Azure Services Ltd of Malta, the timeshare sales side of Radisson Blu Golden Sands and Barclays Partner Finance (BPF) hit the headlines as 1444 of their clients wait to see if their potentially illegally sold loan agreements will be overturned, possibly costing BPF £47 million.
It appears that Azure Services Ltd advised customers to purchase various forms of timeshare for personal use, resale or investment, despite this company not being authorised under British Law to act as a licensed broker, so therefore they cannot arrange or introduce clients to BPF. The contracts affected were sold between 1 April 2014 and 24 April 2016, at which point BPF became aware of Azure Service Ltd.’s illegal practices and in an attempt to resolve the potentially catastrophic financial disaster they contacted the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in order to have these loans made legal (validated).
The Radisson Blu, Golden Sands Resort, has been in the news before when Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs invested €1.1 million in Island Hotels Group Holdings in 2009, and Neville became a non-executive director of the Company, however he resigned in 2015. In the meantime, the unlicenced sales team used the football stars celebrity status and the prestigious brand name of Radisson to promote the resort and the sales, whilst the misguided clients were led to believe that this made it a credible proposition.
The FCA issued the validation order; however, the 1444 customers affected appealed through their legal representation and forced the FCA to rethink their decision. The FCA then applied to the Upper Tribunal Tax and Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice for a hearing on the legal implications and guidance to overturn the validation order.
Customers in the appeal have given accounts of their experiences including
- False representations about the impact and duration of the loans
- enduring a minimum of 5 hours to a full day of hard sales tactics
- buying as an investment – Mr R who has since lost his wife and has to bring up their two children on his own, he “invested” £13300 for 1 week of timeshare having been told it would be worth £24000, unsurprisingly it has still not sold. He has had to renegotiate the repayments with BPF as they are unaffordable.
- Miss E having been shown the penthouse and told that it was owned by the Manchester United players was persuaded to invest £20000 on a BPF loan again believing this would only be for 2 years when she could pay off her loan and use the profit to buy a house. Her repayments are ҄£205 per month and now she is unable to get a mortgage in the UK, and of course the apartment has not been resold.
On the 1 August 2018, Judge Timothy Hetherington issued his judgement and he ruled that the FCA did not take into account “Client Detriment” when they made their validation order and he has ruled that the FCA must re-evaluate that decision. He stated that client detriment falls into a number of areas some of which are detailed below:
- Insufficient information given to the clients regarding the Terms & Conditions of the loan agreement as required by law.
- Clients being pressured into signing agreements.
- No credit checks were carried out with regard to affordability, income versus outgoings.
- Vulnerable clients were treated inappropriately
Lawyers working for these mis-sold clients have said that the loan agreements should be unenforceable and the consumers should be entitled to recover the monies they have paid and be entitled to compensation for their losses.
Once the ruling gets overturned, other companies that have used BPF to finance their dubious timeshare investments, will be watching this case very closely, however it is not known as yet when the FCA will issue their findings.