Fitness studios that were closed due to the corona virus have to pay back the contributions to their customers. This was decided by the Federal Court.

What does that mean specifically?

Before Corona, more than eleven million people trained in a gym. During the pandemic, studios were forced to close, but membership fees continued to be collected. This caused many lawsuits in the courts. In a model case from Lower Saxony, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on that customers are entitled to a refund of their contributions.

Who gets money back now?

“All those who had a contract in a gym during the lockdown and continued to pay the contributions even though the gym was closed,” said Claudia Kornmeier from the ARD legal department. Even those who have not yet taken care of it can now ask for the money back."There shouldn't be any problems with the statute of limitations," says Kornmeier. The usual limitation period is three years. "And they haven't expired here yet." But the important thing is that only those who have not received a voucher will get their money back.

Do I have to accept a training time credit?

No, because according to the BGH , a credit note for canceled training times is nothing more than a contract extension. The weeks of closure should not be added to the contract period.The reason: In spring 2020, the legislator created a regulation for contracts that were affected by Corona - the so-called voucher solution. After that, facilities like gyms and event organizers were able to either refund customers or give them a voucher for the amount overpaid by the customer.

How do I get a refund?

"A letter has to be written for this," said Iwona Husemann from the NRW consumer center on Thursday to WDR . The letter should first describe the situation. In the case of the associated requirement, one should refer to the BGH judgment. It is also important to set a deadline: "At least 14 days are appropriate."The letter should either be sent as a registered letter by post. Or: If you have a fax machine, you can also send the letter to the fitness studio with a so-called qualified transmission report. The consumer advice center has created a corresponding sample letter that consumers can use as a guide.

How was the judgment justified?

The BGH referred to the purpose of the contract with fitness studios: It was to do sports regularly. The prerequisite for this is that a fitness studio can be used without restriction."But that was not possible during the lockdown - and therefore the fitness studio could not fulfill the contract," explained Claudia Kornmeier from the ARD legal department. However, if the studio is unable to provide its services, it has no claim to the contributions of its customers.

What does the verdict mean for gyms?

"It's a setback and a threat to the existence of some fitness providers in Germany," the employers' association of German fitness and health facilities told WDR on Thursday . "Companies will have to deal with the effects of the pandemic for years to come."Association spokesman Alexander Wulf said of the training time credits rejected by the BGH : "In fact, members could not have paid more for an extension and trained for the same time." He cannot quantify how many fitness studios are affected by the verdict: "We do not have the exact figures."

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