Timeshare sales presentations tend to be arduous, hard-sell experiences for consumers. This article provides an introduction to timeshares, describes a typical sales presentation used to sell timeshare vacation interests, and reviews some of the most effective statutory remedies available to Wisconsin lawyers to obtain relief for those defrauded.
Popular tourist areas in Wisconsin, such as the Wisconsin Dells and Door County, have, since the 1980s, been the locations of many timeshare properties. Timeshare sale prices often range from $10,000 to more than $100,000, and the price does not include the cost of perpetual annual maintenance fees. Timeshares are usually sold within hours of the customer first learning about the product.
If the consumers balk at the price, the sales rep may disappear to talk to a manager and come back with a reason why the sales rep would be able to get the consumers a discounted timeshare if they act quickly. Some of the oft-stated reasons for the discount available just at that moment are that someone just died to make that timeshare available, someone just traded it in, there is a deal only for that day, the salesperson is a big shot who can finagle things for the consumers, or the seller had been offering a lower price earlier that week or month or year and the sales rep will, or did, beg his or her manager to allow him or her to offer the consumer that deal now.
Given the way a typical timeshare sales presentation proceeds, it is not surprising that countless complaints have been filed with state and federal consumer protection agencies against timeshare sellers and myriad lawsuits (individual and class actions) have been filed in state and federal courts. Many of the complaints describe the use of high-pressure sales tactics and allege that during the sales presentations timeshare salespeople intentionally lied to make sales. Common complaints about the sales presentation include the following:
Timeshare fraud cases are labor intensive because of the need for attention to detail and the large number of documents involved. Before deciding whether to represent potential clients, it is important to conduct a thorough interview to learn all the facts surrounding the solicitation and sale of the timeshare, as well as all post-sale dealings the potential clients had with the timeshare seller. The initial interview can last hours because it is important to learn all this information. Reading and analyzing the documents is also a lengthy process. Each transaction includes multiple contracts and addenda, financing documents, disclosures, booklets, pamphlets, and catalogues, among other documents. Often consumers sign more than two dozen separate documents as part of a timeshare transaction.
1) Where was the sale made? Does the transaction involve Wisconsin law or the law of another state or country? If the timeshare was not sold in Wisconsin, will long-arm jurisdiction allow a lawsuit here because of significant contacts of the seller with Wisconsin?
Many legal claims could result from a typical timeshare sales presentation. The Wisconsin consumer protection laws that can be used most effectively to combat fraud in timeshare sales are found in Wis. Stat. chapter 707 (timeshare ownership); Wis. Stat. section 100.18 (fraudulent representations made during the sales process); the Wisconsin Consumer Act, Wis. Stat. chapters 421-427 (consumer credit transactions) or, in the alternative, Wis. Stat. chapter 428 (first lien real estate transactions); Wis. Stat. section 100.20(5) and some of the Wisconsin Administrative Code regulations promulgated under that statute; and Wis. Stat. section 100.171 (the offering of gifts in order to induce attendance at sales presentations). Each of these is addressed briefly.
1) Wis. Stat. section 707.55: Prohibited sales practices. This section was drafted to prohibit some of the most common abusive practices used at timeshare sales presentations. For example, sellers may not make false or misleading statements, misrepresent the resale value, represent the timeshare as a financial investment, make assertions of material fact that are inconsistent with the written documents, or have the buyers waive their rights or certify the absence of any misrepresentations.
Unfair Trade Practices. A fourth place to look for consumer protections that may assist consumers dealing with timeshare sales fraud is in Wis. Stat. section 100.20: Methods of competition and trade practices. Specifically, Wis. Stat. section 100.20(2) provides for DATCP to issue general orders forbidding unfair trade practices. Those orders are set forth in the Wisconsin Administrative Code ATCP regulations. Two such orders that apply to many timeshare sales practices are chapter ATCP 121 on the use of referral selling techniques and chapter ATCP 127, which governs direct marketing (telephone solicitations, mail solicitations, and face-to-face solicitations). Review each order in its entirety and use it as a checklist to determine if the timeshare seller complied with or violated each provision.
If the timeshare seller violated one or more provisions in the Wisconsin Administrative Code ATCP regulations, and thus violated Wis. Stat. section 100.20(5), a consumer is allowed to recover twice the amount of the pecuniary loss that resulted from the violation, together with costs and reasonable attorney fees.14
Prize Notices. A fifth statute to review to determine if the timeshare seller violated Wisconsin consumer protection laws is Wis. Stat. section 100.171: Prize notices. Among other requirements, the prize notice statute sets forth detailed written disclosure requirements for timeshare sellers who represent that consumers will receive a gift for attending a sales presentation15 and requires that the gift be given to the consumers before the sales presentation begins.16 Remedies include an award to the consumer of the greater of $500 or twice the amount of the pecuniary loss suffered because of the violation, costs, and reasonable attorney fees.17
But Wisconsin Dells is about more than waterparks. Golf is big up here, and enthusiasts will have a hard time choosing which championship course to tee off from. Outdoor activities range from boating and fishing to horseback riding and hiking at area parks. Challenge yourself to a zip line ride high among the treetops, or rent a kayak and explore the mysterious dells on the Wisconsin River. Cast a line and try your luck at catching and releasing a muskie, a popular game fish in these parts. Take in a live show in town, giggle all the way down on a snow tube ride, and reconnect with your inner child again.
This room is named after historic woman innkeeper Toneta Hogenson who, with her husband, founded the Evergreen Beach Hotel. It opened its doors for business in 1897 with enough rooms to accommodate 50 people, almost half the number of Ephraim residents at that time.
Everyone is invited. The doors will open at 5:30 pm, dinner will be served at 6:00 pm, and the program will follow. Cost is $35 ($30 for DCHS members.) Participants can register online at www.doorcountyhistoricalsociety.org or by calling 920-421-2332. The deadline to register is April 17, 2023.
Founded in 1926, the Door County Historical Society strives to collect, maintain, and share the history and heritage of Door County through preservation, education and programming. The Society operates two interpretive sites: Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park and the Heritage Village at Big Creek in Sturgeon Bay. For information, contact the Door County Historical Society at (920) 421-2332 or email email@example.com.
Roderick Joseph Schlise, of Sturgeon Bay, died on March 21st, 2023, the day after his 88th birthday, in the excellent care of Door County Hospital, Dr. Richard Hogan and Unity Hospice. On March 20, 1935, Rod was born to Joseph and Hattie (Stoeger) Schlise of Forestville, WI, the oldest of three children, at a time and in a place outfitted with hand pumps and outdoor privies for water and sanitation--features of central significance to his later life.
From an early age, Mike loved adventure and the outdoors. His time spent outdoors was with the wind in his face riding a motorcycle, hunting, fishing, boating, and cross-country skiing with his family and friends. Mike enjoyed working on collectible cars and hanging out with his Sister Bay car group.
At the time the Homestead Act of 1862 was passed, most of the county's nearly 2,000 farmers were squatters earning most of their revenue from lumber and wood products. The most common product was cordwood; a cord of maple sold for 37 and a half cents. The remaining portion of the population consisted of about 1,000 fishermen and their families. The fishing industry centered on Washington Island, which at 632 persons was the most populated area at the time. Sturgeon Bay had a population of 230 people. Fishermen caught lake trout and whitefish, which were sold for two cents per pound. Out of the total population of 2,948 people, 170 fought in the Civil War. Most enlisted in 1861 or 1862. The entire assessed valuation of the county that year was $395,000, with an average of $8.00 in tax assessed to each family. It was difficult to earn enough money to pay taxes, which were often delinquent. There were 25 school districts, but staffing was a challenge due to delinquent taxes. Highway 42 between Sturgeon Bay and Egg Harbor had 27 chronic mudholes, some more than 3,000 feet (910 m) long and passage by wagons was at times unfeasible.
In 1894 the Ahnapee and Western Railway was extended to Sturgeon Bay, with the first train arriving on August 9. In 1969, a train ran north of Algoma into the county for the last time, although trains continued to operate farther south until 1986.
From 1865 through 1870, three resort hotels were constructed in and near Sturgeon Bay along with another one in Fish Creek. One resort established in 1870 charged $7.50 per week (around $160 in 2021 dollars). Although the price included three daily meals, extra was charged for renting horses, which were also available with buggies and buggy-drivers. Besides staying in hotels, tourists also boarded in private homes. Tourists could visit the northern part of the county by Great Lakes passenger steamer, sometimes as part of a lake cruise featuring music and entertainment. Reaching the peninsula from Chicago took three days. The air surrounding the agricultural communities was relatively free of ragweed pollen because grain crops matured slowly in the cool climate and were harvested late in the year. This prevented late-season ragweed infestations in the stubble, which was especially attractive to those with hay fever in the city. 781b155fdc