|No Such Thing as 'Lifetime Dues'||How to Cancel a Campground Membership|
|'Bill of Rights for RV Campers'||How to FIGHT the Pay-Till-You-Die Schemes|
|Camping Clubs that Abuse their members||Which Camping Clubs Abuse their members|
|Class Action Lawsuit Against TTN||My Membership Campground Problem|
Some potential campground members are promised, at the time of sale, that they will never have to pay another ‘Initiation Fee’ if they will advance an additional few thousand dollars. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘Lifetime Membership’.
No one is told that, as a member, they will be expected to pay annual fees “until they die” or convince someone else to do the same.
This is not a trivial oversight by the seller.
This is important information that is critical to the decision to purchase the membership and MUST be disclosed before the purchase.
Salesmen and the people who employ them, who engage in this practice could be guilty of fraud.
Efforts of sellers to coerce members to pay money every year “until they die” might be found guilty of fraud and/or extortion. If they engage in interstate commerce or use the telephone or US mail to carry out their threats may be guilty of a Federal crime and might face jail terms.
We are told that some courts have ruled that such an alleged commitment would be against public policy and not permitted. Victim of this scheme should fight back. We have posted some tips on this web site.
So You Want to Cancel Your ‘Lifetime Campground Membership’
Note that the “initiation Fee”, the initial cost of the membership, is usually refundable for the first few days. Most states require that the purchaser have a prescribed number of days to change their mind about a major purchase. This is normally between 3-5 days. After that time, the initiation fee must be paid in full even if the purchaser changes their mind. This is usually because the seller, by this time, has “hypothecated” the membership (sold it, at a discount, to a third party for collection).
If Your Annual Dues/maintenance Fees
told me that I would never have to pay another
initiation fee if I would give them an extra
couple thousand dollars
NOW they tell me that I have to make annual “dues” payments
That isn’t what they told me when I joined their camping club...
What can I do?”
This is the most common complaint NAM receives
from campground members.
There IS something you can do to stop this scheme.
Here is what others have done to stop the harassment:
Send a letter to the people demanding money stating that you no do not intend to use their facilities, they should cancel your membership immediately, and you do not intend to pay any future dues.
Do NOT argue with them over the phone. Tell them to send it to you in writing - then hang up.
When they send you a bill anyway - send them a letter, return receipt required, telling them “In accordance with the US Fair Debt Collections Act, do not contact you about the alleged amount owed. Such communication will be reported as a violation of Federal Law.
File a complaint with NAM.
NAM is engaged in discussions with several state Attorneys General and with the US Federal Trade Commission concerning this “Dues-Till-You-Die Scheme”. Official complaints are being compiled and consolidated in anticipation of actions that will put an end to this kind of scheme.
It is important that you file an “Official Complaint” when this happens to you.
You can file your complaint with NAM, your AG, and with the US FTC from our web site:
www.natlassoc.org [ Forms on our web site ]
Contact us if you do not have access to the internet and we will help you obtain, fill out, and file the complaint.
Don’t be intimidated. Get ANGRY and FIGHT BACK!
June 2006 - NAM sent the following information to several Attorneys General, Governors, the US Federal Trade Commission, and the US Justice Department. We are still receiving replies. The consensus, so far, is that a person may not be “tricked” into a commitment to pay money every year until they die! Such tactics are at least abusive and should be stopped. The respondents suggest that victims of this tactic should file a specific written complaint each time someone tries to extract money from you in this fashion. The written complaint should be brief - but thorough.
Let us know if you need help preparing your complaint or finding appropriate addresses to mail it to. We are not attorneys but we can tell you how others have done it.
Part of the information we provided follows:
“NAM has received complaints from people in several states concerning abusive and possibly illegal practices relating to campground memberships. They use interstate mail and/or
the telephone to conduct their scheme:
The victim is lured to a sales presentation where they are told that they can buy a non-exclusive right to use campground facilities in exchange for an initiation fee of a few thousand dollars. They are also told that, for an additional sum, they will never have to pay another initiation fee again. The salesman calls this a “Lifetime Membership”.
The customer is never told at this sales meeting that the campground expects annual “Maintenance Fee” payments until the customer dies…
Some time later, when the customer has no further use for a campground membership and after the initiation fee is paid in full, they notify the campground to cancel the membership. This is usually accomplished by telephone and/or in writing.
The campground refuses to cancel the membership and continues to demand annual “maintenance” fees – arguing that the customer may not cancel the “Lifetime Membership” and that they must continue to pay every year until they die or to sell the membership to someone who will!
Repeated intimidating telephone threats and written statements (bills) indicate that a campground representative will sue the customer and file adverse credit reports against them unless they comply.
We have complaints from Florida, California, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and others, about companies in Mississippi, Florida, California, etc…”
NAM also provided names of offending companies and victim contact information.
Here is a list of the clubs we have had the most complaints about:
5 Star (MS)
Advance Resorts of America
Bullek Corp (FL)
U.S. Vacation Resorts, Inc.
September 2006 - Most of the complaints involve the allegation that the members ‘cannot cancel’ their membership and must pay annual fees every year until they die.
Purchasers are told they will not have to pay another ‘Initiation fee’ as long as they live. Nothing is said at the time of sale that the purchaser must pay money every year until they die and that there is no way to cancel. NAM (and several state Attorneys General) believe that this is abusive and improper, an illegal practice that needs to be stopped.
Would you join a camping club if they told you at the sales meeting that you would have to pay money to them, every year until you die, and that you would not be permitted to resign from membership? This happened to Mr. Duplisea and many others. The campgrounds expectation of perpetual dues/maintenance fees is deliberately concealed from the customer until after the sale. [Ed.]
Many people these days have found themselves saddled with lifetime, even up to 3-generation, membership contracts that provide no [apparent] option to cancel the membership. This is not a trivial commitment! Yes, it is true that when joining, we should first read the fine print carefully, but in many cases the fine print is very fine and buried deep, if it is even presented. Okay, maybe we should have an attorney examine the contract. But who does that, and why should we have to? All we want to do is go camping!
Some campground chains have gone bankrupt, their officials convicted for fraud, but still harass people, former members, for dues payments!
I’m one of those people.
I am disturbed to read letters in the RV magazines from those who wish or need to drop their campground memberships. [Motorhome Magazine, June, 2004-Ed.] and find themselves harassed and threatened with lawsuits unless they pay large sums of money to get the campground off their backs. It is more disturbing when these publications cowtow to these campgrounds and advise people to gather paperwork, get medical history, doctors’ records and otherwise jump through hoops. This promotes this sort of activity rather than supporting the distressed member. What’s to say that’s the end of it? Full circle in other words.
This should not be necessary! Unfortunately, some people panic and pay up out of fear without challenging the legality of these demands, thus encouraging continuation of a questionable practice.
If all membership campgrounds were up front and honest — fortunately most are, and clearly presented all rules and requirements of membership, prospective members would be assured that they would be free to discontinue their memberships when it becomes necessary. That will eventually happen to each of us. We should be able to do so without anxiety, harassment and expense.
I feel that it is the responsibility of the RV magazines to place the interests and peace of mind of their subscribers first, helping them to avoid anxiety, hassle and expense, rather than catering to such oppressive and unwarranted demands. I also feel that membership campground chains have an obligation to require that their member campgrounds adhere to a binding code of ethics that would prohibit this practice.
If you find yourself in this position contact
the National Association of Members [NAM]:
or email: [ Click Here ]
We will help you find attorneys and government agencies
that are interestedin helping you.]
2005 - The following exchange was posted on one of the Internet newsgroups. You might find it informative.
Question: I’ve seen some posts regarding some membership campgrounds telling owners that they can’t cancel their memberships. I think I read that it can’t be enforced or that it’s against the law.
Reply: About 7 or so years ago some people in, I believe, California, brought a class action lawsuit against Thousand Trails/Naco who was enforcing such a policy. TTN said that a member was a member for life and had to pay dues forever. It was rumored that they were trying to get dues from the estates of members, too.
The court held that the *lifetime member* provision was not enforceable. If your membership contract dated from those years, you could cancel your membership by sending them a certified letter. Newer TTN contracts and resale contracts have a provision for a term of years (5 or 10 I really don’t remember).
Each contract has its own wording. I would not make a blanket statement about any membership contract. When in doubt, contact the Attorney General of the state where the business is incorporated and/or where the property is located. Try this website <www.natlassoc.com> for the National Association for Members (NAM)
Janet Wilder (The Road Princess)
Anyone who remembers or has info or input to this let us know and we will post the details on our web site and/or in a newsletters. (Editor)