Timeshare Sales Laws That Regulate the Industry

Timeshare Sales Laws That Regulate the Industry

The timeshare business has been booming for quite some time now. But demand hasn’t necessarily been the driving force. Since the 70’s, a nearsighted salesforce has been at the wheel despite a diminishing reputation and an increase in competition. At the same time, timesharing isn’t the only travel option that takes advantage of impulse buyers.

Nearly every industry requires a set of laws to keep greedy businesses from taking advantage of customers. There’s always someone who ruins it for everyone. Helping you understand what a purchase of this magnitude entails is important to us. Now that we’ve pointed out the challenges of regulating timeshare marketing tactics and advertising lingo, we wanted to shed light on some of the timeshare laws that protect consumers from misleading sales strategies.

Understanding What Timeshare Sales Laws Regulate

In the early stages of timesharing, when expansion was occurring rapidly, many resorts utilized “misspeak” to promote products that didn’t actually exist yet. Like we mentioned in an article about timeshare history, travel solutions were kind of made up as they went along. Consumers were inevitably left hanging while timeshares figured things out. Without regulations, developers were able to take risks at their customer’s expense. This eventually caused regulatory and consumer protection agencies to form and spring into action.

Even though consumers have become more informed over time, a layer of protection is needed now more than ever before. Since the internet provides a boatload of inaccurate information, it’s important that people can make educated decisions before signing over tens of thousands of dollars. While most of society is aware of what timeshare ownership can entail, not everyone is. Besides, the internet is flooded with sales jargon, so consumers are still easily swayed by the craftiness of timeshare sales teams. In order to combat misconduct in the industry, more and more timeshare laws regarding sales practices have been implemented, revised and reinforced.

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Unlike unethical marketing campaigns, sales presentations and conditional offers are easier to regulate. At this point in the sale, marketing tends to reveal its hand and misleading transactions begin to take place. In some instances, it’s where salesmen are caught in their bluff. No matter what is said to get people to attend an initial presentation (or ownership update meeting), it’s not as damning as the terminology used right before the contract is signed. Sales teams realized that this may be their only chance to lock in a new fractional owners. In other words, desperate times (in their minds) call for desperate measures (to make money).

Why Some Timeshare Salesmen are Motivated to Say Anything

There is an awful lot of pressure to sell intervals because the financial reward is tremendous. Timeshare resorts are always looking to maximize profits, especially to overcome some of the turnover they experience. In order to do so, they have to continuously find ways to fill fractional owner vacancies. The less they have, the more they count on current owners to cover expenses. While re-marketing current users isn’t as costly, they realize the real revenue comes from acquisition. The more timeshare owners acquired, the more consistent their revenue will be. This also gives them flexibility to continue developing and expanding properties.

At first glance, you might think it’d be easier to simply sell each unit individually. But, that leaves too much money on the table for resorts. Instead of selling a single condominium unit, timesharing gives resorts an opportunity to make money on 52 interests sold for each unit (52 weeks in a year). It’s pretty hard to tell timeshare developers to stop when they’re able to make 20-40% margins on each sale. It’s simple math. Sell the unit for $1 million or sell 52 weeks for $25,000 and make $1.3 million.

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The revenue potential isn’t even close and that’s not factoring in maintenance fees. Besides the fact resorts can charge whatever they want per unit if revenue is low. Most timeshares even limit availability by continuing to sell retail packages. The continual chase of revenue is why resorts don’t mind investing mass amounts of money into strategic endeavors to persuade.

To give you an idea on how much timeshare companies spend on new acquisition, roughly 30-50% of all revenues goes towards sales and marketing efforts. As you can see, the urgency to keep condos filled with fractional owners is real. The problem is, timeshare companies ignore the fact they’re biting the hand that feeds them. While they may promise timeshare owners a plethora of things during the sale, not much comes into fruition. This is where laws are needed to ensure buyers get what they paid for. Let’s take a look at an example so you can see how timeshare sales laws work.

Manhattan Club Caught Taking Advantage of the Elderly.

An investigation of the Manhattan Club began after the Office of the Attorney General received repeated complaints from many timeshare owners that were unable to make reservations at the resort. Despite paying tens of thousands of dollars for their timeshares, the rooms were rented to the general public rather than the timeshare owners, which was in direct violation of the timeshare contract.

But, illegal practices began even before purchases were made. Investigators found that timeshare sales teams repeatedly deceived potential buyers regarding reservation procedures, the ability to sell back shares, and other specifics of the contract. High pressure sales tactics even went so far as to state that their timeshare ownership was “better than money in the bank.” Seniors were (and still are) sold on an experience that’s not realistic.

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The sales pitch inevitably promised public use of rooms, an easy reservation process and scarce constraints regarding reservations for owners. All of these claims were found to be false by the Office of the Attorney General  and proven in court. In this case, timeshare sales laws protected a good amount of fractional owners that could have been taken advantage of for a long time.

How Timeshares Create a Demand for No Availability

Common timeshare sales tactics tend to surround the overselling or misrepresentation of travel products. In other words sales teams state that owners will have access to all of the inventory while distracting them with an array of intriguing possibilities in order to get the tour to sign the dotted line. What they don’t explain is that they’re selling the lowest level of access and buyers will have to dish out more cash or jump through more hoops to make this a reality.

Salesman know that once the prospect is under contract, there isn’t much they can do to get out of the agreement. The sales system is set up to continuously persuade users to upgrade no matter their frustration. Timeshare infrastructure is built to overcome conflict and upsell. They purposefully create no availability but demand payment. This is why the regulation of the sales pitch is so important.

We hear these types of situations from our clients all the time. One woman was told she could go to Jamaica (which was her sole purpose for purchasing the timeshare) so they could visit their family once a year. When she went home, she immediately called reservations but they told her there were no properties left in Jamaica. They told her to check back in a few weeks, ironically once the rescission period was over. After multiple complaints, they promised to give her a “fully loaded” golf or beach view casita elsewhere. Since she couldn’t cancel the timeshare agreement anymore, she accepted their offer to upgrade and funded the down payment on a new contract. She ended up being a guest at a dingy unit in a sister resort with a parking lot view.

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Timeshare Sales Laws Do Regulate Unethical Tactics

These types of situations happen more often than people realize. The thing is, buyers aren’t aware of the laws that protect their rights. While salesmen may tell you your contract is final, unethical terminology used can work to your advantage. If you feel like you’re being set up for another bad experience, then you need to document what’s being said. Without any proof (especially when it’s in person), the probability of things working out in your favor aren’t likely.

Sales Pitches on Investments and Potential Income.

Understanding timeshare sales laws will help you identify and expose false promises that eliminate your obligation to pay for the property. Timeshare companies and sales teams can be penalized if the product is being sold as an investment or prospects are being told they can make money renting out or re-selling the property.

The Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act specifically touches on some of this jargon. “The purchase of a timeshare interest should be based upon its value as a vacation experience or for spending leisure time, and not considered for purposes of acquiring an appreciating investment or with an expectation that the timeshare interest can be resold.” The California Vacation Ownership and Timeshare Act of 2004 also clearly restricts this verbiage.

In other words, it’s a purchase, not an investment – and claiming you can make money on it is against the law. Sadly enough, this causes many timeshare owners to believe they can actually sell the property. This results in them wasting even more money on resale services that rarely pan out. Instead of learning how to get out of a timeshare, they dig a deeper whole due to deception.

Additional Unethical Timeshare Sales Claims.

Leading timeshare owners to believe the property holds more value than it really does is only one tactic that sales teams use. Leaving out pertinent information can also result in consequences. If you’ve signed a contract and the timeshare hasn’t disclosed the right of rescission, right to increase maintenance fees or liability of ownership that results in assessment fees – then you have the right to void your contract.

Another enticing offer for potential timeshare owners is the Survivorship Clause that’s sold as a “Legacy Pitch.” This basically means the timeshare company tells you that you can pass on the property to family when you pass on. In reality, you’re basically dumping the perpetual expense on an unexpected heir. Aside from being extremely inconvenient and a terrible memento, it doesn’t even guarantee the recipient will be able to use it. One of our clients actually speaks about this in one of our testimonials. “Because of the changing industry, they were basically stuck with the cost and nothing to show for it.”

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As you can see, there are a number of ways timeshare companies bend the truth and con aspiring travelers. The worst part is that it can take years for those wronged to find restitution. Because of the power timeshare conglomerates have, they can easily bully consumers with expensive legal teams. Unfortunately, most cases don’t even make it to court. But that wasn’t the case for Diamond Resorts in 2016. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced a $800,000 settlement with the timeshare giant.

Many timeshare owners found relief when the state found the company was violating timeshare laws regarding annual fee increases, resale claims, rental opportunities and counterfeit discounts on other travel needs. While this was a big deal for the timeshare industry, we still have a long way to go to right the ship. If you’re thinking about buying a timeshare, we encourage you to consider these points before signing the contract. Although we may not be able to do anything about the unethical practices of the industry, we can take a stand to educate consumers on the possibilities of ownership.

If you feel as though you’re stuck in a timeshare contract and want to be relieved of your obligation to pay, we’d be happy to review your options with you. Timeshare cancellation services aren’t always necessary and we take pride in ensuring our clients exhaust all options before investing more money into the purchase.

Timeshare Laws for Marketing + Advertising

Timeshare Laws for Marketing + Advertising

Over the years, the timeshare industry has transformed into a hospitality giant since it burst onto the scene in the 1960’s. Now that we’ve shared a solid overview on the history of timeshare ownership, let’s talk about some of the laws and regulations that hold the concept together. Although a number of initiatives, revelations and scams have shaped the industry into what it is today, timesharing is still a wild wild west of sorts.

Leading up to 2019, it’s been fairly difficult for programs and agencies to put a halt to unethical practices and the deceit within the industry. But it doesn’t mean society hasn’t progressed. It simply means greed is clouding the judgement of major stakeholders. Businesses fixated on revenue seem to always find a way around laws when the reward is worthwhile.

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A declining market share also adds a little incentive maximizing profits. If you’ve been following along lately, then you’re well aware of the financial rewards that can come with timeshare sales. The problem is, a big percentage of timeshare revenue is at the consumer’s expense. And most likely on purchases that aren’t really necessary.

With developmental expansion slowing down and major hospitality players slowly taking over, it seems like a more systematic approach is in order for the timeshare industry. As the dust continues to settle, a good portion of sales processes and marketing initiatives are becoming more regulated. The tactics that have allowed timeshares to thrive throughout history are now common knowledge because of the internet. Consumers are able to make more informed decisions now than ever before.

Timesharing is Prime For Competition.

Although progress has been made, it doesn’t mean standardizations will eliminate consumer problems. There are plenty of ways to improve which is why vacation rentals and travel clubs are increasing in popularity. Until the people are able to completely trust the timeshare pitch again, we can’t expect an industry rejuvenation. Although outlook has been dim before, consumers aren’t as gullible as they once were.

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The access to information is eliminating impulse purchases altogether. Because people want to know about timeshares, we want to help them understand what they’re getting themselves into. It’s not just about helping timeshare owners get out of their agreements. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the timeshare laws and regulations that have been able to keep resorts and predatory agencies at bay for the most part.

Timeshare Regulations for Marketing and Advertising

Before we talk about the aggressive sales tactics used by timeshare companies and resorts, we have to point out the role that marketing and advertising plays. Before most consumers arrive at the sales presentation, they’ve more than likely already been briefed on what to expect from the experience. In some cases, they might already be eager to sign the dotted line. Making an impulse buy with confidence typically means the marketing has done its job. What’s bothersome is that many timeshare companies know exactly what to say to get people in the door. If they can get you to arrive with minimal questions, they know it’s pretty much a done deal.

The Difficulty of Regulating Advertising or Misspeak.

Like other industries, advertising strategies don’t necessarily tell you the full truth. Trigger words and vague phrases are often used to manipulate consumers into believing the product is better than what it really is. Call it a mirage if you will. For example, food (especially produce) can market products with “organically grown” on the packaging. But it doesn’t necessarily mean their definition matches yours. Legitimizing phrases like “more fresh” or “healthier” is nearly impossible when you’re unaware of the actual standards of the term. When you think about it, it’s pretty difficult to define this type of verbiage anyways.

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How Marketing and Sales Work Together

The same can be said for timeshare marketing strategies. More often than not, consumers are distracted by free gifts and potential instead of focusing on what the purchase is or can be. Timeshare companies know to hype prospects up while intentionally leaving out the details on drawbacks (availability, annual fees, perpetuity, taxes and resale value). The excitement of something they’ve been persuaded to believe in can easily overshadow the actualities of the deal. Call it false advertising if you must. Consumers deserve to be protected from this.

At the same time, it’s very difficult for misled timeshare owners to find restitution in court. In order to penalize an entity for misleading marketing tactics, one has to be able to prove they’ve been lied to. Some lawsuits have won, but only after a lengthy battle with an experienced legal team. While it’ll always be difficult to regulate hearsay when contractual agreements are involved, there is now a strong push to protect consumers from major purchase decisions like this. The best way to combat marketing misconduct is to educate consumers on the front end.

The Legalities and Laws of Marketing and Sales

Aside from public information like this article, nearly every state now has its own marketing and advertising regulations with the FTC, FCC, consumer protection agencies and other state sales statutes. While regulations may never stop unethical companies from breaking the law, at least there are now some consequences in place. Since tourism is more prevalent in certain parts of the country, some states need to have laws that are a little more strict than others. For example, California actually has its own advertising requirements.

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While it’s good to see organizations keep an eye on an industry that can get out of hand quickly, we know it’s not the end all be all. With the internet still emerging, it’s only a matter of time before new regulations are implemented and reinforced. This is a tall order because the world wide web is still basically unregulated. Since regulations have increased marketing costs for timeshare companies, new acquisition is harder to come by. At the same time, it’s caused resorts to target their current fractional owners more aggressively to make up for the loss.

Combating Misleading Timeshare Marketing Tactics

Once you’re locked into timeshare ownership, not all hope is lost. If you feel as though you continue to be lied to, then you have every right to build a case for yourself. The timeshare industry uses a lot of 3rd party advertisers to re-market to their users. Understanding what they’re allowed to market will help you pinpoint unethical behavior and get out of your contract sooner than later.

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It will be interesting to see what evolves in the next few years to combat the extensive amount of fraudulent activity online. In the meantime, do your best to thoroughly understand major purchases and the rights you have as a consumer. There are plenty of things to look for and ask when attending a timeshare presentation. At the end of the day, doing your due diligence and understanding common timeshare marketing misspeak can save you a lot of grief in the long run. 

To continue reading about Timeshare Laws, click part 2 below. If you’d like to learn more about our timeshare cancellation company, we’d love to hear from you! For those interested in learning how we can help you find relief, feel free to submit a qualification form.

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