Fitness center contracts and sales practices, a source of heavy complaints for years, are now regulated by Thailand's consumer protection agency.
Also see past articles that provide background for today's article: Authorities take on fitness center sales practices (25/02/11) and an earlier article about fitness center consumer complaints here. Also read about problems that Thailand's new consumer protection laws have encountered along the way: #1 and #2.
In addition to today's article below, the Bangkok Post has featured two other articles this week on fitness and fitness centers: Changing trends in health and fitness and Fitness Buffet offers smorgasboard of activities.
Click button to listen to Fitness Center Contracts to download
Fitness company contracts limited by Nanchanok Wongsamuth
Thailand's fitness clubs are thriving as the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) puts contractual controls on the industry, effective yesterday.
"We welcome the legislation as long as it is good for both businesses and customers and there's always a chance to modify the legislation if it's not practical," said Orawan Kleawpatinon, marketing manager of Fitness First, one of the leading fitness centers.
Consumer complaints about fitness operators prompted the OCPB to add the industry to its list. The move is meant to ensure fairness in services and contracts.
The control includes requirements for operators to detail the size of the exercise center, types and number of equipment, other facilities and services, membership fees and other expenses.
Conditions for contract termination must be highlighted in red or black or italic letters and must be delivered via written notice at least 30 days prior to termination.
Violations shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three months and/or a fine not exceeding 30,000 baht.
Consumers are also eligible to revoke their contract and demand a refund if vendors fail to provide equipment and services as promised or they get hurt from defective equipment or inexperienced trainers.
OCPB received 1,200 complaints from 2005 to 2009 about poor or non-existent services or gym closures.
There are 11 fitness operators in Thailand, though most of the complaints deal with three large players: California WOW Xperience (CAWOW), True Fitness and Fitness First.
Thailand's fitness segment has been growing over the past several years as people become more concerned with their health.
The fitness club industry in Thailand was expected to be worth about 11 billion baht last year, said the International Health & Racquet Sport Association.
There are 1,011 fitness centres with 546,000 members in Thailand, including those opened in hotels and golf clubs. Between 50 and 60 centres are operated by big chains, and the chains generated about 4 billion baht in combined revenue last year.
Mrs Orawan said the No.1 criteria for consumers in deciding whether or not to apply for a fitness centre is location.
"Fitness First focuses on location because we want people to exercise frequently. So we have focused on expanding branches and aim to open two to three branches per year. We also use below-the-line marketing strategies," she said.
Fitness First typically locates branches in department stores, opening a branch in Central Plaza Khon Kaen last month. It plans to open another two branches within the next six months.
The second factor is quality in servicing, such as the cleanliness and quality of staff, she said.
We are not concerned with pricing because I think the market is starting to accept the idea of 'you get what you pay for'. We are not a premium business like fitness clubs in hotels. Fitness is already a mass business, and it isn't necessary to offer a B or C grade because it is accessible to everyone," said Mrs Orawan
She said Fitness First tries to make the membership process as easy as possible, with members paying a monthly fee, while the only additional payment is for personal trainers, which is optional.
Mrs Orawan hopes in the future consumers understand the importance of exercise in addition to lowering obesity.
They are starting to understand the reason we eat the same amount but get fatter as we age is because our metabolism slows.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Fitness company contracts limited, 2/08/2011, Thailand's fitness clubs are thriving as the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) puts contractual controls on the industry, effective yesterday, Nanchanok Wongsamuth, link)
Fitness Club and Consumer Protection Vocabulary
fitness, physical fitness - exercise: running, lifting weights, sit-ups, push-ups, aerobics, etc... (See Wikipedia)
fitness center, health club, gym - a place which has exercise equipment for exercise, also aerobics and other programmes (See Wikipedia)
Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) - the Thai government agency that protects the rights of consumers, now operating under improved rules created by the post-coup legislature (See website)
consumer - someone who buys and uses goods and services ผู้บริโภค
consumer protection laws - laws that try to protect consumers from being cheated by businesses
segment - a separate part ส่วนต่างๆของสังคม ตอน
market segment - a group of possible customers with the same age, habits, income and special needs that products and marketing directed or targeted at
background - the information facts need to fully understand an event or situation
fitness segment - the fitness market segment, customers of fitness centers (or people who could become customers in the future, with the proper marketing)
chains - a group of stores operated by the same company owning stores in many places ร้านค้าในเครือ (คนไทยเรียกทับศัพท์ว่า เชน เช่น 7-Eleven, ลูกชิ้นนายฮั่ง เป็นต้น)
fitness chain - a group of fitness centers all owned and operated by the same company
branch - an office or shop representing a large company or organisation in a particular area สาขา
accessible - easy to get to a place (example: the fitness is very accessible because it is located in a local air-conditioned shopping mall that everyone goes to)
above the line (ATL) marketing - marketing that uses media that are broadcast and published to mass audiences such as television, radio, out-of-home, magazines, cinema and newspaper
below the line (BTL) marketing - marketing that uses media that are more niche focused with the message tailored in a more personal manner to the audience (See Wikipedia)
strategies - long-term plans for success in competition กลยุทธ นโยบาย
premium - special features or service that you pay extra for
premium business - a business with a small number of rich customers paying very high prices for special goods and services
mass - large numbers จำนวนมหาศาล
mass business - a business with large numbers of customers
contract - a written (or oral) agreement that is legally binding สัญญา
contracts limited - laws now limit what a fitness tcompany can do with contracts (in the past they used high-pressure sales tactics, complicated contracts, and violated terms of their own contract)
contractual controls - same as "contracts limited"
termination - the act of ending something
conditions for contract termination - what has to be done to end a contract (by either the fitness company or the customer)
violations - breaking the rules (or terms of the contract)
terms of the contract - the details in a contract that say what each person agreeing to the contract must do
complaints - when people say there is something wrong and they want it changed
consumer complaints - customers who are not happy with a product or service and say it (let other people or the company know about their unhappiness)
equipment - devices and machines usedto do some task or activity อุปกรณ์ apparatus, gear, tool
defective equipment - equipment that is broken (and is not able to do what it normally does)
facilities - the buildings and equipment for an activity สถานที่และสิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก
personal trainer - a specially trained fitness professional that teaches people how to exercise and makes exercise plans for people (exercise prescription) "They motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client's strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments may also be performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client's improvements in physical fitness. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness besides exercise, including general health and nutrition guidelines." (See Wikipedia)
inexperienced - not having much experience doing something ไม่มีประสบการณ์ (มือใหม่)
inexperienced trainers - trainers without experience (who cannot do their job well and are perhaps might cause injury)
services - บริการต่างๆ things produced in service industries, not a physical good that can be bought, a waitress and a cook in a restaurant provide a service, technically: a sequence of activities that does not result in ownership of the outcome (See Wikipedia on services and the goods and services continuum)
non-existent services - services that the contract says they must provide, but they don't provide
provide - to give someone something that they want or need
refund - a reimbursement; an amount of money that is given back to you เงินที่คืนให้
vendors - companies that sell a certain kind of product (example: auto parts vendors)
players - an important company, person, or country competing in an industry ผู้ค้าคนสำคัญ หรือผู้ค้ารายใหญ่
operators - businesses doing this business
fees - money that you pay to be allowed to do something ค่าธรรมเนียมf
highlighted - emphasized, made more noticeable; stressed; made something more noticeabl ที่เน้นย้ำ
notice - information or warning หมายเตือ
highlighted in red or black - information and writing is made easy to see (noticeable) by printing it red or black
italic letters - letters that slant on the page, so the words are highlighted and are easy to see ตัวเอน (See Wikipedia)
written notice - must provide a letter telling them that you are quitting (a phone call is not enough)
thriving - doing well, successful ประสบความสำเร็จอย่างสูง
legislation - a law or set of laws suggested by a government and made official by a parliament กฎหมาย, การออกกฎหมาย
effective - official start of something, officially begins to be used
effective yesterday - the official start was yesterday
X as long as Y - if Y is true or exists, then X is also true or exists
chance - what happens when you don't control events (example: gambling = games of chance)
practical - useful for real people in real situations, suitable for the situation in which something is used ที่ขึ้นอยู่กับความเป็นจริง
prompted - caused someone to act, made someone act
ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน รับรอง
ensure fairness - make sure that it is fair (that people are treated equally and reasonably, according to the contract)
liable - legally responsible for causing dame or injury มีความรับผิดชอบตามกฎหมาย
imprisonment - the punishment of being put in prison จำคุก
exceeding - passing a limit, going beyond
fine - an amount of money that you have to pay because you have broken the law ค่าปรับ
eligible - allowed by rules or laws to do something or to receive something มีสิทธิ มีสิทธิชอบธรรมตามกฎหมาย เอื้อด้วยกฎหมาย ว่าง ที่มีคุณสมบัติพร้อม ซึ่งมีคุณสมบัติเหมาะสม
revoke - cancel, take away permission; officially end something; officially say something is no longer legal, e.g., a law or a document เพิกถอน ยกเลิก
demand - people or consumers wanting to buy goods and services
concerned - worried about something มีความกังวล
expected - believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)
generated - created
revenue - income from taxes or business activities รายได้
criteria - a factors and standards used for making judgements and decisions บรรทัดฐาน (See glossary)
apply for a fitness center - fill out an "application form" and request to become a member
location - the place where a business is (which determines how easy it is to get to and use; as well as whether customers can even see it and know it exists) (See Wikipedia)
aim - the thing you hope to achieve by doing something เป้าหมาย purpose; goal เป้าหมาย จุดมุ่งหมาย
typically - usually; normally อย่างเป็นแบบฉบับ
factor - a fact or situation which influences the result of something ปัจจัย
staff - workers, employees พนักงาน
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
membership process - the things that you must do to become a member (fill out application form, sign contract, pay money, etc)
fee - an amount of money that you pay to be allowed to do something ค่าธรรมเนียม, ค่าตอบแทน, ค่าบริการ
monthly fee - the amount of money that you must pay every month for the service
optional - available or possible if you want it, but you do not have to have it or do it ตัวเลือก ที่เลือกได้
reason - an explanation of an event, why an event happened เหตุ ; เหตุผล ; สาเหตุ
obesity - having a weight that is far above normal, also called "fat" (See Wikipedia)
age - grow older
metabolism - the chemical and physical changes that occur in the body when molecules are either broken down or built up in cells and tissues (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)