Tulsa World, Okla., Action Line column
Feb 19, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Dear Action Line: The vacation time-share season is upon us and you should warn your readers about Vacation Property Services, St. Petersburg, Fla. It calls time-share owners saying it has buyers for their time-shares, asks for thousands of dollars up front and then will not return phone calls or accept a court summons. -- M.A.H., Owasso.
The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint in March 2011 against Vacation Property Services Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. The court then entered a summary judgment against the company, and on Aug. 23, 2012, the court accepted a settlement agreement between FTC and VPS. See the complaint at tulsaworld.com/FTCVacationPropertyServices
The agency charged that VPS (and three dba entities) and owner Albert M. Wilson made tens of thousands of unsolicited telemarketing calls to time-share owners falsely claiming that VPS already had, or could quickly find, buyers for the owners' time-shares. The defendants also demanded that consumers pay up-front fees of $200 to $8,000 to close the sales, the complaint stated.
The FTC also charged VPS and Wilson with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by misrepresenting their refund policy and the existence of potential buyers. In addition, it charged the defendants with calling hundreds of thousands of consumers whose phone numbers were on the FTC's Do Not Call Registry.
The court order imposes a judgment of more than $4.2 million, which was to be suspended when Wilson surrendered $120,000, a 2002 Porsche 911, a Spectre Sportfish boat and his interest in VPS. The full judgment comes due immediately if Wilson is ever found to have misrepresented his financial condition to the FTC.
"Since at least 2006, the defendants have engaged in a campaign to deceptively advertise, market, promote, offer for sale, or sell time-share resale services through interstate telephone calls to consumers throughout the U.S," the FTC complaint stated. "They contacted consumers through unsolicited telemarketing calls -- many placed to consumers who had registered their phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry -- targeting consumers who owned time-share properties. Many victims were elderly consumers or immigrants who spoke English only as a second language."
The settlement order resolves the FTC's remaining claims against Wilson and permanently bans him from all telemarketing and from participating in the time-share resale and rental business. It prohibits him from misrepresenting material facts on goods or services and from selling or benefiting from consumers' personal information.
The court order states that it "is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant that the law has been violated." Settlement orders have the force of law when approved and signed by a federal judge.
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.
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