Why Fitness First are putting their customers second

8 December 2010

Bitterwallet - Fitness First complaintsFrom January 4th we’ll all be paying slightly more for pretty much everything we buy. The VAT rise from 17.5% to 20% represents about 21p extra on every £10 we spend. But if you’re a member of Fitness First health clubs and gyms, you’ll be paying a whole lot more.

Avid Bitterwallet reader Danny currently pays £36.95 per month for his Fitness First membership. The VAT rise should have pushed that up by around 79p to £37.74 per month from January. But Fitness First have increased it by £5.55 to £42.50 per month. That’s a 15% hike. And some Fitness First members are facing even steeper price rises of up to 30%.

Fitness First told Danny in a letter:

“As you may be aware the government is planning to increase VAT in January to 20%, and this combined with rising costs means we have had to review our prices, in order that we can continue to deliver the quality and service you expect. This letter is to notify you that we will be increasing your monthly membership. This will apply to your monthly Direct Debit payment from 1st January 2011.”

“One significant point is that the letter was dated 30th November 2010 and posted second class,” says Danny. “Fitness First insist that you give them a calendar month’s notice [to cancel your membership], so have deliberately timed these letters so that you were contractually obligated to pay at least your first payment at the new rate. I will personally be cancelling my Direct Debit and paying nothing further to them.”

Fitness First cite the VAT rise “combined with rising costs” as the reason for the price rises. According to Danny, at his local gym Sky Sports has been replaced with Freeview, the juice bar has been replaced with jugs of squash, and opening hours have been reduced. So the company can hardly claim that the rises are so they can “continue to deliver the quality and service you expect”.

There are lots of other complaints about the Fitness First price rises over at the HUKD forum. Pobbyone complains about a price hike of 25% from £39.95 to £49.90. And MarlyMarls reports a price rise of more than 30%, from £31.50 to £43.20.

“I have been a member at Fitness First since 2002,” says MarlyMarls. “I started with a membership of £25 a month and there are has been a steady increase every year of between 50p to a £1.00.” This latest increase of £11.70 per month, or £140.40 per year, was simply too much, so MarlyMarl rang Fitness First to cancel his membership. But, as in Danny’s case, there was not enough time to give a month’s notice. MarlyMarl was told he would need to arrange an appointment at his local gym to go in cancel his membership, and he would still be charged £43.20 in January as he had not given sufficient notice. “I was then told if I cancel my Direct Debit and they don’t receive their payment on the 1st of January of £43.20 they would add on £25 for non-payment and then send it to a debt collector.”

Surely Fitness First would be quick to address its members’ concerns? Nope. The company told Bitterwallet: “Fitness First isn’t commenting the on the price increase.”

It’s traditional for gyms to reduce fees in January to attract new members. Fitness First members might be better off elsewhere, for the sake of their financial health if nothing else.

TOPICS:   Complaints   Economy

38 comments

  • Nobby
    I'm sure quite a few companies will adjust their core prices when the new VAT rate comes to make nice rounded prices. It's going to be a permanent change (unlike the drop to 15% a few years ago), so expect companies to cash-in on it, in the same way some eurozone companies did when the Euro was brought in.
  • Which G.
    Maybe Fitness First think that people who drive a car to a gym and then run on a treadmill are ripe for squeezing.
  • Michael
    This is terrible from Fitness First. I don't care if their prices are going up - but to send the letters ensuring that their customers have to pay the first month is very bad practise. I propose everyone at Fitness First leave the gym on principle.
  • PokeHerPete
    I used to be signed up to LA Fitness. I received a letter saying that their prices were going up as the VAT rate changed back from 15% to 17.5%. However I am pretty damn sure that they did not reduce my membership fee when it changed from 17.5% to 15%. Con artists.
  • Bazinga
    Using second class stamps isn't delivering the quality of service I expected, I'm cancelling my membership I never had.
  • Alexis
    I suspect this may be a breach of Section 5 of the The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999: 5.—(1) A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer. (2) A term shall always be regarded as not having been individually negotiated where it has been drafted in advance and the consumer has therefore not been able to influence the substance of the term. (3) Notwithstanding that a specific term or certain aspects of it in a contract has been individually negotiated, these Regulations shall apply to the rest of a contract if an overall assessment of it indicates that it is a pre-formulated standard contract. (4) It shall be for any seller or supplier who claims that a term was individually negotiated to show that it was. I would quote the above if you attempt to cancel or have January's amount reduced the normal amount with 20% VAT.
  • Ben
    Further to Alexis's comment, if you dispute the charge and they try and use debt collectors then they're in breach of OFT guidelines, and if you tell the debt collection agency it's a disputed matter they'll back off sharpish.
  • Cheesey
    You need to get value for money with these increases. So let's say you can't leave for 2 months, then every time you have a shit in Fitness First, don't use 4 sheets of paper - use the whole roll. You need a whole container of soap to be really clean. Then wash your hands for 20 minutes to prevent germs. Need leaflets? Don't take one - take the whole lot; because you want to spread the word about this fantastic gym right? Opening a door? Open hard. Don't mind if the glass cracks...... etc etc
  • Free A.
    [...] Why Fitness First are putting their customers second | BitterWallet [...]
  • P90X A.
    [...] Why Fitness First are putting their customers second | BitterWallet [...]
  • P90X A.
    [...] Why Fitness First are putting their customers second | BitterWallet [...]
  • P90X A.
    [...] Why Fitness First are putting their customers second | BitterWallet [...]
  • FFS
    @Bazinga, You fool, the problem with second class postage was that it was sent so that the members wouldn't receive the letters until the 1st December had passed (one full calendar month's notice to quit), meaning they'd have to pay the first increased fee for January 2011.
  • Mike U.
    I forgot to change my address after I moved last year so I'm gonna go in and fill in their 'Change Of Details' form and say I moved on the 30th Nov 2010, meaning the letter gets sent to my old address but the direct debit guarantee means they have to let they have to let me know 10 working days in advance of any changes which then means they are in breach whne they debit my account with the higher amount and I will get a full refund (acording to their membership form) I will then just cancel and tell them to stick it up their arse
  • Royal A.
    I joined a gym called Fatness First, I just chill at home and play Call of Duty and eat. It's pretty cheap too.
  • ivan c.
    i have received a letter informing me of a 50% inrease because of the VAT cost....!!!! i have been a loyal member for some years but will be cancelling due to my disgust at this hike. I am a teacher who has encouraged colleagues and pupils to join Fitness First, but will no longer continue.
  • The T.
    A letter is deemed delivered 2 days after posting, therefore they cannot charge you the extra until 1 calender month after 2nd December. They also have to give you reasonable time to contact them to cancel. They are in breach of contract and in breach of their own terms & conditions.
  • kd
    Definitely call Fitness First to challenge this. My letter said my membership was increasing by £9.95 per month (a 27% increase) however when I called them they said the amount was in error and it should be going up by £7 per month (still, an 18% increase). Am still fuming - I am six months into a 12 month contract so can't cancel - although certainly will try and will quote Alexis' info. Avoid Fitness First at all costs!!!!!!!!!!!
  • ska
    This is disgusting. I signed up in May on a student rate of £24.95 for 12, and mine has increased to £32.95, which I literally cannot fit into my monthly budget. I would have been willing to sign for another year in May but due to their greed, charging me an extra £40 over the next 5 months is going to cost them much more when I find another gym. Even more of a kick in the teeth is that I cannot leave until my 12 months is over, furious! I will definitely be following the advice given by Cheesy further up the page. I see a dumbbell flying into a very large expensive mirror in the near future, whoops, butter fingers!
  • southgirl
    Hi all! I have also been affected, I've just sent a complaint to FF, awaiting reply. In the meantime I have opened a facebook group where we can all join forces. Please join: Fitness First: Fight the unfair price increase! Please PM me if you have any questions Ps. I hope it is o to ad the group since it's relevant to this thread
  • Which B.
    [...] citing the introduction of 20% VAT to justify unwieldy increases. Some are already at it; Fitness First have told members the increase is forcing them to increase membership rates, but rates far outstrip [...]
  • VAT B.
    [...] Last week we asked for your help in keeping an eye on retailers when VAT increases on 4th January. There’s no doubt that plenty of businesses will take the opportunity to ramp up their prices and blame the increase – as the shysters at Fitness First have already done. [...]
  • Pablo
    I joined fitness first in May at a special rate of £24.95 which I fully expected to pay for 12 months as a minimum. I received the standard letter end end of first week in Decemer saying that my membership was increasing by £8 per month to £32.95. I called my local Gym (East Kilbride) and they said they would look at it and call me back. The guy that called was very helpful and said he had managed to reduce the membership to £27.95. I made him aware that this was not a reduction and was in fact an increase. I have no qualms paying the VAT increase but that is circa 50p a month, not £3 a month! They have pueposely sent these letters out with high increases knowing that some will just roll over and pay, whilst for those that challenge it, they can try and fool you with reaching some "middle ground"!! I just had this offer which I said I was not happy with and they are going to call the head office and get back to me. They also stated on thE phone that they were trying to align everyone membership price which is a joke given I was enticed by a good rate. FITNESS FIRST - NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF ROBBERS!
  • Consumer B.
    [...] but we need some assistance from anyone who still have a copy of their contract and considers their price hike to be extortionate. If this is you – contact us at [...]
  • alex
    I still have my original contract from 2007 kept safe as i know they are a terrible company for customer service
  • P
    Simply call them and ask to talk to a membership customer service team they will change the increase and add only the VAT !!! just as easy but they shouldn't be able to get away with that .. Where are the costumer association to protect us and be represented against this unethical companies ! The law should protect citizens not encourage big corporate to steal people !
  • Adam M.
    Try calling them if you have a question about your membership. £11.08 charged for listining to some awful awful music and I didn't even get through. What a joke. I can see why there's a lack of usable Emails on their website.DO NOT JOIN!
  • Michael B.
    Fitness First Membership T & C’s 1.12 Membership dues and VAT thereon may be increased at our discretion. Fees are usually reviewed on an annual basis but circumstances may dictate an earlier revision. You will be given one months notice of any fee change. Date it 30th Post it second class. That's not a months notice. I've told them to go F** themselves, I'm not paying. Will take it up with OFT or see them in court, they've already offered to make it a payment at the original rate. I didn't use the gym in January so no dice!
  • Mr C.
    I have been a member of Fitness First for a little over 2 years. In November 2010 I wrote to them to cancel my membership. Feb 2011 Direct Debit twas still being taken by Fitness First. I canceled the DD,now they are threatening me with county court Action unless I pay for March 2011, they have also reinstated my DD against my wishes . They are a horrible, horrible company.
  • Lisa
    I gave them a month's notice cancelling my membership, and also cancelled the direct debit. I have then noticed they have taken out the membership fee as a point of sale, i.e. retained my card details I gave when I joined to take an unathorised payment. RBS were very good at refunding this and have said they will monitor future withdrawals. They are criminals!!!!
  • Stuff s.
    [...] Read the full post at Bitterwallet. [...]
  • Susan H.
    I've just posted this below on 'canyoutrustthem' and then found this site with its raft of complaints about them. Customer service to them means saying NO to the customer, repetitively. I have written to the UK MD about this issue but am getting no satisfaction. The basis behind this problem is that when I renewed my membership in mid December 2010 I was told that I would get 15 months for the price of 12, this is written on my copy of the contract, nowhere does it say which 3 months are the free ones. Now that the Whitefield club has been closed (at the end of June 2011) to be converted into Klick Fitness (still owned fully by Fitness First, not a different company)it seems that Fitness First has completely gone back on that offer and all they are offering to refund me is 5 months (note 5 not 5 & a half). My argument with them is that had they not chosen to change Fitness First Whitefield into Klick Fitness, then I would have had membership until mid March. The option to transfer my membership to run its course at the Moston club is not a viable long term option as, apart from the increased distance, they do not do the classes that originally drew me to join at Whitefield in the first place. The other option was to end my membership at the end of June and have money refunded, which is what I chose to do. My husband is also in a similar position, having renewed his membership about 2 weeks later that me, so in effect we are losing 6 months membership between us due to the policies of Fitness First. This has been made worse by the fact that I was recently by another member of the club that he has been refunded his free month. The man in question had a 13 months for the price of 12 membership and has use 6 of those 13 months and had 7 refunded. I would like to know why the same does not apply to to mine and my husband's memberships and Fitness First are now not even replying to my emails and have made no attempt to answer this question. I would appreciate a satisfactory explanation. To add insult to injury they are only refunding full months (in their favour, not the members of course)even based on a 12 month paid membership which means that I will lose another 2 weeks' refund for something that was outside my control. I believe that they are in breach of contract for this as they have neither provided acceptable alternative services nor fully refunded us for removing those services. MY ADVICE TO ANYONE THINKING OF JOINING FITNESS FIRST IS .. DON'T. THEY DON'T GIVE A HOOT ABOUT THEIR MEMBERS, JUST THE MONEY THEIR MEMBERS PAY.
  • Clam
    Has anyone got the letter about the VAT increase because i've stupidly lost mine and now desperately need it!!
  • AntiFitnessFirst
    Fitness first SUCK!
  • Radoslav
    can you tell me,how much is price per class in fitness first?
  • fitness[trainer/coach
    Simply wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity on your put up is just nice and that i could assume you are a professional in this subject. Well along with your permission let me to clutch your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thank you a million and please carry on the gratifying work.
  • johnson
    Extremely unsatisfying service during my fitness at ioi fitness first. i hope some measures can be taken to correct the situation as the current service provided are clearly unsatisfying and will definitely damage ur company image.
  • mayah
    They are terrible gym. I have signed for 4 months contract and expected to be only 4 months. now i have received call saying have to pay over £100 from debt collectors as i have changed address and they said the contract rolls up!!!!!!!!!! They rip people’s emotions and money. I told all my friends not to go to them. I rather walk for 30min then to be there again They have terrible customer Service AND Deceptive explanations ON THIER CONTRACTS. I regret being there

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