Warwick councillor takes on national gym chain

District Councillor Linda Bromley

District Councillor Linda Bromley

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A district councillor has been awarded money after she decided to take a gym to a small claims court over the way it increased it prices.

Now Cllr Linda Bromley (Ind, Warwick South) hopes others will take her lead and challenge for their consumer rights.

After many long nights in the council chamber the keen swimmer decided to join the national fitness chain, which used to run the gym in Welton Road, Warwick.

But she became increasingly frustrated by the fact that the pool was often out of action for long periods of time.

Then she noticed her monthly membership fee had risen by £3 a month from £32.79 to £35.79.

Cllr Bromley said: “I’d seen no prior notice about this membership increase and when I took it up with staff at LA Fitness they just told me I was on a rolling contract and its terms and conditions allowed the company to increase prices whenever it wanted.

“I knew that was wrong and was determined to do something about it. I also wanted to warn other people as there must have been more than 2,000 others on these 
contracts.”

Cllr Bromley later found out that the monthly price increase had in fact been mentioned - but only amid lots of other marketing material making the information very hard to spot.

She resigned from her membership. But still felt she and others had been given a very raw deal.

As a result she contacted the help desk of the consumer magazine, Which?

The magazine’s legal experts agreed that she was right to feel aggrieved and recommended she take action against LA Fitness under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations of 1999.

Cllr Bromley took the advice and went to the Small Claims Court where last week she won her case.

She was awarded just over £283 to cover court fees, expenses and the money she had paid out since the rise in gym membership fees.

As it turned out LA Fitness was pulling out of Warwick.

Just after Christmas it sold the leases to the Welton Road gym and several others around the country.

Nobody from the company was available to comment on the situation in Warwick.

The new operator of the gym, pool and squash courts is a not-for-profit company called Freedom Fitness who took over in Warwick, Milton Keynes and Maidstone.

Stuart Harding, business manager of Freedom Fitness, said: “We took over three former LA Fitness clubs in late December 2014, including the one in Warwick.

“This is our first step into running an independent club as our history is in operating council owned leisure centres, but we are a not-for-profit leisure trust and a registered charity so are very different to the previous operators.

“We have no shareholders and any profits will be put back into improvements to the clubs.

“Our aim is to run the club for the benefit of the community and whilst we will have members we will also offer the facilities for use by people who turn up and want to pay on the day.”

Cllr Bromley said: “I will investigate the new club.

“My complaints to LA Fitness were always met with intransigence and dismissal and their tone and attitude was disappointingly unreasonable. I hope this will encourage others to challenge unfair gym membership increases.”