Hundreds of plaintiffs have filed a proposed class action alleging Westgate Resorts, Ltd. and a number of related entities wield high-pressure tactics to dupe prospective timeshare buyers into signing contracts without disclosing legally mandatory information or even allowing access to the properties.
The sprawling 103-page lawsuit out of Missouri district court accuses the defendants—Westgate Resorts, Ltd., L.P.; Central Florida Investments, Inc.; Westgate Resorts, Inc.; Westgate GV Sales & Marketing, LLC; Westgate Vacation Villas, LLC; and CFI Resorts Management, Inc.—of a slew of failures with regard to apprising prospective timeshare buyers of their legal rights. Moreover, the plaintiffs scathe they felt “lied to and misled” after participating in tours of luxury suites only to run up against a “confusing and inconsistent” reservation process through which they were often given rooms far different than the ones they believed they “owned.”
According to the case, Westgate’s scheme has led proposed class members to pay thousands—spanning purchase price, upgrade costs and annual maintenance fees—for timeshares they are frequently unable to use as advertised and “rarely, if ever, are able to use as reasonably expected” given use of the properties has been oversold so many times among so many buyers.
As the lawsuit tells it, Westgate timeshare buyers are pressured by sales agents into signing reams of “complex and misleading” legal documents they’re given no opportunity to read—or, in some cases, even see—before coming to learn months later that they’ve been sold something entirely different than what the defendants represented during pressure-packed, hours-long sales tours:
“In reality, Westgate fails to disclose that timeshare owners are routinely unable to book units in the Resort with as much as 12 months’ notice—the earliest Westgate allows owners to reserve the use of their timeshare. Timeshare owners have made repeated attempts to book a stay during their allotted time, only to be told by Westgate officials that there is no availability at the Resort. As a result, many Class Members have been entirely unable to use their timeshare property for an entire year.”
Westgate’s “aggressive” business model rests on the premise of making money by selling shares in property units, not by customers actually using the weeks for which they paid, the plaintiffs say. With the incentive to sell as many ownership shares on a piece of property as possible, Westgate is able to increase its profits by limiting an owner’s use of their property so as to rent the property out to even more buyers, the suit alleges.
Through this pattern, Westgate is able to profit many times over by selling and reselling interests in a single piece of property, not to mention using the unit as a tool to drive new sales, according to the complaint, which alleges violations of Missouri, Florida, Nevada and Tennessee laws. The case says the defendants are associated with:
The Westgate Branson Woods Resort in Branson, Missouri;
The Westgate Branson Lakes Resorts in Hollister, Missouri;
The Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg, Tennessee;
The Westgate Las Vegas Resorts;
The Westgate Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resorts in South Carolina; and
The Westgate Orlando Resorts.
More specifically, the suit claims Westgate fails to properly train and supervise sales agents. The case says sales agents are not provided with legally mandatory disclosures for customers, and are encouraged by Westgate to “lie to customers in the context of high-pressure sales pitches.” Further, the lawsuit says the folio given to closing agents contains a “secret pocket” in which Westgate sales personnel can hide legally required disclosures of buyers’ rights, including their statutory right to rescind their purchase.
Still further, the case claims Westgate buyers are never adequately apprised of the company’s “floating use” plan—the right to use a certain type of unit rather than a specific unit—which altogether fails to afford timeshare owners reasonable access to what they’ve purchased given units are rarely available.
In light of the foregoing, Westgate’s contracts with the plaintiffs are either void ab initio or voidable and should be rescinded given they’re based on fraudulent omissions, the case argues.
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