Three customers affected by the recent developments involving beleaguered gym California Fitness have reported the matter to the police, requesting an investigation into the liquidation of the company. Meanwhile, over a hundred similar enquiries have been received by The Consumer Council.

California Fitness earlier announced that its Whampoa branch, opened only four months ago, will be closed indefinitely from Monday. A liquidation request is being launched against JV Fitness, which operates the chain. The hearing will take place on August 31.

A California Fitness branch. File photo: Apple Daily.

The three California Fitness customers, accompanied by Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Tang Ka-piu, made their way to the Wan Chai Police Headquarters on Tuesday afternoon, RTHK reported.

Tang said that the party had also received requests for help from six coaches who are owed wages by the company. They will be heading to the Labour Tribunal to file a case.

‘Criminal elements’

Whampoa East District Councillor and lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun has received around 400 requests for assistance relating to the closure of the branch and is hoping to be able to obtain a refund for those who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on membership fees.

“There’s quite a few teenagers – we received quite a lot of calls for help from university students or fresh graduates… the branch only opened in February, and some courses are in June or July. I suspect they haven’t even hired the coaches [and I they can] pay their wages. We received news that there is a problem with them paying the rent,” Leung said.

“We’re seriously looking into whether they deliberately promoted their services and recruited members, taking cash from them whilst knowing they could not deliver – there may be criminal elements involved.”

Priscilla Leung Mei-fun. Photo: RTHK screencap.

Leung said there is little the Consumer Council can do to help the victims and says government departments should amend the laws in the area, Ming Pao reported.

The Consumer Council announced on Tuesday that as of 5pm, they have received 180 enquiries and 42 complaints relating to JV Fitness.

The Democratic Party said that it will be setting up a street station outside Grand Plaza mall in Mong Kok from Tuesday 5pm to handle cases involving those affected. Lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan and party vice-chairman Andrew Wan Siu-kin will be present.

Delays in rental payment

The gym chain said that the location had to close because “the landlord indicate[d] its intention to stop supplying some essential services to the premises.” It said that it will “try its best to negotiate with the landlord to resume our services to members.”

Several of the nine California Fitness branches were one to two months behind on rent, Sing Tao reported. The landlord had cut off the water and electricity supply for the Whampoa branch and – because JV Fitness’ bank account was frozen – it was forced to stop operating.

California Fitness was named by the Consumer Council in April for “intimidating and misleading” business practices. The consumer watchdog said that it received up to 296 complaints related to the gym last year, leading to compensation payments totalling HK$28 million.

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Karen Cheung

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.