The RDO (Resorts Development Organisation) is supposedly the trade body for the timeshare industry in Europe, yet it is their very own members who are being taken through the courts for the mis-selling of timeshare. Yet it fails to act against them or even sanction them for their misdeeds. In fact, if you look at their own membership list, it probably only represents about 10% of the industry in Europe, with many of their own members on the receiving end of hundreds of court cases.
Instead, it funds several entities to discredit companies that do genuinely try to help beleaguered timeshare owners, Kwikchex, Timeshare Taskforce and Timeshare business Check, all run by Chris Emmins. This gentleman does not have a very successful track record when it comes to his directorships, with 17 appointments with all companies being dissolved under his directorship.
Kwikchex and Chris Emmins replaced the now discredited Alberto Garcia who with his blog site Mindtimeshare did the RDO’s bidding, using the “Enforcement” program, now renamed Timeshare Taskforce. Granted, timeshare owners do need to know the good from the bad, but as we have seen over the years the good have been lumped together with the bad, all because they do not wish to subscribe to RDO membership or are using legal means against the timeshare industry.
We do know that the RDO and ARDA, (American Resorts Development Association) are very close, in fact, the RDO is very much modelling itself on their US cousin. Lobbying on behalf of the industry to the detriment of the consumer.
UEROC, is being funded by both of these organisations, according to the RDO for at least one year, then it should become self-sufficient. But does that mean it will be funded by timeshare owners, or like we had with TATOC funded by industry membership and associates?
Is this new organisation actually going to represent consumers’ interests against the industry or is it going to be just another sham to make consumers believe they have a voice?
Only time will tell if what we are seeing with the industry in the US, with ARDA supporting bills which destroy consumers rights in Florida and Nevada, it does not bode well for consumers in Europe.
At least in Spain, the law is on the side of the consumer, making perpetuity contracts illegal, banning the sale of floating weeks and points systems, enforcing the cooling off period and forbidding the taking of any payments within that period. These are the basics of many of the court cases consumers are winning, resulting in contracts being declared null and void and the return of all payments.
If you purchased a timeshare in Spain after January 1999 and want to know where you stand legally, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.
Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, today we look again at the Nevada Senate Bill 348, with the introduction by Irene Parker and comments from Michael Kosor. Once again it looks like the industry is moving to protect itself rather than the consumer, yet the problem is one of their own making.
In Europe a new organisation has been created, EUROC, yes, it is the European version of ARDA ROC, it is being funded by ARDA and RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) Europe’s timeshare trade body. EUROC is being set up to replace the discredited TATOC, which closed down in 2017. Once again it is a smokescreen to give consumers the illusion of having a voice. According to the press information, the two organisations behind it are only going to fund it for a year, after that it should be self sufficient, well, we shall wait and see.
URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE
If You Bought a Timeshare in Nevada and Experienced Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices
Nevada Needs to Hear From You
The Next Timeshare Legislative Battle is April 5 in Nevada
Nevada Senate Bill 348 is an identical Bill that follows Florida HB 435
Comments by Nevada resident and Timeshare Advocate Michael Kosor
April 2, 2019
As part of Nevada SB 348, the timeshare lobby ARDA has proposed that timeshare members seeking exit services wait 24 hours before a timeshare member signs a timeshare exit service provider contract. Given the volume of complaints concerning fraudulent timeshare sales, if anyone needs 24 hours to “sleep on it,” it is the timeshare buyer. Buyers typically sign a perpetual timeshare contract with little to no secondary market. When deceived, contracts signed for even $100,000 or more are worth nothing seconds after the rescission period. We previously reported how easily a sales agent can dodge the rescission period.
Some states, like Arizona, understand the plight of timeshare victims, especially if lawmakers themselves experienced deceit. The reverse is true in Nevada. Many of the 779 complaints Inside Timeshare received were directed against Nevada sales centers. The Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED) dismissed all with a “You have no proof” letter. It is likely Nevada SB 348 was proposed due to a less than warm reception for the identical Florida HB 435, given the comments made by Florida representatives who themselves experienced negative timeshare experiences. Nevada SB 348 was proposed on the last day a bill could be filed.
In Florida, spokespersons for the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) reported Florida received 1,600 complaints each year for the last few years with 700 complaints already received in 2019. Of the 1,600 complaints, it was reported that most complaints are about the initial sales presentation and approximately 50% were reported by seniors. Only 42 complaints were “engaged” and those they said were mostly about resale.
In effect, perpetrators in Florida and Nevada have been given the green light to make up anything to sell points, knowing complaints are likely to be dismissed by the timeshare company and by NRED and DBPR. Florida is a two party state so consumers cannot legally record the sales presentation.
ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson opposed the pro-consumer Arizona HB that would have required timeshare buyers be granted 24 hours to review a timeshare contract. His argument was that Arizona only receives 250 annual timeshare complaints.
If you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices in Nevada, there is an easy method to comment on pending legislation. If you signed an NDA you can still make a general comment asking the bill to be amended to include the offer of a 24 hour period for the buyer to consider the purchase of a timeshare.
To voice your opinion click on Nevada SB 348 to comment:
Thousands upon thousands of people across America and in the European Union are reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Just this week Consumer Affairs reported on a couple over the age of 85 sold $250,000 in timeshare points. USA Today and the Arizona Republic reported on a couple nearly 90 years old sold $150,000 in timeshare points. In March I received a complaint directed against the same timeshare company from a couple turning 90, both diagnosed with age-related dementia. They were sold $145,000 additional timeshare points promised a maintenance fee relief program that does not exist. A third complaint against one agent, a sales agent we have on a recording defrauding a veteran a year ago, sold a couple ages 79 and 80, 90,000 timeshare points. The husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; the wife’s first language is Cantonese. They were unsure of the purchase price but a conservative estimate is $240,000.
If this bill passes, law firms providing timeshare exit assistance and legitimate exit providers would not be allowed to receive payment for services provided until all services have been provided. Timeshare companies have not been forthcoming in even notifying timeshare members that their loan has been cancelled. Many have reported not learning of a loan cancelled until a 1099C arrives in the mail.
We want timeshare buyers to be offered 24 hours to think about their decision to sign a timeshare contract. This could be waived if the buyer chooses, but would allow those unduly pressured to consider their decision, consult an attorney, mom, dad, son or daughter. As things stand, same day sales are demanded after exhausting sales sessions.
The proposed “cooling off period” as stated in the NV SB 348:
A time-share exit assistance or relief services provider shall give the owner who is not a developer not less than 1 business day to review a contract pursuant to this section.
Timeshare exit providers have heard from thousands of timeshare buyers desperate to find release. Voice your opinion – click on SB 348 and demand your 24 hours:
Timeshare members collectively donate approximately $5 million a year to the timeshare PAC ARDA ROC through “voluntary” donations via their timeshare maintenance fee invoice, yet not one of the 779 timeshare members who have contacted us could tell me what ARDA or ARDA ROC stands for. These donations fund ARDA lobby efforts. ARDA purports to be lobbying for the consumer, but what’s wrong with a consumer being allowed 24 hours to think over a purchase that has financially devastated so many families?
Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and Las Vegas resident, responds to Wyndham Sr. VP Jason Gamel who testified at the Florida HB 435 legislative workshop held in Tallahassee March 12
The Nevada Senate Bill 348 denies legitimate attorney representation to responsible consumers desperately seeking to escape the perpetual liabilities of a timeshare contract. Attorneys who provide timeshare exit assistance would not be allowed to charge a retainer or any money upfront until services have been provided. Challenging a timeshare contract can take up to two years or more.
When I last visited the Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED) and sat down with an investigator on the issue of timeshare complaints I learned the following:
NRED continues to be one of the only states that I am aware of, with a large number of timeshare sales, with no dedicated timeshare division. I believe Nevada is #7 in timeshare sales.
NRED has no legal staff, thus NRED must forward all legal questions to the Attorney General.
The investigator confirmed that NRED produces no public report to anyone, including its own investigators, on the number, type, and/or outcome of timeshare complaints filed. Are there fifty or fifty thousand complaints?
Wyndham Sr. VP and attorney Jason Gamel, who provided testimony at the Florida HB 435 Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12, made some arguably false comments in response to Florida state Representative Newton’s question about Wyndham’s dissolution policies. Mr. Gamel explained that there was no need for owners to contract with an exit service provider because members seeking a loan cancellation due to hardship can apply for a hardship release through Wyndham. Those who were denied release and contracted with an exit service provider, or those with pending litigation, will find the testimony interesting.
When asked about the percentage of owners who would be eligible for release through Wyndham’s dissolution program, Gamel stated “…over 99% of the inventory qualifies and if the owner is current in their maintenance fees and their mortgage is paid off, it’s literally just about everybody. So anybody that has called us in the last few years while this program has been active, we have taken those timeshares back.” He further went on to state, “If they qualify for the program everyone gets out.”
I have talked to those who own Wyndham (as I do), who tried to get out but did not “qualify”. When I researched the program I discovered:
A policy to exit a Wyndham contract is only a few years old at best.
To my knowledge, Wyndham doesn’t publish any qualification criteria. I am an owner. I have asked. They will not provide the specific policy criteria in writing or in a telephone conversation as to what is sufficient to “qualify”. If anyone has the qualification criteria of any developer, exchange program, etc., I would like to see and share it. It is my assessment “qualification” is a purely subjective determination made by Wyndham.
Contrary to my experiences and those I have talked to, more often than not, simply being current on maintenance fees and having no mortgage does not automatically result in the ability to exit/dissolution.
In my opinion, the entire effort is primarily a smoke screen created in response to increased consumer issues seen as threatening a very profitable business model while deflecting attention away from fixing the flaws in the product and its lack of a resale market.
Florida Representative Newton requested and was promised information to support Gamel’s assertions. I hope it will be made public.
Mr. McKelvey, representing ARDA ROC, also made some questionable comments that need to be rebuked. First, he claimed “most of the developers I know and certainly most of the timeshare managers I know, and I managed timeshare properties for thirty years… every single resort had a dissolution policy, every single (one). There was a way to get out. You had to come to your management company, and based on what the board of directors instructed us (the management company) to do in the terms if they had to pay a fee or if they had to be current, whatever those situations were, we did not have a one that did not have a dissolution policy and a hardship policy….”
Mr. McKelvey’s Defenders Resorts may have had a dissolution policy, but in no way can the statement be supported that all resorts have a dissolution policy.
McKelvey went on to imply dissolution policies are “passed by your board of directors.” These are not developers, these are board members elected to a board that have passed a certain dissolution policy. We send that (dissolution policy) to the directors, but we never get an answer.
There is much to challenge in McKelvey’s testimony:
I seriously question the validity of his claims related to the vast proliferation of dissolution policies.
There is a huge difference in “having a way to get out” and getting out.
Dissolution policies, contrary to what McKelvey implies, are the developer-controlled boards of the corporations and exchange trusts formed by the developers used in the developer’s affiliation (exchange) programs.
I find it incredible that legislators and consumer protection agencies fail to act on the realities encased by prior flawed and outdated legislation that permits the sale of perpetual contracts, on the twin legal fantasies that timeshares represent an interest in real estate, and the equally damaging “constructive notice”- a presumption purchasers are knowing of and accepting of all the contract provisions imposed. I know of no other consumer product that fits these twin categories and have produced so much wealth destruction. As I have said in the past, the properties of real estate have been stripped away from timeshares. Buyers own little more than a “membership” in a strange sort of country club that can cost $100,000 or more upfront with perpetual liabilities.
ARDA’s claim that it represents both the industry and the consumer needs to be debunked. Who are the true consumer advocates?
Thank you Mike for your opinion. Please voice your opinion on the Nevada link provided. Venting on complaint sites is easy and might make you feel better, but venting affects no change.
Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:
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.
There is a genuine Mundo Tours SAC, but this is registered in Lima Peru and is a genuine tour company, it has nothing to do with this operation in Spain. The paperwork sent to the client even has the logo of the genuine company at the top, including the company name as it appears on the genuine website. Again we see a fraudulent operation using the name of a genuine company to give some credibility when you do a search on the internet, this is a ploy that has been used for many years.
According to our information they tell the timeshare owner they have a buyer for the timeshare, this buyer has offered a substantial amount 27,000€ and is a guaranteed sale even naming the buyer! The only thing is to get the sale underway and sort out all the legal paperwork and transfer, a large sum of money is required. In the case of our reader, this amounted to 2,900€, which needed to be paid upfront!
Remember, as far as resales are concerned, there is no resale market, timeshares do not sell for the fantastic amounts these companies tell you, there are no “guaranteed” buyers. Just look on ebay, people can’t even give them away, even if they are fixed weeks and cheap on management fees!
Now on with our letter from America.
Americano Beach Resort – post Hurricanes Matthew and Irma
What does the Future Hold?
By Meryl Stefan
Introduction by Irene Parker
July 27, 2018
Inside Timeshare published our first Americano Beach Resort article June 19. Since then we have heard from several Americano owners wondering what their vacation future holds. Obviously, no developer benefits by keeping a resort closed unnecessarily. The issues at stake are complex for both sides.
ARC has a public website that provides construction updates. According to the website, work is progressing. The installation of new windows is underway. One major area of concern to owners is the possibility of additional special assessments. According to ARC FAQs, no additional special assessments are planned, but that uncertainty remains, especially for seniors on a fixed income.
We have been an Americano owner for 22 Years. One of our primary concerns is the special assessment of $1,834 levied because of hurricane damage and the possibility of future assessments. We can accept that increasemight have been necessary, but on top of possible additional special assessments, it’s too much for many seniors like usliving on a fixed income.
Hurricanes can’t be predicted, but I feel that by now ARC should have been able to determine how much money will be needed and how much owners will be required to pay. If this was a one time assessment of $1834, we would understand that there could be a shortfall in insurance. The ambiguity of possible unknown assessments has forced us to walk away because of not knowing the extent of the liability. In addition to the special assessment, we paid our 2018 maintenance fee, booked a week for June 2018, but then learned the reservation had been cancelled.
We originally paid $6,500 for a floating summer week. Maintenance fees in 2016 were $899. In 2017 they increased to $1,086. We never had a problem paying annual maintenance fees.We had always been able to book any week as long as it was 60 days in advance. I always paid my maintenance fees in January and then booked our week.
I am 65 years old, and my husband John is 75.We just don’t know what to do.We have always been responsible citizens. This is painful for us, and I know it is for many others as well. We had two other timeshares which we gave away to friends and family. We wanted to keep Americano so that we could vacation there every year with our family.
We attended one ARC meeting June 2017, after hurricane Matthew, but before Irma, after ARC acquired Americano. They tried to get us to buy into a different plan, which required more money. We declined. ARC agents wanted us to upgrade. They showed us many pictures, but the plans did not seem practical. We did not like the remodel proposed.
Comments from members,
We have heard nothing as far as an opening date other than possibly January 2019. One member reported that he had heard it could be a couple of years before it might open. New windows are being installed but nothing has been done on the inside as far as anyone knows.
Since June 1, there have been 72 units deeded back to the Association. Some who have deeded back are under non-disclosure agreements so cannot reveal the circumstances. Some claimed hardship, some are individuals who may have completed special warranty deeds and have submitted them to the court for filing.
The Freedom 365 plan (described below) has been purchased by some members, but other members have reported that they will not pay special assessments; although some have paid, hoping it will open.
Many Americano owners are senior citizens now. The majority just want out of their obligation. Some have hired attorneys but members should do due diligence before retaining any lawyer or timeshare exit company, as scams abound.
ARC has offered owners at all their resorts the opportunity to get out of the perpetual deeded timeshare by deeding the property over to ARC via the new Freedom 365 plan.
One owner reported that ARC Freedom 365 requires a purchase price ranging from $12,995 to $21,995. Another owner reported being quoted $5,000. For some seniors on a fixed income, spending more money is not a viable option. One member expressed reservations about Freedom 365, because she said she would need to book one year in advance. A member provided this description.
The Freedom 365 Platform gives you unlimited weeks of travel in timeshare accommodations for $299, any size, any season, anywhere. Additionally the ARC Platform gives you access to inventory not available through RCI or II at great rates!
Our future retirees love the fact that they will have travel dreams fulfilled in their retirement with our RENEWABLE CURRENCY (Savings Dollars)! A currency that not only allows them to get GUARANTEED best rates on hotels and cruises but restaurants, and thousands of everyday products and services!!
Additionally we offer the opportunity for you to discover Europe without paying for your accommodations through our Heritage Program!
Let’s take a look at your options. Do nothing, keep your unit, and in ten years you will pay over $12,000 (without inflation or assessments) and get 1 week of vacation every year. You will have an expensive week of vacation, a liability that will continue to get more expensive and difficult to opt out of.
Trade in your unit and replace them with the Freedom 365 platform and a Deed to a 2 bedroom at Magic Tree, our ARC resort in Orlando if you are interested in continuing to own a deed or have RCI points (the maintenance fee is $600 per year but is given back to you in Savings Dollars to use for future travel or to purchase products and services 365 Days a year)
Trade in your unit, have no deeded liability and use the unlimited weeks through Freedom 365 for $299 for all of your travel needs. Additionally you will enjoy $2000 savings dollars per year to travel to hotels, take cruises, purchase products, entertainment and even restaurant cards using your renewable currency.
ARC worked in cooperation with RCI Club 365 on ARC’s Freedom 365 plan:
The benefits of Club 365 are wide-ranging, with multiple uses for affiliates in North America. Club 365 can be seamlessly integrated into virtually any sales process, and can be utilized to best suit business needs by serving as:
A low-cost, value-added benefit to enhance core product offerings
An enhanced purchase incentive to increase closing rates
A strong non-buyer program to increase revenue and build the pipeline of future prospects
In addition, ARC sponsors a travel & leisure discount program called Freedom 365 which affords its members steep discounts on cruises, hotel & resort stays and consumer products. ARC Freedom 365 is not a deeded product, and the Member may remain so for as long as they like or may cancel their membership at any time.
Americano members are seeking answers they hope will be forthcoming. Posting answers to questions on the ARC website helped me understand the situation better. It looks like there is a long way to go, but progress is in the works. Owners hope to be able to vacation with families and friends as they have in the past.
If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help members sponsored Facebooks and websites. Remember not to pay anyone to get you out of your timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups below. Meryl paid two exit companies $395 each to get out of her timeshare, to no avail.
In this report, we look at all aspects of the timeshare process — from buying an initial property to attempts by businesses to sell consumers on vacation club memberships to consumer endeavors to divest themselves of their timeshare investments. BBB advises consumers to use extreme caution when considering the purchase of a timeshare or vacation club offering.
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.
Thank you Meryl and Irene, a very informative article, we just hope that some kind of resolution is forthcoming. Next week in our Tuesday Slot we highlight another Veterans “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this contributor has requested anonymity which we have agreed. We welcome our readers to submit their stories, we will always respect their wishes if they wish not to be named.
Well here we are again the end of another week, Friday and the weekend beckons, whatever you are doing, having a BBQ or just relaxing down at the beach or pool, have a great weekend and join us next week.
Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we report on two cases Diamond Resorts have lost in Tenerife, but first we look at the disturbing scenes at Tauro Beach over the weekend.
It has been well reported that Anfi had plans to transform the old shingle beach into a man made one with sand, build a marina and also several hotels with a shopping complex on the land behind. It turns out that part of the investigation into the beach found the sand had been illegally imported from the Western Sahara. (see link to The Guardian Article).
Now a company called Desokupa went in over the weekend and began demolishing the homes of those who live there. The reason is the land “belongs” to Anfi, who claim that these dwellings are illegal. Whether they are or not is not the point, considering that there are no planning permissions in place and the fact that the Anfi concession to run the beach is on hold while the Gran Canarian government apply to the courts to revoke the licenses. Should these demolitions have waited until the outcome?
Was there a court order which allowed Anfi to bring in the bulldozers?
All valid questions which will eventually be answered, but what we have lost is a little bit of old Gran Canaria and a very popular paradise spot, for locals and tourists alike. The bar Pio Pio is one of the most popular venues in the area at the weekend, with a wonderful atmosphere and great music. Is that now in danger!
Now for the court cases against Diamond Resorts and a look at timeshare law compared to other places.
Both these cases were heard at the High Court No 3, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, both were appeals on behalf of the British clients. These cases were originally held at the Courts of First Instance and unfortunately the clients lost those cases. These were heard before the Supreme Court in Madrid issued the numerous rulings (now 126) on how the timeshare laws should be interpreted and applied.
Before these rulings, different courts and judges interpreted the laws differently, no one actually knew how the laws should be applied. This is nothing unusual in legal work, laws are put into place, but it is not until they are tested and challenged are they effective, this is what the Supreme Court has done, issued a definitive interpretation.
In the first case, the client has been awarded over 19,000€ plus legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void.
In the second case held at the same court, over 30,000€ has been awarded plus legal interest, again the contract being declared null and void.
The court found several infringements of Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, (along with other relevant Consumer Laws), with contracts being over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of payments within the cooling off period. The court also found as per the rulings from Spain’s Highest Court that the contracts lacked any substance or tangible product as they were points based. These have been declared illegal in Spain. (See PDF’s below for the court sentences).
So how does Spain’s timeshare laws compare with elsewhere?
During the early days in Europe, timeshare was virtually unregulated, know one actually knew what it was, was it real estate, as that is how it was “sold” to the public, a share in your own holiday home, or was it purely a holiday product which was not an investment?
The free for all lasted some years, then the European Union issued the first of many Timeshare Directives, these were to try and regulate the industry, with the directives supposedly being put into the domestic laws of each member state. Basically all singing off the same hymn sheet!
In some countries, the directives were very much watered down, the industry trade body The RDO and the “representing” owners body TATOC, (now defunct), successfully lobbied the UK parliament and those laws are probably the weakest in Europe, they tend to be in favour of the industry not the consumer.
Spain on the other hand had a very different approach, which in some respects is not that surprising. Spain was one of the major places for timeshare development, they had just recently found freedom and democracy, with the country in dire need of development. The building of resorts and the tourist industry was one of the most important factors in this development.
The unfortunate thing is the free run timeshare developers had, timeshare was being sold even before the resorts were actually started, known as off plan. Many consumers got stung in these enterprises, with the resort they paid for never even getting built.
People on holiday were being picked up off the street left right and center, taken to sales presentations and coerced into parting with huge sums of money. Spain’s reputation as a great holiday destination was being sullied by these practices.
That all changed in December 1998, when the government introduced Law 42/98, based on the EU Timeshare Directives, but stronger. Spain was going to have the strongest laws in Europe and this was going to hurt the industry if they didn’t comply.
The law became effective on 5 January 1999, although they did allow a period where the timeshare companies could get their house in order and comply. One aspect of the law was regarding the duration of the contract, before, these were sold in perpetuity, there was no end date. The law now demanded that contracts be for a duration of a minimum 3 years and maximum of 50 years. Timeshare companies were allowed to place a deed of adaptation to all contracts sold before the law came into place, this allowed the pre 99 perpetuity contracts to remain, but all new sales must conform.
Many ignored this, on advice from their lawyers many continued to sell perpetuity, citing the deed of adaptation as the basis for carrying on. This obviously was one point that needed to be tested in the Supreme Court, but that would be many years ahead.
As a point of interest, there were two countries where timeshare laws only allowed for a maximum of 30 years on contracts, they are Madeira and Malta. Those had been put into place right at the start of timeshare development.
Another aspect of the law which Spain has put into place is the illegality of the Floating Weeks and Points systems. According the the Supreme Court they have ruled the timeshare law clearly states that any contract must have substance and tangibility, in other words the guarantee of the apartment and the week being sold. Floating weeks and points do not do this, you only have a right to use subject to availability.
So how does this compare with our friends experience across the Great Lake in the US?
Well from the many articles we have published on Inside Timeshare, they are sadly lacking any control or real consumer protection, it is pot luck which State you have purchased as to what protection you have. There appear to be no Federal Laws governing the sale of timeshare.
In Europe we have the 14 day cooling off period, where no payments should be taken and the consumer has the right to cancel, in some States we have been informed this can be as little as 3 days!
From what we have published, there are so many different agencies and authorities for the consumer to turn to, from Attorneys General (that depends on which State you are in) to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI. (See link below on filing a complaint).
We are seeing many complaints coming into Inside Timeshare on the practises of sales agents, which the timeshare companies seem to condone. There needs to be regulations to govern what is acceptable and what is not, these should be right across the board so that no matter which State you purchase in, the rules are the same for all.
Canada is preparing new legislation on the regulation of timeshare, we hope to bring you news of this from our Canadian readers in the near future.
South Africa is also pushing for changes, there have been several high profile cases against the timeshare industry, resulting in jail time and massive fines. It will not be long before they also have some of the strongest laws regulating timeshare in the world.
In Australia, there is also a move to regulate the timeshare industry, we have published in the past a couple of articles on timeshare down under. Again we wait for our Antipedian friends to submit their articles.
There is nothing wrong with the concept of timeshare, it may not suit everybody, after all we are all different, but it is how it is sold and administered that is the problem. For too long the industry has and in many cases, the US in particular, still carries on as though they are untouchable.
Diamond believed this in Spain, these cases highlighted today and those in the past along with the many more waiting to be heard, are letting them know that they are not above the law and will be curbed and brought to justice. Consumer protection is paramount in any industry, after all it is the consumer’s money that keeps any company afloat!
If you have any comments on this or any other article, then use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes them.
Are you being contacted by different companies offering claims or relinquishments? If so and you are not sure if they are genuine and will do what they say, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you look for the information and point you in the right direction.
Tomorrow we publish an article by a new contributor, Diane Creager and titled Elder Advocates, so join us tomorrow and welcome Diane.
Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America, Irene Parker continues our theme of “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, with this latest article about the treatment of “Seniors” by the timeshare industry. This article edited by Irene is from another new contributor Jang Park.
But first the latest breaking news from Europe.
Legal history has once again been made in Spain, the Supreme Court has issued another two judgements, numbers 121 & 122. These cases again involved the Tenerife timeshare operator Silverpoint, who has figured in a huge number of cases in the past year. They are also losing on an almost daily basis in the lower courts in Tenerife, this is a result of years of malpractice in the sales of their timeshare product which has seen hundreds of consumers lose thousands of Euros each. (See yesterday’s article, Silverpoint in the Courts: Criminal Action Vs Civil Action).
This weeks court figures are what can only be described as impressive, along with the two Supreme Court results there has also been the following:
In the High Court number 3 of Santa Cruz, Tenerife, this court upheld the previous sentence from the Court of First Instance in Granadilla de Abona, which Diamond appealed.
In the Court of First Instance in Granadilla de Abona, Tenerife the client has been awarded over 24,000€, which also includes double the deposit illegally taken within the cooling off period. This particular case is interesting in that the company named is Sunterra Tenerife Sales SL, but under Spanish law Diamond are liable as they took over Sunterra members when buying out Sunterra years ago.
As usual all the contracts have also been declared null and void, leaving all clients timeshare free.
In all that is an incredible NINETEEN victories, totaling a massive 851,215.00€. This can only be described as a very expensive week for timeshare in the Canary Islands.
These cases were brought on behalf of these clients by the Gran Canarian law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. This does prove that despite what the industry is trying to tell people, these cases are genuine and the timeshare industry is losing.
Below is a video from a Spanish news program aired in December 2017 by TVE, which is the major state owned television station in Spain. It explains the Anfi appeal at the Supreme Court against a High Court ruling which they lost on the illegal taking of deposits. The Supreme Court rejected the Anfi argument that it did not take the deposits as these were paid to a third party. The Supreme Court rejected this appeal as the law clearly states that no money is to be taken within the cooling off period, even by a third party. (Law 42/98 Article 11 & Law 4/12 Article 13).
The video is in Spanish and is subtitled in English, it also has a short interview with Eva Gutierrez a lawyer from Canarian Legal Alliance.
This association is to be totally independent of the timeshare industry, it does represent those who own outright their properties abroad, so let us hope they will be more effective in protecting timeshare owners and helping to change the industry for the better.
Now for our Letter from America.
Another Senior Couple, Age 82, Driven into Timeshare Foreclosure
By Jang Park
June 15, 2018
I am 82 years old, a California resident and a Korean American since 1978. I worked for a steamship company as an owner representative.
I submitted my complaint to my timeshare company March 31, 2018. I received a refusal from the company yesterday, June 13, 2018. I have asked Inside Timeshare to help me prepare an article to warn other seniors. I was a deeded owner for almost 20 years.We were happy with our timeshare.
We were willing to remain a timeshare member with this company if our last contract for 5,000 points, for which we paid $20,000, would be cancelled. We strongly feel these points were sold by deception. Now we have to seek the help of an attorney or foreclose, but will work through Inside Timeshare to make sure we talk to the right people. We understand there are a lot of scams that offer to get you out of your timeshare but don’t. I will be filing the following complaints assisted by advocates. I have been told there is no charge to me for this assistance.
I have learned through the advocacy group we are the sixth member to complain against this same California timeshare sales agent. I am #6.
RB, a veteran “We upgraded in California ONLY because this sales agent said our heirs would not be liable for maintenance fees if we gave up our deed. The sales agent said he used to be a financial advisor. We bought 15,000 points for no other reason. We now know that the survivor benefit already existed. We lost $13,000.
RB worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison. “I know, but when you buy cars and houses all your life, you don’t expect the real estate agent sitting across from you to be a bold faced liar,” he remarked.
The agent said he would have to look at our contract, but our heirs would likely be responsible for the timeshare. I told him I would be willing to hire an attorney to fight that. He indicated it would be futile to do so as my timeshare company has top notch attorneys and we would not be able to win the case.He then said if we upgraded by buying 15,000 more points, we could avoid those issues. He also said the contract would be an annually renewable contract that we could walk away from at some future time.
We were led to believe we could pay all our maintenance fees by opening their credit card and charging purchases. We later learned we would receive only $50 credit for qualified purchased for every $5,000.
Compliant #2 Ages 70 and 68 (resolved)
JM, Disabled Vietnam Veteran
First points purchased June 27, 2012
10,000 additional points purchased for $12,500
15,000 additional points purchased for $13,903
Number of points per contract: 30,000
Original Loan Amount: $49,900 @ 12.2441%
We feel we were deceived by the sales staff. We had been deeded owners since 2001.
On 1/13/2017, we were asked to purchase a trial package. This sales agentadvised us that our additional 15,000 points combined with our original 15,000 points would be worth $9,000. Hestated that the value of our points could be applied to pay our maintenance fees. We learned only some members can pay maintenance fees with points at only $.04 per point. He stated that we could take any points we did not use and apply them towards our maintenance fees. He then spoke of the opportunity to earn an additional $2,700 towards our maintenance fees by using the Barclay Credit Card. We learned we would have to charge over $270,000 annually to earn $2,700 towards our maintenance fees.
The sales agent said that with the few points we owned we would be stuck with the contract as well as our heirs, but said if we upgraded, our heirs would be released. He said there would be a letter in our packet stating this. There was no letter.
We were told that the bank would contact us with an interest rate change to 6% from the contracted amount of 12.2441%. That did not happen.
In a phone call they said they had no reason to cancel our contract and that we never mentioned being told that we could sell our points to pay for maintenance fees.
The 6/26/17 written response from the company not marked confidential.
You were in fact properly advised on the fee structure of your ownership per your contract. The findings also went on to confirm through the use of Barclays and the use of Member benefits you can reduce or apply redemption gained back by your choice to your maintenance cost. They found an area of miscommunication regarding your heirs being liable. The information conveyed (but in contradiction to the sales agent) explained that no one is bound to ownership. The on-going correspondence referenced has been forwarded and we have now provided you with a summary of those correspondences in the details aforementioned. Please feel free again to let any of us or myself of course know any other questions you might have.
Complaint #3 GB
7000 points purchased August 2016
Purchase price: $22,975.20
I told this CA sales agent I wanted to sell our timeshare points online to pay for the maintenance fees and loan payment. He said it wasn’t allowed but he would privately show me how to do this and gave me his cell number. I called numerous times and he never answered. He told us when we upgraded we would have access to multi-million dollar homes. He said we could rent those for a week @ $10.000 and he would show me how when I called his cell.
Complaint #4 AP
1500 points purchased for $6,975 at an October 2016
The presenter said we were not full members and we should have received a letterto go to full membership.We never received a letter. He then gave us an option of a deal that would only be good right then but we would have to buy 1500 more points to become full members. He made this seem like a huge deal because upper management would not want to give us this deal but they were working with us so that we would be happy. He informed us that what we had was worth nothing now and we would have to upgrade to be able to use any benefits.
#5 DT, over 85 years old
40,000 points purchased December 2017 for $116,400
Amount financed: $93,870
Maintenance fees $13,000
At the December meeting we were told we could pay all our maintenance fees turning in points. When we contacted the company we were told that we could only pay $2,000 of the maintenance fees turning in 50,000 points.
We were told we could give it up and walk away if we purchased more points.
I am complaint #6 against this same sales agent
I purchased 5000 points for $20,000. The California sales agent told me I could pay maintenance fees by redeeming points at $.20 per point through the 20/20 program. I confirmed this more than five times with his agreeing when I said there should be some $250 left over after paying our new maintenance fees of about $2,800 with his writing down on the working paper, which he refused to give me after the presentation when I asked.
He said if we get their sponsored Visa Card, they will put $1,000 cash to our credit card account as an Honored Member. When we said we will have two cards, each for me and wife, he said $500.00 of cash will be credited to each account. It was not so important benefit compared with above no. 1, but was found a lie.
The sales agent said we can exit from Timeshare Ownership at any time without any obligation, which his manager confirmed true.
In 2015 we gave up our deeded timeshare. We were told there is no cap on maintenance fees for people who hold a deed. This was not true. We were told there is a 5% cap on maintenance fees increases for points if we gave up our deed. This is not true. We purchased 10,000 points. The sales agent said we could sell the points if we needed to. He gave me the name of a company that could sell the timeshare if we needed to.
The agent said it is almost impossible to sell a deeded timeshare, but timeshare points can be sold easily for about $15,000. He checked with IPhone and gave the following companies to me:
Steve Likins – Hilton Head & timeshare sales, 843-816-1900
Jimmy ; 706-839-7798
Timeshare Resale USA.com; 407 345 9333
We tried to sell our timeshare, and attended about five times, timeshare exit companies’ presentation, but we found all of them asked some fees to get exit.
Thank you to Mr. Park and to all members hoping the public gets the Buyer Beware and do your homework message.
Thank you Jang for your story, it is one we have become so familiar with over the past year or so, ever since we highlighted our first seniors article, we have been receiving a constant stream of similar complaints.
As we have said before, the industry is destroying itself by allowing their employees to lie and cheat, then take no responsibility for those actions. We keep hearing from all quarters, “ We are not responsible for what our sales agent say”. That is the weakest get out imaginable, they are your employees, they are selling your product, they represent your company. It is about time you as an industry took responsibility and changed for the better.
Timeshare could be a good product, the complaints are around the sales not the resorts, accommodation or the resort staff, in this area it looks like the vast majority are happy owners / members.
We are not against business, but we are against business purely for greed, which is what the timeshare industry has turned into.
If you have any comments or questions about any subject in this article or any others published, then use the contact page and get in touch. If you are from the US you will be passed to our team coordinated by Irene. For those in Europe then you will be contacted directly from Inside Timeshare.
As usual we warn you to be vigilant when dealing with any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet, do your homework, check, check and check again. If you are unsure how to check, or you are not sure if what you are seeing is true, then contact Inside Timeshare, we are here to help and guide.
That’s it for this week, Friday is here, happy hour is calling, so have a good weekend and join us for more news from the world of timeshare next week.
Back in June 2016 Inside Timeshare published the following article, it started with a “Spoof” Trade Body which Inside Timeshare had just become a member of. Due to some of the articles we have published recently it was decided to republish this article as a warning that even “Trade Bodies” cannot be relied upon to give consumers the best advice or even tell the truth. (The article has also been amended from the original).
Although the article starts with some humour the message is very real, we hope that you enjoy reading it.
Inside Timeshare is proud to announce that it has been invited to become a member of the prestigious trade body EGTBW. This is the European Guild of Timeshare Blog Writers, it is affiliated to the IATBWG, the International Association of Timeshare Blog Writers Guilds.
Becoming a member means that Inside Timeshare must adhere to the Code of Conduct and Ethics of this Organisation.
Members must not attack, make detrimental comments or otherwise demean any organisation that is a member or affiliated to EGTBW or IATBWG.
Members must adhere to the laws of the EU, or the country of registration. Unless we can get away with it.
The EGTBW and IATBWG will not mediate in any dispute between a member and non-members.
If any organisation or entity has a complaint about a member of this organisation it must be taken directly to the member concerned.
Any member may lie or spread false information about any non-member, citing freedom of speech and expression.
If any action is taken against a member, both organisations will fully support that member, no matter what it has done wrong.
Members may display both the EGTBW and IATBWG logos on all promotional material, correspondence and websites.
This Logo is a sign of quality and is a kite mark of excellence.
So there we have it Inside Timeshare has paid its £20,000 a year membership fee for the full protection and backup of these prestigious organisations. It now means we can do what the hell we like, so there!
If this was not a joke it would be farcical but unfortunately this is all too real in timeshare. On a daily basis we see owners and members being treated in the most disrespectful manner, we have also seen numerous court cases against the timeshare industry for breaking legislation.
There is an organisation that is supposed to be the trade body of this industry The RDO, (In the US it is ARDA), but it is its own members that are breaking the rules. What do they do about it? Not a sausage.
This organisations own code of conduct states that members should adhere to any legislation and laws regarding the sale of timeshare. Yet we see illegal contracts still being sold, deposits being taken on the day, all in breach of EU Directives which are supposed to be in each member state’s laws.
The industry funds this organisation and it does its bidding, it will not even investigate its members when a complaint is made by an owner or member. They say that you must deal with your own resort/company.
They also believe that the press does not research the stories they publish, creating even more of a slur on the industry. Following is a direct quote from their own website under why join the RDO:
“Vacation ownership has been the victim of poorly researched press attention. These articles and broadcasts can cause serious and lasting damage to the reputation of the industry. RDO works on behalf of vacation ownership companies to clear up any misinformation, accusations of sharp business practices and to actively encourage the education of journalists and travel bloggers.”
“We believe that this work directly benefits all businesses in the industry by maintaining buyer confidence in holiday ownership. Additionally, RDO members have the added marketing advantage of being able to display the RDO logo on their marketing material. The RDO logo is a Kite Mark of quality for the holiday ownership industry and enables RDO Members to offer additional peace of mind to their customers.”
So a prestigious journalist such as Tony Hetherington has poorly researched his articles. (It must be pointed out thatMacDonald Resorts have not been RDO members since 2005, but these articles highlight a problem that is rampant throughout the industry).
On another point, there have been numerous rulings made by the Spanish Supreme Court regarding the timeshare laws, Anfi (an RDO member) have been on the receiving end of these rulings, having contracts declared null and void and huge amounts having to be repaid to consumers. Anfi believe the court has got it wrong, the RDO it seems agrees with them!
For many, timeshare has become a burden, the membership base is aging, new younger members are not being attracted to the concept, hence many sales offices are closing and staff being laid off. Yet those that want to get out of their membership are being held to “ransom”, they can’t sell (no resale market) and can’t get out without paying huge amounts for the privilege.
What does the RDO do about this problem of getting out of the timeshare?
It enhances its “Code of Conduct” for so-called “legacy” cases, or those sold in perpetuity. The rules are not really very helpful and are as follows:
In the event of the death of a joint owner, the surviving owner can surrender their timeshare if they wish and additionally, the beneficiaries of a will are not obliged to take on the timeshare if they do not wish to do so.
A timeshare owner who has been declared bankrupt may hand back the timeshare without charge.
If a sole owner or either of the joint owners is suffering from a long-term illness that prevents them from travelling to their resort for the foreseeable future, the timeshare interest may be surrendered.
In all other cases, an owner may surrender their timeshare interest at any time, subject to the agreement of the RDO member. In such cases any surrender fee shall not exceed a sum equivalent to 3 years current maintenance fees.
(Notice it states “Subject to the agreement”)
As the industry trade body, should not the RDO back up these owners and make sure their members act in an ethical manner.
No surprise here, they back the RDO plans to the hilt, after all they are funded by RDO members who pay them to be members of TATOC, all so they can display this organisation’s logo. Oh sorry, it is another sign of prestige, you can trust us we are members of The RDO and TATOC; just look at our logos!
Since this article was first published TATOC has now been totally discredited and forced into bankruptcy. (Search TATOC in the search bar for previous articles). For years this organisation run by the infamous “Harry or is it Henry” Taylor, duped timeshare owners into believing that it was a credible organisation out to protect timeshare owners. It has now been proven that this was not in fact the case, in fact TATOC’s backing of MacDonald Resorts move to transfer their fixed week owners to the infamous points system and become members of a vacation club rather than owners, is a prime example.
We started this article with a spoof, the only thing is this spoof is real when it comes to timeshare. The industry is in decline, its reputation has been sullied, it only has itself to blame, the past greed and belief that they could get away with anything has finally caught up with it. Consumers no longer believe the “sales pitch”, they can see it is not value for money, members see their resorts being rented out to non members on the internet, usually for less than their maintenance fees. Yet the industry and the Trade Bodies cannot see the writing on the wall because they still believe they are right!
Inside Timeshare will continue to highlight any bad practice and report any news within the world of timeshare. If you have any questions regarding your ownership/membership, or need to know which company to deal with, contact Inside Timeshare and we will get back to you.
Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.
Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.
Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.
This was a great blow to the RDO, as Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?
Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.
Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.
February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s“Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.
Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the Anfi “Tauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.
This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.
Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.
Another story we have been following is that of Los Clavelesin Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.
There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.
In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.
This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.
After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!
There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.
But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.
On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.
There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.
Now for the year from a US perspective.
What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what
I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016
Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.
Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.
Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.
We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.
April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.
This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.
I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.
Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates
Timeshare Lawsuits 2017
By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016
Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:
The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:
Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.
Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?
WestgateUpdate 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegelwas seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.
“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.
The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneidermanmanaged to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.
Back in 2016
Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.
“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point. The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed. But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016
Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.
“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.”Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.
Diamond Resorts Update:A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.
A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:
Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
I don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,
People are listening!
Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:
⦁ A legitimate secondary market
⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling
⦁ Less predatory lending
Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.
So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.
Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.
Welcome to the first Tuesday Slot with Irene of December, this week Irene gives an update on an article from October, but first some important news from Europe.
Last week Inside Timeshare had some unconfirmed news on a raid in Tenerife, which we did not publish, this was against the offices of Mark Rowe’s enterprise there. This week news came out of raids at his businesses in the UK By Trading Standards, so this could just verify the Tenerife news.
This raid follows an investigation by the “Scambuster Team” of Trading Standards, offices of around 22 Mark Rowe companies were searched, employees questioned and documents removed for further investigation and as evidence if any criminal charges are brought.
It looks like we will have to wait until the new year before we know the outcome, this follows the news last month of another enterprise EZE Group, where the directors and owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates of “Aggressive” sales tactics and “Coercion” with their product “EZE Credits”. They are to appear at Crown Court on 15 December, whether they will be sentenced then or just remanded on bail until the New Year remains to be seen.
In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARSTIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program. “Consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits,” announced TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel.
The limited deed/limited fun program is geared toward fixed week resorts, but the same strategy could be implemented by major timeshare point sellers, solving the problem a timeshare owner faces when life changes and now they own a vacation product they don’t want, they can’t afford, and can’t sell. TARS could eventually neutralize resale and listing scams. Scam revenue would turn into new buyer revenue which would be a win-win for everyone except the scammers.
Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 223 readers (176 when the October 26 article was published). Members sometimes describe catastrophic financial distress when denied a release.
I asked Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberté Management Group of Companies and Chairman of TARS to provide an example of how the limited deed works. “The TARs program offers the member an option to purchase a limited term deed for five or ten years. The term will be the decision of the Associations, but we would not recommend any term less than three years. We feel the five year plan best suits the Association and the owners. The design is to utilize the units’ maintenance fee costs with an increase annually to make the tax repercussions better for the Association – a major savings, but each unit in each resort would be different,” Dennis explained.
The example Dennis provided was for a Voyager unit with an annual Maintenance fee of $510. A five year limited deed could be purchased for $6,000. The now former perpetual deed owner becomes a limited deed owner. At the end of five years the term is up and the unit reverts back to the HOA.
At this point skeptics raise their eyebrows. Wait! A $510 annual maintenance fee turns into $1,200 a year or $171 a night for a seven night stay? The Liberté website offers a one bedroom gulf view for $1,053 a week. So the limited deed would cost the member $735 ($1,200 – $1,053 = $147 x 5 years).
One timeshare insider suspects it’s a crafty upfront scam. I know Dennis and Martin Kandel so I have no concerns there. Another insider I contacted voiced a concern about what would happen if TARS went out of business. Liberté has been in business 35 years managing seven fixed week resorts and brokers resales and rentals as well. Liberté is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.
Dennis received a great congratulation from one timeshare advocacy organization, told this can be a huge positive change for the industry. Dennis also spoke with Robert Follisat the Florida Attorney General’s office who also saw the program as a solution to many problems.
When I called Voyager, I spoke with M J Hassall, also with Liberté, who expressed great enthusiasm. “Every owner is unique so we provide a one on one presentation. One obstacle is convincing owners this is not just another ruse to get them to buy more weeks. This really is important information they need to know about. We have presented the plan to about 15 members with about 50 percent in favor of the program,” explained M J.
“In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an a la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. One of the partners is Let’s Go N Travel,”M J added.
This led me to Let’s Go N Travel which will be the subject of January’s monthly TARS update. I spoke with Chip Langdon at Let’s Go N Travel. Chip described Let’s Go as a Vacation Club boasting 450,000 members. More on how this fits in with TARS later.
TARS provides a new way to address old problems (www.tarserv.com) in an effort to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program. This would seem a concept owners need to wrap their heads around, as they may not have yet thought about an exit or even if they need one.
Thank you to all at TARS for their help as we learn more about this evolving program. As a former deeded fixed week owner, I can see spending the extra money on something I enjoyed for 30 years, paying an extra $735 spread out over five years to be done with it without the hassle of dodging scams or waiting for an over supplied product to sell. As with any product, if it meets the needs of the consumer, it will sell itself. Timeshare does not sell itself. It is product that has to be “sold” and often requires six to eight hours of brow beating, “pitching heat” and deceit, according to 220 of our readers. We hope, working with developers, such tactics will diminish. We know there are good timeshare sales agents out there selling the product the way it should be sold. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney for their scarce complaint record.
Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to follow along as TARS progresses. I still need to call my favorite fixed week timeshare people at Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.
At least this provides a positive topic members and developers can agree on – the need for an honest timeshare exit to shut off the scam valve.
Irene will be keeping us updated on a monthly basis on TARS Limited Term Deed Program, could it be that there is some honesty in this industry called timeshare? Only time will tell.
Other news coming in from the US is the link up between ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) and Europe’s RDO (Resorts Development Association). It has been rumoured for sometime that the RDO is what you might call “strapped for cash”, well they have this year lost one of their major members, Silverpoint. Could this link up be the saviour of them?
Kwikchex has also laid out the scope of its new mission, running the “Timeshare Helpline”, on behalf of the RDO, which replaces the disgraced and bankrupt TATOC. As we know TATOC was supposed to be an independent body representing timeshare owners through their committees, but under the leadership of Harry Taylor, they did the bidding of their benefactors. These benefactors were the industry and RDO members.
So the question is if the new helpline is run by Kwikchex and the Timeshare Task Force, paid for by the RDO, how can it be independent and on the side of the consumer?
Have Trading Standards and other Authorities been taken in by them, the same way as Citizens Advice Bureau were taken in by TATOC?
Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to draw your own conclusions.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
Following on from the news that TATOC is no more, the latest news is that TATOC Consumer Helpline Ltd has also been wound up, when more comes in we’ll publish it here. If you have tried to access the TATOC website, you will have noticed that it no longer comes up, confirmation that TATOC and Harry Taylor are truly gone, although we wonder if any of his old allies (MacDonald Resorts) will be offering him a job?
On the story published yesterday regarding the sand on Tauro Beach, The Canary News has also published a full in depth report. It not only looks at the controversy surrounding the importation of sand from the Western Sahara, it also has a very good introduction to the history of this region.
Now it is August, the courts have closed down for the month, so there will be no news emanating from there. Good news for the timeshare companies! But it is guaranteed that come September there will be a flurry of sentences being announced.
It is also a time for the new “scams” to start getting ready for the Autumn and Winter season, the new company names and websites will soon be surfacing along with some of the old names that will be resurrected. So be warned, do your homework first, check and recheck, these scams are getting very sophisticated, you only have to see the articles on Litigious Abogados and their family of firms. If in doubt or not sure how to check, then contact Inside Timeshare.
Welk Resorts sues Timeshare Exit Team for Racketeering
Right To Use timeshare programs need a secondary market
By Irene Parker
August 2, 2017
Welk Resort of Lawrence Welk fame has sued Timeshare Exit Team for racketeering. Once again, the lack of a secondary market forces beleaguered timeshare members into the nets of alleged unscrupulous transfer agents when a resort provides no exit for members sold a timeshare contract in perpetuity.
First, a hat’s off to Lawrence Welk, a big band great that kept early American households riveted to their seats for over 20 years. To this day the Welk resort is a family friendly resort that knows how to run a business. My husband and I stayed at a Welk Resort in California. It was one of our most memorable timeshare vacation experiences.
Inside Timeshare has received a volume of reader responses alarmed that there often is no way out of a timeshare contract. ARDA and the industry have lauded timeshares evolution towards a right to use product and have stated members should not expect value back when they seek release from a right to use timeshare.
The problem with ARDA’s“see no evil, hear no evil” position is – about 90% of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received, have loans attached and many allege they were duped into signing off on high interest rate loans and credit cards. Voluntary surrender or “take-back” programs require the member be free of loan encumbrances. In addition, voluntary surrenders are never guaranteed.
Mr. Howard Nusbaum, President and CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), was quoted in a June 2014 RedWeek article in reference to the lack of a viable timeshare resale market, “This is a legacy problem. People buying a timeshare today are buying it from multisite clubs that have management forever and sales teams forever, so the ability to recycle inventory will not be a problem in the future.”
Timeshare Exit Team Response to the Welk Resort lawsuit
Response from Brandon Reed, founder and CEO of Timeshare Exit Team:
Timeshare Exit Team learned of this matter through a media release distributed by Welk Resorts on July 26, 2017. Following the news being publicly distributed, we were formally served on July 27th, 2017, and intend to present a vigorous defense to these claims. We would also like to inform consumers that the meritless lawsuit and inaccurate accusations therein will not dissuade our team from continuing to advocate for consumers.
I’m proud of the service we offer and of the company we have built. Timeshare Exit Team has built an unparalleled in-house team, leveraging effective outside resources as needed, to assess each customer’s unique situation and to provide them with qualified, thorough, and trusted management of their issues.
The Welk Resort lawsuit v Timeshare Exit Team reported by Business Wire
“SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Welk Resorts, developer of family-friendly vacation resorts, has filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California against Reid Hein & Associates, operating as “Timeshare Exit Team,” and law firms in two states for allegedly operating a nationwide racketeering scheme to induce vacation owners to disrupt Welk’s contractual relationships with its vacation owners, causing breach of contracts, delinquencies and defaults that damaged Welk, the vacation owner association and vacation owners.”
“The suit cites fraudulent racketeering activity, intentional interference with contractual relations, and violations of the California unfair competition law, California Vacation Ownership and Time-Share Act, California False Advertising Law and the state “Running and Capping” Law. The latter makes it illegal for non-attorney agents to obtain business for an attorney or law firm for compensation, or solicit others to engage in running and capping.”
Timeshare Exit Team charged fees of $5,000 and more for this “service.”
Timeshare Exit Team fulfills an HOA Collections Agent’s Prediction – Previously Reported by Inside Timeshare
Kristi, a Home Owners Association timeshare collection agent I interviewed back in March of 2017, complained of lawyers transferring timeshare contracts to fictitious persons or LLCs. Some things are universal. Charles Thomas has been reporting on a recurring “Litigious Abogados” theme. Inside Timeshare is published in Spain.
As reported by Inside Timeshare in our interview with Kristi:
Irene: Are you familiar with Timeshare Exit Team? One of their agents contacted me and asked me to review their program. What is your opinion of this firm?
Kristi: I would never endorse or advise anyone to use their services ever!! They specialize and advertise “Cancellation of Timeshare Contracts” but we don’t have contracts. We have deeds. We have chosen not to do business with Timeshare Exit Team because of their inability to follow our procedures and because of the quality of work previously sent to us.
Timeshare Exit Team has been involved with two other timeshare resale companies and/or timeshare attorneys that were involved with transferring 18 of our deeds since 2014 to four individuals that have never paid the dues and are delinquent in the amount of over $18,000. Out of the four individuals we were able to track, we learned that they are all associated with each other thru business dealings, contract employees or registered agents. They must assume that the association will eventually foreclose or take the property back but it is very costly to foreclose and we do not accept property back.
Here are ARDA–ROC’s (Resort Owners Coalition) eight tips for selling your timeshare and how they apply or do not apply to Diamond Resort members. This is what I have learned since trying to sell my Diamond right to use points.
Know what you own – Most own non-deeded right-to-use points
Consult your resort – Diamond’s Advocacy Department has helped some members but others have had to seek legal assistance when denied relinquishment. Tracking our reader outcomes thus far – 29 out of 77 report positive outcomes.
Sell it yourself – member supported Facebook pages seem to be the best option, but complaints abound that “no one wants it.”
Generate income by renting. Diamond Resorts does not allow renting through a third party website. “Use by a Member of public advertising or an online website to seek renters shall be deemed a prohibited commercial use.”
Lela Renea, a Bluegreen timeshare member, contacted Inside Timeshare about her battle with Timeshare Exit Team after they appear to have stonewalled her. Since Lela is in the middle of negotiations, she did not want to elaborate on the distress she feels, attempting to resolve her Timeshare Exit Team concerns – suffice to say she had reason to reach out to Inside Timeshare. We will be reporting as to whether Bluegreen will come to her rescue or allow her to fall to the mercy of Timeshare Exit Team.
Despite the customer loyalty and lack of complaints we reported last week among Disney deeded timeshare owners, with access to resale and rental options, right to use non-deeded timeshare programs continue to ignore the growing problems caused by perpetual contracts not able to be sold, rented or relinquished.
Welk Resorts back in the day was a fixed week timeshare but has converted to a right to use non deeded program. A life change like a job loss or illness, rendering the timeshare unaffordable, is as much a problem for members of right to use programs as it is for legacy resorts.
We hope someday, someone in the industry or ARDA will see that throwing up roadblocks to a secondary market is a detriment for all. As we reported last week, timeshare attorney Mike Finn has never had a Disney client and it is unlikely Timeshare Exit Team has ever had a Disney client either.
Some answers are so logical and simple, they cannot possibly be understood.
Once again thank you to Irene, who explains the timeshare world across the great lake, as you will have noticed there is very little difference to the problems that owners / members face.
So there we have it, half way through the week and a couple of hard hitting stories, we’ll be keeping an eye on the Tauro Beach story and will bring you the latest as it surfaces. Remember, beware the scam artists, do your homework, check and check again, it will save you a lot of money and stress in the long run.