Fitness first gyms contract

48 posts in this topic

Posted

I'm writing to you now, as I have no idea where else to write.. And I think I will need a professional legal help in this case. I'm a resident, of a EU country. In June 2009 I was visiting my partner in Germany, in Frankfurt for a month and because I had some free time and a bit of money saved, I decided to subscribe to a gym called Fitness First. The offer was that I can get the membership card for free plus one month of the gym for 40 euros. The person that gave me this contract made me believe that it's just for one month and if I won't prolong the contract it will expire.I have to say.. I had no previous experience with gyms and this type of agreements. The contract was in German, language I don't speak (neither does my partner). So I signed it. After one month, unaware of the fact that the contract is still valid, I left Germany and went back to the country of my residency. I used my local sim card so took off the German one from my phone. Then, in September, I came back to Germany for couple of days, and to my surprise, Fitness First called me and told me to pay 180 euros for all the months since June. So on September 14th I went to Fitness First with a letter explaining my situation, saying I don't want to use the gym anymore and that I haven't been using their services at all. I also wrote I haven't been properly informed about the conditions of the contract and I don't want o pay for the services I haven't used. The letter was stamped by Fitness Club ( I have a stamped copy) and they promised they would take care of my case. And so I came back to Germany as an Erasmus student, registered myself with the city council and didn't expect any further consequences from Fitness First. Today I checked my mail and saw the bill for 780 euros from this gym sent by the vindication company, that additionally charged me 100 euros for their service. I am really crushed, as I don't have that amount of money, even if I wanted to pay it, I don't have it, as I'm just a student. I thought my letter would atleast terminate the agreement. What can I do in this situation, where can I look for help? I hardly speak German and I have very little money. Do I really have no possibility to protect myself and break the contract? How much would your service and a legal advice cost? Is there any way I could avoid paying this money?

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Posted

Take your stamped letter as well as the 780 Euro bill to Fitness First and explain the situation. If that doesn't work, I would get a lawyer.

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Posted

It may be difficult to avoid paying the first €180 claim as that arises from your ignorance of the contract which is a weak defence, but any payments claimed after you wrote that letter would seem to be unreasonable. You need to first contact the enforcement company with a copy of the letter that you send to the Fitness company and see their reaction. It is important that you do not seem (to them) to have returned to Germany to love, even if only for a short time as that may give them grounds to re-instate the contract and claim their money. Any communications you have with them MUST come from your foreign address, as your basic (and reasonable) grounds for wanting to terminate the contract early are that it is no longer enforceable by either party due to your residence abroad.

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Posted

Thank you for all your advices. I have to say that the moment Fitness First contacted me in September, I went there straight away to discuss my situation. I really wanted to solve the problem in a reasonable way. The very same manager that made me sign the agreement, told me to write the letter and suggested what to write. He also confirmed that it was misunderstanding, that he understands and that he will talk about my case with his managers. Not only he almost assured me I won't have to pay this 180 euros, but made me believe that the case will be solved the moment I hand in the letter. But they seem to have ignored the exhistance of this letter at all.. I really want this to be over, as this whole thing is very stressful and mind consuming. I am ready to pay 180 euros for the first months (eventhough I feel the gym was not honest with me), but 800 euros, after writing and giving them (personally) the termination letter in September seems extreme.

 

I don't have much money, because I'm a student, but I am also a very skillful web designer and animator, so in exchange for help I could design and develop a website for the lawyer that would decide to help me.

 

I am also willing to pay if it's not extremely much. I guess I will need a lawyer.. Please, any suggestions are very welcome..

 

Just incase I will have to find a lawyer, do you know any English speaking lawyers that would be able to help me? Can you suggest me where could I get any legal advice in Germany quite cheeply? Maybe some online advice or law students?

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Posted

The problem is that if it goes to a legal dispute, without evidence or witnesses the words of the manager are useless. Your first formal attempt to get out of the contract was the letter - it's lucky you do have an acknowledged copy. Have you thought of contacting the friendly manager again?

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Posted

Hmmm... Yes.. I guess I will have to. It's just that the Fitness First gym seem to have 'forotten' about the exhistance of the letter and every time I go there I feel like I'm loosing my nerves and time. As if they had short term memory loss.. Last time the manager made another appointment with me to hand in the letter, but he was absent that day, so I had to hand it in to another person (and explain everything again), not him. He said the appointment would be wth him. I have a feeling that the friendly manager was friendly only because he wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible.. It's good I had a copy of my letter and asked them to stamp it, so I have a proof. But I guess I have to try to contact the gym again.. I don't think it will change much but it cannot get much worse I suppose..

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Posted

Another 'dirty' trick you can try is writing them that you were told explicitly that the contract is for one month only, and the fact that they didn't tell you it's for a longer period of time constitutes fraud and eploitation of your little (or none) knowledge of the german language. Furthermore (if you wish), tell them that you will contact the head office in Frankfurt and also their mother company, namely BC Partners, and complain directly to them. Should resolve the matter in a few days...

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Posted

Any legal dispute would be between you and Fitness First. You can name the manager as a witness in your defence. He won't like it, though.

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Posted

 

and the fact that they didn't tell you it's for a longer period of time constitutes fraud and eploitation of your little (or none) knowledge of the german language.

Not sure that: "yes, I really did chose sign a contract even though it was in a language I did not understand, on the expectation I could play the "but I don't speak the langauge" get-out card in the event it was not a one-way bet for me" helps. Might well work against you.

 

Wonder what the OP would have said to: "sorry, you can't use our gym, you don't speak German"? Other immigrants on here have had pretty similar experiences, but then it is "discrimination" and "unfair" of course.

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Posted

It's not about speaking the language or not. I admit, I was naive to sign the contract like that, but they lied in my face and I had no previous experience with any other gym. The situation when you're one to one with a gym manager of some company is stressful enough and they have these kind of conversations every day. They probably participate in special courses that teach them how to gain customers. Also if I'm not mistaken, the more customes sign the contract, the more money they get. In their eyes a 'soul' is a 'soul' , no matter whether you're German or a foreigner. And I guess foreigners are easy targets because in this case a moment of hasitation and manager's convincing attitute decides. It was obvious I did not live in Germany, as I did not have a German account, I did not remember my address correctly (I had to check it plus told him it's temporary) and I did not remember my phone number ( had to call the manager on his mobile, so he could check it as I didn't write my mobile down in my contacts). You don't have to be a genious to figure out you deal with a tourist. So he did lie in my face, he knew exactly what he was doing and if that's not discrimination and fraud than I don't know what is. It is an obvious discrimination that having gyms in so many places and contracts written in so many languages, they hand you in the contract in German (without providing the contract translated in English) and lie, simply lie. And as I said before.. I would be ready to pay the money before handing in the termination letter as a lesson for being so naive and trusting, but why paying 800 euros for something I did not use and oficially terminated. I think I really tried to solve the problem in a peceful way, and now I'm simply scared to reveal myself as 800 euros is the amount of money I don't have. Not everybody is earning thousends of euros every month. Maybe one day, but not now. So should I let my debt to rise every day? It seems insane to me that I don't have any line of deffence here.. Especially with a written document where I terminate the agreement that was stamped by the gym itself.. But I have to admit that I am really scared and feel humiliated and helpless..

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Posted

I'm not gonna argue on anything you said. If you red my last post I clearly said it was my mistake to sign it. Nevertheless termination of the contract should also have a legal force. I have nothing against German law and they make you realize it everywhere in the whole world, not only in Germany. But people are not robots and they make mistakes, that' s international as well. If we couldn't terminate agreements we would easily become slaves of other companies. And I wrote I am willing to pay the part till my termination letter. But I even found a blog critisizing Fitness First bad practices. Please read it if you wish: http://www.blagger.com/db4/company_id/1035/companyname/Fitness-First.html

 

Again, company policy has nothing to do with the whole country and the way it works. Fitness First is not even a German company.

 

I have a genuine problem that I wish to solve peacefully and obviously I'm nervous, but I think these kind of comments are unnecessary.

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Posted

It's all just wrong. I appreciate that when the product is a subsidised mobile phone they need to have a contract that ensures they get 24 months income, or when they offer say, 3 months free at the gym that they have a 12 month contract or something.

 

But seems to me that in many cases these companies are just "gouging" money from people and abusing the system. Frankly you should be able to leave a gym when you fancy - it's not like you are actually wearing out the equipment if you are not there etc.

 

Also I think on a mobile phone, once past the 12 month or 24 monthe etc you should then be able to leave any day you fancy. Not all this 3 months notice, instant renewal bullshit. It's just ****ing wrong basically.

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Posted

The same thing happened to me!!!

 

I originally came to Germany thinking I would only stay for 3 months so I signed up at Fitness First and they said I just had to pay for 2 months and they would give me the third for free. I didn´t speak very much German and they didn´t ever say anything about a continuing charge. I told them the exact date that I would be flying home and it was all fine. Little did I know that the contract that I signed said that it´s necessary to cancel one month in advance. To my bad luck I found all of this out about 2 days after the deadline.

 

The third month didn´t end up being free, but I was very lucky that I caught it in time. Of course noone at the Fitness First cared at all when I complained. They all claim that I must have been told but I really felt like I had been taken advantage of for being a foreigner.

 

I just decided that it was my own fault for trusting them and not having someone translate the contract before signing it... but they´re still total douchebags!

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Posted

Just one thing.. I mean if they told me I cannot terminate the contract, that I have to pay.. well it would be painful, yes, but I would do it... Plus it's easier to pay sth regulary and not 800 euros at once! But it was them that told they understand, who told me to write the letter and they stamped it.. assured me the case is closed.. (all this just to get rid of me??? )I mean.. If I at least used their service all these months or paid regulary.. but no, I have to pay all this at once, did not use their service, so if I pay, I pay for nothing. It's really ugly how they behaved.

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Posted

I have the same problem.I don't know german so I signed the contract but they didn't informed me about the cancellation fees. I made a subscription one week ago and I went today to cancel it because I really don't like the gym, and it seems that I have to pay 195 euro for the whole 3 months+other fees.Do you know if there is any trial period or something? Can I make a complaint to a consumer protection authority or something? I only went twice and I really feel that is ridiculous to pay 195 for something that I don't like and I used only two times...

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Posted

Usually, within 15 days of signing a contract you can cancel it. But i am not sure if they hold good for Gym contracts too. Just check that and hope you can get out of it.

 

 

I don't know german so I signed the contract but they didn't informed me about the cancellation fees.

For future information, don't sign a contract unless and until you completely know what the terms are. There is a reason why they call it a contract.

 

@OP, see, I told you that you were not alone in this thing.

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Posted

Take your letters and contracts and go to your nearest Verbraucherzentrale with a German speaker willing to help.

The advice is very cheap and they will help you or will know who to ask.

 

Fitness First are a bunch of ... sticklers for contracts (ahem), only by playing very hard ball with them did I get released from my contract and I'm fluent in German. They are not easy at all and I'd advise anyone using their gyms to check any contract very carefully.

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Posted

One more thing.. I just discovered that Fitness First is trying to charge me over 110 euros a month.. For monthly membership and for monthly fee.. That's one of the most expensive gyms I have ever heard of in my life.. Of course I didn't even use their service since last June (even in June I used it only twice) because they were lying to me from the very beginning.. Also they said the membership card is for free (they said membership card, not to say membership monthly fee, because that would give a hint that the contract is not for a monthly trial after all..) Unbelievable! If you see somebody begging on the street with a piece of paper in front saying: 'Gathering money for the Fitness First fees' that would be me.. And I might do that actually.. just in front of their entrance.. :S

 

People.. Never use their service! Even if you speak German they still can find a way to get you.. Believe me..

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