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A friend signed up to a gym membership for 12 months but due to him hurting his back and losing his labouring job could not use the facilities. He sent a letter from his doctor explaining this, time has lapsed and he has been asking for outstanding payment of nearly 200 pounds, well he is now at full-time college, and has offered the gym small monthly repayments to repay debt. The gym (privately owned small gym) has said this is not acceptable and threatened to send a debt collector round to take his address and take his belonings and sell them and that then he will owe £350. Any advice welcome

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A friend signed up to a gym membership for 12 months but due to him hurting his back and losing his labouring job could not use the facilities. He sent a letter from his doctor explaining this, time has lapsed and he has been asking for outstanding payment of nearly 200 pounds, well he is now at full-time college, and has offered the gym small monthly repayments to repay debt. The gym (privately owned small gym) has said this is not acceptable and threatened to send a debt collector round to take his address and take his belonings and sell them and that then he will owe £350. Any advice welcome

 

yup.

 

1. can you find out if the agreement was regulated by the consumer credit act? if so send a £1 cca request to see if they still have the agreement and can provide you with a copy. if it isn't regulated you can do a sar request.

 

2. get your friend to fill in a personal budget sheet (you can download one from National Debtline, for FREE CONFIDENTIAL and INDEPENDENT ADVICE call 0808 808 4000 ) and work out a realistic and reasonable offer to make each month. if it transpires that a low amount of even £1 is realistic, so be it.

 

3. debt collectors are not bailiffs, they cannot enter his house OR take goods. in fact for bailiff action to occur they would first need to take him to court, he would then need to default on the ccj. even if that happens (and it is a long way off) your friend needn't let them in anyway.

 

4. if they continue to be a pain, consider speaking to your local trading standards folks.

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Thanks for your advice, I will tell him to contact the gym asking for a copy of his cca (I take it thats where he gets it from) not sure what you mean by not being regulated. Plenty of good advice to pass on, ta.

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Thanks for your advice, I will tell him to contact the gym asking for a copy of his cca (I take it thats where he gets it from) not sure what you mean by not being regulated. Plenty of good advice to pass on, ta.

 

regulated means that the agreement was regulated by the consumer credit act. things like credit cards and bank loans are usually regulated by the act and so are some gym memberships.

 

if the membership isn't regulated then you could still request this info by doing a SAR request.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks sequenci, passed on this information and he sent off £1 to get copy of the cca, the gym has sent back a photocopied sheet which is basically one sheet of A4 stating membership application form, the type of membership and how you were introduced to the gym. It is basically a homemade sheet with a piece of smallprint stating that the information is correct and that you pay your membership fees as they become due, and that you need to give one months notice to cancel membership at which point membership will finish at the end of that current year.

 

Also he has now said the amount owed is £465.50 due to him not given one months notice (current membership ended December 06) and so is now charging him for another year to December 07. Has asked for this payment in 7 days and that failure to do this will force him to instigate court procedure. Plus costs, interest and compensation with further notice to him.

 

Any advice please. (one week ago he was asking for 196 pounds)

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will get this checked out tomorrow, the copy of the cca is just a made up membership form, it gives the name of the gym but no address or any other information that a proper cca would give. Does anyone know if the gym would need to have a consumer credit licence to offer such facilities as it is certainly nothing like the norm.

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Even if the company do not operate under the CCA 2006 they ARE answerable to the Office of Fair Trading. I pasted debt guidelines here - they also apply to your friend.

Here is a link to the OFT's guide to unfair gym membership contracts - thanks to Chesham.

-----

Click the scales if I've been useful! :)

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demon x slash, thanks for info, just to update Consumer Direct have been very helpful and getting Trading Standards Enforecement Officer involved, when I get feedback of this I will post on here, may be of help and interest to others.

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update, apparently the Trading Standard bloke said that he is on shaky ground trying to charge for another year and that all that should be owing is the balance of the previous year, also said if the guy takes it to court the judge would not look at it in a very good light and my friend has tried to arrange monthly payments - he said if it goes to court the judge could very well reduce the payment that has already been offered. He has told my friend now just to wait and see what happens.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just to update, Trade Enforcement Officer said the gym manager was on very sticky ground trying to add on another years membership and by the letters he should well have known it was not an option my friend wanted to take, he said if it went to court the judge would take a very dim view of the way the gym has conducted itself. Anyway bottom line he said my friend does not need to contact him any more as he has offered small repayments so it is now down to the gym to contact him to arrange this (to pay off original year) or let him take it to court - where the judge would also not be very happy as the outcome there will be the same ie small repayments only - he has had no contact as yet.

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No it was not really a CCA as you would normally sign up to at one of the big gyms, it was an A4 sheet membership form, the gym is a very small privately owned place so it was really just a made up membership form that they use.

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How strange, I used to own a gym, small and independent and had a simaliar style application form, I had it for near on 4 years and never once considered chasing somebody in such an agressive fashion (in fact never chased anybody).

 

Gym memberships (ones signed with a CCA) can normally be cancelled for a number of legitimate reasons e.g.

 

  • Poor service and/or equipment
  • Medical Condidtion preventing exercise
  • Moving out of the area

I joined a well known chain recently, never went once (but felt good about having the card in my wallet) so stopped paying after a few months, head office came down hard with legal threats however I told them that I had recieved an appalling service and felt too bad about it to go back in, they apoligised and cancelled my agreement with a letter saying no further action to be taken.

 

I would imagine that the gym owner is a struggling business (like I was) and took one of the 100's of cold calls you get a month which basically are from Debt Companies asking whether you have any debts that need chasing (for a 'no result, no fee basis', just give them a brief outline of details and they'll do the rest), I am sure that the gym owner would be appalled to know what was going on now.

 

Worst case I should imagine that he would take an offer yo settle this matter direct and call off the heavy's.

 

Alternatively you could take your complaints of his actions to the FIA (Fitness Industry Association - if he is a member) Trading Standards, and also being a gym owner - people can create a lot of head aches for you with organisations such as Health and Safety (its a legal minefield for gyms) if you did not have any pre-exercise health checks, permission from Doctor to train etc etc.

 

Trust me, as an ex Small Gym owner, all you want is a hassle free life - it neraly killed me and none of my friends who still own gyms would disagree.

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All letters are being signed from the gym owner, thing is the member has had back problems and got a letter in the summer from his doctor that he sent to the gym saying he could not train or work at that time so basically please give him a bit of breathing space but it has had no effect at all. Also a couple of times he was running v.fast on treadmill and just cut out completely, did not help his back I can tell you. Trading Standards have been v.helpful but if there is more hassle could try FIA, the member has been trying to sort this out with an offer of small financial payments as he is now at full-time college but the owner doesn't want to know, so he is waiting to see what the gym owner is going to do. Will keep updating this thread as I get more information.

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In that case I wouldnt worry too much about it, just tell him to build a paper trail, document everything and see what happens next. The threats of Baliffs are empty....Good Luck

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  • 4 weeks later...

Apparently friend has had an e-mail from gym owner saying he has filed action in the county court for £545. When he spoke to trading standards officer he was told he did not need to contact gym owner again, see what happens, but trying to put the 2nd year of membership on was not right and would be on sticky ground. Anyway he has done it and so friend is awaiting court papers. He spoke to legal direct again who has asked trading standards officer to urgently contact him. Any advice.

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No court papers have been delivered yet, but am I right in thinking it can take up to 5 days for papers to be served, any help on this and previous posts much appreciated.

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Hey Guys,

Sorry to come in late, Gym owners in general have very little knowledge of the law or legal system regarding enforcement of membership agreements (trust me I was one for 4 years and know enough gym owners know) I strongly suspect that no court action has been filed, why would you warn somebody about it? You would just do it and put the wheels in motion and let the courts contact the person you were filing against.

From time to time throughout the years I would join other gyms (as a break from my own so I could train in peace) and I would always sign up to 12 month contracts, if ever I wanted to get out of those contracts I would build a file about poor customer service standards, broken down equipment, lack of guidance from instructors, tell them I was suffering from dizzy spells and there was never a member of staff on hand etc etc etc and wrote to them stating that the relationship and trust had been lost and therefore I wanted my membership cancelled, it never failed.

Your friend has back problems, his GP has told him he can not exercise, no Judge in the land is going to make him pay for that membership. Providing you have a log/paper trail then I suspect that you will be fine.

You need to stop communicating to with the gym, delete his emails, contact the local press (they love a story about gyms), contact trading standards, contact the Health and Safety Executive and complain to them, contact the Fitness Industry Association and complain to them and trust me the Gym owner will soon back off!!!!

Gym memberships which sign you up to 12 month contracts are a con (I never did it in my gym) Research has demonstrated that something like 80% of all gym members will drop out after 6-8 weeks, this is the reason the contracts are in place - I find it a shambles and because Gym owners know that members are tied in, standards are generally poor.

  • Confused 1
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Many thanks for that LJL, no court papers yet so you could be right, once filed shouldn't you receive them from the court within 5 days?

 

Anyway, I think you have made some excellent points and gives food for thought. Yes he has a typed letter from the doctor about his back, the gym owner has two copies of this already. As for equipment, apparently (and this happened twice) when he was running at a very good pace on treadmill it just cut out dead, was around the time of back complaint. Friend is waiting for trading standard officer to get back in touch, will also let him know about FIA, if he makes a complaint to them will they contact the gym?

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