Last edited 12:48 p.m., Nov. 1, 2018
The Better Business Bureau is urging caution when doing business with two Springfield timeshare exit firms that were among two dozen sued last month by a group of Wyndham companies.
The businesses at the center of the BBB consumer warning are Vacation Consulting Services LLC and The Transfer Group LLC, owned by Brian Scroggs of Springfield. Both have an “F” rating on their BBB profiles, which state the firms are not accredited by the BBB.
The BBB has received more than 50 complaints about the companies, with consumers alleging the businesses were unable to release them from their timeshare contracts even after paying thousands of dollars for services, according to a news release.
“The complaints received by these businesses are typical of what we see from this industry,” said Stephanie Garland, regional director of BBB’s Springfield office, in the release. “If you take money from a customer to deliver a service, you either deliver the service or give the consumer their money back.”
Vacation Consulting Services has a customer grade of 4.5 out of 5 stars based on 103 reviews. The Transfer Group, from 17 customer reviews, has a 3 out of 5 star score.
Reached by the BBB, Scroggs said he’s in the process of closing Vacation Consulting Services and The Transfer Group. He said the companies made “some mistakes for a six-to-eight-month window” and blamed customer complaints on the companies’ growth, saying they “were a factor of us growing too fast more than anything else.”
In a statement sent to Springfield Business Journal on Nov. 1, Scroggs said the BBB’s rating system is flawed. He said the company has only received 34 complaints out of 2,500 clients during the past four years.
“The BBB is an outdated privately owned organization that has recently tried to revamp themselves to compete with Yelp and Google,” he said, pointing to an investigation by 20/20, which he said "shows that if you pay the BBB a larger fee, they will change your grade."
Scroggs told the BBB he opened a new business called Real Travel LLC that “will be a better program for our clients” and sell “an entirely different product.” He said the company would offer timeshare exit services, as well as enrollment in a travel exchange program, for an initial cost of $7,000 to $19,000, plus a $249 yearly membership fee, according to the release.
Vacation Consulting Services, The Transfer Group, Real Travel, Scroggs and several others are named in a Sept. 14 lawsuit filed by Wyndham Vacation Ownership Inc., Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc., Wyndham Resort Development Corp. and Shell Vacations LLC, according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The Wyndham companies accused the defendants of engaging in a “scam” using false advertising and untrue statements to directly harm its timeshare businesses.
“This insidious industry preys upon unsuspecting timeshare owners, inducing them into breaching their binding timeshare contracts, causing both the consumers and timeshare developers, like Wyndham, grave harm,” the suit reads. “These timeshare exit businesses typically demand exorbitant upfront payment from consumers, and then do little or nothing on behalf of the consumer, often leaving the consumer with ruined credit.
“Defendants’ misdeeds and practices have caused significant financial and reputational damage to Wyndham.”
In the statement to SBJ, Scroggs said Wyndham is using the lawsuit to combat anyone “who has the audacity to stand up to them.”
“If they can stop my company from helping a timeshare owner or stop a law firm from suing them for fraud, then they will control the market and all of the options of their consumers,” he said. “Their goal is to bankrupt the little guy instead of looking internally and train their sales staff to not commit fraud.”
On Oct. 16, defendant Catalyst Consulting Firm LLC, which operates in Hammons Tower, filed a motion to dismiss the suit brought on by Wyndham.
“Plaintiffs have failed to allege that Catalyst Consulting infringes on any trade or service mark any plaintiff owns, have failed to allege that Catalyst Consulting interferes with any contract or business relationship that any plaintiff has and how, and have failed to allege how Catalyst Consulting violates the statutes upon which all the plaintiffs rely for the rest of their claims,” the motion reads.
The suit also alleges Catalyst is organized solely by Mary Clapp, owner of Clapp Business Law LLC in Springfield. Clapp, according to the suit, has sent numerous letters to Wyndham allegedly representing clients who wish to exit their timeshare contracts. The letters, according to the suit, allegedly indicate Wyndham engaged in misconduct, a claim the company denies.
Reached this morning, Clapp said her law firm’s inclusion in the suit is an attempt to stop clients from utilizing legal services when they’ve “been the victims of fraud.”
“Their answer is not to stop the fraud in their organization,” Clapp said. “Their answer is, instead, let’s sue the attorneys so they won’t come after us anymore. They have lots and lots of money, so filing a federal lawsuit which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend, that’s their answer.”
Clapp said she is not the owner of Catalyst, and that her firm only served as the registered agent to list the business with the Missouri secretary of state. She said Catalyst is owned by the Chavez family, who are listed as team members on the company’s website.
Other businesses and individuals named in the suit are:
• Allied Solution Group LLC, Springfield;
• Bart Bowe, a Missouri resident;
• Dan Chudy, Branson and Sparta;
• CLS Inc., dba Atlas Vacation Remedies and Principal Transfer Group, Jefferson City and Springfield;
• Clapp Business Law LLC, Springfield;
• Jason Hemingway, Battlefield;
• JJ Midwest Marketing LLC, Nixa;
• JJ&C Marketing LLC, Springfield;
• Midwest Transfers LLC, Springfield;
• Mutual Release Corp., aka 417MRC LLC, Springfield;
• Donnelly Snellen, Jefferson City;
• The Mid-West Transfer, Springfield;
• Transfer For You LLC, Nixa:
• Matthew Tucker, Springfield;
• VCS Communications LLC, Springfield, also owned by Scroggs; and
• Josh Ungaro, a Missouri resident.
Defendants Scoggs, Vacation Consulting Services, The Transfer Group, Real Travel, VCS Communications and Bowe on Oct. 11 filed a motion to extend the time to file a complaint through Nov. 2. That motion was granted by the Florida court, as was a separate motion to extend the time to file a complaint by Clapp Business Law by Nov. 9.
Legal, government and nonprofit officials are among the honorees.
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