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Consumers file complaints over gym fees during Finland's shutdown

Gym members said the practice of monthly invoicing during the crisis was an unfair exercise.

Painoja telineessä kuntosalilla.
Gyms were both open and closed during Finland's shutdown. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Finland’s consumer watchdog said it has received hundreds of complaints from gym goers who said fitness chains continued to bill them monthly during Finland’s coronavirus shutdown. Many gyms were closed for weeks this past spring, while some offered workout classes via video link.

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) told Yle that gyms should waive membership fees for the time they were closed.

"The starting point is that consumers don’t have an obligation to pay if the service isn’t available, regardless of whether closures were due to unforeseeable circumstances like the coronavirus," said Raija Marttala, a leading expert with the FCCA.

She suggested fitness chains could now extend the duration of fixed-term memberships as a means of compensation.

Marttala also stressed that gyms that were closed should actively communicate their reopening by reaching out to members.

The FCCA said gyms drew complaints long before coronavirus shuttered health clubs.

Last year the FCCA dealt with some 500 cases regarding gyms and fitness services. Most dissatisfied customers wanted advice on how to opt out of fixed-term contracts.

The consumer authority is now dealing with some 3,500 coronavirus-related cases--the majority of which centre on reimbursements for cancelled holidays, concerts and sporting events.

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