Westgate sued for violating Tennessee's Timeshare Act
Updated: Apr 8, 2022
Timeshare owners claim fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of fair dealing, civil conspiracy, and violation of the Tennessee Timeshare Act.
Timeshare owners allege that Westgate's high-pressure scheme to sell "floating use" plans for Westgate's Smoky Mountain Resort's timeshares involves convincing prospective purchasers to buy into its vacation timeshare program while failing to disclose to buyers legally required information that was contained in a "secret pocket" of a portfolio that Westgate provides to purchasers. The plaintiffs allege that Westgate fails to give the purchasers adequate access to their timeshares.
One Timeshare owner alleges that in 2008 they paid $10,000 down plus a $450 yearly maintenance fee for what Westgate represented as a unit with a balcony and a right to use for one week every other year. When the timeshare owner attempted to reserve the unit in 2010, however, they allege Westgate told them they would have to pay for an upgrade if they wanted a balcony. This time, they paid $6,500 and a $650 annual maintenance fee, again, with a right to use for one week every other year. Westgate convinced them to upgrade again in 2012 after Westgate confirmed they purchased specific units with specific floor plans to accommodate their growing family. This time, they paid $9,888 plus an $800 annual maintenance fee, again, with a right to use for one week every other year.
Nonetheless, the timeshare owner alleges they frequently could not reserve the timeshare with the specified floor plan. In 2016, they alleged they could not reserve the selected floor plan when visiting the resort. Worse yet, they allege they were harassed to upgrade yet again, and when they refused, Westgate "threatened them with eviction from their unit and informed them that they would stay in a motel the next time they visited Gatlinburg, TN."
The other plaintiffs similarly allege that they could not use the timeshares they purchased as they reasonably expected, even after agreeing to upgrade, based on the resort's alleged practice of overselling the units.
The complaint cites the award-winning documentary, the Queen of Versailles, in which Westgate Resorts Vice President Richard Siegel was captured on film instructing sales agents to "lie" to complete a sale: "You should own at least one-week yourselves—and if you don't, lie and say you do! Don't let these people leave here without buying something" he said.
In the film, Siegel goes on to state, "100% of the people we are talking to are—it's not a nice word, but we call them mooches. They're coming in for a sales presentation on their vacation for a complimentary gift. So we train our salespeople to take someone greedy like that and get them to buy today. We do 100% of our sales on the first day.
They will not buy today if they don't get a "great deal" if they don't believe they're getting a great deal. Timesharing you sell every unit 52 times because you sell it by the week."
The timeshare owners claim fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of fair dealing, civil conspiracy, and violation of the Tennessee Timeshare Act. A jury trial has been set for February 8, 2021.