-by Michael D. Finn, Esq.
his is the fourth and final part of the Survey of Administrative Remedies (and Some Non-Administrative Ones as Well) for Timeshare Owner Consumers to Consider if They are Seeking Relief.
Summary and Conclusion
In reviewing all the associations and agencies enumerated in this article, the inescapable conclusion as supported by the numbers as provided by the agencies themselves, is that appealing to the state and Federal regulatory law enforcement agencies themselves is, statistically speaking in the vast majority of the cases filed, an exercise in extreme futility for the consumer.
Ironically perhaps, consumers seeking any form of relief from the purported misdeeds of the timeshare developers may be slightly better served by filing complaints with private agencies and organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and the National Timeshare Owners Association.
From a consumer’s perspective, the absence of governmental regulatory enforcement is nothing less than a true travesty of justice.
How, you may inquire (if you’re consumer oriented), has it come to pass with Florida statutes that require the DBPR to “regulate fairly” and the Attorney General to “investigate and prosecute violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act”, that less than 5% of consumers who file complaints receive any relief whatsoever? What avenues, if any, exist for the unwary consumer who gets pressured into purchasing a $25,000 or more timeshare interest with credit at a 19% annual interest rate along with a lifetime maintenance fee obligation, and then come to realize that the purchase contract contains no way out, and then further learns that no significant secondary resale market exists to even unload the liability?
To perhaps state the obvious, the timeshare industry is a well organized and wealthy industry that has the ability to lobby for favorable laws and treatment and is not the least bit shy about doing so. They’re more than capable of utilizing the finest blue chip lawyers and lobbyists to achieve their goals. Contrast this with the average consumer who is economically stretching to afford a $25,000 timeshare interest to attempt to insure one week out of the year to have a place to take his or her family on vacation. When a dispute arises between owner and developer, and without the owner’s ability to obtain the consumer protection his or her taxpayer dollars have paid for, it’s not difficult to predict the outcome.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to assess the deeper question of how to even up the playing field between “David” the consumer, and “Goliath” the timeshare industry. Florida already has some very good consumer protection laws on its books, so passing stronger laws is not necessarily the answer. The timeshare industry enjoys a very comfortable relationship with the state of Florida, both within the Attorney General’s office and the DBPR. It’s ironic that although our government is fully funded with taxpayer dollars, the political power that is unleashed via campaign contributions, lobbying efforts and other indirect connections with the government seems to speak with a much louder voice than “the People’s”.
Let me conclude by observing that it seems statistically clear that if over 95% of all timeshare consumers who filed a complaint with a governmental agency received little to nothing in terms of regulatory relief, that there is something terribly wrong with consumer protection and how it is interpreted and practiced in Florida (and many of the other states housing a significant timeshare presence). Statistically I would expect a 50% consumer recovery. I submit the political climate needs to be tilted back quite a bit to garner support for the consumer and require the timeshare industry to function in a greater social compliance role. For the industry that serves families the lesson should be clear. It’s absolutely unfathomable to comprehend the present state of affairs between an industry with little social conscience and the consumer public who financially supports both the industry itself and the alleged government watchdogs, who apparently are neither watching nor doing much dogging.
Michael D. Finn, Esq.
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