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Tuesday, July 5, 2016, 21:05

California Fitness customers complain to police

By Li Yinze

California Fitness customers complain to police

HONG KONG - Three consumers of Hong Kong gym chain California Fitness went to Wan Chai District Police Headquarters on Tuesday to request that the police investigate the company’s possible winding up.

"I want my money back,” a woman surnamed Chan told local media, with her face covered by sunglasses and a mask. Chan said she became a member in 2006 and had been repeatedly pressured into signing up for fitness training contracts, spending more than HK$221,000. Since last month, the company failed to provide a personal trainer for her several times.

Labor sector lawmaker Tang Ka-piu, who accompanied the three consumers to lodge their complaints, said that similar cases related to the same company involved a total of about HK$1 million.

This came after California Fitness’ branch in Whampoa closed its doors indefinitely on Monday, just a few months after it relocated.

Informed only after the fact by a paper notice attached to its rolling shutter, members of the gym chain – most of whom live in Hung Hom – felt helpless about the sudden closure.

According to the notice, the company blamed the landlord for stopping the supply of essential services to the premises, but no further information was provided. Users could not access the official website of California Fitness for more details.

Lucy, a member of California Fitness’ Whampoa branch who did not want to reveal her full name, signed up for membership with HK$8,000 in August 2015, which will expire in November.

"I heard this (closure of the branch) from TV news,” she told China Daily. “I think I have to try other branches now as the gym suggested, though they might be a bit far from where I live. But I have no other options.”

Lucy felt quite annoyed about the company’s aggressive sales practices. “Sometimes they just kept intimidating me to sign up for private training programs, which cost a lot,” she complained.

Another lawmaker, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, said she is following up on more than 300 inquiries to demand refunds, including a few cases from the company’s Mong Kok branch, over concerns that the company’s other branches will also close down soon.

California Fitness has been looking for a new buyer since June as it faces a winding-up petition from a creditor. Moreover, two staff members of California Fitness were arrested in May for tricking a client into making a HK$140,000 credit card payment.

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