The number of timeshare relief agencies has grown in Southwest Missouri over the past couple of years. Since the state of Missouri is located in the heartland of the United States, a good number of tourists pass through as they travel the country. But the Show-Me-State’s routes and rest areas aren’t its only appealing features. For decades, Americans have enjoyed visiting this part of the country for entertainment and relaxation as it’s become a popular destination for events, competitions and other occasions. 

The high volume of foot traffic has resulted in a number of new businesses populating the region. Most of which cater to traveler’s desires and tendencies. If you analyze the market’s makeup today, no other industry is more prevalent in Southwest Missouri than timeshare travel. Like Las Vegas, many people attend timeshare presentations in Branson, Springfield and the Lake of the Ozarks. Some end up buying into fractional ownership during their stay. But after realizing the purchase was a mistake, many of them look for ways to get rid of the timeshare obligation.

Similar to other vacation destinations across America, timesharing has a stronghold in Southwest Missouri. But the general public is beginning notice the level of deception going on behind the scenes. As the timeshare sales market dwindles (due to improved travel options), the region has turned into a hotbed for timeshare relief agencies. It’s safe to assume a majority of these “cancellation firms” used to sell fractional ownership. But that’s a story for another day. Let’s take a look at how the state of Missouri is getting up to speed with its relief programs.

Consumers Are Upset With Timeshare Relief Agencies.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) publicized a recent study that purported hundreds of unhappy fractional owners across the U.S. paid thousands of dollars to phony timeshare relief agencies from January of 2017 to March of 2019. The BBB investigated over 350 complaints made by those looking to terminate timeshare contracts. They were able to determine that a majority of these complaints pertained to some of Springfield’s most prominent timeshare relief agencies.

Mainly coming from the elderly demographic, these complaints stated cancellation companies were paid thousands of dollars for nothing. BBB president and CEO, Michelle Corey, told the public many of the victims sought relief because they were unable to afford the ever increasing cost of maintenance fees. The last thing they wanted to do was pay more money to get out of vacation ownership.

Many of these timeshare relief agencies were able to collect payments by persuading unhappy buyers it would be worthwhile. Some victims claim they were harassed to a certain degree. Blinded by the opportunity to cancel, many eventually fell for the same high-pressure, “today only” sales tactics that the timeshare company used. Pertinent information was left out and verbal promises fell through – leaving victims with unnecessary costs on top of the timeshare contract they were hoping to escape from. A number of victims even told investigators they were transferred to sketchy legal teams after the relief programs failed to cancel their contracts.

According to the press release, victims paid the incompetent timeshare relief agencies anywhere from $1K-$30K after being promised their contractual obligations would cease. Over time, these fraudulent operations were able to collect more than “$2.2 million for timeshare relief work that was either never done or never completed.”

How Timeshare Misconduct in Missouri is Being Addressed.

The investigative report came into fruition 11 months prior when the BBB discovered “questionable marketing and sales practices by some representatives of the timeshare industry.” The report stated, “Timeshare owners were turning to timeshare exit companies to negotiate their contract cancellations,” and leadership wanted to figure out why. 

Instead, timeshare relief agencies gave them plenty to be concerned about. Corey commented on the report by saying, “Any business that would take these people’s money and then not follow through with its promises is behaving both irresponsibly and unethically.” The good news is the BBB isn’t standing alone on this.

Stan Dobbins, Branson’s City Administrator and Edd Akers, the city’s mayor are also involved in finding resolve. Dobbins told reporters, “We believe this is a state issue as many of these timeshares are not in the city limits of Branson but do affect our residents and guests.” Akers added, “We will cooperate within our means to help solve any of these issues.”

While solutions are still in the works, Dobbins has made a commitment to learning more about the timeshare industry. “We would like the state to look at a licensing system for this industry, similar to how the real estate industry works,” he said. But the state is limited and will need to be smart when addressing consumer protection. “Unfortunately, we as a city, have limited ability to do so from specific industry bad faith operations,” said Akers. Either way, shedding light on the problem so criminals can take notice is a big step in the right direction.

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