Meissen District: Fitness studios must pay money back after BGH ruling
The Corona period hit gyms hard. Now they even had to pay contributions back. The BGH verdict is not well received everywhere.
district Meissen. For the past two years, the gyms have sometimes closed for several months in a row. The official action against Corona provided for this. Many members asked themselves: What is really happening with the contingents? Continue to pay or not?
The Federal Court handed down a landmark judgment on May 4th. In this particular case, there was a two-year contract between the customer from Lower Saxony and the gym. The contract was concluded before the pandemic in December 2019. The monthly membership fee, which was charged by direct debit, was 29.90 euros plus a half-yearly service fee. However, the gym had to close from March 16 to June 4, 2020 due to official corona measures. Membership fees continued to be diligently charged.
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The man then asked for his money back and resigned. The cancellation was accepted by the gym but the refund was not. Instead of a voucher, there was a “credit for training time” for the closing period. The customer did not accept this offer, first went to the city court in Papenburg and was right. The study appealed, and the case ended in the district court of Osnabrück. Here, too, the decision was made in favor of the sportsman. On May 4, 2022, the Federal Court upheld this judgment. The decision was based on the fact that the purpose of an exercise contract is regular physical activity. If access to the gym is not guaranteed, this purpose is not fulfilled. The debt due can therefore no longer be redeemed due to the passage of time.
“The decision finally creates clarity,” says Sylvia Neubert from the Meissen Consumer Center. In the past, there would have been judgments in favor of both gyms and consumers. The uncertainty was similarly high.
Contracts were unilaterally extended
“It was also a big problem in the Meissen district. We often had the case that the gyms added the closing time to the regular contract expiration without being asked,” Neubert says. BGH has also taken a clear stance on this. “These are unilateral contract extensions that are ineffective,” Neubert explains. To compensate for financial losses, the legislature had temporarily made a voucher solution. “According to our information, the gyms in the region had hardly made use of it,” Neubert continued. How is the judgment received by the operators? Hardly anyone in the district wants to talk about it, especially not with the newspaper. There are a few exceptions.
“It was clear to us that something else could come afterwards,” says Martin Zimmermann, owner of “Passion Sport’s” in Nossen. In the gym on Bismarckstraße, memberships were therefore free during closing hours. The studio opened in October 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. However, only briefly. “We had to close from November 2020 to the beginning of June 2021,” Zimmermann continued. Above all, the congestion fund would have helped get through this time. Meanwhile, rehabilitation sports have also become a small cornerstone. How is the study today? “We got over it so far, but under normal circumstances we could be much longer now,” Zimmermann says.
“We are relaxed about that,” Harald Czudaj said, referring to the BGH ruling. His fitness studios in Riesa and Coswig had neither secretly extended the contracts nor charged fees during the closing hours. “Who pays for a box of beer if you can’t take it with you,” says the entrepreneur. It was clear to him that he could not get away with it.
Jörg Messirek is the owner of “Formula 4”. The company runs four gyms in Dresden and one in Radebeul. The BGH ruling, he says, is one-sided and is to the detriment of the industry. “The studios also had agreements with customers that have now lapsed. In addition, the last two years have been extremely difficult for the industry,” he says. Depending on the size of the study, contributions of up to 100,000 euros could quickly come together. Messirek has only been head of the Formula 4 studios since December 1, 2021, so he can only talk about the last six months. “We did not charge any membership fees for the recent Saxon lockdown. We did not extend it either,” he says.
Consumer Advocate Claudia Neumerkel explains how consumers can now move on to get their money’s worth. “First you should examine the closing time period, then calculate the claims in euros and send the claim recommended. After the deadline expires without success, there is still legal assistance or a judicial reminder procedure,” the lawyer says. expert in the Consumer Advice Center. Anyone who has already received mail from the debt collection agency, for example because they have posted the amounts for the closing time back before the BGH ruling, has less to worry about, according to the consumer advice. According to the BGH judgment, the claims of the debt collection companies are also invalid. It is important to contest the claim to avoid unauthorized Schufa entries.