Fitness centers must refund contributions – SWR Aktuell

Anyone who was unable to use their gym during the Corona lockdown is entitled to the dues paid during this time. What does it mean specifically?

The Federal Court (BGH) in Karlsruhe has heard a model case in Lower Saxony. The plaintiff had entered into a two-year contract with a fitness center starting in December 2019. Following the outbreak of the corona pandemic, the studio had to close from mid-March to early June 2020. During the closure, the plaintiff terminated the membership contract.

The customer is entitled to a refund

Nevertheless, the operator of the gym continued to collect the monthly contributions of around 30 euros. The customer had initially unsuccessfully asked his studio to pay back and eventually asked for a voucher on the amount. However, the studio only offered him a “credit for training time” – so they wanted to extend the contract period. The man refused – and was now just before BGH in the final instance.

If a gym was closed due to corona, it must reimburse its members contributions for this time. It was decided by the federal court – and with it …
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The judges see no “disturbance of the business basis”

In the case of a gym contract with a fixed term of several months, “the regular and year-round opening of the study and usability are of crucial importance,” the judges ruled. There was no “disruption of the business foundation”. The studio did not fulfill its main obligation, the regular use of the gym.

BGH: No extension of the contract period

According to the ruling, the gym is also not entitled to add weeks of closure to the contract period. The BGH judges also justify this with the voucher solution that the legislator introduced in the spring of 2020 to prevent mass insolvency through recoveries.

This is a special rule for the Corona situation. If music, cultural or sporting events are canceled due to the pandemic, the organizers must either refund the money or issue a voucher for exactly the amount that the customers have paid too much. BGH determined that a final regulation had thus been taken.

Who gets money back now?

“Anyone who had a contract in a gym during the shutdown and continued to pay contributions during that period even though the gym was closed,” said Claudia Kornmeier of ARD’s legal department. Even those who have not yet taken care of it can now ask for the money back. “There should be no problems with the limitation period either,” says Kornmeier. The usual limitation period is three years. “And they have not expired here yet.” But the important thing is that only those who have not received a voucher can get money. back.

What does the Consumer Center BW advise?

Customers at a gym can now claim their money back. The Consumer Advice Center in Baden-Württemberg advises all concerned to do so in writing. The respective fitness center should have a deadline before the money must be repaid, Oliver Buttler of the Baden-Württemberg Consumer Center told SWR. The letter with the monetary claim should best be sent as registered mail, so that it is also securely delivered, reads the tip from the consumer lawyer.

Employers’ Association: The verdict is a setback for the fitness industry

The Employers’ Association for German Fitness and Health Facilities (DSSV) reacted disappointingly to the ruling of the highest German civil court. When asked by SWR, the association talked about a setback for fitness providers in Germany. Another verdict was pending. For many operators, this decision, according to the association, is also a threat to their existence. Companies will have to deal with the effects of the pandemic in the coming years.

According to DSSV, there are around 1,400 fitness and health facilities in Baden-Württemberg. According to its own statements, the German fitness industry has a total turnover of 2.23 billion euros nationwide and has around 154,000 employees. This is stated in key data for the industry for the year 2022 (as of December 2021). In Baden-Württemberg, 12.7 percent of the total population is a member of a fitness and health center – slightly more than the national average (11.1 percent).

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