Yesterday, this paper carried a front-page report about a celebrity trainer who has shut down a fitness centre in Bandra. The closure came without warning and miffed members approached a police station to recover their membership fees from the fitness trainer. They were turned away and asked to approach a consumer court instead.
Consumer courts are, of course, an avenue open to the public, but this case highlights a larger issue at play. Some years ago, the fitness industry took off in a big way in the city, with gyms mushrooming in every nook and corner. But no regulatory body was established to bring a more professional approach to the business of fitness. This has become all the more important now, as the fitness bubble seems to have burst. Even though gyms and fitness studios have become part of the urban landscape, many have shut down, unable to cope with crippling rent and exorbitant maintenance costs.
Even now, we see classes opening everywhere, from yoga centres and dancercise and zumba studios. But none of them are answerable to a higher authority; they are self-governed, the rules are framed ad hoc, and the studios are shut down without any warning to members, who then have to scramble for refunds. Of late, frustrated members have started approaching the police to get their money back. Personal trainers are given certification but not from one recognised body. While there are quite a few good trainers, there are also many who do not know their stuff, and that can be dangerous, given the nature of their work.
There need to be clear guidelines about what happens in case of impending closure. The gym has to keep channels of communications open. Owners of gyms must be liable to action if they are unable to refund membership fees. Safety checks are a must. Fitness studio clients must also adhere to gym rules and regulations.
There are so many aspects that must be looked into. First and foremost is to set up an umbrella organisation that governs the industry. This is for the good for the owners, their employees, and the clients.