FOS: The Eternal Roundabout

Welcome to the start of another week with AIT, last Friday’s article, Florida HB 575: Does The Consumer Lose?, has been receiving a good number of comments, not just on AIT but all the forums where it has been shared. Once again it is timeshare consumer’s rights that are being eroded in favour of the industry, it is not just these types of laws that are causing timeshare consumers’ problems as you will see from today’s article. HB 575 is a Florida issue, but as we have seen over the years what happens in one state will eventually happen in another, what happens in the US & Europe will eventually cross over. Timeshare consumers may be a minority in the great scheme of things, but one thing we know are the financial problems this industry has caused and continues to cause to those who succumbed to the “Promised Dream”.

Over the past few weeks, AIT has been highlighting the issue UK consumers are having with loans brokered by timeshare sales to finance the purchase of what have turned out to be illegal purchases.

We have explained the difference between timeshare and any other major purchase in our article, Purchasing with Finance: Is There a Difference Between Timeshare & Any Other Major Purchase?

It is as we explained the only major purchase any consumer will make where they have to decide on the day after 4 or more hours of sales talk (read lies). How consumers ended up on these “presentations” and introduced some of the mechanics of making the sale.

In the next two articles Unmasked: The Truth About Timeshare & Finance Part 1 & 2, we began to look at how one timeshare company, Silverpoint and their sister company Azure sold “investment weeks” of timeshare brokering Barclay Partner Finance to pay for it.

Part 1 went on about how Barclays Partner Finance and the Financial Conduct Authority deal with complaints from these consumers. A very sorry tale indeed.

These complaints when rejected end up with the Financial Ombudsman which Part 2 explored, this was followed by Timeshare Finance: Who is Responsible for Consumer Protection? in which we conclude that “No One” was the answer.

Our last piece was Finance & Timeshare: The Eternal Triangle, where we introduced the Financial Ombudsman Service, the final part in the “Eternal Triangle”. Although not in detail it did explain the structure and financing of the FOS. Today we look at what one couple is having to endure.

One of the most common aspects of all the complaints about timeshare finance is the age of the consumers, many are in their eighties, some younger but all fell for the trap laid out by the timeshare salespeople. They “invested” their future pensions and savings on the promises made which turned out to be downright lies.

Our couple are in their 70s and these loan agreements which were brokered on a lie are financially crippling them, let alone the other effects on health. They first brought a case through the Spanish Courts in Tenerife against Silverpoint, along with hundreds of other “victims”.

They duly won their case and their contracts were declared illegal and therefore null & void. The court acknowledged the fact Silverpoint had breached many aspects of timeshare law and consumer law; they were also aware of the criminal investigation underway.

Along with all this information which included the court documents, they lodged their complaint directly with Barclays Partner Finance, rather than the “Third Party” approach via the FCA. To be honest considering how the FCA has dealt with other similar complaints it really made no difference, their complaint and claim were rejected.

So they followed the given procedures and filed an appeal with BPF, again this was rejected, along with the advice of their “right to complain to the Ombudsman”.

At first, it looked as though the complaint to the FOS was going to be independent and thorough, unfortunately, that was not to be.

Our couple has so far had around 5 people at the FOS respond to them, each one either explaining they have no knowledge or experience in this type of case and passed them on. Then after several comings & goings, a “Senior Investigator” was appointed, claiming to have a good working knowledge of the subject.

This again turned out to be false, they hadn’t a clue.

It was then passed to an “investigator”, so from “Senior” we go to “Junior”, how does that work?

This “Junior” investigator claimed he had very good knowledge and experience of timeshare and finance, which at first seemed to uplift the spirits of our couple, but to no avail.

This “Junior Investigator” came back with replies from none other than BPF, who claimed Silverpoint had told them they were in breach of maintenance fees and if they paid this their membership would be reinstated for them.

Forget the fact that “JI” has already been told in emails their maintenance had been stopped once the case was accepted for court, the contracts were then under dispute. The “JI” was also in possession of court documents showing the contract null & void. This is just one part of the story, he used every BPF excuse to reject the complaint which resulted in our couple making a formal complaint to the FOS.

This was also forwarded to the FOS Board of Directors, The Treasury Select Committee various MPs including their own constituency member.

The response is not what we can say is good, the FOS Board, passed it to an “Ombudsman”, more on this in a moment, the Treasury Select Committee, was a little better but as always they would not comment on “individual” cases. The response from MPs was what we would expect, sympathy but not a lot they can do, (well, no election at the moment).

So back to our couples complaint to the Board which has now been passed “down the ladder” to an Ombudsman.

In his email to our couple he introduces himself as an “Ombudsman Leader”, he oversees the department in which our couple’s case is being “considered”. He also happens to be the “Line Manager” of the “Senior Investigator” who is the “Superior” of our “Junior Investigator”. How very convenient.

Apparently, his “Terms of Reference” do not cover the details of the “complaint/claim” against BPF, he can only look at how the FOS has handled the case. In other words, as long as the “Investigators” have followed “Procedure”, it doesn’t matter that the complaint has been rejected on spurious grounds.

Then we have what is probably the most important point of all, the fact that BPF cannot provide one shred of evidence to support the claim they carried out their “due diligence” in granting these loans. There are no income v expenditure reports, no proof of income to support the affordability of the repayments, none of the credit checks we assume is usual for loans of thousands, despìte the legal obligations to provide them!

Our couple’s case has been going on for several years, along with the thousands of others in the same predicament need this problem to be dealt with, competently and justly. They have been defrauded by the timeshare companies, BPF have facilitated this fraud by providing the finance.

It is the belief of AIT and others that this will not be seen seriously by the FCA or the FOS as long as their funding comes from the industry. After all, BPF could stand to lose hundreds of millions of pounds!

We hope this has given you food for thought, just because things look genuine, behind the scenes is where you see the true colours.

Over the weekend “Baby Dog” had some long walks and time at the beach, Sunday however, the robotic cleaner started up and this was the result.

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