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The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees

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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.

Chris Emmins

So who do the consumers have to turn to?

At one time many believe that it was TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, but as we know that organisation has fallen by the wayside. It was also funded by the industry and the then CEO Harry Taylor instead of protecting timeshare consumers was very much on the side of the industry.

Recently the RDO announced a new organisation for owners, EUROC, or European Resort Owners Coalition. Yes, you have guessed it, the European equivalent of ARDA ROC from the US.

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.

Friday’s Letter from America: End of Year Review

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.

It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare.

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?

tribunal supremo

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 AnfiTauro 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 Claveles in 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.

This same month also saw a very big shake up in timeshare, TATOC, (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees). This was run by one Harry Taylor, who was very much a mouthpiece for the industry rather than those who his organisation purported to represent.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor for $30,000 Published May 2017

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.

CLA Logo

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

2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

By Irene Parker

December 29, 2017

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.  

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

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.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

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.

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

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

2017

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:

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+fraud&op=Search&affiliate=justice

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:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

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?

conference

 Westgate Update 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegel was 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.  

trump

Here is King David’s house

https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/03/09/the-queen-of-versailles-jackie-siegel-i-may-want-a.html

But back in 2016

“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

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is investigating Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Wyndham $20 Million

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.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneiderman managed 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

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

 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.  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

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:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

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.

holI 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.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

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

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.

TATOC Gone: Kwikchex Set Up New Helpline

So that is the end of TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees or the so called Timeshare Association, it is now official that as of 20 July 2017 they are now in official receivership. Harry Taylor and his little empire is no longer, they were unable or unwilling to pay off their debts, according  to TESS who brought the action, the court asked three very simple questions:

  1. “Have you paid your debts”?
  2. “Will you be able to pay your debts”?
  3. “Do you intend to pay your debts”?

As the answer was NO, the court had no other option than to place TATOC in the hands of the Official Receiver.

man_debts
Wonder who this is?

This will be a big blow to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) who at the beginning of the year during the TATOC conference presented Harry Taylor with a cheque for $30,000 as a contribution for the TATOC helpline.

We have reported before that TATOC was not really on the side of the consumer, how could it be? It was funded by the very industry the consumer had problems with!

Just look at the relationship Harry Taylor and his TATOC team had with MacDonald Resorts, a company that even the RDO had not had any relationship with since 2005!

MacDonald Resorts pursued an aggressive policy of taking over fixed weeks, converting those owners to the points system, which even owners did not want. Harry Taylor ran a campaign stating that this was the best way forward, that it was in the best interests of the owners.

Harry Taylor
Bye Bye Harry and good riddance!

The question is how was it in the best interests of the owners? By changing to the points system from their fixed weeks, which gave them very strong rights, they effectively gave control of the resorts to MacDonald’s. Overnight they changed from being owners with the right to set maintenance fees, employ the management company and basically run their resort, to mere members with no rights whatsoever. Just the right to use subject to availability.

It now transpires that Kwikchex has set up a consumer helpline of their own, this has been announced by the RDO on 24 July. This seems to be part of the Timeshare Task Force, the question is how will this be independent advice considering that they are also funded by the RDO?

task force
The Timeshare Task Force!!!!!

According to the RDO announcement this new consumer helpline will be offering assistance and advice about any company that is not an RDO member. What about offering assistance and advice about their own members, after all most of the problems are with the resorts and developers themselves.

The fact that owners / members who are having problems with their own resorts are left on their own as the RDO will not intervene in any dispute, this leaves those owners with nowhere to turn. This in itself leads to those unscrupulous companies to feed off the vulnerability of owners who either want to sell or just want to get out of their timeshare. The industry itself has created the “scam” market because of it’s own inability to deal with the issues, disputes and resale markets that owners need. Their own greed has been their downfall!

For years, timeshare has been sold, especially in Spain, with total disregard for the laws set in place to protect consumers, this has resulted in hundreds of court cases,along with Supreme Court rulings enforcing the laws that they have themselves flouted. Only last week, a recent ex-member of the RDO, Resort Properties / Silverpoint had five rulings against them in one day.

The RDO themselves have backed up the resorts against these rulings, believing that the judges have interpreted the law incorrectly, (see link).

http://insidetimeshare.com/rdo-trying-scare-anfi-timeshare-owners/

If the industry is to survive, it needs to change how it operates, it needs to listen to the concerns of the owners / members, the very consumers who pay for it, not just chase those companies bogus or legitimate who decline to join their little club. After all, why would law firms such as Canarian Legal Alliance or JCLA & AS pay for membership when it is those members they are taking to court?

We have said this on many occasions, timeshare could be a good product, many have had many happy years of ownership, especially with those resorts that valued their custom. One has to only look at recent events at Los Claveles, for years those owners had no complaint, until Wimpen sold out their management rights to the ONA Group, then it really turned nasty.

The time for change is now, the industry cannot police itself, it is self serving, the likes of Kwikchex running a consumer helpline in the interests of the industry is a farce. There are very few places consumers can turn for truly independent and valuable advice, it has become an even bigger minefield.

If you have any questions or concerns about any timeshare matter, contact Inside Timeshare, if we don’t know the answer we will find it for you. These pages are read worldwide, we are bringing owners together from the USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines adding more as we go, through their articles and contributions you will find you are not as alone as you think.

transformation-and-change