HARRISBURG — Attorney General Michelle Henry announced a lawsuit against Split Rock Investments, LLC, and SCH USA, LLC,– which conducts business as “Bel Air Owner’s Circle” – (collectively “Bel Air”) over their deceptive business practices and failure to live up to representations made to timeshare owners at the popular Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA.
The lawsuit alleges that Bel Air made it difficult for timeshare owners to make reservations and provided different accommodations from what they were promised. In some instances, Bel Air falsely represented that downgraded accommodations were “upgrades.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Bel Air charged excessive fees and used unlawful tactics to collect fees.
In addition to an injunction to prevent further harm, among other things the lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants to pay restitution to consumers and to pay civil penalties.
“Consumers who thought they purchased leisure and comfort at one of Pennsylvania’s renowned vacation spots instead had trouble booking, received downgraded accommodations, and in some cases, were threatened over fees,” Attorney General Henry said. “This lawsuit seeks restitution for victims and sends a message that mistreatment of consumers will not be tolerated; my Office will take legal action if necessary to bring wrongdoers to justice.”
Some of the impacted consumers purchased their timeshares prior to Bel Air taking ownership and operation of the resort.
The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants imposed excessive maintenance fee increases above the 7.5% annual cap; a usage fee for the recreational facilities in instances where consumers neither used, nor wanted to use the facilities; and a Mexican VAT tax of 16%, when neither the Resort nor the consumers are located in Mexico.
In other instances, the defendants refused to terminate timeshares for its deceased members and continued to bill maintenance fees and assess late fees on those timeshares.
Finally, the lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act by using oppressive, abusive, and harassment-like methods to coerce timeshare owners into paying fees. In one incident, the defendants issued a letter threatening to send the consumer’s account to collections where the consumer could possibly “lose out on job opportunities, loans for cars, houses, and so much more.”
Attorney General Henry offers the following tips to consumers who are looking to get the most out of their timeshares:
- Deal only with licensed real estate brokers and agents.
- Get everything in writing and make sure you understand all the terms and conditions, especially the timeshare duration, maintenance fees, additional costs, and terms related to selling the timeshare.
- If selling a timeshare, seek out companies that do not collect fees until the services are performed and the timeshare is sold.
- Ask for references from satisfied customers.
- Be wary of high pressure sales tactics.
Consumers who believe they or someone they know are a victim of similar timeshare practices should file a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection online at www.attorneygeneral.gov, by calling 800-441-2555 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
# # #