. For a fee that is.
Further to your telephone conversation with Mr. Evans here is an email giving you further insight into the situation at hand.
All monies that you will be receiving are being settled to you by the successful outcome of recent court proceedings against Regency Shore (EZE Group) Holdings SL, were upon you were listed as one of their members GP11186.
The amount you will receive is £3,950.
About any paperwork you may or may not have, do not worry as we will be sending notarised legal paperwork that will include all company histories and court documentation regarding your outcome.
Some of your paperwork will be in Spanish if you have any problems understanding it please do not hesitate in contacting us as we offer a free translation service for you the client.
Our processing fee is £695 this includes our fees, courier service and translation services, once you have paid our fees we will be under contract with you to finalise the claim, all monies will be settled within 10 working days. If the process does not complete within the given timeframe all monies will be returned to you the client.
We are now giving you not only our company guarantee but that too of our contractual and fiscal arrangements with the Bank of Spain, the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and the High Court of Madrid. This means that all business is backed and covered by these three entities and ourselves.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate in contacting us on the details below.
Well, not very, for one there is no money being held by the courts, there has been no case in Spain against Regency Shores, those institutions would not be making any guarantee or have any dealing with a private company for any legal matter.
The case in Birmingham has not been concluded so no money has been set aside for victims.
If the courts had your name and membership numbers as victims of any company, they would have been in contact through official channels, not using a third party company. If you have been contacted with this or a similar story, do not be fooled into paying anything, it is a “fraud” pure and simple.
Another of our Scandinavian readers has been contacted by this person and his companies, our reader has paid a substantial amount for the Silverpoint “Company Participations” and somehow Brussel had his details.
Unfortunately, our reader was taken in by the pitch that JB Legal / SIM Legal would take their case against Silverpoint to court, claiming fraud. A lawyer was named as the person taking on the case, Ruben Padron Perez, but it seems he claims his identity has been stolen for illegal purposes.
Mr Brussel also required a payment to himself of almost 2000€ to be paid in cash for the notary, that is a rather large amount for any notary.
But it doesn’t end there, without his knowledge of permission, his documents were handed to another firm, which at this point is not being named. He has also paid this other company over 28,000€ to take on the case.
So what has happened to the initial payments made to Walker Padron Perez and Jeroen Martijn Brussel?
Our reader has not been able to contact Walker Padron Perez or Brussel, all emails are being ignored and the telephone calls not being answered.
He has been told by the “new” company that they will get him back this money, we will just have to wait and see.
Once again, these two stories reinforces what we have been saying all along, before doing any business and paying out substantial amounts of money, do your homework. If you do not know where to start, then use our contact page, we will help you find the genuine from the fraudsters.
If you have also been contacted by any of the companies mentioned, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you, use our contact page and let us know what happened.
You will also notice that we have started a new Facebook Group, log in to join.
Welcome to the start of another week in the world of timeshare, we begin with some news being passed around various forums regarding Anfi. As we know Anfi is contacting members to change their contracts, but the latest is rather disturbing.
The change in contracts is to try and bring them within the law, the new contracts will be for a maximum of 50 years, with apartment numbers and week numbers being allocated to the floating week contracts, although they will remain “floating”.
According to information received, the new contracts will also penalise the members for “early termination” of their membership. Any early termination of the contract will be seen as a serious breach of contract on part of the member, Anfi will then apply a retrospective charge on the member for “hotel Costs” of around 350€ per night for all weeks used.
They have already used this threat to members who may be contemplating legal action in regard to illegal and missold contracts. This is also the subject of an ongoing legal argument, which has yet to be finally resolved.
Another point that has come to our attention is the number of members who have just ceased to pay their maintenance, especially with the new contracts. It is reported that around 100 members in 10 countries are about to have legal proceedings made against them for recovery of the maintenance fee arrears. Plus to have the mentioned “hotel costs” charged against them.
Another point which is irritating some of the members posting on the forums is the problem of resale. According to many posters, Anfi has the right to refuse the buyer of any timeshare sold privately. Again this is to ensure that all resales go through the resale programme, which we know is not very effective and will only command a very small resale price.
As with any timeshare advertised for sale, the price you see is what the owner believes they will get, remember, when purchased, many were under the impression they were investing in property. The sales staff openly told them it would go up in value, as we know this is definitely not the case.
So what do we make of this change in contracts and the other tactics being used?
Simple, by changing to the new contract, you lose all rights to take them to court, this is what Anfi want, after all it is costing them a fortune in payouts. (Which they will deny).
The threat of the “hotel costs” with legal action against maintenance arrears and making it more difficult to sell privately, is again to stem the tide of a significant loss of membership. This loss hits them in the pocket with reduced income of maintenance fees. After all, they are not selling like they used too, people are very wary of purchasing timeshare today.
There were also 2 High Court wins in Las Palmas, again against Anfi del Mar.
Again at the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Palm Oasis lost 3 cases.
Over in Tenerife, The Court of First Instance again found against Silverpoint in 2 cases.
In another First Instance hearing, Club la Costa were the ones on the receiving end of a judgement.
In all a massive 27 victories against the biggest names in European timeshare, the total amount claimed on behalf of clients is over 648,000€ with all contracts being declared null and void.
CLA have also issued this video, which shows their impressive record so far, it was made at the end of 2018.
That’s it for today, join us tomorrow for a very special article, this was received by another timeshare insider after we published the article on the Florida Bill 435, tomorrow we publish Part 1.
If you need any help or advice regarding your timeshare, about any company that has contacted you or you have found either on the internet or advert in any publication, then use our contact page. We will be pleased to help.
Also if you have any comments, views or information you would like to share with other timeshare owners, then again use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.