In Yesterday’s article, we explained how the idea of timeshare was taken to a new level by the various schemes of Resort Properties and then the renamed Silverpoint. It was a tangled web of deceit, not just to the consumer but also to the authorities, the company structure of The Limora Group bears testimony to that, all implemented on behalf of Robert “Bob” Trotta by his trusty financial wizard, Kwang Boon Sim.
While preparing the final draft for Part 2, we came across a few old links and notes in the archive, the first is a link to The Mail, by Lara Keay and it was published on 21 February 2019 (link below). Lara does really show how devious the sales staff at Azure were, linking high profile personalities with their product. Needless to say, both individuals withdrew their investment.
In a Mirror article by Emma Munbodh dated 23 March 2018, about the FOS, she even points out “evidence that staff with inadequate training or knowledge were deciding people’s complaints against financial firms”.
Another little gem from the archive concerns our friend Diana Aitchison, and the “sales of property”. The agreement shows the sale of a “property” at Beverly Hills Club, Known as The Suites at Beverly Hills. The total cost is 96,800 Euro.
The document is in Spanish, not the language of the person making the purchase, it is not until the page containing the conditions that it becomes clear that no apartment has been purchased. Under the Second Condition, it is evident that what is being purchased is “timeshare”, “régimen de aprovechamiento por turnos de Bienes inmueble”, which translates as “timeshare regime for real estate”.
The next paragraph confirms this where it states that the “seller” is currently the owner of 52 “vacation Certificates” for this property. Now if that isn’t timeshare what is?
The last page is very telling, this page carries the signature of Diana Joan Aitchison and is signed on behalf of Homes Under the Sun SL. Yes, another Limora Group company which appears on the company chart published yesterday.
You can see from the purchase price above, these are not cheap. We have personally seen loan agreements for these products ranging from the smallish £20,000, right up to the highest I have ever seen of £150,000. In all of these, we have never seen any with the standard credit checks for loans of this size. A point that Judge Herrington pointed out in his judgment against the FCA.
The Financial Ombudsman Service
Once you have gone through the motions of filing a claim/complaint with Barclays Partner Finance or the Financial Conduct Authority, spent months or even a year or more waiting for replies, then having to rebuke what they are saying, your case is eventually rejected.
With this rejection letter comes the information that “if you do not agree with our decision, you have the right to appeal to the Financial Ombudsman Service”. All the contact details are provided, of course, they are, don’t be so naive.
It is in their interest to provide you with the information, they know the FOS is more than likely to agree with their decision, plus it will take a very long time, the case we highlight below has now been running with BPF and the FOS for the better part of 3 years.
Our consumer and partner originally purchased their first “investment pack” with Silverpoint, believing everything the sales staff told them, the rental income, the subsequent sale at a profit right down to “fake” figures of “fake” clients.
On every return visit they were obliged to attend a “presentation” with their rep, usually, a different one to who sold it originally. They would be told so many different things such as the ones they purchased are not selling, well, they were sold the basic package to start with. But as always the sales rep had a solution.
He just happens to have available the exact number of weeks as they already “own” but in a much better property or resort. They are given the price, very high indeed, but this is timeshare, the method of “stack and drop” is routinely used.
“Stack and drop” is where the price is highly inflated, so that “discounts” and “Trade-ins” show great value. It is not uncommon for the price to be cut in half!
Eventually, after several “upgrades” and more loans through BPF brokered by the sales staff, they came to the end of their tether and began legal proceedings in the Spanish Courts. They won their case and the contracts were declared illegal and therefore null and void, but this still left the loan agreement in force.
So began the process with BPF, which as you expected was rejected.
Then the “Nightmare” of dealing with the Financial Ombudsman began. At first, it appeared to be going well, then the rejections began to come in, the FOS “investigator” had been in contact with BPF and believed what they were told. Needless to say, it was the word of a big finance institution against our little Mr & Mrs Average.
Undaunted the fight continued, with more rejections and very lame excuses provided by BPF, until a glimmer of hope appeared, a “New Investigator” was appointed to deal with their case. According to his first email he claimed he had in-depth knowledge of timeshare, that the FOS has a department dedicated to timeshare and he will now be reviewing the case.
Now we must mention here that the “timeshare department” was also mentioned by the previous investigator, who as it happens is a “Senior Investigator” and has been replaced by a junior. We know there is no “dedicated timeshare department” and we suspect that the new “investigator” is just carrying on the charade in an attempt to close the case in favour of BPF.
His findings, in this case, are quite astounding, one of his main points for rejecting the claim/complaint was BPF informed him that Silverpoint had suspended the membership due to arrears in maintenance payments. Yes, they were in arrears, it is common practice for no further payments to be made once the case is accepted by the courts, the contract is legally under dispute. Our couple had been informed of this by their lawyers and told not to make any further payments.
He also stated that according to BPF (told by Silverpoint), if they paid the arrears they could resume their membership, this is after the Courts on Tenerife declared the contracts illegal and null & void. What did this “investigator” not understand?
Why would anyone take a case to court, then pay to rejoin after the court has terminated the agreement, wasn’t that the point of taking the case to court in the first place?
Then there is the Club Paradiso membership, again the courts declared it illegal and null & void, but once again according to the “investigator” on information received via BPF, although Club Paradiso is in liquidation, BPF was informed that “members” can book via another “club”. We know the terms of this agreement, it is for three years only, it is also subject to availability, after that the membership will be terminated or they can “pay” to join the new club. In other words, lose everything they paid for originally, not that they owned anything!
Again we have to ask, why would our couple want to do that, all their timeshare contracts have been terminated by the courts which is what they wanted?
This complaint is about how the loan was brokered by the Silverpoint sales staff through BPF, not the timeshares that was a separate case under Spanish law, it is also centred around the points that Judge Herrington highlighted in his judgment against the FCA:
- Clients were not given sufficient information as to the terms and conditions of the loan agreement required by law;
- There were no major credit checks made as to the affordability of the repayments such as income versus outgoings reports;
- The length of the loan agreements were not explained, with clients under the impression that they were for two years;
- Clients were pressured into signing these agreements;
- False representations were made to clients relating to the financial impact of regulated agreements;
- Clients were subject to long high-pressure sales tactics to purchase the timeshares;
- Clients were sold timeshares that were not appropriate for them;
- Vulnerable consumers were treated inappropriately;
- Concerns about commission arrangements and disclosure thereof.
His Honour Judge Timothy Herrington
Timeshare Insider has helped the client to provide evidence to the FOS “investigator” of these practices, explained the timeshare laws and the breaches made by Silverpoint resulting in illegal contracts. It has also been explained that as the product purchased is illegal, therefore the loan brokered by the seller on behalf of Barclays Partner Finance would also be illegal, if not downright unethical at the least.
The FOS has also received copies of all the court rulings for this case, all translated into English, so there can be no doubt as to the authenticity of the case or of the ruling.
Yet this “investigator” who claimed to be knowledgeable has not taken any notice of any evidence passed to him by the client, all involved at the Financial Ombudsman Service have taken the easy way out. Believe the finance company, let’s just get this case closed and off our desks!
This is the definition for Ombudsman:
- an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against a company or organization, especially a public authority.
This is what they are supposed to do:
An ombudsman is a person who has been appointed to look into complaints about companies and organisations. Ombudsmen are independent, free and impartial – so they don’t take sides. You should try and resolve your complaint with the organisation before you complain to an ombudsman.
Very fine words until it comes down to the practice, we do not put too much store in some things we have been told, but it transpires that around 90% of timeshare complaints against BPF are rejected by the FOS. This is obviously a figure we shall have to look into, possibly under the Freedom of Information Act.
What we will say is it is very possibly true considering the number of consumers we know of personally.
This particular case is still ongoing and has now escalated to bring in the FOS Board of Directors, it is clear from all of this the FOS and their “investigators” are not fit for purpose and consumers are being denied the proper protection they legally deserve.
It is only through constant complaints to the FOS that they will eventually see that they have a serious problem, don’t give up, keep at it, the process is designed to wear you down and jack it all in.
If you have any comments please leave them in the comments section at the end of the articles, use our contact page if you have any questions or require further information.