Introduction by Irene Parker
Volunteer Fran Dygulski’s report about how to write a timeshare report was last published in January of 2021. Since then, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has become a viable consumer protection agency again, so we have updated Fran’s report to include filing with this government agency. We also include links to various Facebook Groups dedicated to supporting the timeshare buyer who feels they experienced unfair and deceptive sales tactics.
The oral representation clause, buried in the fine print of a timeshare contract, states that you did not rely on any claims made by a sales agent to make your purchase. If the developer really wanted you to know this, it would be disclosed at, or prior to, attending a sales presentation. Given this developer loophole, the best defense is the informed consumer. You can’t believe anything a timeshare sales agent says. This is not fair to honest sales agents, but the bad actors are too good. Some things, like being told you can rent out the timeshare to offset costs, cannot be determined unfeasible by reading the contract because some contracts state that you can rent. The contract rescission period doesn’t help because no one would attempt to rent while on a short vacation.
There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. Timeshare members should not decide to exit a timeshare based only on negative reports. Check pro and con social media sites. When a timeshare is sold honestly, it can be of great benefit to families, but for those who experience unfair and deceptive marketing and sales practices, a timeshare can quickly turn into a financial disaster.
For those with no outstanding loan, timeshare resale brokers, those who charge no upfront money to list a timeshare, work with all the different timeshare companies. They can offer an unbiased opinion if you’re thinking of buying a timeshare. We maintain a list of honest resale brokers.
Renting someone else’s timeshare is a great way to tour the universe of timeshare possibilities. Koala is an innovative rental platform that vets the renter, and what they are renting. This eliminates unwanted surprises. Co-founders Mike Kennedy and James Burbridge explain the platform and process in an informative interview:
Social Media is here to stay. Most resolved disputes require a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Arbitration is private and binding, so hearing what the other side has to say is important. Following are Facebook Groups that gather experiences of those who wish they had never heard the word timeshare. Beware of those soliciting exit business as professional firms do not surf Facebook groups.
Member/Owner Support Facebook Groups
Westgate Timeshare Hostages – 620 members (launched 12/2021)
Vacation Village Massanutten Timeshare Unfortunate Owners – 70 members
Diamond Resorts Hilton Grand Vacation Advocacy – 7,400 members (2/2017)
Diamond started recording the closing session after the Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of complaints and issued the firm an Assurance of Discontinuance. Other developers quickly followed suit. If you are told what to say or not say on the recorded closing, it is a red flag. Record the sales session in states where it is legal to record without the other person aware. If you are attending a presentation in a state where you must have the other party’s consent, ask to record. If refused, leave. Member recordings provide clear and convincing evidence.
Gold Key Owners’ Forum – 288 members (10/2015)
Bluegreen Vacation Club Class Action – 852 members (2012)
Justice for Manhattan Club Owners – 129 members (11/2021)
The Manhattan Club Disgruntled Owners
https://www.facebook.com/groups/116892578330143/ – 614 members (2010)
Unhappy Wyndham Owners – 125 Members (12/2018)
Carriage Hills and Carriage Ridge Owners – 3,965 members (2/2018)
Wyndham’s Carriage Hills and Carriage Ridge Resorts in Ontario, Canada, would not allow an exit under any circumstances. Both resorts have been sold, no longer timeshare. A group of volunteers led the efforts.
By Fran Dygulski, revised June 22, 2022
I was able to resolve my timeshare dispute by working directly with my resort. I relied on the support of volunteers to answer questions about how to file regulatory complaints. Filing complaints with regulators can be daunting as each state has different requirements. Volunteers don’t review documents, but will review your report. This helps us direct you to the appropriate regulatory agencies.
Resolving a timeshare dispute can take days or years. Sometimes the only choice is to default or pay for a product you don’t want for the rest of your life. Self-advocacy continues, after exhausting regulatory routes, by writing to credit reporting agencies.
There is no such thing as a guaranteed exit. There have been floods of complaints from members who retained obscure exit companies that offered elusive money-back guarantees. It’s no wonder Timeshare Elimination Team never responded to our request for comment.
One family paid Consumer Law Protection in Pevely, Missouri, $6,000 to be released from their timeshare – for no reason:
A summary of our self-advocacy process
Step 1: GATHER INFORMATION
Read Your Contract(s) and supporting documents, including emails, voicemails, and text messages.
Step 2: EDUCATE YOURSELF
There are resources and consumer protection laws in place that are supposed to protect consumers, but it takes volumes of complaints before a state or federal agency will take action. It’s important to file.
LIST OF RESOURCES AND ORGANIZATIONS TO FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s resurgence: https://afterinsidetimeshare.com/?p=700 Only Westgate owners can file a complaint, but others can Tell Your Story. It’s important to do so. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/your-story/
- Federal Trade Commission is the federal agency in the U.S. that defines “unfair and deceptive sales and marketing practices.” https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc. In 2020 Timeshare Sales were #9 on the FTC’s Top Ten Frauds list and Timeshare Resales (fake buyers), #10. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2020/ftc-top-scams.html
- Office of the Attorney General (OAG) – Start by filing in the state where you signed your contract. They may refer you to the state’s Real Estate or Consumer Protection division. Some AGs are pro-industry and some are pro-consumer. It’s always important to file. A resort many ignore you, but will not likely ignore an attorney general. More when, than if the resort denies your complaint, file a rebuttal.
- The Better Business Bureau: The BBB will attempt to mediate your dispute. File a rebuttal if you disagree with the company’s response. You can file a review or complaint, but not both. Review the BBB profile and history of complaints for your resort to see if there has been a volume and pattern of complaints. You can trust an F BBB rating but an A+ rating can be faked. Consumer Law Protection has an F rating and “Pattern of Complaints” alert. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc., has a C+ rating and a “Pattern of Complaints” alert.
- ARDA-ROC firstname.lastname@example.org: The American Resort Development Association-Resort Owners Coalition doesn’t mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics: Excerpts from ARDA Code of Ethics. Timeshare members contribute approximately $5 million a year to ARDA-ROC via opt-out donations called voluntary, $5 to $10 that is added onto maintenance fees invoices.
- Legal Action: Self-advocacy can be admittedly time-consuming. Not everyone has the time or temperament to self-advocate. We maintain a list of law firms we trust that specialize in timeshare.
- TUG: Timeshare Users Group TUG forums are great for gathering information from other timeshare owners. It’s also a good place to list your timeshare if you wish to sell it.
- KOALA is a great resource for those able to rent out their timeshare. The Koala Platform explained.
- Local and national media
Step 3: WRITE OUT YOUR COMPLAINT
Organize your information: Begin with the transaction you are disputing. Provide as much detail as you can. Keep paragraphs short. State the outcome you desire in your opening paragraph. A historical summary of what led up to the dispute can follow.
- Don’t make emotional statements or use inflammatory language. It puts off your reader.
- Don’t ask for all correspondence to be in writing.
- Don’t object to your call from the company being recorded.
- Don’t address your complaint “To whom it may concern.” Get a name, or at least a department, to address your complaint.
- Don’t ignore correspondence.
Include in your narrative:
- Your name (s), state of residence, phone number
- Your member number, account, or loan number
- The date of the transaction, the name of the resort and the names of all sales agents/manager/staff involved and their ID numbers, if available. Volunteers have gathered multiple complaints against the same agent, a form of proof.
- The purchase price, down payment, amount financed and interest rate, account balance. State whether a down payment was charged to a personal or resort-issued credit card.
- Your report of unfair and deceptive practices. Clear and concise is the key. Ask your neighbor to read it to determine if your report is comprehensible.
Step 4 EMAIL YOUR COMPLAINT to the resort unless instructed otherwise
Copy and paste your complaint into the body of an email. Do not send as an attachment. If denied, compose a rebuttal and then file with the applicable resources listed above.
Step 5 Find your Public Offering Statement (POS), sometimes called a Disclosure Statement. If you don’t know what that is, it means a state statute has been violated. You may be unaware that you initialed that you read and understood the POS. https://tarda.org/f/what-is-a-public-offering-statement-is-it-important
Additional information to consider:
Was it possible for you to have discovered what prompted your complaint during the contract rescission period?
Were you allowed onto the booking site during the rescission period? In other words, was the contract rescission period dodged?
Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded and so will requests based on not being able to afford the timeshare. However, most resorts will consider a hardship release with documented medical or financial hardship.
Document everything. Keep a log, noting the names of the people you speak with, the date, and the nature of the call. Your complaint filed today may be used in the future when disputing negative credit reports.
If you wish to join our efforts, contact Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc.: https://tarda.org/
Thank you to all our volunteers, including Charles at After Inside Timeshare.
Once again Irene and Fran give a very simple formula on how to file complaints, it will take time, there will be hurdles thrown up, and they will attempt to make it as difficult as possible so you don’t continue. They want you to moan on forums and not follow through with complaints, it helps their publicity as they can honestly say they have no knowledge of the complaint as nothing has been received, if the “moaner on Fb” had contacted us we would have dealt with it. Filed complaints are not that easy to dismiss.
That is all for this week, we hope that you have a great weekend, it is now time to wake up Baby Dog to start his mad weekend runaround, so join us again next week.