Thanks to the trust customers place in Sacombank and Maritime Bank, the cooperation between Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd., developer of Alma Resort in Khanh Hoa Province, with said banks is likely making it easier for the company to trick customers into signing vacation right ownership contracts.
After our articles on false advertising and other opacity surrounding Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. and Alma Resort, VIR continued to receive letters from customers who claimed they were tricked out of their money.
T. from Ho Chi Minh City said that at the conference held by the company to introduce the project, after he heard all the good things about the project and the benefits of exchanging vacations, a salesperson introduced to him a scheme through which he could open a Sacombank-Alma credit card reserved for customers with incomes of at least VND5 million ($219) a month, through which customers can borrow up to VND1 billion ($44,000).
This arrangement also allows a customer that signs the contract to own vacation rights at Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. to deposit less than the minimum amount stated by the company, while the rest will be a debt taken from the credit card. According to this arrangement, the card holder will not have to pay interest for 10 months.
T. said he and many other guests trusted Sacombank and were lured by the 10 months of zero interest, so they signed the vacation right ownership contract before reading the fine print.
Since 2013 Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. has invited numerous people to join these conferences to “introduce and gather opinion about the vacation right ownership model” at its three branches in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City. and Nha Trang, with the promise that participants will be given vouchers. These sessions were not just to introduce and gather opinions though.
T. said that at first they did introduce and asked for participants’ thoughts in earnest, but then groups of two were led to small rooms to meet with salespersons. There they were invited to sign a “placeholding” contract and were requiredto pay a very small fee, after which the salesperson would follow them home to collect the remaining “placeholding” amount.
The salesperson explained some terms in the contract and handed it to them to sign. Then two weeks later T. received the contract signed and sealed by the company. He read it again and found unreasonable terms and conditions. He asked the company to nullify the contract, which they refused. Then a few days later he was called on by the bank to carry out procedures to disburse the loan.
Customer M. from Ho Chi Minh City said she attended a conference of Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. in Ho Chi Minh City and was told that Maritime Bank would let her borrow 50 per cent of the deposit with zero interest for the first 24 months.
M. said she signed the contract and paid VND1 million ($44) upfront. Then the salesperson from Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. followed her home to collect another VND115 million ($5,000). 10 minutes later she suddenly changed her mind and called the salesperson saying she wished to nullify the contract but was told it was impossible.
|The document signed by Alma to verify placeholding and the amount of deposit paid. |
VIR will continue investigating the cooperative relationship between Sacombank and Maritime Bank with Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd.
Customers told VIR that one of the reasons they signed the contract was the trust they placed in Sacombank and Maritime Bank. They said they thought these banks had already performed a legal check on the vacation right ownership contracts.
In an interview with Khanh Hoa newspaper, Tran Minh Hai, deputy director of the Khanh Hoa Department of Planning and Investment, said that the department had asked Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. to respond to the recent complaints from customers. The company sent back to the department a few hundred pages of contracts.
“This kind of contract is a landmine for the average person,” Hai said.
Lawyer Tran Duc Phuong from the Ho Chi Minh City Lawyers’ Association assessed that these banks should re-evaluate their relationship with Alma in order not to harm their own reputation.
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By Ha Duy