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Fitness First fleeced me


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Hi,

 

I wanted to share my recent bad experience with Fitness First and obtain some advice.

 

I was on a regular membership scheme since 2009 where I paid c.£40 a month. In 2011, when I called to terminate my membership, they persuaded me to move to a PAYG scheme where I would pay £9 a month and £3 for every entry.

 

Then, in June this year, without informing me, they started debiting £41 a month. I noticed this in August. Upon calling them, I was informed that the previous terms of my membership were temporary. Without my prior knowledge or consent, they charged me the extra sums

 

I was told that a letter had been sent out to me informing me of this change. I have not received any letter from Fitness First on this matter. Furthermore,they have my email address as I frequently receive promotion emails etc. I have never received any email that notified me of this change.

 

Additionally, despite the increased charge of £41, the Leyton Fitness First gym has continued to charge me £3 for every entry in the last two months. This left me even more unaware of any changes and I find this deceptive to say the least.

 

I am extremely disappointed and have written a letter to them explaining the above and have requested my bank to refund the extra amounts taken by direct debit. I had the following questions and would really appreciate any thoughts/ advice:-

 

- Despite explaining all of the above, I am certain they will pass my case to a debt collection agency. Is it possible that the collection agency can get a county court judgement on this matter? Of course, I will defend this with professional help, but just wanted to be prepared in advance and understand the consequences?

- Can they pass my case to the Credit reference agency. I am worried it may come up during credit checks.

- Is there anything I can do at this stage to cover myself and to stop them from doing this to others i.e. complaint to the OFT etc.?

 

Any advice will be hugely appreciated. Many thanks in advance.

Edited by jonkil
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Hi Jonkil and welcome to CAG

 

Please read this thread which is similar to your own case - http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?400030-Fitness-First-Trugym-CRS&p=4322024&viewfull=1#post4322024

 

Write to your bank saying you require them to refund £xxx that the gym has taken without your knowledge or consent. Hopefully, the bank will refund you.

 

Then we will help you deal with the rubbish you get from the gym or their admin co.

 

:-)

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Thanks and please keep us posted.

 

The likelihood of any court action and/or a CCJ is extremely remote. With our backing you should be able to avoid this entirely.

 

This is also not likely to appear on your credit files at all, either as a disputed amount or as an actual debt. CRA's stopped reporting such data a few years back.

 

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Many thanks,

 

I sent the following letter to Fitness First.

 

 

During this telephone conversation I was persuaded to remain a member. I was offered a pay-as-you-go scheme wherein I pay a monthly charge of £9.95 by direct debit and thereafter £3.00 every time I use the facilities at your gym in Leyton, London, England. I accepted this offer during the call itself.

 

The above were the only terms of the contract that I was informed about at the time. I accepted the offer resulting in a legally binding agreement between ourselves and subsequently became legally binding. Pointedly-

 

1. I was never informed that the terms of the membership were anything other than indefinite;

 

2. the individual never said during the conversation that the offer was "subject to written or any other terms and conditions" or any words that could even be remotely construed as having that effect; and

 

3. in any event no written terms and conditions were ever communicated to me.

 

Breach of contract

 

However since 1 July 2013, the sum of £40.95 has been debited from my account on a monthly basis. I was never sent or indeed received any notice of any kind terminating or varying the above terms of my membership. Accordingly I telephoned the head office on 6 August 2013 at 17:03. I was attended to by a Mr Jack Lewis.

 

It was only at this point that I was ever informed that the previous terms of my membership were temporary. Without my prior knowledge or consent you unilaterally changed the terms of my membership to my material detriment.

 

I was told that a letter had been sent out to me informing me of this change. I have not received any letter from Fitness First on this matter. No followup call was made to obtain my acknowledgement. Furthermore, I am aware that you have my email address as I frequently receive promotion emails etc. I have never received any email that notified me of this change.

 

Additionally, despite the increased charge of £40.95, the Leyton Fitness First gym has continued to charge me £3 for every entry in the last two months. This left me even more unaware of any changes and I find this deceptive to say the least.

 

Notice of termination and refund

 

As you have fundamentally breached the contract between us by charging me the extra sums since 1 July 2013, I have been relieved of all my obligations since that date. As such, I reserve the right to and have requested my bank to refund me the amounts as per the 'Direct Debit Guarantee' scheme since that date and to cancel any future direct debits. I also wish to terminate my membership at the gym with immediate effect.

 

Please note my legal rights remain fully reserved.>>>

 

Here's a summary of their 3 reply letters (my comments in italics) . they have also been writing texts to reach me:

 

- You were sent a notice via email in January 2012 to notify you of the change in your current package. : They have not copied the actual sent item in the email. Instead they have copied a bunch of details re the sent email from their system. I see no record of it in my inbox either.

- You will notice that the email states the package is a 12 months minimum term contract which means that at the end of the 12 months, the package can be stopped or changed. : The details on the email says mcp start : 1/2/2012 and mcp end: 31/1/2013. How am I supposed to know what mcp means. Also, if the contract period was ‘maximum’, I could understand, how can a ‘minimum’ contract term end at the end of the period without notice?

- I am sorry that you are disappointed with the price increase but can confirm that it will not be reversed. Upon your request, a cancellation has now been requested for the earliest possible date, with consideration to the calendar month notice period required. Therefore the last day of your membership will be the 30th September with the last direct debit of your membership being requested on or around the 1st September: I got the money back from my bank and cancelled the DD. As above, have mentioned this in my first letter to them. They took no heed of it. They sent me a copy of a letter dated 21 May which states that my contract had changed. I never received any such letter and again, there was no proof of postal receipt from their end, no followup was made and no email either.

- I am very sorry to hear about the charges applied when you have entered the club. This has been brought to the attention of the General Manager for further action and to ensure this will not repeat. I can see from your activity records you have accessed the club on 4 different occasions since 1st July. As such, I can confirm a refund of £12.00 has been raised for you today.

 

- In a following letter, they mentioned that the bank had tried to get the money off them and as such, my account was in arrears. Since then, they’ve been trying to reach me to get the money

 

 

 

Please can you advise what the next steps are? Also, please give details of how I can utilize your services?

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Hi Jonkil,

 

If this were me, I'd reply saying:-

 

I refer to your letters dated xx, xx and xx, sent in reply to my letter of xxdate.

 

Your letters fail to persuade me that I owe you anything and I will pay you nothing more.

 

I reserve the right to ignore further communications from you and please stop sending me text messages.

 

If you continue to make demands, I will make a formal complaint to The OFT.

 

:-D

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for all your help Slick132, they continued to call and write threatening letters, so I wrote the below email to Fitness First and CARS .If okay, I will contact you for details of the OFT if they come back with an unreasonable response

 

"I am writing in reference to the letters sent by Fitness First and C.A.R.S., your appointed debt recovery agency.

Your letters fail to persuade me that I owe you anything and I will pay you nothing more. I have explained my position to you in my letter dated 30th August, 2013.

I reserve the right to ignore further communications from Fitness First or any of its appointed debt collection agencies, including C.A.R.S. Please stop calling me or sending me letters.

If you continue to make demands, I will make a formal complaint to The Office of Fair Trading.

Thank you"

 

Thanks again

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Hi Jonkil,

 

It may be wise to send FF a letter by RM Signed For delivery if they fail to acknowledge your email within 14 days.

 

Keep us informed.

 

:-)

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Hi Slick132, I got the following email back - I guess I should make a formal complaint to OFT now - do you reckon? Do you have their details?

 

 

"Thank you for your email.

 

We have noted your comments that you will be ignoring all future communications from Fitness First and CARS.

 

I am sorry that you feel that we have failed to prove to you that your membership is in arrears however we explained this in our emails to you of the 2nd September and the 4th September.

 

I can confirm that we will continue to attempt collection of the outstanding arrears.

 

Regards

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Ho Jonkil,

 

If they send you any further demand, let us know what they say and I'll send you the OFT contact info.

 

:-)

We could do with some help from you

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