More legal action has been taken against troubled gym chain California Fitness as lawmakers providing assistance to customers and employees affected by the incident urged government departments to take action.

California Fitness previously announced the indefinite closure of its Whampoa branch – which opened only four months ago – taking effect on Monday. The owner of the gym’s premises at Tuen Mun has filed a writ with the High Court to recover over HK$2m in rent and management fees, while the owner at the Quarry Bay store has also issued a legal letter to the gym asking for unpaid rent and fees, Apple Daily reported on Thursday.

The gym has stopped recruiting new customers across all branches. A liquidation request is being launched against JV Fitness, which operates the chain. The hearing will take place on August 31.

California Fitness HK
A California Fitness branch.

As of Friday afternoon, the Consumer Council said it has received 292 enquiries and 101 complaints relating to JV Fitness over the past five days. Some of the complaints involve contract termination issues.

Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) lawmaker Tang Ka-piu said he believes that if employees did not receive their June wages by July 1, that would have been a violation of labour laws.

On Thursday, FTU accompanied around 30 fitness coaches to the headquarters of the fitness centre in Kowloon Bay to recover unpaid wages. Tang said he believes that around 300 employees have been affected and urged the Labour Department to intervene.

The owner of the centre said on Thursday evening that he is willing to pay for the wages out of his own pocket, but details on when and how they would be paid will only be decided after a consultation with the bank on Friday, Oriental Daily reported.

Democratic Party Vice-Chairman Andrew Wan Siu-kin said that the fitness gym continued signing on new customers despite imminent liquidation and financial difficulties, which could amount to a violation of laws in the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. The party said it has received over 200 requests for help as of Friday afternoon from customers who have paid huge sums for monthly subscriptions as well as from California Fitness employees.

Wan also criticised the Customs and Excise Department for failing to launch an investigation into the matter and says it has sent a letter to the department urging them to enforce the law immediately.

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.

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.