Clarification on Sunday Times advice regarding timeshare claims

On 5th March, the Sunday Times published a response to a question regarding timeshare claims in Spain.

Whilst the general context of the reply regarding a Spanish Supreme Court ruling was correct, the writer went on to recommend that contact for further advice should be made with The Timeshare Consumer Association and also gave contact details to a ‘Timeshare Compensation’ business. The response claimed that consumers would get ‘independent advice’. Our own evaluation is that would not be the case as both sites mentioned are connected to businesses that have been the subject of consumer concerns and media coverage suggesting that extreme caution is advised.

Comments explaining the concerns were submitted to the Sunday Times and emails sent to them alerting them to the issues, but no action seems to have been taken by the Sunday Times to date. The content of the comments is published below.

A clarification note regarding the two websites / organisations mentioned in this article. 

The Timeshare Consumer Association (TCA) was sold to a company named Tolmex Ltd., which was owned by Mark Rowe, who also owns a number of businesses such as SellMyTimeshare.tv. The Daily Mirror investigated this thoroughly and cast doubts on the independence of the TCA – see article http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/timeshare-consumer-association-claims-independent-9367808. 

SellMyTimeshare.tv was the subject of an undercover BBC investigation, which showed that consumers seeking advice on timeshare relinquishment were persuaded to buy other holiday products which claimed to provide discounts and were purportedly a ‘financial investment’. See the link to the BBC article – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-37690840

The site timesharecompensation.co.uk is also under the same ownership through a business named ABC Lawyers Ltd. See Companies House profile – https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10477058/officers.  There are no legally trained persons in this business. 

Jodie Beard, who is described as “Head of Timeshare Compensation’s legal department” is in fact the ‘Marketing Director’ of the businesses controlled by Mark Rowe and has no legal expertise – see her Linkedin profile – https://www.linkedin.com/in/beardjodi/ 

Consumers are advised to take these facts into consideration and to exercise diligence by carrying out comprehensive research on the businesses involved.

Consumer testimonials

Here is what consumers had to say about KwikChex during 2016:

Timeshare Task Force Testimonial

Can’t recommend these guys highly enough. If you have any issues with timeshare, holiday clubs etc. get in touch for impartial advice FREE. Their help enabled me to get a full refund of monies paid out for a product I didn’t want or need but was pressured into buying.

Mr M, Nov-16

Timeshare Task Force Testimonial

I have had no further contact from ITRA, thankfully, after they returned all my documents. I have now been released from (my timeshare) at a very low admin cost so I am relieved with that.

I have no objections to helping others if I can and have appreciated the help and information given by yourselves and Mindtimeshare who gave me your contact details.

Mrs B, Nov-16

Timeshare exit success

Another thank you to KwikChex from a couple that wished to exit their timeshare due to poor health. This was achieved for a low cost administrative charge (under £400) and once again demonstrates that consumers should always check with a trusted source as to their options should they wish to exit their timeshares as there are often no cost or low cost possibilities – and in some cases even sales of the timeshare are possible.

“Just a note to let you know that we have accepted the offer from our timeshare company.
We will certainly be glad to get closure on this matter.
Without your wonderful team we would still be in the same situation.
Thank you all very much. Keep on doing your good work.”

The assistance from KwikChex was provided free of charge as part of the Timeshare Task Force initiative. All consumers receive free assistance and advice from KwikChex thanks to funding from RDO.
Alternatively and additionally, free advice can also be sought from Citizens Advice and local Trading Standards Officers.

Oct-16

Timeshare Task Force Testimonial

Having experienced a timeshare issue and having been totally mislead by Timeshare Release/ITRA/ECC, I was lucky enough to come across KwikChex – a reputable company who help consumers like me with timeshare issues. The responses from Chris and Gemma were quick and extremely helpful: their advice has been invaluable . For the first time in months, we have piece of mind. For anyone who has timeshare issues, you should make KwikChex your first port of call for professional, friendly, and honest advice.

Mrs M, Oct-16

Timeshare Task Force Testimonial

We would like to express our grateful thanks to KwikChex and staff member Mr Chris Emmins, for the help and understanding of our situation involving a Leisure Credits company.
During a visit to the offices of the Leisure Credits company, we were asked to pay a deposit towards what would be the full cost, which we duly paid. Sometime later we noticed in the ‘small print’ that this was payment for a Tablet and a book of discount vouchers, and not for a deposit at all.

We contacted KwikChex for their help and advice regarding our situation. We were relieved to have the understanding and expertise of Mr Emmins who explained the procedures they would take, and who kept us regularly updated.

The Financial Ombudsman became involved which resulted in the return of the ‘deposit’ we paid under false pretenses.

We cannot speak more highly of the help and support from the above.

Mrs G, March-16

Timeshare Task Force Testimonial

Thank you KwikChex for helping get my 88-year-old father’s money back. He was clearly taken advantage of and had been mis-sold services costing him nearly £5000. With advice from KwikChex, and the template letter they prepared for us, we were able to recover all the costs from the credit card company. This was a real bonus as we thought pursuing the money would be a lost cause.
Mr S, Feb-16

Timeshare Task Force 2016 year in review


Successes for consumers right across the spectrum

The Timeshare Task Force, which is managed by KwikChex, has produced an unparalleled series of results for consumers during 2016.

The free service has become increasingly vital and more used  by consumers in the last 12 months, with the Timeshare Business Check website playing the leading role in consumer protection and assistance. The site has been a very effective resource for consumers seeking advice on businesses across the timeshare spectrum – from advising caution through to winning back monies for consumers and helping timeshare owners understand and exercise their legal and contractual rights.

Consumers contacting KwikChex via the Timeshare Task Force resources have benefited from:

  • Refunds from mis-sold holiday and rogue timeshare reclaim businesses.
  • Advice and direct assistance leading to contractually and ethically correct, no cost and low cost timeshare relinquishment.
  • Help with civil actions, including legal assistance from qualified lawyers and the provision of evidence to support claims.
  • Advice that prevented consumers from falling prey to scams.

Every single case has been assisted by KwikChex entirely free of charge.

The court case won against ITRA

The highlight of the year must be the support KwikChex provided to Harold and Brenda Walker, who came to KwikChex with concerns about monies they had paid to ITRA –  International Timeshare Refund Action. It was obvious from the outset that ITRA had made false promises and misleading statements in order to persuade the Walkers to pay over £7000.  Requests to ITRA for a refund were either ignored or rejected, so the only option was to take ITRA to court. Even though the Walkers were using the Small Claims Court, ITRA used the services of a specialist law firm and a barrister in trying to defend their actions – so KwikChex appealed for help from the RDO – the Resort Development Organisation, who responded with funding for similar representation for the Walkers. KwikChex went on to provide evidence and acted as a witness in court in support of the Walker’s claim. The judge subsequently ruled for the Walkers, declaring the ITRA actions illegal and the contract null & void. The Walkers were awarded a full refund and costs.

The Walkers
Harold & Brenda Walker 
[Image by Damien Mcfadden]
It would be difficult to imagine a nicer couple than Harold and Brenda Walker – both in their 70s, they epitomise human decency and civility. Brenda was at the time undergoing treatment for cancer, which added to the stress caused by ITRA’s deceptions.  Sadly, Brenda passed away not long after the case against ITRA was won, but Harold was so kind to say how much she had appreciated what KwikChex had done.  And in reality, as was quickly demonstrated by KwikChex, the couple had no need of the alleged services that ITRA said they would provide regarding relinquishment – because their timeshare was with an RDO member and they were entitled to a free relinquishment, which was subsequently arranged. ITRA lied about many things, including telling the Walkers that their children would be liable for their timeshares as their heirs and then tried to use ‘legal muscle’ to defend what should have been the indefensible. They failed – and now the publicity from the case has resulted in more consumers coming forward keen to take legal action against ITRA.

Read the full story in the Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/bills/article-3709511/Couple-win-7-000-victory-faulty-timeshare-contract-following-18-month-legal-battle.html

and the follow up exposure of ITRA – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-3810740/Can-trust-firm-says-rid-timeshare-price-families-did-lived-regret-it.html

KwikChex support for law enforcement and regulatory bodies

During 2016, KwikChex has continued to work closely with the police, Trading Standards and various regulatory authorities, providing vital evidence and intelligence on rogue operations.

Responses by KwikChex to police requests have resulted in the opening of a formal criminal investigation.

Responses by KwikChex to Trading Standards have resulted in the opening of investigations – and the resolving of complaints made to Trading Standards by consumers.

Four complaints about misleading advertising in the timeshare sector made to the Advertising Standards Authority were upheld in 2016 – against Easy Consulting SL t/a directresortsinternational.co.uk ; Timeshare Relief UK  and European Claims Centre LLC t/a Timeshare Advice Centre (a part of the ITRA operations).

In addition, an initiative in cooperation with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to stop Data Protection offences, including unsolicited contact and data theft is now well on the way to producing evidence that is likely to lead to prosecutions.

ctsiKwikChex also exhibited at and presented a session at the Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards Conference and Exhibition in 2016 – providing new ways and means of detecting scams and helping to bring the perpetrators to justice.

< Left – KwikChex talking with Trading Standards Officers at the Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards Conference and Exhibition.

 

 

 

 

The work will continue in 2017 and will include the continuance of free assistance to consumers, responses to requests by Citizens Advice for the provision of update advice, participation in the 2017 Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards Conference and active support in both civil legal cases and criminal prosecutions.

 

KwikChex quoted in Mirror article -The Timeshare Consumer Association claims to be an independent consumer champion, but is it?

Credits: The Mirror, By Andrew Penman, 1st Dec

The Timeshare Consumer Association claims to be an independent consumer champion, but is it?

‘Timeshare Consumer Association refuses to say who owns and runs it.

The business vetting site Kwikchex approached the TCA, posing as a consumer wanting to sell a timeshare.

“The response from the TCA stated that it had done due diligence on sellmytimeshare.tv ,” said Kwikchex founder Chris Emmins, “and provided a link to a report implying the business was outstandingly successful in selling and disposing of timeshares. We would dispute the claims.’

Above excerpts and read the full article: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/timeshare-consumer-association-claims-independent-9367808

Consumer successfully released from ITRA demands and timeshare

In July 2016, a consumer contacted KwikChex via the Timeshare Business Check website, with the following request

“I have been mis-led and signed up for relinquishment of my timeshare with DRI. I thought I was seeing a consumer advice person at Timeshare Advice Centre Exeter only to be told that ITRA will be working on the relinquishment of my membership for a fee which needed to be paid immediately. Fortunately I realised before paying by BACS to a Bank in Morocco that all was not as it seemed. I cancelled the agreement within 3 days and asked for the return of my Deeds. They are refusing to do this unless I pay work in progress of £1280. Can you help?”

After intervention by KwikChex,  the deeds have been returned by ITRA to the consumer and have ceased demands for payment. In addition, the consumer has now relinquished their timeshare in return for a very low administration fee. These services were provided free of charge as part of the role played by KwikChex leading the Timeshare Task Force.

Asked to comment on her experience with KwikChex and the Timeshare Task Force, the consumer replied

“ I have no objections to helping others if I can and have appreciated the help and information given by yourselves and Mindtimeshare who gave me your contact details.”
Mrs B, Nov 2016

KwikChex can report on a court victory for two consumers regarding International Timeshare Refund Action (ITRA)

The contract the consumers were persuaded to sign was declared illegal and null and void by the judge and they were ordered to repay the full amount they had taken – over £7000.

Whilst the judge’s decision was based on contravention of specific laws relating to timeshare, including non-disclosure of key information relating to the rights of consumers – and the illegal taking of monies during the cooling off period, there was much more presented by the claimants in court.

Undue pressure and misrepresentation
As mentioned in the article, the consumers were pressured into paying immediately, with claims by the ITRA salesperson that time was critical – that they must pay on the day of their meeting with ITRA as a compensation case was about to be filed and they might miss out. In fact, no such case existed. This pressure and the misrepresentations were clearly in breach of Consumer Protection Regulations.

The consumers were also told that their timeshare would be compulsorily passed on to their children. This too was a lie and was exposed as such in court. Not only was there no such liability – in fact, the Walkers were entitled to relinquish their timeshare free of charge – something that was achieved soon after they contacted KwikChex.

The ITRA defence was completely dismissed by the court.

Legal support
The consumers – Harold and Brenda Walker had contacted KwikChex via the Timeshare Task Force after having their complaints rejected by ITRA. When they filed a claim in the Small Claims Court ITRA sought to defend by appointing law firm Pinder Reaux and using a barrister in court. We considered that ITRA should have acted ethically and refunded the monies, instead of using expensive lawyers. Because of this escalation, we sought support on the Walker’s behalf from the Resort Development Organisation (RDO), which funds the Timeshare Task Force managed by KwikChex. RDO agreed and paid for legal representation. KwikChex gave witness in the trial itself, presenting evidence of many consumer complaints regarding ITRA, including to Action Fraud.

ITRA’s previous involvement with consumer detriment
ITRA have previously been exposed as a business operating a ‘bait & switch’ operation. Named in a report by the Insolvency Service in 2012 as a business luring consumers into extremely detrimental purchases of ‘Club Class Concierge’ membership with false promises of timeshare relinquishment. Such was the seriousness of these activities that seven connected companies were compulsorily wound up by the UK authorities in the interest of consumer protection.

Consumer monies not protected
The Walker case also exposed the misleading impression that ITRA gave of protecting client’s monies by saying that they would be held in a client account with accountants Sochalls LLP. In fact, Sochalls was simply another part of the ITRA operation – and they sent monies paid by the Walkers almost immediately out to another one of the ITRA businesses based in Spain – Eurafric. Eurafric is currently sending out demands for fees to victims of the Club Class Concierge scams – attempting to persuade them that they are legally obliged to pay for services for a products considered sold illegally and with gross misrepresentation by the UK authorities.

News of the court ruling comes just after another ITRA network business – Timeshare Advice Centre (European Claims Centre LLC) was ruled by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to be misleading consumers – ASA Ruling

At the recent Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards Conference, KwikChex gave a presentation and discussed the type of problems experienced by the Walkers. Law enforcement and consumer organisations are now looking very closely at such issues. The reality today is that there are few complaints received about new timeshare sales. This is because strict compliance with consumer laws is observed – and there was a significant weeding out of salespeople that broke the rules. Consumers need to know that there is help available and as in the Walker’s case, it is not only laws that will protect them – there is also significant relinquishment assistance underwritten by for example the RDO member’s Code of Conduct. Whilst many consumers have enjoyed their timeshares for years, some have genuine concerns and need help they can trust. They should resist any type of undue pressure and misrepresentations and seek advice from the likes of Citizens Advice Bureau and Trading Standards or talk with a solicitor. KwikChex, as part of the Timeshare Task Force provides free assistance.

Excerpt quote from Harold and Brenda Walker

“Had it not been for the actions; dedication and encouragement of Chris Emmins and his team at KwikChex it is highly questionable whether we would have been able to pursue this action through to a final successful outcome against ITRA. We would encourage anyone who is or have been victim to similar treatment as experienced by us with ITRA to make contact and place themselves in the safe and trustworthy hands of KwikChex.”

The full letter is available on this link

ASA Uphold Complaint against Ultimate Holiday Package/Easy Consulting

ASAThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint submitted by KwikChex regarding Ultimate Holiday Package/Easy Consulting.

A complaint was filed with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in April .

The investigation by KwikChex was carried out as part of activities by the Timeshare Task Force www.timesharetaskforce.org which KwikChex manages.

The complaint challenged (an Ad on a website for a holiday company, www.theultimateholidaypackage.co.uk, which was seen on 27 February 2016) whether:

1. the ad was misleading, because it did not make sufficiently clear that the price of the holidays was dependent on customers attending a timeshare sales presentation and that failure to attend would mean incurring the full cost of the holiday accommodation; and

2. the claim “the single largest provider of promotional holidays in Europe” was misleading and could be substantiated.

Easy Consulting SL t/a The Ultimate Holiday Package did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA upheld the complaint stating that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

Full details of the complaint on the ASA website – https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2016/7/Easy-Consulting-SL/SHP_ADJ_335491.aspx#.V4XZBGh96hc

A previous upheld ASA ruling on a connected business – Love All Inclusive which found that claims of ABTA membership and licensing by the Ministry of Justice were not substantiated and were therefore misleading. Full details of the ASA ruling – https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2015/7/Love-All-Inclusive/SHP_ADJ_303742.aspx#.V4XakGh96hc

A list of connected businesses is available on the Ultimate Holiday Package profile – http://timesharebusinesscheck.org/the-ultimate-holiday-package/

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