A group of timeshare owners have joined in class action against their resorts, to end their timeshare contracts, claiming they are too difficult to use. The owners have filed a complaint in a Californian court against Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Silverleaf Resorts INC, Orange Lake Resorts and Orange Lake Country Club, alleging common Law Fraud, breach of contract and elder abuse.
The complaint alleges the timeshare owners purchased units from the resorts and say that using these units was virtually impossible. They say booking their holidays was too difficult and they needed to book a year in advance in order to be able to use their timeshares. The complaint also details how maintenance fees increased each year, when the sales representatives told them the fees would not go up at all and if they did, this would only be a minimal amount. The owners also say that they have incurred substantial damages, because of their timeshare purchase and were harmed because of the resorts conduct towards them.
The owners have requested a trial by jury and are seeking general and punitive damages, rescission of their contractual obligations, common law and statutory relief, attorney’s fees, costs including prejudgement interest and compensation for the court to determine a fair amount.
The claim of Elder Abuse may be most problematic for the resorts to argue, especially if they are faced with arguing the case in front of a sympathetic jury. Elder Abuse is a single, or repeated, act, or lack of appropriate action within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.
The law is clear on how companies are expected to treat elderly vulnerable people and this is problematic for timeshare resorts, who continually engage in targeting them, trying to upsell them more holiday products and keep them locked in contracts in perpetuity. Hundreds and thousands of complaints are made to governmental bodies each year, even ex-employees complain about the fraudulent and deceptive sales practices of resorts. Despite this, resorts continue to do very little to clean up their sales practices, or to compensate their members for the damages they have suffered. For members to escape, once they have joined, the only recourse is to take legal action against a system which is designed to keep them locked in.
Another reason the claim of Elder Abuse is going to be difficult to argue against, in this case, may be in the way in which the timeshares were sold to the consumers. Most timeshares owners have endured hours of sales presentations and high pressure tactics, but for elderly people this can be extremely distressing. A seasoned sales agent will not give up on a possible sale just because the person is elderly. Timeshare sales agents have sales quotas that they must meet and are paid a commission based salary. Under these circumstances it is inevitable, if not expected, a salesperson will employ manipulative sales practices in order to make a sale.
In addition to the way in which they are sold, the means they use for the customer to finance these sales will also come into question. Loans and financing are often unsuitable and not based on an assessment of an elderly persons ability to repay them. Many resorts also have their own financing agreements they try to push, which are high interest and an elderly customer will not be offered any alternative.
The court in considering whether or not Elder Abuse is a valid complaint in this case will also need to consider the economics of a perpetual vacation membership and the lack of suitability for an elderly person. For example, annual fees escalate each year, at a rate much higher than inflation, often with little or no justification. Even if an elderly person couldn’t book a room using their membership, they would still be obliged to pay their maintenance fees. They would also be obliged to pay their fees even if they couldn’t use their membership due to illness, financial hardship or any other facts beyond their control.
It is likely this case will be settled by the resort outside of court and away from a jury, which could call the attention of the press and unwanted negative press. However if it does see its way to the courts, it could set a president for how timeshare resorts proceed when dealing with elderly vulnerable people.
People who enter into Timeshare agreements often find it difficult to keep up with the mounting maintenance fees and simply cannot afford it any longer. They may also find that the Timeshare no longer suits their needs and simply want to end the contract. There are too many individuals who are willing to take advantage of Timeshare owners and offer fake products, along with Timeshare exit schemes. Before agreeing to any Timeshare termination or exit procedure with an individual or company, seek independent advise and fully research any company you are thinking of working with.
It is also important to remember that purchasing a Timeshare should NEVER be viewed as a financial investment. Timeshare is an investment in lifestyle, in future holidays and family time together. There is almost no resale value to a Timeshare.
The mis-selling of holiday products is, unfortunately, common practice within the holiday industry and these type of crimes often go unreported by the most vulnerable in our society and criminal convictions are few and far between.
If you have purchased a Lifestyle / Concierge Service, a Timeshare or a ‘Holiday Points’ based product from a resort or company and feel unhappy with the service, or feel you have been mis-sold this product, please get in touch with us to discuss how we may be able to help you with a possible Money Back Claim.