Trapped timeshare owners who paid thousands to get out of their contracts are being ‘palmed off’

Credits: The Mirror, By Andrew Penman, 17/10/18

Trapped timeshare owners who paid thousands to get out of their contracts are being ‘palmed off’

‘Couple were desperate to sell their timeshare when the annual fees reached £1,500 so paid International Timeshare Refund Action Limited, or ITRA, to help them’

So far ITRA have done very little, getting me to do most of their work,” Laura says.

“After four years I am now informed that I still own the week in Scotland and am therefore liable for maintenance arrears of £742,” said Anthony.

“We paid ITRA over £5,000, this was over two years ago,” says Julie.

Above excerpts and read the full article: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/trapped-timeshare-owners-unwanted-weeks-13431301

If you believe you have been affected by a scam you can report it to KwikChex: https://kwikchex.com/consumers/

Another judgement issued against ITRA in court – and this time they don’t even show up

International Timeshare Refund Action (ITRA) have once again had a judgement made against them in a court action brought by a consumer and supported by KwikChex.

On 4th June at Stoke-On-Trent County Court, ITRA were ordered to refund a consumer all the monies he paid to them plus costs – a total of over £5700. On this occasion, although fully aware of the proceedings, ITRA did not appear to defend the claim.

ITRA have lost several cases at courts across the UK in recent times after consumers took actions, citing misrepresentation and breach of contract. KwikChex has assisted many consumers that have complained that they have been pressured into paying thousands of pounds for supposed timeshare relinquishment and claims services which were never delivered.

The consumer in the latest case thanked KwikChex for the help provided and said that the judge had commended KwikChex for the work being done and for providing free assistance.

Update on ITRA & ECC

In recent times, after a run of defeats in court and adverse publicity,  those behind ITRA appear to be abandoning the ITRA brand and switching to their newer ECC brand, (European Claims Centre or European Consumer Claims). ECC is being operated by the same people from the same locations as ITRA. Complaints and concerns are already emerging about ECC and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have already upheld a complaint against the business  for misleading advertising, with the ruling clearly identifying their close association with ITRA – see link to ruling – https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/european-claims-centre-llc-a16-334571.html

Timeshare Task Force responds to over 1000 consumer requests for assistance in 11 months

Since the launch  of the new Timeshare Helpline, in July 2017 the Timeshare Task Force operated by KwikChex, has received and responded to over 1000 requests for assistance and successfully resolved half of these, with the remainder receiving ongoing support.
As a provider of evidence and witness statements the TTF has helped secure:
•       The convictions of 3 persons involved in rogue activities
•       Multiple arrests
•       4 Judgements in favour of consumers in County Court proceedings against ITRA
•       The closure of numerous websites and businesses, including EZE Group
Consumers have been assisted with refunds totalling over a quarter of a million pounds.
All assistance to consumers is completely free, with funding being provided by the Resort Development Organisation (RDO), the representative organisation for timeshare developers in Europe.
The Task Force has a 5 star Trading Standards Approved rating, with outstanding feedback – see example below.
“Extremely helpful and supportive and completely free! They helped me to achieve a complete refund of all monies within a few weeks. Totally upfront and with valuable connections to Trading Standards and The Citizens’ Advice Bureau. I would totally recommend them to anybody with Timeshare problems. Definitely use them!”
See more reviews and details of our Trading Standards vetted & approved accreditation – https://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/profile/kwikchex/24358/

Serial offender Frank Madden sentenced to 40 months imprisonment

Francis (Frank) Madden was yesterday (Tuesday 01 May) sentenced to 40 months imprisonment for scamming consumers in a supposed holiday discount scheme.

The sentence was handed down after he changed his plea to guilty on reduced charges.

Madden was previously convicted on two occasions and was actually under a suspended sentence when KwikChex detected him involved in the same activities again. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-3094117/Investigators-suspect-fraudster-targeting-elderly-scams-incredibly-say-t-afford-prosecute-savage-cuts.

After luring people in to meetings with thousands of cold calls, he pressured his victims, many of whom were elderly, into parting with large sums of money, telling them they would enjoy fantastic holidays in return – but there was no substance at all – holidays were hardly ever available and people had to pay big supplements if they did want to go on trips.

In 2012 he was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for 24 months after admitting eight counts of unfair trading. The offences related to the company Hotweeks. Victims then were conned out of up to £2,000 to get discounts on accommodation, flights and cruises.

We are very pleased that justice hast been done, having reported Madden’s latest activities to Trading Standards and provided evidence, and a witness statement. The persistence of Trading standards Officers, should be recognised in achieving this result.

His co-defendant Claire Garland, admitted two counts of failing to provide cancellation rights, and was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge after it was accepted that Madden had used her as a ‘puppet’ and she had been left in considerable debt by his criminal activities.

Madden’s conviction comes hard on the heels of those of father and daughter Dominic and Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, who pleaded guilty in November to offences relating to the selling of another bogus holiday-based product known as ‘Leisure Credits’. They are currently awaiting sentencing. Again, KwikChex as part of our Trading Standards Approved  Timeshare Task Force activities, provided evidence and a witness statement to Trading Standards.

If you believe you have been affected by a scam you can report it to KwikChex: https://kwikchex.com/consumers/

EZE Group Update 1st May

We have been informed that the sentencing hearing for EZE Group and Dominic  & Stephanie O’Reilly did not take place yesterday (30th April) as applications have been made by the EZE defence.
We will issue further updates when more information is available.

Warning – Andore Marketing

It has come to our notice that a new company Andore Marketing (full name Andore Marketing & Management SL) in Tenerife has been selling EZE products as lately as March of this year, we would advise any consumers approached by this business to decline any offers of presentations, products, services etc.

ITRA Lose again in court

Another consumer supported by the free services of the Timeshare Task Force has been awarded a full refund, plus costs and interests totalling nearly £10,000

On 27th March at Workington County Court, ITRA were ordered to pay a consumer a total of £9765.90. This included a full refund of £7640.00, plus costs and interest.

The judge ruled that ITRA were guilty of misrepresentation in the sales process, deceiving the consumers by making false statements and promises and breach of contract for not carrying out promised work. She stated that “There was a complete failure by ITRA to comply with the Consumer Rights Act”

This is the third court case in succession that KwikChex, acting in its role of leading the Timeshare Task Force has provided free support to consumers making such claims against ITRA.  Other cases where KwikChex has provided assistance have been settled by ITRA prior to the hearings.

Once again, the judge was highly critical of ITRA, stating that there was misrepresentation (or at the very least negligence) at the original sales meeting held at ITRA’s Spanish offices. The judge accepted the statement by the consumer that he had been told that the process would take 6 – 8 weeks (a common complaint by consumers regarding ITRA) and that they would quickly win back compensation that would pay for the ITRA fees.  In fact, nothing of substance had been done for the 10 months prior to the consumer bringing the case to court.

The judge questioned why ITRA had not sent a single letter to assist the consumer with relinquishment and a supposed claim within an 8 month period and did not enter into any effective dialogue with the timeshare company during this time. As in other cases, after contacting KwikChex via the Timeshare Business Check website (timesharebusinesscheck.org), the consumer, in addition to receiving help with the claim against ITRA, was also able to relinquish their timeshare directly.

‘Stephen John’ – in reality Patrick O’Connor using an alias again involved and criticised

As in previous cases,  a Patrick O’Connor gave evidence as a defence witness for ITRA – and as has happened previously, the judge found that he lacked credibility. O’Connor, with ITRA’s full knowledge uses the name ‘Stephen John’ when working on behalf of ITRA. He has previously stated that he does this because Stephen John is easier for people to remember – but when questioned in court this time, he told the court that he works for 14 different companies and uses different aliases for many. When questioned by the judge how many aliases he has, O’Connor replied he had seven different names.

The judge also found that there was no evidence of what ‘ITRA legal’ had done at all. ITRA Legal is supposed to be the legal expert arm of the ITRA operation – but requests to identify the ‘experts’ and disclose their qualifications have never been replied to with any clarification. O’Connor, when asked to identify who he worked with within ITRA Legal, was only able to give some first names, saying he did not know their last names.

Defeats in court,  and previous involvement in banned businesses lead to formation of a new company by ITRA – ECC or European Claims Centre

In recent times, those behind and working for ITRA (which hides ownership details by registering the company in the Seychelles and false claims to have a ‘head office ‘in Gibraltar have started using a new entity – European Claims Centre (usually shortened to ECC). This should not be confused with the European  Consumer Centre, which also uses the initials ECC and is an official consumer protection organisation, which in the UK is affiliated with Trading Standards.

ITRA’s ECC has already been found to be  practicing their own deceptions.  An Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling upheld complaints brought by KwikChex that information on their website was untrue and misleading. And whilst they have tried to distance themselves from ITRA when questioned by consumers, they admitted the close relationship in trying unsuccessfully to defend themselves, stating “that ITRA and ECC had the same shareholders and were therefore legally associated companies.” The full details of the ASA ruling can be found on the following link to the ASA website – https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/european-claims-centre-llc-a16-334571.html

Further cases pending

Other consumers assisted by KwikChex are also taking action against ITRA.  Any consumer that has paid fees to ITRA and has concerns about the business or suspects that they have not been provided with the promised services can avail themselves of the free services provided via the Timeshare Task Force. Information is available on the following websites:

timesharebusinesscheck.org

timesharetaskforce.org

‘Time-share fraudsters sentenced to more than 20 years in prison’

Credits: www.westmercia.police.uk ‘Time-share fraudsters sentenced to more than 20 years in prison’ 23/02/18

Nine people have been sentenced for their parts in a ‘deliberate and cynical’ campaign of timeshare fraud, following an investigation by Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police Economic Crime Unit.

Appearing at Stafford Crown Court between 21 and 23 February were:
• James Barrass, 37, from Norwich: Charged with money laundering. Sentenced to two years in prison.
• Matthew Barker, 25, from Bromsgrove: Charged with fraudulent trading. Sentenced to one year and one month in prison, suspended for one year and six months, and 250 hours of unpaid work.
• Brian Carr, 31, from Redditch: Charged with conspiracy to defraud and perverting the course of justice. Sentenced to six years and eight months in prison and disqualified from holding the position of company director for ten years.
• Daniel Carr, 24, from Redditch: Charged with conspiracy to defraud. Sentenced to four years in prison.
• Steven Cross, 37, from Worcester: Charged with conspiracy to defraud. Sentenced to six months in prison.
• Dawn Gingell, 55, from Hampshire: Charged with conspiracy to defraud. Sentenced to three years and six months in prison.
• Brendan Hicks, 28, from Redditch: Charged with fraudulent trading. Sentenced to one year and one month in prison, suspended for one year and six months, and 250 hours of unpaid work.
• Alan Sharp, 66, from Norwich: Charged with money laundering. Sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for a year, and 200 hours of unpaid work.
• Craig Walker, 27, from Redditch: Charged with conspiracy to defraud. Sentenced to three years in prison.

Read the full article from West Mercia Police here: https://www.westmercia.police.uk/article/44436/Time-share-fraudsters-sentenced-to-more-than-20-years-in-prison

Further article by the Coventry Telegraph (including photos of those charged): https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/local-news/evil-fraudsters-stole-875k-vulnerable-14341211?mc_cid=0d844242f7&mc_eid=313919f626

Timeshare Legal Services & The ‘Timeshare Ombudsman’ Warning

We have recently received a report that the company Timeshare Legal Services (www.timesharelegalservices.co.uk) has been contacting consumers and stating they were given their information from the ‘Timeshare Ombudsman’ (www.timeshareombudsman.org.uk).

We are not aware of an official service under this name and both websites do not provide transparent business details i.e. legal entities/company numbers or in the case of the ‘Timeshare Ombudsman’ even an address. We would class this as a transparency warning.

The ‘Timeshare Ombudsman’s domain also shows the registrant name and address as hidden, which again is a transparency warning flag.

Timeshare Legal Services make the following claims on their website ‘SERVING THE INDUSTRY FOR OVER 20 YEARS’ and ‘With extensive experience in the industry, we have helped over 2,000 people break free from Timeshare Contracts, and recovered over one million in reclaims.’ As the website domain was registered only in June 2017 and a company by the same name with the same address was only incorporated in November 2017, we would be interested in determining the truth of these claims.

We are also concerned as to the sharing of data between these companies.

Generally, we advise extreme caution regarding any business making unsolicited calls/emails/SMS, not least because there may be Data Protection law breaches involved -i.e., that they may have obtained and /or are using your data illegally.

We are passing our concerns to the relevant authorities and will provide an update when available. In the meantime we would be interested to hear from anyone contacted by these companies or currently using their services: http://timesharebusinesscheck.org/report-your-concerns/

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