BGH ruling: fitness studios have to pay back lockdown contributions to their customers

Anyone who was unable to use their gym during the Corona lockdown is entitled to the membership fees paid during this time.

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Wednesday in a model case from Lower Saxony that a studio must pay back the contributions collected by direct debit to a customer.

“The purpose of a gym contract is regular physical activity,” said the top civil judges in Karlsruhe. With a closure of several weeks, it was impossible to provide this service. (Az. XII ZR 64/21)

The plaintiff had entered into a two-year contract that began to run in December 2019. After the outbreak of the corona pandemic, the studio had to close from March 16 to June 4, 2020.

The operator nevertheless continued to collect the monthly contributions of EUR 29.90. The customer had initially unsuccessfully asked his studio to pay back and finally asked for a voucher for the amount.

However, the studio only offered him a “credit for training time” – which the customer declined.

Now studios must refund lockdown posts

cardio workout

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Before the BGH, the man was right in the last instance. In the case of a gym contract with a fixed term of several months, “the regular and year-round opening and usability of the studio is of crucial importance,” the judges decided.

In the lockdown, this contractual purpose could not be achieved.

According to the ruling, the studio also has no right to add the weeks of closure to the contract period, as some lower-instance courts had thought possible.

The BGH judges also justify this with the voucher solution that the legislator introduced in spring 2020 to prevent mass insolvencies through reclaims. The regulation stipulated that organizers and institutions can also reimburse admission tickets and “rights of use” with a voucher.

The BGH ruled that a final regulation had thus been made. A contract adjustment does not take place in addition.

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