>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:
The Federal Trade Commission has gone after Fort Lauderdale-based Consumer Collection Advocates, Corp. and its owner, Michael Robert Ettus, for violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, which prohibits seeking or accepting payment from a person for recovery of money paid for previous telemarketing transactions until seven business days after that person receives the money.
According to the FTC’s complaint, telemarketers for the company called consumers and falsely guaranteed that, for an up-front fee, typically 20 percent of the amount they lost, the defendants would recover substantial amounts of money for them – 60 percent or more – within 30 to 180 days. For consumers who had lost from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars and could not afford a 20 percent up-front fee, the defendants would often accept a reduced fee of less than 10 percent of their loss. The defendants also charged a back-end fee of 20 percent for any amount recovered.
Once they received the money, ranging from hundreds to as much as $10,000, the victims of the alleged fraud never heard from them again. In the space of a year, according to the complaint, the plaintiffs took in as much as $1.3 million dollars.
The FTC, which is seeking to permanently stop the operation via a lawsuit filed in South Florida, has reached an agreement with the defendants to stop the operation for the duration of the on-going litigation and no doubt they’ll be looking at fines, restitution, etc. and their assets have already been frozen in anticipation of that.
But meanwhile the Florida Attorney General’s Office filed an action against the defendants in state court on November 5, 2014, alleging the same deceptive practices and seeking an injunction to stop them. The question there is whether or not Pam Bondi’s office will take it a step further and file criminal charges, which would mean jail time if the defendant(s) were convicted.
ORLANDO: In May I reported on a potential class action lawsuit pending against Marriott Vacations Worldwide/Marriott Vacations Club regarding their switch to a Points system in 2010.
The Plaintiff was Salvatore Desantis on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated; the Defendants were Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corp., Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc. d/b/a/ Marriott Vacation Club International, and Marriott Ownership Resorts Procurement LLC.
In a nutshell Salvatore Desantis alleged that the value of his timeshare ownership dropped when MVC introduced its points program in 2010, because the points program depleted the number of people swapping weeks at Marriott’s timeshare resorts.
The lawsuit also claimed that Marriott’s attempt to extract thousands of dollars by trying to resell members in the Weeks Program the very benefits they have taken away from them was fraudulent, deceptive and unconscionable.
Well, it’s good news for Marriott: the case has been thrown out of court, with the judge asserting that Desantis was not deceived, under Florida’s laws, because his contract warned that “market forces and alternative program opportunities may impact the number of timeshare estates available for exchange.” According to Judge Presnell’s ruling Desantis “got what he was promised” and Marriott was only “responding to a change in the timeshare market.” In his opinion there was nothing deceitful about it.
The judge also noted that Desantis was offered a chance to convert to the points program for $595 and chose not to, so that issue lies at his own door. Attorneys for the plaintiff were chastised for failing to provide grounds for their claims, saying those claims required “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Will they take Judge Presnell’s words to heart and try again, or will they call it a day?
“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” -Alice Roosevelt Longworth
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