To say the travel industry has been on edge in 2020 would be an understatement. Billions of dollars have been lost as travelers remain home. At the same time, unlike other tourism-based companies, the element of fractional ownership has given some resorts a unique ability to profit. Although this may provide the business side of things with some relief, it hasn’t helped the buyer’s situation. So a handful of owners at Westgate hit the hotel chain with a class action earlier this summer.
For decades now, consumers have been complaining about high pressure sales tactics that convince prospects an annual vacation package is worthwhile. In this lawsuit against Westgate, started by John Hambacker, plaintiffs claim the timeshare company failed to disclose “legally required information” and other pertinent contract terms during the sales presentation.
Why Else Did Owners at Westgate File Suit?
Like most timeshare lawsuits, the owners at Westgate had a problem with the lack of suitable arrangements in correlation to what they were verbally promised. The lawsuit even went as far as accusing Westgate of failing to “adequately train and supervise its sales agents.” The sales seminar supposedly didn’t include the proper disclosures that sales laws require. In fact, plaintiffs claim important materials were actually hidden in secret pockets of “closing portfolios.”
The buyer’s basic right to rescind the purchase wasn’t even explained. In other words, they made the case that customer rights were drastically infringed. Plaintiffs also went on to allege that Westgate refused to inform them that timeshare interest would be subject to a “floating use plan” – not to mention its terms.
Aside from the concern behind these deceptive allegations, sales teams were believed to be encouraged to lie by Westgate. Hambacker’s class members believe that Westgate’s aggressive business model is predicated on the sale of shares in property units – not necessarily on the use of units by owners at Westgate. In turn, this appears to have given salespeople an awful lot of incentive to sell ownership shares.
The Result of Westgate’s High Pressure Sales Tactics.
By the time these owners at Westgate realized their “floating” timeshare plan didn’t provide reasonable access, it was too late. The rescission period had passed and they were stuck in a perpetual agreement. “As a result of the common scheme, Westgate owners are left paying thousands of dollars in purchase price, upgrade costs, and annual dues, all on timeshare units they are frequently unable to use as advertised, and rarely, if ever, are able to use as reasonably expected,” summarized the lawsuit.
“Selling units to new customers and selling nicer units to existing customers is the lifeblood of the timeshare industry,” says one of the owners at Westgate. The Class members collectively believe the timeshare industry’s record profits are not driven by its customers’ “use and enjoyment of the properties.” The lawsuit states the business makes money without much cost every time someone signs up, makes a monthly payment, or covers their annual maintenance fees.
Disclosure Is a Big Problem for Timeshares.
The way they persuade people to sign up is where the problem continues to lie. “Westgate agents attempt to convince prospective purchasers by telling them that a timeshare is cheaper than paying for future vacations, but that they must act immediately in order to take advantage of supposedly discounted prices,” according to the plaintiffs. But is this an issue that can be resolved for good?
This is not the first class action lawsuit by owners at Westgate and it more than likely won’t be the last. Either way, every time a legal battle resides, there is a lot to learn from it. Hopefully vacation owners are able to thoroughly enjoy a fully disclosed experience sometime in the near future. If you’re currently dealing with a misleading timeshare contract, a free consultation is only a phone call away.
You can learn more about this lawsuit by researching the following public information. The Westgate Timeshare Class Action Lawsuit is John Hambacker, et al. v. Westgate Resorts Ltd, et al., Case No. 4:20-cv-00833 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.