Less than two years after Better Business Bureau warned the public about business practices at a Springfield-based “timeshare exit” company, BBB is issuing a new consumer alert about the same venture.
BBB said the problems with Relief Solutions International LLC include failing to cancel customers’ vacation timeshare contracts within promised deadlines, failing to issue refunds, giving misleading sales presentations and providing poor customer service.
Timeshare companies charge a buy-in fee and annual maintenance fees in exchange for access to vacation resorts, usually for a specific time frame scheduled in advance. In contrast, timeshare exit companies promise consumers relief from unwanted timeshare vacation contracts.
In a prepared statement, BBB cited more than 100 consumers based in 33 U.S. states and one Canadian province, stating they spent thousands of dollars with RSI to try to get out of their timeshare contracts.
A man living in the Illinois-side suburbs of St. Louis told BBB that he signed a contract with RSI in Feb. 2016 after attending a meeting at a local hotel and paying RSI nearly $10,000 to get out of two timeshare contracts, a process that was supposed to take 12 to 18 months. RSI gave the man a partial refund after he exited one timeshare on his own but refused to give him a full refund “because it has not exhausted every avenue to help him exit his remaining timeshare,” BBB said.
A man on Long Island, New York, told BBB he paid RSI $20,000 in July 2018 to get him out of two timeshare holdings. Like the Illinois man, the New York man told BBB he attended a sales meeting near his residence and was led to believe RSI would close out his timeshare contracts in 12 to 18 months.
Today, the New York man still has both timeshares and told BBB that RSI denied a request for a refund. Your stories live here. Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
The News-Leader was not able to immediately reach either man on Monday before deadline.
“It appears these consumers have been more than patient with this company,” said Michelle L. Corey, the CEO of the BBB St. Louis office, in a written statement provided to the News-Leader on Monday.
Corey added, “If the company cannot deliver on its promises of getting them out of their timeshares in a certain time frame, then they should issue refunds. Stringing them on for years only hurts the customers who continue to pay maintenance fees for those timeshares.”
Missouri Secretary of State records show that Relief Solutions International LLC was registered, then technically terminated, over several weeks in June and July 2012. A firm called Searchlight Advisors was created in 2008, then changed its name to RSI LLC in 2012, state records show.
In mid-2019, the company was one of several southwest Missouri timeshare exit firms subject to consumer warnings from the BBB as it documented a national hotbed of timeshare exit complaints focused on Springfield and Branson.
In a study of more than 700 timeshare exit complaints the nonprofit consumer watchdog group received over a three-year period, BBB found that the “vast majority” of the complaints were linked to companies operating in the Springfield area.
Many of those firms were established from 2015 onward, and many were linked to former timeshare salespeople who worked in the Branson tourism hub, BBB found. The study found 10 Springfield companies accounted for consumer losses in excess of $2.2 million between January 2017 and June 2019, BBB said at the time.https://d56c70baf8f365d8ce832ee9fe029879.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
At the time, two part owners of RSI, Russell Turner and Burt Cummings, disputed BBB’s allegations and told the News-Leader that one elderly couple who were RSI clients cited in BBB’s 2019 study failed to provide power of attorney documents that RSI needed to undo the couple’s timeshare vacation contract.
Late Monday, Turner sent the News-Leader a statement in response to BBB’s alert, reproduced here in its entirety:
“RSI, LLC is a Missouri company which has been in business in Missouri for about 13 years. It currently employs about 50 Missourians and it has done so during the course of the pandemic.
“RSI, LLC has successfully assisted tens of thousands of consumers to exit from their horribly burdensome timeshare contracts. The number of customers who complain is minuscule compared to the number of happy customers who are no longer burdened by their timeshare contract. If 100 consumers did in fact complain to someone, that number would constitute approximately .0025 % of the consumers that we have assisted.
“It is a common practice of billion dollar timeshare pushing companies to encourage Consumers to file complaints against small businesses like RSI, LLC, which assist defrauded, often elderly Americans to attempt to escape the clutches of the timeshare pushers.
“Timeshare exit companies are not the problem. Such companies would not exist if there was not an enormous amount of fraud occurring within the timeshare industry committed by the behemoth timeshare pushing entities. We humbly suggest that it would be a wiser use of resources to attack this problem at its core as opposed to attacking those who are attempting to cure this devastating financial problem which affects millions of Americans.https://d56c70baf8f365d8ce832ee9fe029879.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“RSI contributes substantial financial support to the American Association of Timeshare Owners, Inc., www.aatousa.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting defrauded elderly people and reducing the burden on the government caused by their financial distress.”
On its website, RSI says it is “not a listing services or a timeshare resale company, and therefore does not charge any listing fees, any type of advertising fees, nor make any false promises to sell your timeshare to a buyer that may not exist, as some companies suggest. However, RSI does provide timeshare owners with a valuable service and will only request payment for the service RSI provides.”
Missouri court records show that in September 2018, an Alabama man obtained a default $10,000 civil judgment against RSI, plus court costs, which was satisfied in September 2019.
BBB offered several pieces of advice for people trying to get out of a vacation timeshare contract:
- Research any business and its owners carefully before paying any money. Read contracts before signing.
- Contact the resort that originally sold the timeshare to see if it has a deed-back program. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887.
- Before paying anything, make sure you have a signed contract outlining what is to be done, a timetable and an explanation of what happens if the business or the consumer doesn’t comply with the agreement.
- Be wary of anyone claiming that they have a buyer for your timeshare or who promises to rent your timeshare, especially if they ask for an upfront fee.
- Pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase later.
- If you feel you have been misled, BBB suggests you file complaints with BBB, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
Reach News-Leader reporter Gregory Holman by emailing email@example.com. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.