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Newsletter: It’s time for a timeshare bill of rights

A group called the Coalition to Reform Timeshare wants new safeguards, including cooling-off periods before and after you sign any contracts.
A group called the Coalition to Reform Timeshare wants new safeguards, including cooling-off periods before and after you sign any contracts.
(TNS)

I’m guessing most of us, at one time or another, have gotten suckered into a timeshare meeting while on vacation. You know the drill: They’ll give you a bunch of coupons if you give them an hour to pitch you on owning a portion of a condo in some tropical paradise.

At the time, with the hard sell in full gear, the idea of a timeshare makes complete sense. Yes, you’ll be going on other vacations in the future. Yes, it would be nice to have your own place at which to stay.

But once you come up for air, you quickly realize what a dumb idea that could be. And you ponder all the pitfalls that must accompany any product that requires such aggressive marketing.

Last week, an organization called the Coalition to Reform Timeshare renewed its call for a timeshare bill of rights that would, among other things, give consumers more breathing room to back out of hurried decisions.

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“It’s clear that there is an incredibly high demand for timeshare reform right now, but the industry is flat-out ignoring it,” said Brandon Reed, a founder of the group.

“We’re going to keep fighting until every consumer is aware of the shameful tactics that are hurting millions financially and emotionally every day,” he said. “We will only stop when laws and regulations are enacted that protect the consumer in this unregulated timeshare industry.”

The group’s bill of rights call for an end to high-pressure sales tactics, as well as the right to a 24-hour cooling-off period before any contracts need to be signed.

It also would give consumers the right to record sales presentations, the right to learn the total cost of any timeshare transaction and the right to cancel any contract up to a week after you return from your vacation.

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These are common-sense measures and I support them. Again, any industry that relies on beating customers into submission is an industry that needs some rules to the road.

Undoubtedly there are many people who are pleased with their timeshare purchases. But I’ve heard from more than a few who wished they’d never taken the plunge and now just want out of their contract.

If you’re among them, do a search online for timeshare exit companies. These are firms that specialize in trying to untangle timeshare arrangements (for what it’s worth, the head of the Coalition to Reform Timeshare is behind one of these companies).

Be aware, though, there are almost always fees involved. Ask up front how much the service costs.

Now then, here are some upcoming events and recent stories that caught my eye:

STORY LINES:

Won’t Work: It’s easy to look at the collapse of the planned WeWork IPO and see a story about one man’s mistakes and excesses. But focusing exclusively on the errors of former Chief Executive Adam Neumann overlooks a system of tech investment that propped him up and told him he had not been “crazy enough.”

Different Endeavor: Speaking of IPOs going off the rails, Endeavor Group Holdings Inc. — the owner of talent agency WME-IMG and mixed martial arts league UFC — canceled plans last week for its highly anticipated stock market debut. Ari Emanuel’s Beverly Hills company hit the brakes one day before it was expected to become the first talent agency owner to go public. It blamed the decision on a turbulent market.

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Post haste: Then there’s Postmates, a food delivery startup that needs to prove itself before its expected IPO filing. One market is Los Angeles, which explains why the German-born chief executive of this San Francisco company is often spotted wearing a Dodgers hat.

It’s fishy: California plans to close four coastal power plants that rely on seawater for cooling — a method that results in the deaths of lots and lots of fish. But staff at the California Public Utilities Commission is recommending these gas plants get a longer lease on life.

WHAT WE’RE READING:

Lost in translation: Google Translate is a helpful if imprecise tool for muddling your way through a website published in a language you don’t speak. But even Google acknowledges it shouldn’t be used for challenging subjects. Yet ProPublica reports that U.S. immigration authorities rely on Google Translate and similar software to vet refugees.

What’s driving Uber?: When a passenger complains about dangerous behavior by an Uber driver, the people investigating those claims aren’t necessarily working on the customer’s behalf, the Washington Post reports. An investigation by the paper finds that Uber’s Special Investigations Unit puts the company first.

Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is david.lazarus@latimes.com, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your social media pals to join the party.

Until next time, see you in the Business section.


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