TALLAHASSEE, FL (March 11, 2010) — In continuing recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced he is tackling growing abuses in the timeshare resale industry, beginning with the announcement of a significant settlement that could yield as much as $1.3 million in consumer refunds and the filing of a lawsuit against a major player in the timeshare resale industry in Florida. The Attorney General also unveiled ongoing investigations into at least 17 timeshare companies and their affiliates throughout the state for deceptive trade practices.
“Florida’s consumers are trying to make prudent financial decisions, but many timeshare resale companies are blatantly scamming people by promising sales or refunds and failing to provide services even after taking hefty up-front fees,” said Attorney General McCollum.
The statewide initiative was launched by the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division in 2009 in response to the growing number of timeshare resale complaints received by the Attorney General’s Office last year.
Timeshare resale complaints have recently surpassed mortgage-related complaints as the most commonly reported consumer complaint received by the Office’s Consumer Hotline.
The lawsuit filed today against Resales Buy Owner.com, Inc. states the company engaged in a systematic pattern of deception that improperly induced consumers to pay up-front fees for timeshare resale services that were never provided. According to consumer complaints, the company would indicate it either had a buyer or renter interested in the timeshare and that there would be no problem renting or selling the timeshare within 90 to 120 days. According to the lawsuit, the company merely advertised the property listings, if taking any action at all, and allegedly charged consumers’ credit cards even after consumers opted not to do business with the company. The lawsuit seeks an order prohibiting the company from engaging in further deceptive conduct and seeks full restitution on behalf of victimized consumers, civil penalties and reimbursement for fees and costs. Two additional lawsuits are also pending against other companies.
The Attorney General’s Office also announced a significant settlement with Virtual Group, Inc., an Orange County company, resolving allegations the company failed to provide promised refunds to consumers. Virtual Group, which does business under the name Realty Trade, offered timeshare resale and rental advertising services to consumers looking to sell or lease their timeshare properties. As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, Realty Trade has already paid over $800,000 in refunds to 799 consumers. The company will also make another $500,000 available to consumers who make new refund requests.
Over the past year, the Attorney General’s Office has also reached settlements with six other timeshare resale companies obtaining total restitution to consumers of more than $298,000, with approximately $50,000 more in escrow to resolve future complaints in some cases. Several of these settlements contributed to a record-breaking $216 million in restitution for Florida consumers obtained by the Attorney General’s Office in 2009. Since 2007, the Attorney General’s Office has returned over $363 million in restitution for Florida consumers, several times more than the recoveries obtained over the previous four years.
In addition to the litigation and the settlement announced today, in recent months, the Attorney General’s Office has subpoenaed 17 timeshare resale companies and their affiliates over allegations of potentially deceptive business practices. Common complaints about timeshare resale companies involve the use of false and deceptive claims to entice consumers to pay up-front fees, including assertions that buyers are allegedly ready and willing to buy or rent the consumers’ timeshare.
Companies also often allegedly fail to honor cancellation policies, misrepresent the actual services that will be provided to consumers, and fail to comply with elements of state and federal telemarketing acts.
Floridians who are considering listing their timeshare for sale or rent are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office to inquire whether or not specific companies have complaints reported against them. Consumers can contact the Attorney General’s Citizen Services Division by calling the Attorney General’s fraud hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) or by visiting the Attorney General’s website at http://www.myfloridalegal.com
- American Marketing Group, LLC., located in West Palm Beach – lawsuit filed in January 2010
- Hicks, Inc., doing business as Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions, located in West Palm Beach – the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against these companies in October 2009.An Agreed Orders for Temporary Injunctive Relief was obtained against this company and its principals in January 2010, and further litigation is pending.
- Executive Timeshare Marketing, Inc., located in Tamarac, Florida
- Coastal Timeshare Solutions, Inc., located in Boca Raton, Florida
- Worldwide Resorts Direct, Inc. and Worldwide Marketing Solutions of Palm Beach, Inc., doing business as Worldwide Timeshare, located in West Palm Beach, Florida
- TS Luxury Group, Inc., located in Lake Worth
- C& G Marketing Associates, LLC., doing business as Premier Timeshare Solutions, located in Palm Beach Gardens
- Nationwide Marketing Solutions, Inc., doing business as Magnum Advertising Services, Inc., located in Lake Worth
- International Resort Solutions, LLC., located in Lake Worth
- E.A.T. Sales LLC, located in Boca Raton
- Euroamerican Timeshare LLC., located in Boynton Beach
- Transatlantic Timeshare LLC., located in Boynton Beach
- Seabreeze Advertising Corp., also known as SBA, Corp., located in Daytona Beach
- Timeshare Market Pro, located in Davie
- International Marketing and Finance, located in Wellington
- Gold Crown Property Management, Inc., located in Dunedin
- Vacation Property Resales, Inc., doing business as BUYATIMESHARE.COM, located in Tampa
- Timeshare Only, located in Orlando
- PFS Concepts, Inc., doing business as US Vacation, located in Largo
- World Timeshares, Inc., located in Deerfield Beach – The Attorney General’s Office settled with this company in April 2009 and obtained $100,161 in consumer restitution.
- Timeshare Travels, located in Boca Raton – The Attorney General’s Office settled with this company in April 2009 and obtained $90,323 in consumer restitution.
- Vacation Property Trader, located in Deerfield Beach – The Attorney General’s Office settled with this company in May 2009 and obtained $8,447 in consumer restitution.
- Preferred Vacation Resorts, Inc., doing business as Preferred Property Services, Inc., Preferred Property Services.com, Inc., located in Clearwater – As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation into these companies, they ceased operations in April 2009, and the Attorney General’s Office obtained $36,000 in consumer restitution.
- D&D Vacations, Incorporated, doing business as United States Property Services,, located in largo – The Attorney General’s Office reached an agreement with this company last week and obtained $26,000 in consumer restitution.
- S.F.C. Group, Inc. doing business as TWA Resale, located in Orlando – The Attorney General’s Office settled with this company in March 2010 and obtained $37,226 in consumer restitution.
SOURCE: Florida Attorney General’s Office