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:
Consumer awarded over £4800 as judge declares that breaches of contract by International Refund Action Ltd. (ITRA) were “completely unacceptable”
KwikChex can report that on Friday 19 January 2018, at Weston-Super-Mare County Court, another consumer it has supported has won a judgement against International Timeshare Refund Action – ITRA.
The judge ordered ITRA to repay the consumer £4802.60, having decided that ITRA had not provided the services promised. The judge also commented that the “Breaches were as fundamental as they could possibly get” and that there had been “so little done for so much money”
The consumer asked for the assistance of KwikChex via the Timeshare Task Force resources that KwikChex manages, which are funded by the Resort Development Organisation (RDO) after ITRA’s multiple failures to clearly respond for over a year to requests to detail what ITRA had carried out on her behalf. KwikChex provided free advice and support for 18 months during the dispute, which culminated in the court hearing, with ITRA vainly trying to defend the lack of work carried out and poor communication. Attempts to carry out some work at the eleventh hour, well after legal proceedings were started were rejected as ‘too little, too late’.
KwikChex Director Chris Emmins provided a witness statement and attended court in support of the consumer, which detailed ITRA’s involvement in the notorious Club Class Concierge scams which resulted in the winding-up of seven connected companies by the UK authorities. Also included in the statement were details of complaints made by consumers to Action Fraud about ITRA and the misrepresentations that ITRA had a ‘Head Office’ in Gibraltar – something the Gibraltar authorities had confirmed was untrue.
ITRA attempted to defend the claim by using their favoured law firm, Pinder Reaux and a barrister, whilst the consumer represented herself. Two witnesses appeared for ITRA – the first was a Patrick O’Connor, who from the outset admitted that he used an alias when working for ITRA, calling himself ‘Steven John’ a name that has been quoted by many consumers making complaints against ITRA. He stated that the alias was easier for consumers to remember. The second witness was identified as Andrew Cooper, who in his witness statement said that he was a ‘consultant ’for ITRA. However, a solicitor from Pinder Reaux described him as ITRA’s CEO – and when questioned whether he was a director of ITRA he replied that he was. Andrew Cooper was also a director of two of the companies closed down by the UK authorities in 2012 – Bridge View Consultants Ltd. and Club Class Concierge Ltd. He is also a current director of European Claims Centre Ltd., a business that claims to have helped thousands of people to exit timeshares, though it was only formed in June 2016 and uses the serviced / virtual offices to conduct its business as ITRA.
The latest case echoed the well-publicisied win by Mr & Mrs Walker against ITRA in court in 2016, who were refunded over £7000 – see the report by the Daily Mail – http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-3709511/Couple-win-7-000-victory-faulty-timeshare-contract-following-18-month-legal-battle.html
KwikChex and a number of consumer protection and advice agencies continue to receive complaints concerning ITRA.
KwikChex and the Timeshare Task Force services have been vetted and approved by Trading Standards and are the only business operating within the timeshare sector to have received official accreditation under the Trading Standards Buy With Confidence scheme – see the accreditation and verified consumer feedback on the following link – www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/profile/kwikchex/24358
Successes for consumers right across the spectrum
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.
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.
KwikChex 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.
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.
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 UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint submitted by KwikChex regarding Solution For Timeshare http://www.solutionfortimeshare.com/. The complaint includes the Swedish version of the site Slapp Din Timeshare http://www.slappdintimeshare.com/.
The investigation by KwikChex was carried out as part of activities by the Timeshare Task Force http://www.timesharetaskforce.org/ which KwikChex manages.
The complaint challenged whether reviews on the sites were genuine – on the basis that reviews with the same wording appeared under different names on the two sites – a clear indication of review fraud.
Connected websites and businesses
The following websites were also traced as being connected by IT traces and phone numbers.
Law of Timeshare http://lawoftimeshare.com/
It is noticeable that none of the sites publishes information about ownership, legal entity details or contact information – a breach of law under the Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008.
The ITRA connection
In addition, follow up investigations revealed links to the ITRA (International Timeshare Refund Action) operations.
All of the connected websites can be found on the Timeshare Business Check website – https://timesharebusinesscheck.org/solution-for-timeshare/
Many of these connected sites also breach such laws – and are connected also with actions taken by the UK authorities in 2012 – http://www.rbwm.gov.uk/web/ts_club_class_holidays_wound_up.htm
ITRA was itself the subject of a related upheld ASA complaint in 2011 – http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2011/1/International-Timeshare-Refund-Action-(incorporated-in-the-Seychelles)/TF_ADJ_49567.aspx#.VRFvsfnF9x4
This again clearly demonstrated the link between ITRA and the notorious ‘Club Class businesses.
For recent advice about checking on timeshare and other related businsses, click here
The details of the ASA adjudication can be found on the ASA website – http://www.asa.org.uk
Further to an exchange of emails between KwikChex and the Timeshare Consumers Association (TCA) regarding International Timeshare Refund Action (ITRA).
Contained within this article are the following statements:
“ITRA is the most successful company who actions claims against the timeshare industry and who act on behalf of consumers against resorts.”
“we have not had 1 complaint in 6 months about ITRA.”
“In rebuttal the TCA has says “we have no recorded complaints about ITRA”.”
“ITRA have a network of law firms in and around Europe who action many, many claims on behalf of UK Consumers. They have networks and procedure in place and for those consumers who engage them to assist them in mounting legal actions.”
“in reality ITRA are only assisting consumers.”
“it would be very true to say is that the industry attack is based on a completely wrong and blighted premise.”
“If there operations (as suggested by the industry) were bogus, there would exist copious amounts of independent reportable cases which have been uncontaminated by the industry and as to their antics. Again this proof is bitterly lacking.”
We wish to clarify that advice was provided to the TCA with regard to this content on 29th and 30th November 2014.
We have provided the TCA with the following:
Information regarding action taken by the UK authorities to close companies that have a shared ownership basis with ITRA. ITRA was inextricably linked with these businesses and this was cited in evidence.
A link to an ASA ruling concerning ITRA – http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2011/1/International-Timeshare-Refund-Action-(incorporated-in-the-Seychelles)/TF_ADJ_49567.aspx
Details of authenticated consumer complaints against ITRA.
On 30th November 2014, a further response was received from the TCA indicating that they were grateful for us bringing the evidence to their attention, were addressing the matter and (quote) “will shortly deal with ITRA and in our own way”.
Link to verified information on ITRA and associated businesses – https://timesharebusinesscheck.org/international-timeshare-refund-action-itra/
The recent case of Mr & Mrs B was a classic example of how the Timeshare Task Force has been instrumental in meeting its objectives of assisting consumers and tackling rogue businesses.
Pensioners in poor health, (Mrs B is disabled), they were lured, via the website www.timesharerelease.co.uk to a meeting in Malaga with ITRA, (the infamous International Timeshare Refund Action business). Even though the ITRA employees could see the poor health and knew the age of the couple, ITRA proceeded to tell them that they could release them from their timeshare within 4 – 6 weeks at a cost of £4,500 – which they paid. (ITRA had originally said they would handle the case on a no win no fee basis). When they were not released as promised, they went online and found the information about ITRA on the Timeshare Business Check website, which is provided by the TaskForce – and immediately sought help.
A fast and free solution was available all along.
As their resort was a member of RDO, the first action that took place was to liaise with the developer with regard to allowing them too surrender their timeshare under the exit provisions drawn up by the RDO and agreed to by the developer. Just over a week after contacting the TaskForce, it was confirmed that their situation warranted an immediate surrender, with no costs or fees.
The second element now being tackled is to assist the reimbursement of the £4500 paid to ITRA . Although the couple originally had a claim rejected by their credit card company, support and evidence now being provided by the Task Force should ensure the imminent return of their monies – this is another standard and frequent service provided by the Task Force.
Pursuing criminal prosecutions
Finally, the evidence is now being presented to law enforcement authorities in the appropriate European countries (on a cross border basis) and prosecution sought. The Task Force vigorously pursues such cases and will if necessary help victims take action via a private criminal prosecution.
All the elements so typical in Task Force work were present in this case – the deceit of well known serial offenders, the fact that free, fast and effective solutions were available if the timeshare owners had only used the Task Force resources first – and the subsequent assistance in refunding monies and enabling prosecution.
Cooperation and coordination paying off
The various organisations working in partnership are also greatly contributing to the results being achieved.
Cases received by the ECC network concerning RDO members have been quickly resolved – previously such cases were not even being reported to RDO, so no action could possibly have taken place.
Cases received by TATOC have been passed to the Task Force for investigation and resolutions processes, with many resulting in very fast reimbursements and others being prepared for criminal offences actions.
Information received by the Timeshare Business Check website has resulted in joint actions by Trading Standards and the Task Force.
In addition to quick resolutions, RDO, after forcing the resignation of a member for non-compliance, have passed the case details to the TaskForce for follow up action, including refund of monies and criminal prosecution.
A summary of achievements is below.
America Maya, the KwikChex Legal Officer and in-house lawyer is coordinating the actions between the Task Force investigations team and the authorities. She said “This is only the start. – the more information received by the Task Force, the greater the potential for resolutions, refunds and enforcement actions. Cooperation between all the various authorities and organisations is absolutely essential to deal with cross border problems and EU-wide legislation and regulations.”