September 14 2007 by Ellen Roseman
There’s a law in Ontario that fitness clubs can’t sign up members for more than a year at a time. They get around the rules by charging a monthly amount and insisting that clients agree to automatic deductions from a bank account or credit card.
Then, after the year is up, some clubs keep deducting the monthly payments. And they make it really hard — almost impossible — for members to cancel.
Here’s an email from Bruno about a well-known fitness chain. He got so fed up he wrote to the landlord of the mall where the club is located, to see if it would take action:
I am very frustrated with a tenant in one of your malls and I felt I should bring this to your attention. In late January, I went into Premier Fitness at Yorkdale Mall and spoke to someone about cancelling my membership. I was told my membership would be cancelled as of February.
When March rolled around, I noticed that I was charged on my credit card for February and March. I went to Premier Fitness at Yorkdale, but they told me not to worry and everything would be fixed. When May rolled around, I noticed two more charges on my credit card. By now, they had charged me for four months without my authorization. My membership had expired in February and they toke it upon themselves to keep charging me.
The amount owed to me is $48, not a large amount, but it has been outstanding since February. As of Sept. 8, I have yet to receive anything. All I got were excuses: â€œThe girl who does the refunds is off.â€ â€œThe girl who does refunds was fired.â€ â€œWe have a new person working and she is slow.â€ They kept giving me the runaround. I made several visits to the gym. I have also made several calls to them, but they would never call me back.
I am bringing this to your attention because they are your tenant and they represent Yorkdale Mall. I feel that they are not representing the mall in a good light. This experience has made me question what kind of retailers you permit in your centres and question whether I want to shop at an Oxford property in the future. This experience has left me questioning what kind of retailers/business you permit in your centres.
Even if I donâ€™t get my money back, I just want just want to bring this to your attention. I am sure I am not the only one who has a negative experience with Premier Fitness. They currently have an “unsatisfactory record” with the Better Business Bureau of Midwestern Ontario, which processed 190 complaints about them in the past 36 months.
Let’s hear from readers. Have you had an experience like this? How did you get the fitness club to stop billing you? Tell others how you used your wits to stay financially fit.