|posted: 08 August 2008 at 12:45am | IP logged
I can imagine that. Often the signing of these contracts and their details are a formality.
Gym giant Fitness First has taken a former member, who could not work out due to medical problems, to court - all for the sake of $200.
The Supreme Court today ruled that Suh Yoke Chong, who suffers from lupus, thyroid problems and sleep apnoea should not be refunded a $200 cancellation fee after she was unable to continue her membership due to blurred vision and headaches.
Ms Chong, 54, who signed a contract with Fitness First on April 9, 2007, after she had put on weight due to steroid medication she was taking, took her case to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
She told the tribunal that, during her conversation with the Fitness First consultant, he gave her the terms and conditions and told her to "sign here, here and here".
"The reason I told him [about my medical condition] is that I hope that he will be honest with me, that whether my condition can do the gym and he told me that, 'Oh, you find the right place, this is the best place to lose weight.' "
Ms Chong signed the contract without reading the terms and conditions, which state that a cancellation fee of $200 applies if membership is terminated within the first two months and after a 15-day cooling-off period.Ms Chong may have found it all stressful but she has to take responsibility for the fact that she played hardball and shouldn't have been surprised to meet resistance. I wouldn't have bothered going to the CTTT myself, especially if I didn't feel well enough to cope with the stresses of legal conflict. Sometimes it's easier to cut your losses.
The tribunal ruled in September last year that Ms Chong be reimbursed that money.
It found that "a valid contract required the parties have [a] ... meeting of the minds, in that they each fully know and understand the terms and conditions of the agreement."
However, Associate Justice Joanne Harrison today found that the tribunal member erred in the law on that point and that Ms Chong was bound by the conditions of the contract. She made no order as to costs.
... Ms Chong said she told Fitness First about her condition before signing her contract but the gym only encouraged her to join. After a month, as her dizziness worsened and her vision blurred, she reported the problem to staff. She said they were not interested.
Ms Chong was shocked last July when she received a summons to the Supreme Court, with her as defendant, the gym as plaintiff.
She entered no defence, advised by legal aid that costs could be awarded against against her if she did so. "I don't want to remember anything more about Fitness First. It's very, very stressful for the whole year," she said.
On the other hand, this case may turn out to be a poor business move by FF. They come across
as uncaring and ungracious, not prepared to cut a sick woman a bit of
slack. It could be said that they might have cut their losses as well, especially since they'd be aware that during the "courtship" phase of this kind of business relationship all the emphasis is on the wunnerful prospects, not the possibility that things might go pear-shaped.
It looks as thought there were two losers in this case.
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils -- Hector Berlioz