How gyms ask burgers to pay in lockdown

Hamburg. In fact, Sophia Schelbert just wanted to do a little for her health. Exercise of the whole body on Fitness chain Fit / One and that for 28 euros a month sounded good to the 23-year-old studying educational science in Hamburg.

But the company’s behavior from Frankish Waldbrunn, as in the Hanseatic city a total of three fitness centre with several thousand members, unintentionally made the student sweat in Corona times – and caused her a lot of trouble.

Cancellation is not accepted by Fit / One

After the first lockdown last spring and the associated closures of the studios, Schelbert wanted out of his contract with the chain. “Fit / One did not accept my timely termination, but instead simply extended the contract period unilaterally,” the student told Abendblatt. Contributions continued to be deducted from her account – even in the phase when the studios were closed due to the corona pandemic.

According to the assessment of Hamburg Consumer Center These experiences are anything but isolated. Many fitness chains then unjustifiably ask their members to pay during Corona times. “Complaints about the fitness chains’ practices are currently rising,” says expert Julia Rehberg. “In the last few months, there have certainly been hundreds.”

Duration extended by lockdown time

For Sophia Schelbert, all the fuss began in July last year. So she sent Fit / One her resignation as soon as possible. It would have been the end of October according to the company’s terms and conditions. But in the letter, which a few weeks later fluttered into the young woman’s house, the chain only confirmed the termination on January 31, 2021.

When Fit / One was still charging the monthly fee in November, the student tried to contact the chain – without success. In December, she then revoked the power of attorney for direct debit and had the contribution refunded. Schelbert also hired a lawyer.

Fit / One: An endless contract

But the tug of war with the company was far from over. Schelbert noticed how her contributions were transferred to so-called “bonus” and “consumer credit” without ever being told what they were to be used for.

The termination of the contract was also pushed further and further back. “Meanwhile, April is listed as the last month of my membership in my account,” Schelbert says indignantly. Even if you have the written confirmation of termination by the end of January.

Fit / One sees itself to the right

Several other members of Fit / One experienced the same thing as Sophia Schelbert. Abendblatt still has reports from three other customers who also report unilaterally extended contracts, lack of communication and additional contributions that have been debited during the lockdown. A Facebook group called “Injured Members Fit / One Nationwide” has well over 1,400 members.

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The owner of the Fit / One chain, Michael Mühleck, apologized for the “communication problems” that had arisen among the members, but essentially defended the company’s behavior. “The collected contributions are credited to the members and they can then train with us at no extra cost as soon as we are allowed to reopen the studios,” Mühleck told Abendblatt. For this reason, the terms of the contract have also been extended. In the months that the contract runs longer, customers could then redeem their credit.

Chain manager: “Existence-threatening crisis”

Mühleck justifies the controversial practice with the heavy burdens that the company has faced in the Corona crisis. “The situation threatens to exist for us,” says the entrepreneur, who himself ran the fitness chain for many years, but has now handed over management to his son Moritz. “And the state aid we should actually be getting is flowing very hesitantly.”

“From our point of view, it is neither permitted to continue to charge contributions during the closing hours of the studies nor to unilaterally extend the contract period,” emphasizes consumer lawyer Rehberg. “The agreed service will not be provided if the studios are closed,” the expert said. “And why should the contract period be extended if it was clearly defined in advance?” Among other things, she relies on a ruling by the Papenburg City Court from December last year.

Consumer Advocate: “Stop Payments”

Rehberg advises all customers to stop paying for the gyms during the lockdown and to revoke any direct debit mandates that may have been issued. The same applies if claims are made after the previously agreed contract period.

The Consumer Advocate learns that there are currently numerous other fitness chains in addition to Fit / One, which are unilaterally trying to extend the agreement periods and continue to charge contributions. For example, several customers complained to the German market leader McFit on the consumer advice that money had been withdrawn from them against their will during the shutdown.

Also complains against market leader McFit

The company, which runs seven studios in the Hanseatic city alone, said on request that all members had the opportunity to put their contract on pause. However, many have decided to continue paying their contributions during the lockdown, according to company spokesman Pierre Geisensetter. “Loyalty is remarkable, and we really appreciate that.” Anyone who continues to pay dues will be reimbursed free of charge the time the studio was closed at the end of their membership.

Longer contracts also with Meridian

Hamburg chain Meridian Spa & Fitness has automatically suspended its members’ payments during the closing times set by politicians. But here, too, the “missed fitness and wellness times” are linked to the actual agreed duration of the contract, as a spokeswoman told Abendblatt. A contract that would actually have run until the end of December runs for a few more months until the times when the studios were closed are settled.

“We consider this to be reasonable as the members do not incur any additional costs as a result of this regulation,” the spokeswoman said. In this respect, one cannot speak of an extension of the concept. In individual or emergency cases, however, one is also quite willing to find “individual solutions”.

Unclear legal situation

With this regulation, Meridian relies on a judgment of the Würzburg City Court of October 2020. A Supreme Court ruling that may clarify the confusing legal situation with various judgments is still pending.

For Sophia Schelbert, after her experience with the provider Fit / One, it is at least clear that she will no longer enter a gym from the inside – even if it should be open again. “I prefer to train on my own now,” she says.

Fri, February 26, 2021, at 12.46

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