Timeshare warnings given by Diamond Resorts
Notice from Diamond's Legal Team
Important warning regarding the use of timeshare claims businesses
Ifyou are concerned about the legitimacy of this email, please log in to your online account and see the "What's New" post entitled "Claims Company Advice from Diamond Resort's Legal Team 2020".
The COVID lockdown seems to have resulted in a marked increase in the number of unsolicited telephone calls, texts and emails being received by our members from "claims companies" who suggest that they are in a position to facilitate "a guaranteed" release of the member from their timeshare ownership. Often, these assertions are coupled with promises that they will also be able to secure a refund/partial refund of the purchase price paid by the member for their timeshare (ordinarily before any meaningful assessment of the merits of the member's case have been considered). Inevitably, a sizeable upfront fee is required.
As claims companies file for voluntary liquidation (to prevent dissatisfied customers from recovering fees paid to them) or are closed down by the regulators, their personnel set up new claims companies and carry on with their deceptive practices (using the same stolen data base). Some of them even change their tactics by claiming to be able to recover fees paid to the previous claims company. Over 100 businesses have been identified as operating in deceptive and fraudulent ways or simply failing to deliver the promised services. Regrettably, this has even included regulated businesses including at least one firm of solicitors. Fake lawyers have also been springing up.
We are aware that some members have been deceived as many as five times. Tragically, one Diamond member reported as having paid over E70,000 in fees to various claims companies before concluding that he had been let down by all of them, and turning to Diamond's legal team for assistance.
Our experience is that these claims companies generally do very little of any substance in return for the fees that they have been paid. That said, they are VERY convincing and use various FABRICATED scare tactics including for example:
i) casting doubt on the validity of timeshare contracts, erroneously asserting that it is Diamond's intention to withdraw the surrender/ relinquishment options, erroneously asserting that all requests for surrender/ relinquishment have to be submitted to the US for approval, will take over 12 months to consider and are likely to be declined, erroneously asserting that memberships that were previously successfully surrendered at the member's request and with Diamond's agreement will (on the instruction of Apollo) be reinstated, and that the member will be pursued by Diamond for maintenance fee liabilities that have accrued in the interim,
v) erroneously asserting that Apollo is going to "asset strip" and close down all of the Diamond UK resorts in the next 18 months, vi) erroneously asserting that due to a recent European Court ruling, from 12 December 2020, timeshare members will have to pay a 21% local Government tax on top of thei
maintenance fees if they wish to stay at any Diamond accommodation in Europe, vii) erroneously asserting that Diamond is able to (and will) prevent the sale (in 2027-2029) of accommodations that were placed in trust for the Diamond Resorts Fractional Owners Club, viii) erroneously advising members that their memberships have been successfully terminated by the claims company when they have not, and advertising false testimonials from alleged members who they purport to have assisted.
Diamond Resorts (Europe) Ltd., Citrus House, Caton Road, Lancaster, LAI 3UA • 01524 589800 • DiamondResorts.com
Registered office: As above. Registered in England and Wales number 02353649. 000
As you know, we have been working for some time with the Timeshare Task Force, the police and Trading Standards to prevent such unlawful activity. There have been a number of successful prosecutions already as a consequence. We are confident that there are more prosecutions to come.
If you would like to relinquish your membership, we recommend that under NO circumstances should you make payment to a claims company prior to contacting Diamond so that we can discuss your options with you. The options we may be able to offer you are likely to be significantly cheaper, quicker and simpler than anything the claims companies purport to be able to offer.
On this point, we are aware of a recurring provision in the contracts of a number of claims companies requiring the member to refrain from contacting Diamond (or any independent adviser) direct, and purportedly placing the member in breach of contract if they were to do so. This clause is wholly inappropriate and is incorporated for one of two reasons: either to prevent a simple and cheap resolution from being achieved by the member directly with Diamond OR in order to minimize the risk of adverse information about their operations being disclosed about them by Diamond to the member.
We also strongly recommend that you refrain from providing any unsolicited caller (including any unsolicited caller purporting to be calling on behalf of a Governmental agency) with personal information or from making any payments without first verifying their identity/authenticity and company status. Regrettably, almost all companies making unsolicited contact have been shown to be rogue in nature.
Free help with checking and due diligence
KwikChex Ltd, via the Timeshare Task Force, provides a free service to consumers wanting to check the legitimacy of businesses operating within the timeshare sector. It also provides assistance to Timeshare owners who may have concerns or questions about their timeshare ownership. Kwikchex works closely with law enforcement bodies, including the police and Trading Standards and is a Corporate Affiliate Member of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. It is the only resource of its kind that is officially vetted and approved by UK Trading Standards.
Given the vast scale and nature of the problem, KwikChex is urging consumers to use the Timeshare Task Force resources (accessible on the following link: www.timesharetaskforce.org) to check the legitimacy of businesses offering timeshare relinquishment and claims. Please report ALL unsolicited contact to Kwikchex.
Kwikchex has also recently launched a new website: https://timeshareexitconcerns.co.uk which contains even more helpful about the latest timeshare scams and enables active participation by affected consumers. The attachment to this notice ("Spot a scam, stop a scam") has been copied from the website with Kwikchex's kind permission.
For the sake of transparency, the Timeshare Taskforce initiative is funded by the Resort Development Organisation - the European trade association for the vacation ownership industry.
As always, we hope that this is helpful,
Diamond Resorts Legal Team
Prepared by TIMESHARE EXIT CONCERNS
- There is no 'central timeshare owner database' — just unlawful and worrying data abuse by rogues
Many timeshare owners are cold-called or sent unsolicited messages by text or email. If you haven't specifically given such businesses permission to contact you, they are already acting unlawfully. They will often say when asked how they got your details that they obtained them from a 'central registry'- that's a lie and is unlawful in itself. To protect yourself from scams and to help safeguard your personal data (the rogues contacting you can and do sell your details on to other rogues), it is recommended that you report such abuses to your national data protection agency.
- Making a 'compensation claim' requires that there is a basis in law/that applicable regulations apply — and viability should always be fully established before you enter into a compensation contract
There are well-established laws and regulations that protect consumers with regard to timeshares. Timeshares must be sold, and contracts written in compliance with these. Within the EU, these are mostly the specific EU Timeshare Regulations and also Consumer Protection Regulations (CPRs), including Unfair Contracts laws. There are also other aspects, covering loans to purchase timeshares and there may be applicable single state laws that apply, such as the Spanish law 42/98. It is essential that owners approached by any claims businesses establish their credentials — and ask for a written full viability report, detailing the specific basis of any action, the processes involved, the likelihood of success, the time it is likely to take, a full description of costs and disclosure of any risks involved. Do not be dissuaded from asking for such written information in advance of entering into a contract by a business telling you they are regulated or have a great track record — you have a right to such disclosures before you make a decision. Once you have your viability report, it is recommended you seek a further opinion on it.
- Far too many businesses (and those owning and working for them), offering timeshare exit and claims services have a past record or have been connected to scams. For your protection, in addition to thorough online searches, ask anyone contacting you to confirm in writing whether they have been so involved or associated. In particular, ask this question regarding some of the most notable, including:
Monster Travel and associated companies, including SellMyTimehare.tv, which are the subject of ongoing police investigations. (Note later businesses started by the same people include ABC Lawyers, Timeshare.Lawyer and Jive Hippo).
EZE Group — closed down after a successful criminal prosecution, with the two principal executives receiving prison sentences.
RSB Legal — Closed down after numerous complaints made by consumers. The liquidator has so far reported that 90 creditors (the majority RSB clients) have filed claims totalling nearly El million — and that the directors did not maintain accurate accounts in these matters.
Timeshare Exit Concerns is supported by KwikChex, an award-winning investigation, verification and resolutions services business.
KwikChex Ltd, Exchange House, 12-14 The Crescent, Taunton, Somerset, TAI 4EB.
Registered in England no 07376192. Registered with Data Protection Act, Registration Number: Z2749323
Prepared by TIMESHARE EXIT CONCERNS
KEY FACTS & ADVICE
THE BEST WAYS TO SPOT AND STOP TIMESHARE EXIT SCAMS
Online information on timeshare exits (and claims) is often confusing and timeshare owners are frequently coerced and intimidated into entering into contracts with businesses who sell their services aggressively, misinform and use scare tactics. The following information is produced to enable owners to deal effectively with such practices, many of which are unlawful.
If any person or business you are in conversation with argues any of the points below, it is strongly recommended that you do not proceed at that point, but instead ask them to put their own position and arguments in writing to you so you can check with UK Citizens Advice, the European Consumer Centre Network or an independent solicitor. KwikChex will always also be happy to respond to any such information.
- Ask if you can pay by credit card — because many rogue businesses won't let you
Rogue businesses often do not have a means of processing credit cards themselves. And — if it is a UK credit card, even if they do have a means of processing a payment, they know that consumers can submit very effective claims for refunds in the event of misrepresentation and/or breach of contract under the UK Consumer Credit Act. Additionally, check that the name of the business you are paying exactly matches the name of the business on the contract — including the details of the entity (Limited/ Ltd, LLC, SL etc) as not paying the exact same business as on the contract may mean you lose the UK consumer credit card protection.
- Don't be intimidated by the "Your children will be forced to pay your annual timeshare fees after you die" line
This is probably the most frequently used lie by rogue businesses. Your children cannot be forced to inherit your timeshare. In many cases, if they want to, they can take it over willingly by having it specifically written into a will, but that is entirely a choice for owners and their heirs. Anybody telling you different should be dismissed as dishonest immediately — and preferably be reported to the authorities.
- Look out for contract restrictions that state you cannot contact and discuss your timeshare with others, including your timeshare company/resort
Many owners after entering into contracts with exit/claims companies, and often paying substantial upfront fees, are told that it will be a breach of contract if they check on what is happening with others. Frequently, when they do seek alternative advice, they discover they could have exited at a lower cost or no cost — or that the business they paid to assist them with relinquishment has done little or nothing on their behalf. Such 'clauses' are often put into contracts to try and prevent such discoveries. Terms that are to the extreme detriment of consumers are unlawful in themselves. Read contracts carefully and be extremely cautious if such clauses have been inserted.
- Free and lower cost exit options may be available directly from your timeshare company/resort
Scammers will tell you that they are the only possible timeshare exit solution, but many timeshare companies allow free or lower cost exits. This is particularly so when owners may be experiencing difficulties that may make it hard for them to use their timeshares, including partner bereavement, ill-health and financial problems; so always check directly first.