True Fitness has announced the closure of its operations in Thailand, which was met with a suggestion by a lawyer that its members can file for damages.
The firm issued an official announcement on Friday stating that All True Fitness, True Spa and True 'Est centres in Thailand ceased operations as of Friday.
True Fitness, the mainstay of the business, has branches at CentralWorld and the Exchange Tower in Bangkok as well as at the Esplanade Kae Rai in Nonthaburi. The Exchange Tower branch was the last to shut down on Thursday.
The company blamed "insufficient flexibility" from landlords and creditors for its inability to restructure the businesses in time. The statement said the landlords did not agree to have other operators take over the businesses and in some instances insisted on substantially higher rents.
Also, the statement said the decision by the creditors to shut the firm down left it with no option but to close the operations down.
However, the company remains open to a buyer who is willing to take over the business.
The closure of True Fitness, particularly the Exchange Tower branch, has left many members frustrated. The customers said they received no refund.
A corporate lawyer at an international law firm said members have their full right to sue the firm for compensation. He also urged the consumer protection agencies to pressure the company to compensate the members.
The lawyer said the case may be fraudulent in nature. The fitness club might have breached civil and commercial codes, an act which must be compensated for.
On Thursday, about 100 members went to True Fitness at the Exchange Tower only to find a written announcement pasted on the wall announcing the firm's closure.
Some corporate clients said they paid up to 200,000 baht or more for advanced membership and trainers for three to five years.
A member identified only as Josh, 42, said he had heard a rumour for some time that the gym was closing although some staff told him the lease on the property was valid for another two years.
Josh said he paid 18,000 baht for a 14-month package just last month.
Nok, an office worker in the Asok area, said the incident was similar to the case of California Fitness which went out of business. Their members had found it difficult to get their money back.
"This is a big scandal. It took advantage of people and violated the contracts it made with thousands of people," she said.
In November last year, True Fitness closed its club at the CentralWorld shopping complex with no reasons given. The gym operator told members to use the service at the Exchange Tower branch instead.
Onanong Udomkantrong, executive vice-president at CIMB Thai Bank (CIMBT), said True Fitness members who paid their annual membership fees via credit card cannot cancel the payment transaction as the company has already received the money.
Members can cancel the credit payment if they pay on a monthly basis. Customers can ask the bank which issues the credit card to cancel debit for the remainder months of the fitness package, she said.
Currently, local independent fitness clubs cost only 1,200 to 1,800 baht per month with no commitment on credit card, so members are free to cancel membership at any time. True Fitness is operated by Singapore-based True Group which was established in 2004 and the first branch was launched in Thailand in 2006.
Incidentally, the branch at Exchange Tower near Asok intersection was the first to be opened before business expanded and added two more branches at CentralWorld and Esplanade Kae Rai.
True Fitness has been operating in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and China and Thailand.
The Bangkok Post attempted to contact True Fitness on Friday but none of its executives were available for comment.