A YORKSHIRE woman, pursued by debt collectors when she tried to cancel her gym membership because she was pregnant, has triumphed in a three-year legal battle which could have implications for gym members around Britain.
Carly Morton, 29, from York, had wanted to terminate her membership with Roko Health Clubs before the end of her 12-month membership when she found out she was having a baby.
But Roko insisted Mrs Morton pay the full year’s membership fee of £111, which she wanted to terminate three months early.
Her lawyer husband Matthew, 34, took up her fight in 2009 and informed the chain he believed their terms and conditions were unlawful. Despite this, the couple were pursued for two years by a debt collection agency for the full outstanding balance with debt collection fees on top. York County Court has now ruled, however, that Roko’s terms and conditions, requiring members to pay the full balance of outstanding fees for 12 months without any discount, were unfair and unenforceable.
This was because the requirement was not a genuine pre-estimate of the loss Roko would suffer, and was therefore a penalty. The judge also said Credit Resolution Service’s debt collection charges of £80 levied on consumers were unfair.
The Mortons were instructed to pay one month’s membership fees as compensation for breach of contract, which the judge deemed a reasonable amount.
Mr Morton said: “All gyms must allow consumers to have options to terminate in the event of unforeseen circumstances.”
He said Roko had sued for £255, and the Mortons had ended up paying just £37. The couple have a two-year-old daughter, Scarlett.
A spokesman for Roko said: “We are pleased the judge agreed notice should have been given and has awarded us costs.
“Our contracts are in accordance with OFT guidance. We always ensure all members are clear upon joining what they are committing to, whether it be short term, or up to 12 months.”