Active service members represent one of the most financially vulnerable demographics in the nation. Their frequent deployments and relocations can make it challenging to manage responsibilities such as buying a home stateside or taking care of family finances. They are thus exposed to heightened risks of financial manipulation — something Bluegreen Vacations may know a thing or two about.
Bluegreen Vacations have allegedly targeted service members who, like many of us, wish to have life-changing vacation experiences but are weighed down by the demands and stresses of their job. So when they are approached about a timeshare opportunity in a peaceful upstate New York cabin or a gorgeous beachfront villa in the Caribbean, why would they say no?
On numerous occasions, Bluegreen Vacations has been accused of violating the Military Lending Act. This has severely disadvantaged active service members and trapped them in a financial predicament that is extremely challenging to overcome. In this article, we’ll delve into the impact that Bluegreen Vacations has had on service members who have simply been seeking a pleasant family getaway. We’ll also explain how Bluegreen Vacations has come into conflict with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.
How Exposing Bluegreen Vacations Preys on the Vulnerability of Service Members
Bills in a pocket
A class action lawsuit was filed against Bluegreen Vacations Club, a Boca Raton, Florida-based vacation ownership program in partnership with Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited, Inc. The plaintiffs involved were active duty member Emmanuel Louis Jr. and his wife Tamarah Louis. They had previously invested in a points-based program to redeem at Bluegreen timeshare properties.
The couple alleged that the Bluegreen sales team neglected to reveal the ownership interest rate of the $25,000 loan they took out to purchase the timeshare. The real rate ended up being much higher than what they were initially told. This case, Tamarah C. Louis and Emmanuel Louis v. Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited, also pursued justice on behalf of several other active duty timeshare owners who, like the Louises, were unknowingly overcharged on their loans.
Louis Jr. initially attended a Bluegreen timeshare sales pitch in December 2020. For the timeshare transaction, which occurred in Florida, the couple had to enter into an Owner Beneficiary Agreement with Bluegreen. Louis Jr. alleges that the company misled him and several other class members by insisting that their Military Annual Percentage Rates were much lower than they ended up being.
One of the professed offenses committed by Bluegreen Vacation Club, resulting in this lawsuit, was its failure to provide any of the mandatory disclosures required by the Military Lending Act. You might be wondering, what is this act? Let’s dive into it.
Understanding the Military Lending Act and Timeshare Companies’ Defiance of It
The Military Lending Act (MLA) was passed in 2006 to protect active duty service members from predatory lending practices. Because people in the military are frequently taken advantage of by real estate and financial lenders, the MLA requires that they provide complete transparency when explaining the terms of a loan to the borrower. Lenders are required to disclose the total cost and annual percentage rate of the loan.
The Military Lending Act also:
Sets a 36% interest rate cap for consumer credit
Bans the use of car titles, personal checks, debit authorizations, or wage allotments as loan collateral
Provides state consumer protections for nonresident service members and their dependents
Bans forced arbitration agreements
Prohibits lenders from refinancing, renewing, or consolidating existing credit from the same lender
Invalidates loan or credit agreements that violate MLA restrictions
The primary goal of the Military Lending Act is to simplify and enhance the loan procurement process, ensuring service members don’t fall victim to scams. But despite its overall effectiveness, the act has not always been successful in preventing misrepresentation concerning timeshare contracts.
Timeshare companies are frequently accused of failing to comply with, and even violating, the MLA. Allegations include the misrepresentation of costs, points systems, and other club benefits. Timeshare salespeople have also been caught using high-pressure timeshare presentations, initiating noncompliant loan terms, and withholding crucial information from active duty service members.
Bluegreen Vacations Corporation has not only been accused of disobeying the MLA. They’ve also faced issues with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.
Bluegreen Vacations: Taking the Art of Violation to a Federal Level
Entrepreneur showing a card with the word MANIPULATIVE printed on it
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has accused Bluegreen Resorts of engaging in deceptive sales and marketing practices. The CFPB claims that Bluegreen has been guilty of providing owners with misleading information about the availability at Bluegreen properties and the value of vacation points for booking stays at desirable resorts. The aim of these accusations is to secure refunds and terminate contracts for the impacted Bluegreen owners.
Although this goal may be justified, victory isn’t guaranteed. After all, previous lawsuits filed against Bluegreen Resorts have been unsuccessful in penalizing the developer for their alleged misconduct. So despite the vast size of the CFPB, the ability of the timeshare industry to persist, despite widespread awareness of escalating maintenance fees and consistent consumer manipulation, allows Bluegreen to potentially evade consequences.
Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been able to hold Bluegreen accountable in the past. In 2012, the FTC filed a lawsuit claiming Bluegreen Vacations violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule, misleading buyers about benefits, costs, refunds, and cancellation policies. Bluegreen eventually chose to settle the charges brought by the FTC by paying a significant penalty. The developer also implemented modifications to its sales practices and enhanced disclosure requirements in its contracts.
In the wake of the FTC’s victory, does Bluegreen Vacations demonstrate a renewed commitment to providing consumers with comprehensive information regarding their timeshare agreements? Are they actively promoting awareness of cancellation options, such as rescissions? The most probable answer appears to be no.
Though the company’s motto is “Share happiness,” a quick browse through their 2-star average customer reviews on Better Business Bureau will tell you that many Bluegreen timeshare owners are certainly not happy. The developer appears to still be misrepresenting the benefits they offer and using high-pressure sales tactics. They — like most other timeshare developers in the industry — will likely continue to toe the line of consumer law in order to achieve more timeshare sales.
Put an End to Timeshare Industry Manipulation
The timeshare industry has a history of targeting military personnel — and has shown a troubling dedication to discriminatory practices. Bluegreen is just one example of numerous companies suspected of imposing exorbitant timeshare interest rates on service members and blatantly disregarding the disclaimers set forth by the Military Lending Act.
Are you an active duty service member who has been caught in a Bluegreen Vacations situation like this? Or have you been a victim of fraud, high-pressure sales tactics, or misrepresentation during the timeshare sales process? Either way, you now know that the laws set forth by the FTC, the CFPB, and the MLA are not always enough to protect you against timeshare fraud. So instead of continuing to check in to your unwanted timeshare property, check out Centerstone Group.
Our team of timeshare industry experts can conduct a thorough review to determine whether your timeshare contract qualifies for a transfer or an exit. If it does, we have a comprehensive three-pronged strategy that enables us to secure your release from the contract in a faster and more cost-effective manner, compared to other timeshare exit companies and law firms. Contact us today to initiate the process and take the first step toward resolution.