German court rules: Gym has to pay back lockdown membership fees

German court rules: Gym has to pay back lockdown membership fees

In a new ruling that could potentially have implications for many gym-goers in Germany, a court in Lower Saxony has decided that a gym must pay back the membership fees it collected while it was closed due to coronavirus

Gyms closed - but membership fees continue?

Under lockdown, gyms, swimming pools and sports halls across the country were forced to close their doors for months on end, making exercising in a facility virtually impossible. This meant that many customers were stuck paying gym membership fees for gyms they could not use. 

While some fitness studios suspended membership fees during the lockdown months, others refused to do so and requests for refunds from customers were met with rejection. 

One plaintiff in Germany decided to take legal action against this. Unable to use her gym membership between the months of March and June 2020 - but still seeing the fees leave her bank account every month - a woman in Papenburg appealed to the courts. 

The Papenburg District Court sided with the plaintiff and ordered the gym to reimburse her membership fees. But rather than paying up, the gym appealed to the Osnabrück Regional Court. They argued that, now the gym is open once again, they can make up for the missed months by extending the woman’s membership contract. 

German consumer organisation calls for customers to pursue claims

However, no such luck - the regional court sided with the plaintiff once again, ruling that “the gym is obliged to reimburse the plaintiff for the amounts paid.” The gym is unable to retroactively provide a service that was paid for in the past, eliminating their entitlement to membership fees, the court said. 

Although the judgement is still pending a further appeal - and legal action is therefore far from guaranteed - the consumer association Verbraucherzentrale Niedersachsen believes that it strengthens the case for gym-goers seeking a refund. They advise customers to not accept offers of extensions from their gym (if they do not want them) and to continue to push for their membership fees to be refunded. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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