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Hong Kong Consumer Council slams California Fitness for aggressive sales practices

Hong Kong Consumer Council slams California Fitness for aggressive sales practices
June 3, 2016

Hong Kong-based gym chain California Fitness has been named and criticised by the Hong Kong Consumer Council (HKCC) for deploying intimidation and misleading sales practices to press consumers into purchasing memberships and high-priced private lessons.

HKCC Chief Executive Gilly Wong Fung-han advised that the naming was a “necessary move” in response to rampant sales practices and “uncooperative attitude” by the fitness operator.

As reported by the South China Morning Post, the move is the first time the Council had publicly named a fitness centre brand,

Wong explained that complaints against California Fitness “showed no signs of decline after we met with the management in January to express our dissatisfaction against their continued undesirable sales tactics”.

She added that sales practices has since became more aggressive.

In 2015, the number of complaints lodged against the fitness chain increased by 30% to 296 cases, comprising 51% of all the complaints the Council received.

A total amount of HK$8.5 million was involved in the cases against California Fitness, a 20% increase compared to the previous year.

Among the complaints against the chain, 22 cases involved over HK$100,000 each. In one case, the involved amount was as much as $570,000.

Half of the complaints against the gym chain came from new members, who claimed they were pressured or misled into signing membership agreements.

One of the most common sales practices was to lure new customers from the street with lucky draws or free trials. Several staff would then take turns to hard sell memberships and courses for two to three hours, according to the council.

Some staff members also asked new members to enter their bank cards’ personal identification numbers for “identify verification purposes”, then completed transactions without their consent, some complainants alleged.

Even existing members were not immune to the dubious sales tactics.

In one case, a complainant with a seven-year membership was persuaded to purchase private classes worth as much as HK$550,000. But the centre required members to use those classes within a short period of time. When the complainant asked for a refund of HK$200,000, the centre refused, and agreed to pay only HK$120,000.

The Council reminded gym users to avoid signing too many contracts that would lead to losses if they could not complete classes within a limited time period.

It also called for legislation to introduce a cooling-off period as a way to safeguard consumer rights.

The Council urged the Hong Kong Government to take urgent action to study the legislation, as the intimidating and misleading sales practices deployed by the fitness and beautify industries had become more rampant in recent years.

California Fitness operates nine centres in Hong Kong, where it is the second largest gym chain in the city, along wil clubs in Mainland China and Singapore.

17th December 2015 - HONG KONG FITNESS COACH JAILED OVER HK$1.4 MILLION CREDIT CARD FRAUD

14th July 2014 - SINGAPORE FITNESS CLUBS HIT BY COMPLAINTS

6th December 2010 - CALIFORNIA FITNESS’ LATEST HONG KONG CLUB

26th October 2010 - WORLD GYM ACQUIRES CALIFORNIA FITNESS IN TAIWAN


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