Mr & Mrs. Palombi, a Jacksonville couple paid 25,000 thousand dollars for an Orlando timeshare, which they instantly regretted, the couple desperately looked for a way out. Having contacted a professional timeshare exit company, they heard the words they were anxious to hear ‘we can help’ however, they had to stump up a further 11,000 thousand dollars to do so.
The couple immediately agreed, starting a year-and-a-half long fight with the timeshare company, Vacation Consulting Services of Missouri, the couple claim ‘that Vacation Consulting Services claim ran off with the money and left us in limbo’.
Such lawsuits are becoming increasingly popular, and timeshare giants such as
Diamond Resorts of Las Vegas and Orlando-based Wyndham Destinations are happy to file suits against the timeshare exit companies.
The majority of timeshare exit companies, claim they can assist the owner by relinquishing their timeshare contracts, usually for a large upfront fee, fees can vary from company to company, however, we are talking thousands of pounds/dollars.
The exit company will outsource to a professional lawyer instructing them to contact the client and advise them to stop paying their annual maintenance fees or mortgage if applicable. Oftentimes, that can lead consumers to unknowingly default on their timeshare payments or pay exorbitant amounts for a service that, in many cases, they could have received for free if they just called the timeshare company directly.
Patricia Palombi voiced to the Orlando Sentinel. “It was a mistake to ever engage in this,” “We should have researched other companies. We didn’t do it. We trusted these folks, and I would like nothing better than to see them out of business.”
The couple were invited to a timeshare-exit presentation back in November 2016, three months after returning from a vacation in Hawaii where they had purchased a timeshare with Hilton Grand Vacations Club at the Parc Soleil resort in Orlando near SeaWorld.
John Palombi said. “They made a good argument for getting out of it because you are going to pay these maintenance fees for the rest of your life,” “And even if you die, your grandchildren will have to be spending money on this.”
The retired couple were assured there would be an successful exit within six months, so they agreed and paid the fees upfront. This was not the case, the process extended a further 12 months, the Palombis’s said they called the company repeatedly, in fact more than 50 times, but the company failed to respond.
The couple had confirmation in May 2018 that the timeshare was no longer in their name. The cost of the ordeal, including the cost of the timeshare and the annual maintenance fees which they had to continuing paying while the process went on, was 40,000 thousand dollars.
“I just had no clue that there were that many people out there trying to steal money by lying,” said John Palombi.
Spokesman Whitney Ray of The Florida office of the attorney general has received in the region of 500 consumer complaints every year for the past few years relating to timeshare exit type companies. Last year the number had dropped slightly to around 450, since timeshare companies where fighting against timeshare-exit companies.
Robert Clements, vice president of regulatory affairs at the American Resort Development Association, the trade group that represents the timeshare industry said, “The industry has come together to find a solution for consumers,”.
Mr & Mrs. Palombi decided not to pursue the company, however, Wyndham did sue Vacation Consulting Services in September with similar allegations. Surprisingly, Vacation Consulting Services did not respond to a request for comment.
This year alone, Wyndham has filed six lawsuits in Florida against exit companies.
Bud Bennington, an attorney with Shutts and Bowen has represented Diamond and Wyndham in many cases and is currently involved in 10 ongoing lawsuits against other timeshare exit companies. Diamond alone has prosecuted 12 lawsuits around the country, six of which have led to injunctions against the companies, the resort association said.
Alarm bells should ring immediately if an exit company requests a large up-front fee.
The CEO of Wyndham, Michael Brown said “The challenge when it comes to filing lawsuits, is that exit company owners may open numerous companies with the same address and phone number, making untangling the web difficult, when one closes down, another opens up,”.
Brian Rogers, of the Timeshare Users Group, said, “The billion-dollar timeshare industry is not blameless in the whole ordeal. They are both in the same cesspool, as far as we are concerned,” Rogers said. “The industry itself created these scammers. They wouldn’t exist if the industry itself didn’t practice the way that it does.”