Friday, October 21, 2016

A Call To Action

Today in the timeshare blog I’m going to reach out and ask you to do something.

As some of you know, I’ve been splitting my time over the past 3 plus years between my duties here at Timeshare Insights and my role as the Director of Member Services for the National Timeshare Owners Association.

The NTOA has been around for nearly 20 years and continues to operate under its three basic tenants:

·         Educating timeshare owners and prospective timeshare owners
·         Advocating on behalf of timeshare owners
·         Encouraging responsible timeshare ownership and management

I worked hand in hand with the other Executive Team members on crafting both the Timeshare Owners Bill of Rights and the Best Practices for resorts

I’ve also worked extraordinarily hard on crafting an ongoing selection of Member Benefits that center around timeshare and travel in addition to being part of the team to construct educational videos, newsletters and ASK-NTOA resolution center.

I’ve been around the timeshare world for 16 years now and there are a few things that are crystal clear:

·         Purchasing and owning timeshare is NOT easy
·         The number of scams targeting consumers continues to rise
·         There are an increasing number of fake “advocacy” groups out there just waiting to pounce on you
·         No one purchased a timeshare in hopes of having to join an owner’s association to find education, support, attending meetings and/or pay more money to get answers and help.

So, you guessed it…I’m asking you to pay money and join the NTOA.

For those of you who are still reading…thank you.

NTOA has more power and influence that I will ever have and that’s why I’m working with them.

Timeshare Insights is NOT going away.  As an independent, I can voice an opinion that is purely mine and may be the same as some of yours.  NTOA represents our opinion as a collective community.
But NTOA, you and I have the opportunity to create real change.  Change that if not made, could prove to be catastrophic for a lot of people…including you the timeshare owner.

That’s why I’m urging you to join us in our mission.  You’ll save $10 off your membership by using discount code TI545 when you join using this link 
Everything I and Timeshare Insights has achieved to date is because of you.  Thank you.  Continue to write me, continue to guest blog, continue to interact with me on Facebook, on Twitter.  But we need to facilitate change.  Let’s go.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Important News Regarding Timeshare Owners Lists

Reprinting courtesy of TimeSharing Today-Written by Jeff Weir, chief correspondent RedWeek,com and a contributor to TimeSharing Today

State senator blocks industry bill that would have restricted owner access to HOA rosters

A powerful California lawmaker, who also happens to be a timeshare owner, singlehandedly blocked an industry-backed timeshare bill that would have restricted owners' ability to access HOA rosters in order to communicate with each other about board business and elections.

Sponsored by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) as a means of protecting owner confidentiality, the bill passed through the California Assembly on a 79-0 vote. But it stalled in the State Senate, languishing for months in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat and former prosecutor who was elected in 2012.

Jackson's committee has considerable sway over all bills that have significant legal impacts. In fact, it's a graveyard for any bills that don't pass her muster. According to legislative staffers, Jackson's legal and timeshare experience gave her a unique perspective on the potential ramifications of Assembly Bill 634, which juxtaposed owner privacy rights against owners' ability to use owner rosters for legitimate member-to-member communications about board policies or HOA issues.

The original bill, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, set forth procedures for HOA boards to enable owner-to-owner communications. Those procedures, moreover, were designed to prevent membership rosters from falling into the hands of third-party scammer companies who might use the lists to harass owners with timeshare sales-or-transfer solicitations.

According to a Senate committee analysis of the bill, AB 634 also would have repealed key portions of a 2010 California appellate court ruling that upheld owners' rights to access membership rosters for legitimate board business. In that case, Worldmark by Wyndham repeatedly refused to grant an owner's request to access the list to share a petition challenging the board's domination by current or former Wyndham executives. At one point,

Worldmark offered to mail a copy of Robin Miller's petition to Worldmark's 260,000 members if Miller agreed to pay $260,000 in mailing costs. Miller asked the board to provide email lists, to reduce the costs, but Worldmark declined, citing privacy issues.The case went to trial in 2009. Miller's access rights were upheld. Worldmark appealed.
In its ruling upholding Miller's right to access the list, without having to bear a prohibitive financial burden, the appellate court said: "A danger exists in allowing too free an access to membership lists; however, the potential for abuse must be balanced against a member's legitimate needs and rights to utilize lists in election contests and for purposes reasonably related to a member's interest.”

The Calderon bill, drafted by ARDA, attempted to balance the two competing owner rights cited by the appellate court -- preserving privacy while enabling communication. But Jackson's team did not like the details.
The Senate Judiciary Committee analysis of AB 634 said: "While this bill would help protect the privacy of timeshare plan members and could potentially shield them from unwanted marketing, it would also remove the ability for members to identify and communicate with each other except in very narrow circumstances."

"As drafted, the analysis continued, "this bill arguably favors the interests of the management of a timeshare plan and of a timeshare association too heavily. With this bill, management or an association may be able to effectively prevent the delivery of messages it does not agree with by denying owners -- who likely will never meet each other --- the resources they need to contact each other."

Fast forward to late June, when the bill is finally subjected to a public hearing in Jackson's committee. Calderon testifies that the bill will protect owners from being preyed upon by predatory transfer companies, but does not offer one concrete example where an HOA roster was either sold or given to a third party company for commercial purposes. (ARDA did not provide a single example of this purported abuse, either.)
Jackson, without discussion, declares that the bill will be amended, with the author's consent, and recommends a "do-pass-as-amended" vote by her committee. The amendments are not discussed or distributed. The bill is approved unanimously and sent to the Senate floor for further consideration. One month later, the amendments surface. They strengthen the ban on distributing HOA rosters to third parties, but strip out all prohibitions on sharing lists with owners.

What happens next? Calderon, the author, doesn't like the amended bill because it still authorizes sharing ownership roster-information with other owners. ARDA, the sponsor, abandons the bill.

"The amendments were prepared by the committee at the direction of the chair (Jackson)," said Peter Roth, ARDA's vice president of marketing and communications and industry relations. "We did not agree to the changes as the goal for us remains the protection of the owner's personal information.”

Under current California law (and the amended AB 634), Roth added "this provides the opportunity for anyone who acquires one interest to then sell the list or use it to attempt to scam or simply solicit owners.”
Facing the Legislature's imminent adjournment on Aug. 31, Calderon gutted AB 634 of all timeshare language on Aug. 18 and, overnight, turned it into a measure dealing with digital assets in probate.

Both sides, meanwhile, said they would consider reviewing the timeshare issue as new language emerges to solve the dual claims of owner privacy and disclosure. For sure, the issue is not going away, because California is a national bellwether for consumer protection AND privacy issues.

One silver lining for ARDA as AB 634 succumbed to Jackson's amendments. Three similar prior bills, starting in 2012, died in various committees. AB 634 lasted longer than any of its predecessors.
One last word: Sen. Jackson's office declined to answer any questions about her timeshare experiences.