Does the ARDA Code of Ethics Help Timeshare Owners?

ARDA code of ethics: 'Ethics' highlighted in pink

When you are stuck in a timeshare contract, it can feel like you have lost control of your life. Many owners, though they realize that they have been wronged by their timeshare companies, are hesitant to sue or get the authorities involved. Then, they find something that they believe can help them: a code of ethics created by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA).


The ARDA code of ethics, though, offers false hope. It’s not a document that is enforceable by law, and the fact is that ARDA has little incentive to police its own members in terms of their ethical decision-making.


This article will take a look at what the ARDA code of ethics is, how it is used, and whether this code of conduct is actually being followed by its member companies. Finally, if you have decided that this all seems like too much trouble, we’ll take a look at getting a timeshare exit with Centerstone Group.


What Is the ARDA Code of Ethics, and How Is It Used?

ARDA code of ethics: beautiful beachfront buildings

The ARDA code is a list of ethical standards published by ARDA, which is a trade association made up of timeshare companies. The code itself, which is just shy of 30 pages, contains rules about things like making “false, untrue, deceptive, or misleading” statements or solicitations


What does the code say, though? A quick read shows that it says little of value. The code vaguely states that verbal representations by timeshare companies “should be consistent with information contained in sales documents, contracts, and written disclosures.” The code also discourages companies from telling potential buyers that they are “winners” or are receiving “free” prizes in connection with a timeshare presentation.


The ARDA code of ethics is more specific about preventing one ARDA member from making false statements about another. For example, if you were at a Marriott timeshare presentation, and they started telling you incorrect things about Hilton’s program, that would likely be limited by the ARDA code of ethics.


Of course, this rule doesn’t help owners at all — only ARDA members. For timeshare owners who want to report issues with ethical behavior or professional conduct, they’re advised to fill out an ARDA-ROC web form to contact a “support representative.”


It is unclear what level of proof would be needed for ARDA to sanction a member for violating one of the ethical principles included in the code


The consequences for a violation of the code are also vague, with the code of ethics mentioning “suspension or termination of membership privileges, or the availability of programs, activities, and services to non-members, and such other penalties as [the ARDA board of directors] may deem appropriate.”


The odd, loose words in the code of ethics make sense when one considers what ARDA is. As a trade association, ARDA’s main focus is protecting the timeshare industry and making sure that its members can maximize their businesses. 


ARDA does not want to limit its members or give the public legal tools to fight against those members. Accordingly, the ARDA code of ethics does not seem to be a practical document, and its actual real-world uses appear to be few.


Is the ARDA Code of Ethics Actually Being Followed by Timeshare Companies?

Employee looking at a client while holding a piece of paper

Given that, on a closer look, the ARDA code of ethics is less strict than it first appears, one might think that the timeshare companies would follow the loose rules they have set for themselves. Unfortunately, based on reviews, it seems that the timeshare companies have trouble upholding even these rules for themselves.


Wyndham, for example, is a company with some particularly bad reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. One reviewer calls them “very deceitful,” and another mentions that representations made to their deceased mother about being able to pass a timeshare on to heirs were false. Clearly, the people who left reviews at the BBB did not feel that Wyndham was living up to the ARDA code of ethics.


The BBB reviews for Hilton Grand Vacations tell a similar story, with multiple customers describing the business as a “scam.” One review states that the company was “sorely lacking” in “honesty and integrity” and describes a high-pressure sales process that many timeshare owners will recognize as all too familiar.


Reviews for Marriott Vacation Club on Trustpilot echo the issues above. Reviewers refer to the company as a “money pit” and a “scam” perpetrated by “slick salespeople.” Owners complain that they can’t book the timeshares they have already paid for. And while there are a few positive reviews, the vast majority show systemic and serious problems with the company and its products.


Why Isn’t the ARDA Code of Ethics Being Enforced?

Given the frequent and all too similar reviews showing that ARDA members are not adhering to the code of ethics, one might question why the policies aren’t being followed. 


The most obvious answer is that ARDA has created the code of ethics as a way of deflecting criticism from unethical business practices by its members. ARDA, as a trade organization, has a strong interest in showing lawmakers at the statehouses and in Washington, D.C., that more regulation of the vacation ownership industry is unnecessary. 


A code of ethics, then, allows ARDA to claim that it is policing its members, rendering further laws against them unnecessary. As a private company, ARDA is not obliged to share information about how it enforces its code of ethics or the consequences that it imposes on its members. It is likely that ARDA has not doled out many sanctions on its members for ethics violations.


The simple answer, then, is that the ARDA code of ethics exists mostly to give lawmakers and the public the impression that ARDA is regulating its own members. The plain facts and company reviews, however, show that this is just not the case.


Where to Turn for Help Instead of Relying on ARDA

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The harsh truth is that you can’t depend on ARDA or its code of ethics to get you, as a timeshare owner, any meaningful results. In order to get something to happen, you will have to look outside of the timeshare company to get your power back.


Some people may seek help from the Federal Trade Commission or their state’s Attorney General for help with their problems. While that can definitely get a timeshare company’s attention, it may not resolve your specific problem.


However, Centerstone Group is a team of dedicated professionals with collective decades of experience in the timeshare industry. We know how the business works, and we have successfully helped many owners get out of their timeshare contracts using our professional judgment and unique skill set.


Whether you need a contractual cancellation, a proprietary pressure campaign, or help from one of our legal partners, we can get the results you need. Plus, we’re an A+-rated, accredited company with the BBB, and our 4.75-out-of-5 stars and reviews speak for themselves.


Take Back Your Power From ARDA and Timeshare Companies

ARDA and the timeshare companies want us to believe that they are capable of policing themselves. Unfortunately, the facts tell us otherwise. Timeshare companies are shameless businesses driven to do everything they can to make a buck, whether it’s ethical or not. Expecting ARDA to make them behave ethically is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.


If you are a timeshare owner struggling with a contract, we urge you to get in touch with Centerstone Group today. We can give you a free consultation and case evaluation, then get you started on the way to freedom from your timeshare.


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