WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - A married couple claims a timeshare company used "fraud and trickery" to pressure them into paying more than $15,000 for what it called "a 'truly valuable investment opportunity,'" but lied about how the program worked.
William and Dorothy Ostig sued Bluegreen Corp., Bluegreen Vacation Club, and Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited in Palm Beach County Court.
The Ostigs say at least 80 complaints have been filed against Bluegreen in Missouri, and Pennsylvania's Attorney General sued Bluegreen for unfair trade practices.
The Ostigs say they were on vacation at a resort in Wisconsin in 2006 when Bluegreen offered them free ski lift tickets if they attended a financial investment meeting.
"Defendants use a variety of false and deceptive marketing strategies to promote their services and induce buyers under fraud and trickery to sign complex large documents," the complaint states.
"Defendants assured the plaintiffs that this was not a timeshare, but a 'truly valuable investment opportunity,' ...
"Defendants told plaintiffs that this 'truly valuable investment opportunity' was a 'one-time' offer and if they came back the next day they would not get the same deal.
"Defendants also informed the plaintiffs their 'program' was very simple to use, that they could travel to different places in various states, and could go on cruises.
"Plaintiffs continually told defendants that the offering was too expensive and they could not afford it.
"Defendants were very insistent and unrelenting in their actions to make this sale; plaintiffs felt the only way to depart the meeting after several hours was to accept this offering.
"Defendants failed to review material terms of the contract documents with the plaintiffs and were also vague in explanations.
"At this December 27, 2006 meeting and after having endured several hours of unrelenting pressure, plaintiffs signed into a timeshare contract ... for a timeshare interest in defendants' timeshare resort known as The Timbers at Christmas Mountain Village, located in the State of Wisconsin."
A year later, the Ostigs say, they attended an owners' meeting to get some questions answered about Bluegreen's point system, and the staff tried to pressure them into buying more points.
"Plaintiffs strongly refused to purchase more points and the defendants' sale staff became hostile and angry because plaintiffs were not interested in an 'upgrade,'" the complaint states.
"Plaintiffs left the owners meeting having none of their questions answered.
"Thereafter, plaintiffs repeatedly attempted to get defendants to explain the 'point system' among other attributes of their purchase for over three years, without avail.
"Almost three years after the initial purchase, and in August 2009, plaintiffs traveled to Falls Village Resort in Missouri and when they arrived they were told they must attend a 'mandatory owners meeting.'
"Because this meeting was represented as being mandatory, plaintiffs attended this meeting ... for the specific purpose of trying to understand the point system and other ownership attributes represented to them at the time plaintiffs entered into Contract No. 1.
"At this meeting, plaintiffs were told that in order to truly benefit from their timeshare purchase (under Contract No. 1), they needed to enter into a 'new,' superseding timeshare contract. [Parentheses in complaint.]
"One of defendants' agents, Brad Dougharty further represented that he [Dougharty] was now their appointed 'personal consultant' and that by virtue of entering into a
'new' timeshare contract, they could then easily sell their timeshare points, through his efforts, without charge or commission, at a future date. Further, the sale of these points would reduce or eliminate the maintenance fees charged by defendants, thereby resulting in a 'net' savings to them, therefore realizing higher returns on their investment. These representations were, in truth and fact, false or misleading when made.
"Mr. Dougharty also falsely stated that he would help them sell their points and that the only way to avail such service was to 'upgrade' their timeshare by entering into a 'new' timeshare contract. These representations made by defendants' agent were also false or misleading when made." (Brackets in complaint.)
The Ostigs say they paid another $10,256.58 for "9,000 points" at a different resort.
In March 2010, the Ostigs say, "in reliance upon what Brad Dougharty told them at the 'mandatory membership meeting' in August 2009, plaintiffs contacted their 'personal consultant,' Mr. Dougharty ... and advised him that they wanted to sell their timeshare points and needed his help, as promised.
"Dougharty disavowed any knowledge that he was a 'personal consultant,' or that there existed any such personal consultants assigned to timeshare owners, and informed plaintiffs that he could not help them sell their points because he 'does not do that.'
"Plaintiffs learned at this time, that in truth and in fact, Mr. Dougharty nor any other person served as a 'personal consultant' to timeshare owners, including plaintiffs, and there were no departments or offices which assist owners in selling timeshare points."
Instead, the Ostigs say, they were referred to a Bluegreen affiliate that charges for reselling timeshare points.
The Ostigs say they tried to cancel their second contract with Bluegreen based on fraudulent inducement, but Bluegreen refused.
The Ostigs seek more than $15,000 returned, plus damages with interest for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violations of Wisconsin's Consumer Protection Act and Missouri's Merchandising Practices Act, statutory penalties, costs, and rescission of all contracts.
They are represented by Susan Budowski and Alan Taylor of Orlando.