ON YOUR SIDE: Better Business Bureau warns of timeshare sales, timeshare exit businesses

Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 4:28 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2023 at 5:46 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release/KY3) - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to use caution with Montgomery and Newcomb, LLC, a Springfield, Missouri-based law firm that handles timeshare exits.

Consumers reported to BBB that they believe the company failed to cancel timeshare contracts, failed to contact customers, failed to provide refunds, conducted misleading sales presentations, failed to contact customers, failed to provide refunds, conducted misleading sales presentations, and provided poor customer service.

They gave the firm their lowest rating, an “F”.

“Several consumers have filed complaints with BBB about taking costs of front to help them exit their timeshare and then receiving no communication, sometimes after years of waiting,” said Pamela Hernandez, Springfield’s Better Business Bureau representative.

One of those who filed a complaint against Montgomery-Newcomb is Patrick Price of Miami, Oklahoma.

“They were holding a meeting in Tulsa and advertising if you wanted to get out of a Bluegreen membership, then come to a meeting,” he said.

That was back in 2018 when he paid Montgomery-Newcomb $5,000 and got so frustrated by the lack of communication and inability to reach the company by phone that he took more drastic measures.

“He’s actually driven from Oklahoma twice to Springfield to try and get some answers but still has not had anything resolved or any promises delivered,” Hernandez said.

“It was a scam,” Price said of his feelings about the company’s promise. “I called many, many times on the phone and couldn’t get an answer. When I came to Springfield I had a hard time finding their office because it’s a big old house with no sign. I found a girl wandering around inside and she told me ‘We’re going to court and you’re included in that and it will be soon.’ Nothing happened and the next time I came to their office there was nobody there.”

We had a similar experience on Wednesday when after not be able to reach anyone by phone, we headed to the address which turned out to be an historic home on Walnut Street where the only signage was on the floor of a side porch facing an alley. There was no signage at the front except for a small posting on a door that told visitors “Available by appointment only” with a different phone number than the one listed on their website. Stepping inside the first floor rooms were empty and after yelling “Is anybody here?” an employee emerged from upstairs.

After explaining that we wanted to make sure we got their side of the story and reaction to the BBB’s news release, the company released the following statement:

“Our firm has successfully represented thousands of consumers who were defrauded by Timeshare sellers. We have successfully obtained releases from timeshare contracts for thousands of consumers.

Our clients are often elderly and have been swindled out of their life savings by timeshare sellers. The number of complaints to the BBB represents approximately .001% of our timeshare cases. It is a common practice of Timeshare sellers to encourage our own clients to file complaints against us in exchange for something like a release from their timeshare contract.

We declined to participate in the BBB’s practice of discussing the private details of our clients’ cases on the Internet.

We have refused to pay money to the BBB in exchange for a rating. The BBB’s press release followed our refusal to pay. We are considering a lawsuit against the BBB.”

When asked why the BBB used the word “cautions” instead of “don’t” in warning consumers about dealing with Montgomery-Newcomb, Hernandez explained that the BBB’s job is not to make decisions for people but to provide guidance.

“Our role is to really give consumers information so that they can have confidence in their choices,” she said. “We just want to give them the information based on what the other consumers have told us about what their experience has been. We want to caution consumers before they work with any company they’re not familiar with.”

Price was asked if he had any plans to seek legal action against Montgomery-Newcomb.

“I can’t afford to sue ‘em,” he replied. “I’m a 75 year-old man on social security with limited income and that’s why I want to get out of my timeshare. The maintenance fees just keep going up and it got out of my price range. There are a lot of companies out there that advertise that they can get you out of your timeshare. I could go and spend another $5,000-$10,000 to go with another lawyer but how do I know it’s not another Montgomery-Newcomb?”

The BBB says Montgomery-Newcomb also recently lost federal civil lawsuits filed by timeshare developers Wyndham and Bluegreen and is permanently barred from advising timeshare owners of those companies.

As to what the BBB’s advice is to people trying to get out of their timeshare agreements?

“We encourage consumers to contact the original timeshare company to see if they have some kind of deed buyback option so they can help them exit their timeshare,” Hernandez answered.

An investigative study by Better Business Bureau examines patterns of customer complaints, dollars spent and lost, customer reviews, related scams, and more.

Key findings:

· Consumers often feel misled about the amount and frequency of fees charged for timeshare maintenance.

· Timeshares are nearly impossible to sell, positioning exit companies to offer misleading guarantees with hefty fees.

· To trick buyers, scammers copy high-pressure sales tactics used by real-time share sellers.

· Impostors use the address and amenities of a timeshare or vacation club, combined with the owner’s personal information, to trick victims into paying bogus fees.

Statistics (reported to BBB about timeshare sales, vacation clubs, timeshare exit businesses and vacation-related scams):

· Nearly 30,000 complaints with $32 million disputed

· Almost 10,000 negative reviews

· 1,160 BBB Scam Tracker reports with losses of $3.5 million BBB has monitored deception in the timeshare industry and warned consumers about timeshare exit companies for nearly half a decade. But skilled sellers continue to con buyers into unfavorable deals that often worsen when desperate investors offload purchases through the timeshare exit industry. BBB urges timeshare-related industries to self-regulate by establishing and following ethical sales practices. Timeshare companies of all types should cease high-pressure sales tactics at pitch meetings and ease restrictions for longtime, non-delinquent customers who wish to cancel their timeshare.

BBB tips for anyone considering a timeshare or exit company:

· Extensively research timeshare properties, vacation clubs or exit companies and thoroughly read contracts for language about lifetime commitment, heirs’ obligations, maintenance fee increases, or guarantees.

· Beware of misleading or high-pressure sales tactics. If you feel like someone is trying to push you into a deal, walk away.

· To sell a timeshare, contact the resort directly and see if they have a resale or buyback program.

· Be realistic about what you can get for your timeshare. Most of these contracts are not investments and may return considerably less than you paid.

· If it sounds too good to be true, it is. There are deals to be found on travel, but scammers know consumers want to save money and take advantage of them.

· Be wary of paying timeshare exit companies all fees upfront until services are rendered. Visit BBB.org to check out a business or register a complaint, BBB Scam TrackerSM to report a scam, and bbb.org/travel for more travel tips

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