During the Corona lockdown, members could not work out in the gym. Can they ask for their money back? A verdict is now attracting attention.
Hamm – When the corona virus first spread in Germany in the spring of 2020, many shops and facilities had to close – including gyms. Many members, however, continued to pay their dues during this time, even though they were unable to visit the studios. But they can get that money back, as the federal court has now ruled.
|authority||Federal Court of Justice (BGH)|
|foundation||October 1, 1950, Karlsruhe|
Gym: Money back because of Corona? Customers have this option
The lockdown period was not easy for anyone: citizens were no longer allowed to do what they were used to, and some entrepreneurs lost their business foundation. Because his fitness center in Lower Saxony was closed between March and June 2020 due to corona restrictions, a customer was unable to play sports there. Therefore, the man demanded his contingent for this period – almost 87 euros – back.
But the gym refused to refund the customer. The operator also did not want to issue a voucher to him on the corresponding amount. Instead, she offered to add the closing period to his contract as a “training time credit.”
The dispute eventually ended in court. Initially, the district court ruled that the operator must pay the customer his money back. After a failed audit before the city court, the case has now ended in the Federal Court. And the judges at the highest German civil court also agreed with the customer: Fitness centers must therefore repay contributions to corona-related closing times.
BGH verdict: Gym must pay contributions back during corona lockdown
BGH justified its ruling as follows: According to the contract, a fitness center must offer its customers the opportunity to “continuously enter the studio and use the training equipment”. However, if it has to close temporarily – as in this case due to the Corona measures – “this contractual purpose cannot be achieved during the closing period,” the federal court said. “The service owed by the operator can therefore no longer be repaid due to the passage of time.”
A contract extension for the closing period “due to interruption of the business basis”, as offered by the operator, is not legal. The judges justified this by saying that “the legislature recognized the risk of a disturbance of the business basis and created a special legal provision to solve the problem”. Means: To mitigate the consequences of the corona pandemic, the federal government had issued a regulation that allowed companies from the leisure or culture sector to issue vouchers to their customers instead of repaying them money for unusual events or the like. However, these vouchers must have a monetary value and not – as in the case of the fitness center – a time credit.
Money back from the gym: An expert gives this tip
The ruling of the Federal Court provides legal clarity for the millions of fitness studio users in Germany. You can now get a refund paid under the Corona lockdown. “Affected consumers who now want their money back should refer to the verdict and set short repayment deadlines of two weeks,” advises lawyer Arndt Kempgens from Gelsenkirchen (NRW).
If the gyms continue to refuse, customers can initiate jerking procedures, the expert explained. Of course, out of solidarity or goodwill, members can also accept other compensation offers that their gym has made them.
Incidentally, there has recently been a new rule for termination of fitness contracts. Since then, customers have been able to more easily get out of an unwanted expansion. But there is a catch.