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Ashbourne Management - wait- please read on!

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Hi, I'm new here. So I've been reading this forum today, and I've seen that a lot of people are having trouble with Ashbourne Management. I have a membership with a local gym. I signed into a 36 month contract two years ago, as I needed to get fit for my new job. However, that job quickly went bad on me, and I lost it, and my health has also deteriorated. For the last two years I have found ways of paying for my membership, i.e, I've been on disability benefits for my condition, but as they have recently been stopped despite my condition getting still worse, and my partner having to take a cut in wages (he is also a member and had a deteriorating health condition that would make it bad for him to continue using the gym) I can no longer afford to keep my gym membership, I've got no way of paying for it anymore, and my partner cannot afford to keep paying for mine and his every month. We both need out.

 

My payment was due a week ago, I cancelled the direct debit a couple of days before, possibly a bad move, but I cannot afford extortionate charges from my bank either because I've gone over my overdraft with them. My bank also advised that in this situation where I cannot fund my account in any way, I should cancel all of my DDs to prevent my account from going into the red also. So I cancelled my DD with Ashbourne to stop them taking money, thinking all they would do was send a letter asking me to pay manually, which they did.

 

I've received a second letter today, less than a week late with my payment, they are not only demanding my monthly fee, they've ALREADY tacked on their £10 admin fee. Less than a week late! Might I also add at this point that for at least half the time I've been a member, they've taken their money early, sometimes by as much as a week, which has occasionally caused me some hardship.

 

Anyroad, they're demanding I reinstate my DD and pay up immediately or they'll take further action, the usual threatening techniques. Reading on here, it seems they don't really have a leg to stand on they can make threats til they're blue in the face but they can't do much more than that, all I'm legally obliged to do is pay what I'm supposed to within my contract i.e my monthly fee.

 

I'm wondering what to do next. They will get any money legally due to them by myself, but only when it is there. I cannot very well give them money that is not physically there! I'll pay this fee, and next month's, which by the time we get the money here again to pay anything, will be about £90 just for me alone, but I want out of this contract. I'm also going to keep everything in writing, so I used their web site contact us form to write to them. However this does not allow me to keep a copy of the correspondence myself, so if anyone has a direct email address I can use or a postal address, I would be eternally grateful.

 

I cannot believe I've gone two years without realising what a bunch of shysters this company was! I cannot use my membership anymore for health reasons, I just want out, and would appreciate any help anyone can give me, but please note, I can barely afford to feed myself right now as I have no job anymore, and no benefits, so I most certainly can't afford a lawyer! :(

 

P.S. I have both a physical illness (it is covered by the DDA) and a mental illness. So does my mental illness also come into play in some way? My physical illness does cause difficulty in learning and whatnot, so I have enormous difficulties in understanding anything, and I signed the contract without knowing or being made aware of half the information that has surfaced on these forums... as for my mental illness, I have clinical depression, so all of this stress is going to make me worse on a physical and mental level, and I am being investigated still further for my mental illness as well as ongoing for my physical illness, as yet more problems are coming to light. So essentially Ashbourne have taken advantage of the disabled!

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If you are prepared to pay them (silly you) then write to them and tell them exactly what you have said above 'I am on benefits, and you will get it when I have it', then ignore any further letters and threats. If it should go to court, which is very unlikely as they have been in trouble with the law many times, and it is found against you, the court won't order more than you can afford, so they might be lucky to get a £1 per week out of you.

 

As you have been there for 2 years, it is likely they may have lost your agreement, so you can send a request for a true copy of the agreement and if they don't come back with it within 12 days, the account is in dispute and you can legally stop paying until such time as they do send you a 'true signed' copy.

 

You can also ask your doctor for a letter and send them a copy telling them that their 'unfair' contract is terminated by the letter.

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Do you know what coniff? I am very silly! I STILL cannot believe they've had two years worth of money out of me, with me being blissfully unaware of how dodgy they are! I'm normally well clued up on this sort of thing! But then, my health has gotten worse since then and part of it does greatly affect my logic and reasoning... :( (My physical condition is fibromyalgia, my mental is clinical depression and suspected, as I am still undergoing investigation, schizophrenia).

 

Anyroad, so I should write to them and ask them for a true copy of the agreement? Is there any way I can get the address? I still have a copy of my contract, but it's worse than loo paper, it's on carbon paper, and since I have arthritis in my hands, I obviously wasn't pushing hard enough with my pen for the writing to come out terribly well on my copy of my contract. The T&Cs on the other side take the grand total of half a page. And as expected with Ashbourne, all it says about cancellation is I must complete my three years, at the end of which they WILL keep automatically renewing it.

 

Is there a way I can upload a copy of my contract onto here? Then you could get a look at it...

 

Oh, and you think I should NOT pay up then? Thanks for the help so far. :)

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Hi Bulbie,

 

Did the contract specify 36 months or was this changed by hand from 12 to 36.

 

Just write to them as Conniff says, briefly outlining your inability to pay and the reasons.

 

They'll contact you threatening court action etc, etc. But they will be unlikely to actually do anything. They are aware that their contracts are poorly written and the OFT have been unhappy about gyms generally for a long time.

 

Have you read the Sticky from the top of this forum - http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?183091-OFT-Statement-on-Gym-Membership-January-2009

Edited by slick132
typo

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If the contract isn't very bright, it probably won't come out very well, but have a go. You will need to scan it and then go here - http://photobucket.com/ - and at the top you will see 'Sign Up' next to the search box. Sign up for a free account and then you upload the scanned picture to them and they give you a site address (URL) to copy, you copy it and post it on here by clicking the picture of a tree in a frame above.

Full instructions are in the Photobucket site.

 

I don't believe your silly bulbie, these gyms and especially Ashbournes have been taking advantage of people for too long.

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Ok, here are the links

http://i1028.photobucket.com/albums/y345/Tina_Paterson/Ashbourne%20Contract/scan0002.jpg

http://i1028.photobucket.com/albums/y345/Tina_Paterson/Ashbourne%20Contract/scan0001.jpg

 

I don't want to pay any more than I already have. I just meant in my previous message that if I am required by law to pay any more then I will, I don't want to be going telling Ashbourne that I will give them their money they will just have to wait for it. I want to terminate completely.

 

Do I write and ask for a copy of my agreement now, or do I head straight for asking them to terminate my contract? I've read most of the threads relating to gyms but I've totally lost the one(s) with all the templates and I'm really not feeling well tonight, so in no fit shape to go hunting again...

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Hi Bulbie,

 

The contract shows the minimum term as being 36 months and you are bound by that. However, I wonder if the OFT (who have been trying to get the gyms to have better and fairer contracts for their users) may consider that 36 months is an unreasonably long initial membership period.

 

In any event, I think that writing to Ashbourne about your inability to pay may not be the best way forward as they will most likely ignore what you say and continue to demand full payments.

 

I suggest you ask your GP for a letter confirming that your GP advises you against any further use of the gym, due to various conditions that your are suffering.

 

Then send Ashbourne something like this to their Head Office by Rec'd Del'y:-

 

Dear sir or madam,

 

Membership at xxxx gym commencing 16-07-08

 

I refer to my membership at the above gym which had an initial contract period of 36 months.

 

I enclose a letter from my GP which confirms that I am advised against any further use of the gym due to various conditions that I suffer, which are being investigated and treated.

 

Because of my condition, I am unable to work. I was struggling to keep up the payments and can no longer afford them at all.

 

Please cancel my gym membership with immediate effect.

 

I am aware that gym membership contracts are still being investigated by the OFT, who are keen to see them made fairer for consumers. In particular, they are concerned that consumers are being tied into unreasonably long contracts, which "....must not be unfairly weighted against consumers".

 

If you demand further payments from me, I will refer the matter to the OFT and to My local Trading Standards office.

 

Yours faithfully,


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Bulbie

 

What are you doing?

 

Firstly lets take the fact that I have taken these guys to Court and wiped the floor with them - see separate threads that I have put up here.

 

Second your 'contract'. Lets take a look - particularly at the 'terms and conditions' page you have scanned. You (and others) will hopefully start to see where this 'contract' starts to fall apart. My advice to ANYONE in dispute with these guys is take them to Court!

 

OK:

Term 1. Membership. If you sign this agreement, you agree to become a member of the club referred to overleaf. So is the 'Club' Ashbourne Management Services Ltd? NO! It's Energy Zinc (? - not clear in picture). So your contract is with them NOT ASHBOURNE!

 

Term 3. Having a non-cancellable contract is an unfair term. This cannot be argued. In this term they say "nothing you say or write to the club and nothing the club says or writes to you will bind AMSL". Show that line to a Judge and this will be laughed at. Who is your agreement with again? Oh yes the Club - who are clearly described here as such and Ashbourne are an agent for the Club - which means the Club is in charge and if they say something to you then of course it IS binding on Ashbourne!

 

Term 4. What'st he £10 fee you have been charged for non or delayed payment? I can see this says £5.50. Get your money back!

 

Need I go on?

 

Tell these guys where to go - give them 7 days to drop chasing you and accept the contract is null and void on the above grounds. Failing that, issue court proceedings against them and show this joke of a 'contract' to the Judge.

 

Best of luck

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Hi Fatdog and thanks for the encouragement for Bulbie.

 

Bulbie, you should have a look at Fatdog's thread here - http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?268101-Ashbourne-Management-Everything-You-NEED-To-Know%21%21


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Hi Slick. I posted on here with my issues after reading all of the Ashbourne threads, including the one you posted that Fatdog wrote. They all seemed to be almost identical cases to mine, all pointing toward the same thing of I could get out of my contract on the basis that a contract that offers 100% protection for Ashbourne's clients (the gyms) and 0% protection for the customer is an unfair one. I also read somewhere on here that someone said that you can't just cancel a contract just because you change your mind and don't want to go anymore. Whilst that is not my reason for wishing to cancel, I do believe wholeheartedly that people SHOULD have the right to cancel if they just feel like it, but with the proviso that they pay up the remainder of the contract, e.g the 12 months remaining of a 36 month contract.

 

I really appreciate your advice Slick, and I'll most likely make use of that template in the near future. :)

 

Fatdog, what do I want to do? I want to terminate my contract on the grounds that since taking on said membership, I have not only lost the job I took on the membership for, I have now gotten worse health wise, and have also lost my disability benefits, so currently have no income whatsoever. I did see the threads that have been put up, and saw that you have indeed wiped the floor with them, which is what gave me the confidence to put this thread up in the first place. It feels like I'm having to fight everyone right now. :(

 

But thanks very much for breaking it down in very simple terms for me. I really needed someone to come along and do that. I'm not keeping too well right now so I'm really not firing on all cylinders! But I see what you mean about the admin fee - they've tacked on a tenner, when it says £5.50 in the contract. So yes, I'll do what you say I think and ask them to not only give me my money back but terminate the agreement with immediate effect on the grounds you have set forthwith.

 

Thanks for the help so far, and I'll keep you up to date. I'm really struggling to keep on top of this one right now!

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Hi Fatdog, This is great advice as I am having same problem from same scumbags. One issue though is that this company has already reported 17,000 people to the credit refererence agencies and these now have poor credit ratings. How do we get around this.

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Right. I've now drafted up a letter, requesting termination of my membership with Ashbourne/Energy Zone/Whoevertheflipitis. Please do cast an eye over it, I need it to be perfect before I send it off. Recorded Delivery, of course.

Letter to Ashbourne Management.doc

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Best of luck Tina, but my gut feeling and going by their past history they will completely ignore ths and send you a new letter for more money.

 

But good luck anyway.

 

J

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Thanks muchly. I know they will continue to send threats. They will even launch a poor credit rating against my name. The purpose of my letter is not to try and stop the threats it's to leave a paper trail. :-)

If you have been reading all of the Ashbourne threads as I have no doubt you have since you are also in a dispute with them, then you'll also see that most people fighting them have won their cases. ;-)

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Hi Bulbie,

 

Your letter looks fine but I suggest you remove your name and address from the letter attached in post #12 so you remain anonymous.


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Advice duly noted, Slick. But what does my anonymity achieve, and does that mean also removing my membership ID? Currently, I fail to see how anonymity would help. Surely they would have no way of knowing which case file they were dealing with?

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You don't have to be anonymous bulbie, but we know they read these forums as does search bots so you details can eaily come up in a search engine and then be latched onto by

the very people trawling the internet for such details.

 

. I would like to politely request my money back

 

You don't 'politely request' anything with this company, they are con artist and won't be polite in return.

 

Stick to your guns on this one.

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Bulbie

 

The fact that they have charged you £10 admin fee when your (and again I use the term very loosely!) 'contract' states £5.50 is a clear breach of contract.

 

If you have not already sent the letter, I'd get that in there too.

 

I'm assuming they'll just fob you over like the other 17,000 people they deal with in this way so my advice is again to issue small claims proceedings against them. This advice goes to anyone else in a similar position.

 

One thing you could try and get is something in writing from the gym itself saying that you don't use the gym (see if they can issue you with the date you last visited) and that they are happy for you to no longer be a member of their gym. By obtaining this, it goes hand-in-hand with the fact that you are contracted to the gym and not Ashbourne.

 

Should you get to court, show the letter and the so-called contract to the judge - he/she will have to ask Ashbourne to prove the contract is enforceable which they cannot do. The case will then go against Ashbourne.

 

Good luck

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So I sent the letter. I got my reply this morning. They're telling me that I can easily get out of my contract before term is up. But only with a medical certificate, and a cheque for my arrears. The cheek! So this means I have to write another letter, right? They're treating me like I am slow by saying that your contract may be with Energy Zone but we handle their finances.

 

The contract is still null and void though, right?

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You can write another letter but, if it were me, the letter would say something like:-

 

Dear sir or madam,

 

I refer to your letter of xxdate.

 

I have no contract with you and will not communicate with you further.

 

If you continue to pursue for payments which you say are due, I will take court action against you.

 

If you post any adverse data with any credit reference agency, I will take court action against you, as per Kpohraror -v- Woolwich Building Society, seeking damages.

 

If you take any court action against me, I will defend vigorously and will counterclaim against you.

 

I trust this makes my position clear.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Maybe see what others say first.

 

8-)


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Here here to that letter. I would also add, 'you have already been warned by the authorities about your unfair one sided so called contract'.

 

 

Press releases 2010 -

 

 

OFT seeks court order against gym management company

 

25/10 11 March 2010

The OFT has issued High Court proceedings against a gym management company, Ashbourne Management Services Limited ('Ashbourne'), following concerns about its compliance with consumer credit law and the fairness of its contract terms.

 

Ashbourne draws up membership agreements for a number of gyms and then collects members' payments. Under the terms of such agreements, consumers are tied in for minimum periods of up to three years, and are unable to cancel their membership within these minimum periods. Those who try to do so are presented with a bill for the full amount due for the minimum period - often a sum amounting to many hundreds of pounds. If the consumer does not then pay this amount, Ashbourne reports them to a credit reference agency for defaulting on their agreement.

 

According to numerous complaints received by the OFT and Trading Standards, many consumers were not aware of the full extent of their liability, or that they could not cancel at all within the minimum period. As of July 2009 Ashbourne had registered just under 17,000 defaults with credit reference agencies.

 

In the OFT's view, the agreements Ashbourne recommends are credit agreements within the meaning of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, because they immediately oblige the consumer to pay a fixed sum and allow them to pay this over a set period of time. As such the agreements should set out clearly and upfront the total amount the consumer is liable to pay, and comply in all other respects with the rules under the Act. In the absence of this, the OFT considers the agreements cannot be enforced without a court order.

 

Where gym contracts do not fall under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the OFT believes they should allow consumers to cancel their membership on reasonable terms. Making consumers always pay the full amount for the minimum period is, in the OFT's view, unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

 

The OFT also objects to Ashbourne's practice of reporting consumers to credit reference agencies, and considers its conduct to be both misleading and aggressive under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

 

Jason Freeman, Legal Director in the OFT's Consumer Group, said:

'It is important that consumers are able to understand the nature and extent of their liabilities before entering into contracts. The Consumer Credit Act sets out rules to ensure this, and we expect traders offering credit to comply with these.

 

'Likewise, traders should not use unfair contracts or misleading or aggressive practices in order to put pressure on consumers to pay money that the trader may not otherwise be entitled to.

'We have concerns about Ashbourne's practices, but as the company disputes our interpretation of the law we have asked the High Court to rule on this.'

No date has yet been scheduled for the High Court hearing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES

  1. Ashbourne Management Services Ltd has a registered office at 29 Warwick Road, Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 2ES
  2. It is for the High Court to decide whether the OFT's view is correct and that Ashbourne are offering credit or in the alternative whether the disputed terms are unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. No date has yet been scheduled for the High Court hearing.
  3. Download the OFT's Guidance on unfair terms in health and fitness club agreements (pdf 525kb).

Remember: By not paying you might be 'breaching' your contract and claimants on breaches of contract can only claim for losses, so can't claim you have breached your contract 'and' ask for money they haven't lost ie; the following 6 months or whatever.

Edited by Conniff

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