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Posted on Thu, Oct. 30, 2003

Trendwest ordered to pay $795,000 in civil penalites

Associated Press

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - Trendwest Resorts, one of the world's largest timeshare operators, has been ordered to pay $795,000 in civil penalties, make restitution to customers and overhaul many of its business practices, the state attorney general's office announced Wednesday.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer, San Mateo County's district attorney and the state Department of Real Estate investigated consumer complaints for more than a year after buyers complained about allegedly misrepresented Trendwest timeshare products.

The complaint alleged Trendwest engaged in deceptive marketing and sales practices, violated cancellation notice requirements and failed to accept cancellation requests. Trendwest, based in Redmond, Wash., also violated the law in its telemarketing practices by using automatic dialers and ignoring "do not call" requests, Lockyer's office said.

"This settlement will help make victims whole, and ensure Trendwest operates lawfully in the future," Lockyer said.

Under the settlement, Trendwest will pay restitution to consumers who purchased timeshare contracts since March 31, 2001, and who requested cancellation within 45 days of executing the contract. The company could pay more than $2 million, officials said.

Of the $795,000 in penalties Trendwest must pay, $625,000 will go to the state and $170,000 to San Mateo County. Trendwest must also pay for the state Department of Real Estate's audits of the company to determine its compliance with the settlement, filed Wednesday in San Mateo County Superior Court.

Trendwest issued a short statement Wednesday, saying it had revised some of its internal policies and increased accountability among its employees and outside vendors.

"Our commitment in this settlement reflects our determination to maintain the highest standards in business and marketing practices," Trendwest said in the statement.

According to the settlement, the company is now barred from using travel certificates as promotional incentives if they not allow holders to call a telephone number to select dates when booking a trip.

Trendwest is a subsidiary of Cendant Corporation and operates 48 timeshare properties in the United States, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico and Fiji. The company's sales pitches come via direct marketing efforts wherein potential customers are offered gifts and incentives to attend sales presentations.

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