Getting out of gym contract can be bad for your health
Randy Chatterjee at the Douglas Park Community Centre, one of the places he exercises. It’s a city-run facility in Vancouver that he prefers because he’s lost faith in private facilities. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Randy Chatterjee still remembers the feeling looking at his bank statement and wondering why his former gym was still charging him.
The 49-year-old had quit Kitsilano Workout, which has since gone out of business. Despite complying with the gym’s exit policy, he said the business continued to take money out of his bank account — for more than a year after he quit.
“It cost me more than $200,” Chatterjee said. “I kept going in and they’d say, ‘Oh, we’ll take care of this.’ It never got resolved.”
Mark Fernandes of the Better Business Bureau’s mainland B.C. branch has heard such stories before. Last year, the agency received 15,700 inquiries about fitness clubs. It also had 235 complaints — a 72% increase from 2011.
On Thursday, the BBB issued a warning about the predatory practices some fitness facilities employ. The agency said complaints include high-pressure sales tactics, false claims about services, broken cancellation and refund clauses, and lost fees from facilities going out of business.
“What sounds like a good New Year’s resolution can be costly to get out of,” Fernandes said.
Chatterjee enlisted the BBB’s help, but the gym didn’t care. It just kept taking money out each month.
“They just refused to respond to the BBB’s formal letter,” he said. “I finally just killed the account … there was nothing else I could do.”
The bureau offered several tips to cut down on such problems, including not paying fees if a gym hasn’t yet opened, and trying out a facility first before signing up.
Fernandes also advised taking a contract home and reading the fine print, especially about cancellation rights and membership terms. He suggests checking out a person’s rights with the BBC and Consumer Protection B.C.
Ann Chandler, 60, was the victim of a closure in Burnaby when FitCity for Women shut its doors. She lost more than $200 in fees she paid. The problem is the rate is often much lower if you sign up long-term.
“It’s very tempting,” Chandler said. “But it’s buyer beware.”
24 hours could not reach anyone associated with the two defunct businesses despite multiple efforts Thursday.