DIAMOND RESORTS' U-TURN ON CANCER VICTIM'S PLEA TO ESCAPE TIMESHARE
The battle to free cancer victim Diamond owner who bought in 1987 and has faithfully paid maintenance ever since.
Mark and Jill bought their timeshare back in 1987, at a presentation in a fancy hotel near Whaley Bridge in the UK. The company was called Global Marketing, and they bought one week in a studio, in perpetuity, for £6000.
“The resort itself was in Tenerife,” says Jill. “It was called Sunset Bay, in Torviscas. We had plenty of great holidays there.”
Maintenance was only £100 a week back when the couple bought, although it has gone up considerably since. “Global Marketing properties were bought out by a succession of different timeshare groups,” recalls Jill. “Sunset Bay is owned by Diamond now.”
Diamond is one of the world’s largest timeshare companies. They are notoriously difficult for members to escape from according to Andrew Cooper, the CEO of American Consumer Claims (ECC). “New member sales generally in timeshare worldwide have declined significantly since the industry’s heyday in the final decades of the last century,” he explains. “Back when people were actually buying timeshare, resorts did not care so much about forcing members to stay in their system. In those days they would have preferred not to have unhappy members than keep them onboard against their will.
“Now, resorts have shed any pretence of caring. They want their maintenance fees, whether the member uses their weeks or not. They will hold you to your contract, even if you hate being part of their club.”
It’s been great. Can we leave?
In 2018, Jill was diagnosed with cancer; she underwent a serious medical procedure that made basic movements difficult, and travel abroad impossible. “We’d had enjoyable holidays in Sunset Bay, over the years,” says Jill. “We had paid for them obviously, via our joining fee and the annual maintenance money. People’s holiday needs change over their lifetime though, and in our late 60s, we are not in a position to travel abroad especially with my illness.
“We had hoped that Diamond would understand that, but no. They don’t let people free from their memberships as a matter of principle Even though I was diagnosed with debilitating cancer we still needed professional help from ECC to get us out of our timeshare commitment.”
ECC steps in
“Jill and Mike contacted us for help,” agrees Cooper. “We knew Diamond to be difficult when it comes to allowing members to escape a membership they no longer need, but with Jill having cancer we expected some compassion, even if just to avoid bad publicity. This relinquishment wasn’t easy though and our department head had to handle it himself.
“Diamond demanded a succession of documents stating Jill was being truthful about her cancer, then that she couldn’t travel, and even to return to the doctor and get a physical copy of a letter to post because Diamond decided a scanned copy wasn’t good enough.
“Poor Jill had to make constant trips to the doctor while recovering from major back surgery and undergoing chemotherapy. Those letters are not even free, doctors charge around £15 for each one.
“The delays caused by Diamond meant that the date came for Jill and Mark to pay another year of maintenance fees, despite her being physically unable to travel”
Cooper took pity on Mark and Jill, paying this new maintenance bill himself. “Business is business, but Jill was really being given the runaround. They are such a lovely couple, we didn’t think it was fair what Diamond was doing.
“I authorised our company to pay the couple’s 2021 maintenance fees for them, Jill has enough to worry about without paying extra, unexpected bills. Especially for something she can’t use.”
Last week, after months of relentless pressure, Diamond sent the couple a ‘Settlement Letter’ meaning that they are finally free from their Diamond membership. “Rescuing people like Mark and Jill from situations like this is highly gratifying,” says Andrew Cooper. “Jill can now concentrate on the more important challenge of getting back to good health.”
Cooper reveals that timeshare owners wanting to escape their restrictive contracts is a huge problem for the industry. “Timeshare was once an innovative product, but the rest of the travel business has evolved and overtaken them. During the pandemic, members have been infuriated that they are the only ones paying for holidays they can’t use. Even in normal years, they have less choice than ordinary holidaymakers, more complex procedures to follow, and the ignominy of seeing non-members booking into the once exclusive timeshare resort that members paid a fortune to join.”
Help at hand – but choose wisely
ECC is one firm that helps trapped members escape from unwanted contracts as well as pursuing compensation claims against errant timeshare companies, there are many others. Not all can be trusted, however, as Cooper explains. “Unfortunately this space attracts a huge amount of fraudsters who will promise to help, but in reality will only take your money and disappear.
“The best advice, when deciding which company to retain for this type of work, is that of other owners who had a good experience with a claims firm. Ask for their feedback.